|A remnant of blue ribbon signifying the birth of a baby boy beneath a soldier's head from the Fascist era
Recently Jen returned from a visit to a certain macelleria on Via Garibaldi to tell me that we lived on an island of Fascists.
Now both of us already knew that, yes, the bulk of what is now Sant' Elena was built up of mud dredged up in the process of creating deep shipping lanes through the lagoon in the early part of the 20th Century and that the construction upon it was the handiwork of the Fascists. Prior to this, except for the island upon which the 12th-century church and monastery of Sant' Elena stood, the rest of what is now the island was merely a barrena, frequently submerged by tides.
But this is not what the butcher meant. No, he said, he'd lived on Sant' Elena for one year but had to leave because it was far too conservative for his taste.
Well, Jen said, it's traditionally been un quartiere popolare (working class neighborhood) and sometimes those can be conservative...
No, not just conservative, he insisted, but quite literally unabashedly Fascist. He claimed that the families who originally moved into the newly-built Fascist neighborhood in the 1920s were party loyalists, and many have remained so.
He said that in the uppermost stories of certain Sant' Elena apartments there were still to be found busts of Mussolini, which were of more than merely historical interest to their owners. He'd seen them himself.
He couldn't wait to escape from Sant' Elena. After one year here he'd fled to the nearby--but not too nearby--island of San Pietro di Castello. Where he has lived happily ever since.
In our year and half here we've yet to encounter any busts of Mussolini. The life-long Sant' Elena resident we know best is actually quite liberal, and having been to the low-ceilinged uppermost floor of his apartment I can tell you that the only portrait to be found there is a lovely oil of his childhood self painted in the late 1940s, with no trace of Fascism in it.
As for contemporary flesh-and-blood Fascists, I've yet to meet any in Sant' Elena. Nor even any supporters of Lega Nord. But I'll keep my eyes open, as these days no matter what part of Venice, or Italy, or the world you live in there are some very dangerous political groups trying to gain traction.