Post office

Piazza Aurelio Saffi, 28, Forli, Municipality of Forlì, Emilia-Romagna Region, Italy
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Year of build:
Original name:
Palazzo delle Poste e dei Telegrafi
Cesare Bazzani
Past and Present Ownership of the Building/Site:

Poste Italiane S.p.A

Degree of preservation and status of protection

The Monuments Protection Chart of the Municipality of Forlì classifies the building with “ipso jure” monumental protection. Once intense and relevant, working activities inside the large building have now undergone a considerable decline. Administrative and logistical transformation, set by the Italian Postal Agency have actually moved most of the activities to other regional headquarters. Consequently, the ground floor (where the front office is located) is the only one in use, while the upper floors have been completely empty for many years now.

Architectural Description

The building is built on a rectangular plant with a central courtyard and consists of three floors above ground (excluding the attic and the turrets) and a basement. The building is completely isolated and has the dimensions of approximately 52x38 m, the courtyard has the dimensions of approximately 34x15 m and the maximum height, referring to the basement floor, is approximately 36 m. The main façade includes, on the mezzanine floor, a deep arcade with nine arches which gives access to the public rooms and the directional staircase. The columns, equipped with an arched niche and upper eye, are clad in travertine and terracotta, the internal walls are clad in travertine, while the flooring is made of sectors with polychrome marble with geometric designs, the stepped ramps are in granite and the vault is in stucco.

The cladding of the corner facings, finished with diamond studs, are also in travertine. Two ornamental columns in pink granite, on a travertine base, flank the portico on both sides and support the bronze eagle. An ornamental fountain, also in pink granite and travertine, designed by Architect Bazzani, was to be placed in the centre of the lifesaver platform in front of the building, to complete the work. At the last moment, in agreement with the Municipality, it was decided to place it in the square in front of the railway station, in line with the new Viale Benito Mussolini (now Viale della Libertà), at the opposite end of the Monument to the Fallen and to Victory, designed by the same Bazzani. The fountain was destroyed during the 1944’s air raids.

The upper part, entirely covered in travertine and exposed brick, presents nine large arches open up in correspondence with the portico’s vaults, under each of which two superimposed windows, the lower one with a tympanum and the other with an arch. The central window is larger than the others, completed with a large balcony in granite and travertine, equipped with a flag bearer and surmounted by a marble coat of arms. The nine spans are ordered by exposed brick columns that support the crowning, highlighted by a band in imitation travertine, bearing the inscription “Palazzo delle Poste e dei Telegrafi”. At the top, the façade is bordered by a cornice built in concrete with a grit finish. The attic, made of exposed brick with overlying travertine blocks, was increased in a subsequent phase, against the advice of Bazzani, in order to hide the roof pitch in tiles, which the designer had deliberately made visible from the square, in harmony with the other buildings facing it. Two symmetrical turrets, with arches on all four sides, rise, slightly set back, at the corners of the building. The facades of the towers, in exposed brick, reproduce the architectural motif of the portico spans, with the prevalent use of artificial stone for the decorations instead of travertine. The upper part is bordered by a cornice with a notched base in imitation travertine. The side facades and the rear elevation, the latter enriched by a central balcony in granite and travertine, are characterized by a greater use of artificial stone and are overall simpler.

There are several artists who have worked in the construction of the building: the architect and sculptor Roberto De Cupis, the sculptors Bernardo Morescalchi, Ugo Savorana and Mario Miserocchi, the plasterer Francesco Moschini, the painter Giovanni Marchini.

