There are many places in Rome where you can easily get away from the crowds of tourists, but if you are looking for a truly interesting place that tourists almost never get to see, head to the EUR Rome district. Large boulevards and modern, essential looking buildings characterize this part of the Eternal City, which started coming to life in the final years of the Fascist regime.
You will surely enjoy it if you are an architecture and design connoisseur – it really looks unique.
I don’t often get to explore the EUR myself, but when I do I take in all the incredible views and literally go on a photographic journey. So I thought I’d share some of my photos, and while at it, I’d include the history and the most important landmarks you may want to spot.
Make sure to read my post The Nicest Neighborhoods In Rome.
The History Of EUR Rome District
Unlike many other districts of Rome, which can trace their history back to antiquity and beyond in some cases, the EUR Rome district is a much more modern creation, born out of the Fascist era of the early 20th century.
In 1935, it was suggested to Benito Mussolini, the leader of Fascist Italy, that Rome should put itself forward as a candidate to host the World Exposition of 1942. This was the idea of Giuseppe Bottai, whose intent was to show off the incredible breadth of Italian civilization to the rest of the world. Mussolini met the idea with great gusto.
At first, planners involved couldn’t work out where to host the exposition. Various parts of the city were considered, but ultimately the area from the Baths of Caracalla towards the sea – around five kilometers south of the historic center – was chosen. This site was going to be, to all intents and purposes, a “new Rome” that was linked to the old city by the Via dei Fori Imperiali.
The plans for this development started on the 26th of April, 1937; these were dubbed the E42, and the event was intended to mark 20 years of the Fascist government. In 1939, the project underwent a name change: Esposizione Universale Roma (EUR). A ceremonial planting of an umbrella pine by Mussolini himself marked out the area’s purpose, but much debate and discussion followed.
The architectural style of the area had to be uniform, but had not been decided upon yet. Many architects were involved in its development, and it became something of an experimental playing field, with many engineers and designers lending a hand in what turned out to be a very modern development.
The resulting style was highly symbolic, mixing modern takes on arches and piazzas with architectural styles of the time, including brutalism and art deco. Historians have said that it is both monumental and modern, with a rationalist twist, in a style thought to evoke the empire.
However, these grand plans were put on hold, as were many throughout Europe, due to World War II. The planned expo never took place and construction completely stopped in 1942. The EUR was left both incomplete and severely damaged. As the war came to an end, the question of what to do with the EUR district remained unanswered.
In the 1950s, it was eventually decided that the area would become a business district. Unfinished buildings were completed, damaged buildings were repaired, and new buildings with modern designs – intended for corporate and governmental offices – were constructed. Further infrastructure was implemented throughout.
Though the EUR district was never used for the 1942 World Expo, it was instead earmarked to be the location of many events that were to be held in the 1960 Rome Olympics. Facilities for the Olympics were built, including the Piscina delle Rose, a large velodrome, and the Palazzo dello Sport, situated at the heart of the EUR complex.
The district developed further following the Olympics, with new buildings being added. However, it was during the late 20th century that controversy arose in the form of questions surrounding the ethics of utilizing a whole district rubber-stamped by Mussolini himself.
But in recent years the architecture itself has attracted international attention and is admired by many, even providing a cinematic backdrop for films including the James Bond series.
The EUR district today remains modern and functional, a place that attracts many fans of architecture and design the world over. I am definitely one of the many: albeit a firm anti-fascist, I am a real fan of the architecture of the era.
The Best Places To Visit In EUR Rome District
EUR Rome district is actually packed with many interesting landmarks you may want to spot if you have an interest in the architectural style that characterizes it. The following are the most important places that may interest a tourist – but keep your eyes open as there is actually much more that is worthy of your attention!
Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana
This striking building is one of the most iconic buildings of the EUR district and is possibly what best represents the style of architecture in this area. Built between 1937 and 1953, the structure was designed by architects Mario Romano, Giovanni Guerrini and Ernesto Lapadula, and was inspired by the metaphysical school of art.
This style of painting began in 1910 and consisted of dreamlike creations on stark backdrops, with lots of contrasting light and shadows and futuristic details. The project came to be known as the Colosseo Quadrato, or the Square Colosseum.
