“The age of violence”, was how Eric Hosbwam defined the period from 1914 to 1945. Bergamo had the good fortune not to have ever suffered heavy bombing, either during the first or the second world war, while its inhabitants were directly involved on the front.
Wars, even when they do not devastate buildings, do, nevertheless, transform towns. Demonstrations by people, of different political leanings, marched against one another during the First World War and then in the following two years: fights would break out as they moved along the Sentierone (the promenade in Bergamo’s lower town). Warmongers mobilised to create ever more grandiose buildings, with the purpose of demonstrating, even in urban settings, their presumed wartime superiority and, during the years of dictatorship, even their “racial” superiority. New monuments sprang up, dedicated to the memory of the dead, their own dead, but which symbolised, above all, the need to make “sacrifices for the motherland”; others, such as La Rocca and the Museo del Risorgimento, were rededicated, taking on the significance of “guardians of memories of the empire and the grandeur of the motherland”.
But if, during the first world war, the signs of a country at war were linked, above all, to the return of the wounded and the dead and to the terrible Spanish flu epidemic, which led to the reopening of the Lazzaraetto quarantine station (a tragic event of which, significantly, there is no photographic evidence), World War II brought war... a war fought in Bergamo’s streets and squares. Writings appeared on the façade of Porta Nuova’s propilei eulogising the war; buildings such as the Casa del Littorio were constructed, celebrating the Italian empire and “ephemeral architecture” appeared.
The defeat of fascism would lead to the destruction of the most compromising monuments, such as the one built to commemorate the “Fascist Revolution”, but some architecture and symbols of fascism can still be found in the town today.