The Varese holiday camp was designed by architect Mario Loreti and built between 1937 and 1939. The monumental and futurist building combined two functions: as a centre for health and as a site of education with Fascist propaganda.
Between futurism and propaganda
The monumental and futurist elements underline the celebrative and symbolic features typical of architecture built during the Fascist period. In fact, from above the building resembles a seaplane, in line with futurist interpretations of Fascist propaganda.
The symmetrical structure consists of a central building and two lateral ones which housed the dormitories and service rooms. At the centre of the structure, a five-storey monumental grid of reinforced concrete supports an original ramp-staircase. These huge Piranesian ramps consisted of crossing inclined floors, which were visible through large central windows. In fact, the aim was to exhibit the gymnastic performances and ceremonial parades of the Fascist youth.
After only two years of hosting children, with the outbreak of WW II, the building was assigned a new function as a military hospital for the Italian army, and with the German occupation as a prisoner of war camp. Partially damaged during the conflict, it underwent a minor restoration immediately after the war, when the central ramps were rebuilt. In 1949, the holiday camp returned to its original function, but was finally evacuated in 1957 having become unsafe.
The Varese holiday camp today
Today, the monumental building is totally abandoned. Through the skeletal structure one can glimpse the horizon on the sea. It served as a film location for two Italian films: Marcello Aliprandi’s La Ragazza di Latta (1970) and Pupi Avanti’s horror film Zeder (1983).