It’s been touted by professors of history and art, Giorgio Muratore, as “the most important work constructed in Rome in the last 100 years”. The building is a striking example of Italian Rationalism, mixed with Neoclassical design, combining into Fascist architecture. Interestingly, this is a philosophy called Romanità: a style that encompasses the past, present, and future in one element.
The structure was a landmark building and was built to point to the new course of Italian history at the time. With its arches, the building draws inspiration from the Colosseum, and was originally designed to be a museum of Italian civilization, which it never became. Instead, today this is the headquarters of fashion house Fendi.
Make sure to read my post A Guide To The Palazzo Della Civiltà Italiana.
Parco Centrale del Lago
This artificial lake was first thought up in 1936 with the original designs of EUR, back when it was known as E42, but was only realized in physical form in time for the 1960 Rome Olympics. This large green space spans 160,000 square meters and is surrounded by buildings constructed for the Olympic games. The lake itself is a pleasant waterway with a fountain, an especially cooling place to be on a warm day.
Not only this, but in 1959, on visiting the site, Japanese prime minister Nobusuke Kishi gifted the nation with 2,500 Japanese cherry trees. The Parco Centrale del Lago was the place chosen to plant many of these trees and to this day, Romans gather under the cherry blossoms in March and early April to admire the sakura in the style of the Japanese tradition (you may even see people wearing kimonos).
Part of the Parco Centrale del Lago, this impressive water feature is a combination of white-water cascades and jetting fountains. It looks like a supersized, modern version of a Baroque-era water feature in a noble’s villa.
The waterfall gardens have only recently been opened to the public, having first opened to the public in 1960 and shut in 1961. It was only in 2017 that the general public were once again able to get close to this watery facet of the EUR district.
Located near Piazza Pakistan and surrounded by ancient pine forests, EurPark is an adventurous destination for families looking to experience a slice of the great outdoors just a stone’s throw from the center of Rome.
The park is divided into two sections: “Adventure” and “Energy”. There are activities for all ages to enjoy here, from human table football to archery and treetop walkways. It’s a great idea on a warm day if you’re traveling with children who just want to have fun.
The EUR district is entirely modern – and the same goes for its obelisk. These ancient Egyptian monuments feature quite prominently throughout Rome, in St. Peter’s Square, for example, but mirroring these landmark locations, the EUR obelisk is equally impressive, though much younger.
Known as the Marconi Obelisk, the monument is dedicated to the inventor of the radio and Nobel Prize winner, Guglielmo Marconi. It is the work of sculptor Arturo Dazzi, and was commissioned in 1939 by the Ministry of Popular Culture. Marconi had died two years previously, and the obelisk was intended to sit at the center of the new quarter.
The work was interrupted by World War II, but Dazzi had already completed the first two portions of the sculpture by then. Work resumed in 1951, even though the Ministry of Popular Culture intended to demolish the obelisk. Thankfully, they didn’t.
Even though it was incomplete, the artist himself refused to hide the unfinished behind painted panels, instead allowing the obelisk to take shape in public view. The obelisk was finally completed in 1959; it stands at an imposing 45 meters tall and is covered in 92 slabs of Carrara marble.
Don’t forget to read my post The Obelisks Of Rome.
Rome Convention Center
One of the newer elements of the EUR district, when this large convention center was completed in 2016, it became the biggest building to have been constructed in Rome in the past half century. The new convention center is a modern, earthquake-proof building that cost hundreds of millions of euros to build.
Though much newer than its EUR counterparts, the Rome Convention Center attempts to echo the similar straight lines and minimalism of its Rationalist siblings – except with more glass this time around. Also called La Nuvola (“The Cloud”), this landmark development plays host to a multitude of events throughout the year as well as an attached hotel.
Basilica of St. Peter and Paul
The construction of this church began in 1939, but was halted at the start of World War II. Topped by an enormous dome, this modern basilica looks like a minimalist version of the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican City, and is located at the highest point in the EUR district.
The church was originally intended to be the mausoleum of Mussolini, but of course, this never happened. The building instead opened its doors as a church in 1955, becoming a fully fledged basilica in 1967. While the Basilica of St. Peter and Paul can be seen from miles away, thanks to its height, this elevated area also means you can get some great views of the EUR district from here, too.
