Ponte Duca d’Aosta – a monument of glory to the Italian soldier

Ponte Duca d'Aosta, one of the scenes – the battle of Italian soldiers under the leadership of prince-general d’Aosta

Ponte Duca d'Aosta, one of the scenes – the battle of Italian soldiers under the leadership of prince-general d’Aosta

The Ponte Duca d’Aosta generally does not draw our attention, even though it is considered to be one of the most elegant in Rome. Apart from a modern construction and the subtle figure of the broad arch spreading out over the river bed of the Tiber it has something else to offer – a true lesson of patriotism and heroism of which the motto can be the words inscribed upon one of its pylons: “It is better to live one day as a lion, than one hundered years as a sheep”.

Ponte Duca d'Aosta, one of the scenes – the battle of Italian soldiers under the leadership of prince-general d’Aosta
Ponte Duca d’Aosta – bridge from the years  1939-1942
Ponte Duca d'Aosta, one of the pylons
Ponte Duca d'Aosta, monumental stairs enriching the bridge sidewalks
Ponte Duca d'Aosta, obelisk devoted to Mussolini on the axis
Mussolini Obelisk on Foro Italico (former Foro Mussolini)
Ponte Duca d'Aosta, one of the pylons decorating the enterance onto the bridge
Ponte Duca d'Aosta, one of the bas-reliefs with an inscription highlighting the determination of Italian soldiers in the struggle against the  enemy
Ponte Duca d'Aosta, one of the scenes depicting General Filiberto d’Aosta among his soldiers
Ponte Duca d'Aosta, one of the bas-reliefs commemorating the deeds of Italian soldiers during World War I
Ponte Duca d'Aosta, scene depicting the struggle of Italian soldiers during World War I
Ponte Duca d'Aosta, scene depicting general d’Aosta in battle
Ponte Duca d'Aosta, one of the scenes – the battle of Italian soldiers under the leadership of prince-general d’Aosta

The Ponte Duca d’Aosta generally does not draw our attention, even though it is considered to be one of the most elegant in Rome. Apart from a modern construction and the subtle figure of the broad arch spreading out over the river bed of the Tiber it has something else to offer – a true lesson of patriotism and heroism of which the motto can be the words inscribed upon one of its pylons: “It is better to live one day as a lion, than one hundered years as a sheep”.

 

       

  For Italian Fascists under the leadership of Benito Mussolini, these were the words that gave life its sense. They refer to the struggle of thousands of fallen Italian soldiers during World War I under the leadership of General Emanuel Filiberto d’Aosta, to whom this bridge was dedicated.

The construction of the   structure, measuring 220 meters in length and 30 meters in width, began in 1939 and was finished in 1942. It stood exactly on the axis of an obelisk dedicated to Duce on Foro Italico (the former Foro Mussolini) and was to, in a representative way, lead into his complex from the center of Rome. Thus it constituted an integral part of the arrangements planned for the Olympics which ultimately did not take place. The creator of the bridge was one of the trusted architects of Mussolini – Vincenzo Fasolo, a valued designer, engineer and pedagogue, author of several Roman structures, out of which this one is perhaps the most interesting. The bridge is made out of reinforced concrete and covered with travertine and Carrara marble. The broad span with two accompanying, but not anchored in the riverbed itself arcades (creating a sort of a dam in case of a flood) causes a sensation of  stylish purity. It is interrupted or – as others would say (depending on esthetic preferences) enriched by a sculpting decoration of the tract itself. The bas-reliefs placed on low pylons open up the enterance onto the bridge from either side of the river. These entrances are accompanied by broad steps leading onto boulevards of the Tiber,

     

which initially were invite for walks along the river or resting on its banks.

However, let us return to the sculpting decoration completed by Ercole Drei, Domencio Ponzi, Oddo Valenti, and Vico Consorti. Their theme refers to the wartime episodes which took place on the rivers Insonzo, Tagliamento, Sile, and Piave. It was there that Italian soldiers exhibited their bravery, while the general himself – the commander of the III Army, Duke Emanuel Filiberto d’Aosta, would be remembered in history as the one, who despite great losses in men faced the Austrian army. We are reminded of this by an inscription on one of the plaques: Tutti eroi! O il Piave, o tutti accoppati” (Everyone a hero! Eithe

r   the River Piave or let all of us get killed!”). The Piave River itself – the main line of resistance of Italian armies, grew from that time into a symbol of struggle and heroism.

Naming the bridge after the duke d’Aosta, who in 1926 thanks to his achievements was appointed as marshal of all Italy, also had its political context. In this way Mussolini showed gratitude to the hero of the First World War for his support in 1922 during the March on Rome. Honored and exalted by the Fascists he was one of the greatest admirers of Duce within the royal family.

Interestingly enough, the facial features on the bas-relief of the duke are reminiscent to those of Mussolini.