The Roman neighborhood of Garbatella has become famous. Mass tourism has not arrived, for the moment, but journalists have: they are looking for the roots of Giorgia Meloni, the new phenomenon of Italian politics, the new totem of the European extreme right, the candidate who arrives at the head of this Sunday’s elections . Meloni usually speaks of the Garbatella to underline its working-class origins. Which are true. Although it should also be noted that Garbatella is one of the most beautiful working-class neighborhoods in the world. And that it was built in the fascist era of Benito Mussolini.
in his book I’m Giorgia, an early but well-written autobiography (the name of the real editor is unknown) and unusually sincere, the Italian Brothers’ candidate for the Presidency of the Government recounts a harsh and rather unhappy childhood. She was born in a house in the Camilluccia, an elegant area behind the Vatican, but she and her sister Arianna accidentally started a fire that destroyed the building. The family then moved to Garbatella, where the grandparents lived. Shortly after, her father went to the Canary Islands, where he set up a restaurant.
“At the age of nine, I weighed 65 kilos,” says Meloni. She was, by her own admission, a fat, unpleasant girl, bullied at school and emotionally deprived. Alessandro, a man in his sixties, lived almost next door to Giorgia Meloni. He remembers her as a neo-fascist girl, chubby and “not very intelligent”, who used to put up posters on walls where it was forbidden and whom she had scolded more than once for it.
Today’s candidate entered at the age of 15 in a local of the Italian Social Movement, heir party to the fascist ideology, and enrolled in its Youth Front. The headquarters, in via Guendalina Borghese, a few meters from where Meloni lived, has been closed for years. “The young people from that venue were possibly the calmest and most peaceful of the neo-fascist movement; it was convenient for them not to pick a fight because there were few of them and they were surrounded by communist social centers”, says Alessandro. “The really violent ones, those with batons, were in Piazza del Navigatori, on the other side of Via Cristoforo Colombo,” he adds. A piece of information that perhaps helps to understand Meloni’s resistance mentality: her MSI headquarters suffered several fire attempts by leftist militants.
It was the 90s. The First Republic was sinking into a swamp of corruption. Then appeared as the savior of the country a man who had contributed with his money to rot the traditional parties: Silvio Berlusconi. La Garbatella was going through a bad time. The Palladium, one of its emblematic buildings, was no longer the bustling social center of the 1970s and, after years of neglect, was converted into a porn cinema. (Now, rehabilitated, it is a theater of the Roma-3 University). The crisis was felt everywhere.
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However, the Garbatella was (and is) an oasis of peace near the center of Rome. Nanni Moretti exhibited his beauty, mounted on a Vespa, in the movie Caro Diario. Despite being a neighborhood enclosed between two busy roads (Ostiense and Colombo), it has delightful corners such as Piazza Brin or various sections of Via delle Sette Chiese. The very house where Meloni grew up, a reddish apartment building built around 1940, has a large garden full of fir, pine and palm trees that would not be out of place in the most luxurious area.
Almost the entire neighborhood emerged in the 20s and 30s of the 20th century and was one of Benito Mussolini’s great Roman projects. Those evicted from the Borgo that surrounded the Vatican, when the Via de la Conciliazione was laid out, received lodgings in the Garbatella. But most of those early residents were railwaymen and laborers who worked in the industrial area adjacent to the Gasometer and the old port on the Tiber. Sometimes the prestige that Mussolini’s dictatorship had among the working class is forgotten. The Garbatella dwellings are one of the many explanations.
In Garbatella the left has always won. The “Meloni phenomenon” does not excite its neighbors. Normally, in the neighborhood the right should be defeated again in these elections. But the disappointment with the Democratic Party (the institutional left, made from the wreckage of the First Republic) is so great that nobody is sure of anything.
Annamaria, Alessandro’s wife, is a civil servant and worked with Meloni at the time (2008-2011) when she was Minister of Youth. “She was a normal girl, very hard-working, a bit arrogant and was always accompanied by a huge bodyguard who, to be honest, seemed smarter than her,” she says.
What few discuss, in the Garbatella and outside of it, is that Meloni does not lie. It is what she appears to be. He hasn’t invented degrees or master’s degrees, he has a journalist’s card but, except for occasional jobs when he was a teenager, he has always lived off politics, and he doesn’t mind talking about his complexes (he spends his life on a diet), his insufficiencies and their blunders.
And then there is the accent, that popular Roman (once embodied by the great Alberto Sordi, another nostalgic for fascism) with which many instinctively sympathize. The accent sweetens his shrill voice. And even his message, whose radicalism sometimes scares even his co-religionists: remember his hysterical speech at the Vox congress in Marbella, on June 15.
One of the last sentences of his autobiography is the following: “I will continue fighting so that Italy may one day have a President of the Republic elected directly by Italians and a Government that responds directly to the people. I know that this is what most frightens the current system of power in Italy and in Europe; That’s why I know what we have to do.”
The girl from the Garbatella, with this type of speech, brushes the presidency of the Government with her fingers.
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