Originally the Palazzetto dello Sport, and later the PalaEUR, the PalaLottomatica is located in the heart of the EUR district. Designed by architect Marcello Piacentini in 1957, the sports complex is topped by a reinforced concrete dome. It has the capacity for over 11,000 spectators and was opened just in time for the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, hosting basketball among other sports.
Today the complex isn’t just for sports. It features a restaurant, terraces, and also hosts various events throughout the year, such as music concerts and sports’ tournaments.
EUR Rome Museums
There are several interesting museums situated around the EUR district.
Museo dell’Alto Medioevo (The Early Middle Ages Museum)
Located a stone’s throw from the Marconi Obelisk, this museum showcases art that was created between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages. There are a number of fascinating, intricate pieces to admire, of particular note is a reconstruction of a room found at Ostia Antica decorated with opulent opus sectiles (stone inlay).
Museo delle Arti e Tradizioni popolari (The Museum of Arts and Popular Traditions)
Also situated on the Piazza Guglielmo Marconi, this ethnographic museum charts the history of folk costumes, food, and lifestyles of the Italian peninsula. The rich heritage of the country is showcased through large displays of clothing, farming implements and vehicles, among other things.
One of the more entertaining elements of the museum are the examples of offerings worshipers have given to saints for helping them out in times of need; these include paintings of vomiting individuals and body parts made of wax.
Museo Preistorico Etnografico L. Pigorini (The Pigorini Prehistoric Ethnographic Museum)
Another ethnographic museum, this one instead takes visitors on a journey into the distant past to learn about the lives of prehistoric people of Italy and the world at large. There’s a fantastic collection of exhibits here, with artifacts from Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
Museo della Civiltà Romana – The Museum of Roman Civilization
With its huge columns, the exterior of this museum is impressive enough to warrant a visit. That may be the only thing you can do at the moment, as the museum has been closed for renovations since 2014. No date has been announced for its reopening.
The building was designed by architects Pietro Ascheri, D. Bernardini, and Cesare Pascoletti, and completed in 1941, the 59 areas of the museum tell the story of Rome from its origin to the fourth century.
Euroma 2 shopping mall
A modern city area wouldn’t be complete without shopping opportunities, and this is where the Euroma 2 shopping mall comes in. It has all the elements you’d expect of a modern retail complex, from restaurants and coffee bars to clothing stalls, with 200 stores in total across multiple floors, all topped by a glass cupola and decorated within by gold accents.
The name of this futuristic tower means “Mushroom of the EUR” – and aptly so as it looks like a tall mushroom. It was originally built as a water tower, with a reservoir that supplies the district with non-drinking water, particularly to the artificial lake and providing irrigation to the parks.
It’s located near the Palazzo dello Sport and was completed in 1957. From the viewing deck on the 14th floor, over 50 meters up, you can actually see the coast along Fiumicino. The Fungo dell’EUR also features a restaurant and bar.
Guided tours of the EUR District
For tourists, this is a much lesser known part of town. While you can definitely explore independently – all you need is to bookmark the places mentioned in this post, and place them on a map you can follow as you go around – a guided tour may be a good idea to take in all the history, culture and even politics and contemporary life that characterize this district.
I recommend this Architecture at the Time of Mussolini’s Fascism tour of the EUR. It’s not cheap, but it may well be worth it as it takes you around an area of the Eternal City not many tourists go to. You can book it here.
Another good option is to get in touch with a local guide. I recommend Samuele Casarin. You can send him an email at email@example.com – make sure to mention my name when you do!
How to get to the EUR district
The EUR district is quite far from the Historic Center of Rome – 12 km (7.5 miles) if you intend to walk, but very easy to reach by public transport.
Metro B has various stops in EUR – EUR Fermi, EUR Palasport and EUR Magliana. The best station to get off will probably be EUR Magliana. Line B goes through Rome Termini station, Cavour and Colosseum so pretty much wherever you are in town, you can hop on the metro. Depending on your starting point it will take you between 15 and 20 minutes to get to EUR.
Buses also go from the center of Rome to the EUR District, but with the traffic of Rome, it may take you up even more than 45 minutes to get there so I don’t recommend it.
These posts will be useful when planning your trip to Rome:
- How To Use Rome’s Metro
- How To Use Public Transport In Rome
- The Most Important Landmarks In Rome
- The Best Hidden Gems In Rome