Saturday, October 18, 2008

Benessere for Benito

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Hotel%20lobby.JPGBenessere is what the Italians call the pampering you get at a spa. Benito Mussolini, sometime journalist seduced by the power of politics, ended up running post-WWI Italy in much the same way as Adolf Hitler did post-WWI Germany: by appealing to the anger, shame and nationalism of its baffled, impoverished and humiliated citizenry. A native of Emilia-Romagna, he nationalized its terme, the soothing hot springs of the Apennines. In the Grand Hotel at Castrocaro, he strutted proudly, toga-clad, through the grand hallways of its Fascist-era architecture. (Art deco suited totalitarianism very well.) Then again, FDR took similar pleasure in dedicating Mt. Hood's Timberline Lodge. Actually, Timberline was built as a public works project in the same era (late 1930s), though there would not have been a faint aroma of sulfur. One fortunate, impressive legacy at the Grand Hotel is the magnificent decoration by a Florentine ceramicist, Tito Chini.

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