Story of Nathan, the greatest mayor of Rome, and of a team of disorganized champions

From today “Nathan and the invention of Rome. The mayor who changed the eternal city ”, a book by Fabio Martini for Marsilio. A few months after the election of the new mayor, Fabio Martini, refined chronicler and columnist of the Press, retraces the experience of Ernesto Nathan, who was mayor over a century ago. With Nathan, Rome left the nineteenth century and in a few years was transformed into a modern twentieth-century city. The mayor had composed a junta with seven liberals, three socialists, two radicals and two republicans. Nothing more heterogeneous. But what united the councilors? Who were champions, and often the champions get along well beyond ideologies. We are talking about Ivanoe Bonomi, Meuccio Ruini, Giovanni Montemartini, people who will make the history of Italy.

Below is a preview of the volume by Martini, which could even give some good ideas to who will be elected to lead the Capitol next autumn.

He went down in history as the greatest mayor of Rome and one of the secrets that allowed Ernesto Nathan to be remembered with such a demanding definition lies in the happy choice of his main collaborators: councilors and trained technicians, who study before moving on to action, in several “disorganic” intellectual cases. Not a “government of technicians” aseptic, but instead of competent, animated by a strong political passion. So much so that, sooner or later, almost everyone will have no problem interrupting their collaboration with the Giunta Nathan, which governed Rome from 1907 to 1913. Separations, but without leaving the aftermath of resentment or posthumous controversy. Lessons in style: what remains of them are the creations and the thought that precedes them (….)

In the first fifteen years of the twentieth century in the squalid and insidious Roman countryside, tormented by malaria and the absenteeism of the owners, one of the most original and touching phenomena that has seen a group of intellectuals and scientists engaged throughout the twentieth century in Italy takes shape. Doctors, writers, pedagogues – moved by a disinterested sentiment and secular humanitarianism – dedicate part of their lives to the education of peasant populations, often unable to defend themselves from malaria out of pure ignorance. A rescue that initially develops spontaneously, following the generosity of the pioneers. They were the first of them to generate a secular chain gradually more and more extended: the hygienist Angelo Celli and his wife Anna manage to create a “contagion” that will eventually land on the Capitol, crossing the Nathan administration, which will encourage not only financially these passionate precursors (….). Sibilla Aleramo left icastic frescoes of that landscape, thus describing the poor laborers: «Straw huts like heaps of mulch. They live in huts, without a floor, they too seem made of mud, they look astonished, children and old people “(…).

To educate those poor children, disused railway wagons are used and above all the transportable chair-closet, which once placed in some clearing of the Agro, allowed them to carry out the lesson outdoors complete with a blackboard, geographical maps, abacus. Expedients that had a precedent of a completely different nature: the portable altars used in other areas of the Agro to distribute religious comforts where there were no buildings and even less a church. Experiences with epic traits, memorable for the promoters and for all those who were involved, starting with the little students (…).

In the years preceding the administration led by Ernesto Nathan, Maria Montessori was engaged in an enterprise of personal and intellectual emancipation that would literally set the standard. Marchigiana di Chiaravalle, daughter of a state official and a teacher, of an imperious character, Maria as a young girl had been one of the very first Italians to graduate (in 1896, in medicine), but she had found herself in a social and working universe that did not contemplated the active presence and leading role of advanced women and having temporary university positions, she is a precarious ante litteram who lives on her work.

At the end of 1906 Edoardo Talamo, director of the Roman Institute of stable assets, in the turbulent district of San Lorenzo wanted to create a system of tenement kindergartens, in which to concentrate younger children while waiting for the older siblings to return from school. And he offers Maria Montessori the task of managing these new structures. A nonconformist woman who wants to experiment with her own innovative principles without the conditioning of her employers, Maria one morning finds herself barred from her classrooms (….). It would be an impossible exercise in counterfactual history to imagine what would have happened if at that point the Municipality of Rome had not accepted Montessori among the municipal schools, but it is certainly also thanks to the encouragement of Ernesto Nathan that such a new pedagogical method could develop and inspire thousands of schools around the world. Leaving a trace in the lives of millions of people (…).

A few days after the electoral victory of November 1907, Ernesto Nathan communicates the list of fourteen councilors: seven are liberals, three socialists, two radicals and two republicans. And as for the professions, six are professors (….). Giovanni Montemartini, author of the most important study carried out in Italy on municipalization and which will be defined by the economist Maffeo Pantaleoni as “the most balanced and cultured socialist who has ever been in Italy”, deals with “Technological services”. To elaborate and materially write the new master plan, Nathan asked for the collaboration of a civil engineering engineer completely unrelated to the Roman environment: Edmondo Sanjust of Teulada.

As councilor for the budget, the mayor calls Ivanoe Bonomi. Personality of depth, he will later assume a leading role on the national political scene: Prime Minister between 1921 and 1922, after 8 September 1943 the National Liberation Committee will unanimously designate him as successor to Marshal Pietro Badoglio. The one who will give his constant critical contribution from the seats of the Municipal Council is Meuccio Ruini, who at the fall of the Fascist regime found Ivanoe Bonomi: the two founded the Labor Democracy party. Ruini was repeatedly minister, president of the decisive Commission of 75, in charge of drafting the Constitution in 1953 will be elected president of the Senate. Yet another proof that the one gathered around him by Ernesto Nathan had really been a team of champions.

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