In the summer of 1934, the small Aeroporto Nicelli (really nothing more than an airfield) on the Lido, was the setting for one of the most famous meetings in twentieth century history.
On June 14th a plane touched down at the airport and out of it stepped the German chancellor, Adolf Hitler. There to greet him was the Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini. It was the first time the two men had met.
From the start, the fuhrer felt himself at a decided disadvantage, both sartorially and linguistically. Mussolini was snappily dressed as the commander-in-chief of the Italian Fascist Militia, while Hitler was sporting nothing flashier than an old suit and a fedora. And Mussolini spoke German, while Hitler knew not a jot of Italian.
The visit lasted three days and by the end of it Mussolini had come to the conclusion that Hitler was 'un clown, po' matto' (a clown, a little mad), while Hitler thought Mussolini was 'a pompous buffoon'.
The airport's terminal building survives from 1932, so it is the same space through which the two dictators would have strolled on that summer’s day in 1934.
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My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England.
Since 200I I have been living in Italy, where I run private tours of Florence, Rome &
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