Observing the main façade of the building, various travertine works are visible: two Municipality of Forlì’s coats of arms, placed on the portico’s corner columns, a winged head depicting Mercury, placed in correspondence with the keystone of the central arch and a coat of arms above the main balcony. The latter was originally placed between two fasces and bore the Savoy emblem surmounted by the royal crown. The two fasces, originally placed in the center of the ashlar facing of the corner columns of the portico, were removed following the fall of the regime and two large fasces were placed in correspondence with the front arches of the towers at the inauguration of the building. Two bronze sculptures, depicting the Roman eagle, surmount the travertine-granite columns placed on the side of the building. These sculptures replaced the travertine eagles present at the inauguration of the building after about a year. The latter are currently deposited in the external area of a sports centre, located in Via Campo di Marte. The bronze eagles were restored in 2001 but the attribution of both works is not certain. Two bronze statuary groups made by the sculptor Bernardo Morescalchi from Carrara, depicting a horse with messenger next to it, had to surmount the ends of the crowning of the façade. For aesthetic reasons, they were immediately removed in spring 1933 and replaced in a similar postal building in Pescara, designed by Bazzani. It is also likely that the two sculptures were recycled by the war industry, like many other metal works. Observing above, it is possible to notice the Municipality of Forlì’s coat of arms (on the Piazzetta Don Pippo side) and a Savoy coat of arms (on the Corso Giuseppe Mazzini side), both in artificial stone, above a travertine plaque without incisions. The coats of arms were originally placed between a pair of fasces which were removed when the regime fell. Looking at the rear façade, you can see a travertine coat of arms, placed in correspondence with the transom window relating to the service entrance, originally placed between two lictor beams and bearing the Savoyard emblem surmounted by the royal crown and two sculptural tondi, also in travertine, depicting the coats of arms of the Municipality and the Province of Forlì. Three lictor beams in artificial stone, originally placed inside the triangular tympanum of the windows on the first floor, were removed at the fall of Fascism.

The cornice is decorated with fifty-two lion’s heads made of grit concrete. Having deteriorated, many of these have been recently removed to avoid the dangerous fall of fragments. The two central balconies are equipped with a wrought iron flag holder in the shape of a “caveja”, a traditional symbol of Romagna, with copper rings and a figure of a Forlì’s Ghibelline eagle. The sliding gate located at the entrance to the public atrium, the windows relating to the basement and mezzanine floors, the arched transom windows relating to the six entrances to the building and the front openings of the turrets, are equipped with artistic railings designed by Roberto De Cupis and carried out by the Bottega Matteucci in Faenza, which is also responsible for the construction of the railings of the directional staircase. The railings are located on the main façade and are decorated with copper elements.

Inside the building, in the middle of the public hall, there is a bronze sculpture of particular value, depicting a female figure (once supporting a clock on an onyx dial, now removed), by the sculptor Bernardo Morescalchi as well. Behind the statue is a Moroccan onyx panel. Also the marble bust of Mussolini, designed by Roberto De Cupis, originally located in the public hall, and the decorative panels made by the Forlivese painter Giovanni Marchini for the ceilings of the Direction and Council rooms, located on the first floor of the building, are removed. In the management room, Marchini painted the coats of arms of Italy and the province of Forlì, connected by stylized fasces, two large horses depicting land mail and air mail, all surrounded by the coats of arms of the four districts and the most important municipalities in the province. In the adjoining council chamber, he painted a female figure crowned and wrapped in the tricolor, symbolizing Italy, from which the waves of genius depart and spread throughout the world. The public halls are certainly the most adorned rooms. The walls of the counters are covered in Trani marble, the floors are made with coloured marble with geometric patterns, the ceilings are decorated with stucco. The doors are now of the armored type with aluminum profiles and anti-crime glass, but were originally designed in wood, in harmony with the windows in the entrance’s lounge. The original wooden structure is shown in the project graphics deposited in the State Archive of Forlì. The one rebuilt in the post-war period and replaced in the sixties, also in wood, but differently designed, is visible in some photographs of the time belonging to a private collection. The post office box is located in the special room accessible on the right side of the atrium, in front of the telegraph reception (current consulting room). The old filing cabinet, entirely covered in wood, was removed in the late 1950s to be replaced with a metal artifact. In that period, the Forlì postelegraphonics who fell in the war were commemorated, transcribing their names on the marble plaque above the filing cabinet. Most of the Murano lamps originally installed in the main rooms were destroyed or removed. Exceptions are the twisting lights and the ceiling roses placed in the public hall, the wall lamps and the hanging chandelier placed in the staircase. On the occasion of the recent restoration of the portico, as part of the construction of the new lighting system, three new wrought iron chandeliers with leaded glass were installed, made by the Nicoletti’s Company from Forlì, based on the drawings made by Bottega Ravaglioli from Modigliana for Predappio Nuova’s post office lanterns.

History and Historical Context

After the unification of Italy, the Post Office was located at Palazzo Pettini, in Piazza del Duomo, in some state-owned premises adjacent to those occupied by the offices of the Royal Civil Engineers and later, in some rooms on the ground floor and on the mezzanine of Palazzo dell'Intendenza di Finanza, in Piazza Maggiore (now Piazza Aurelio Saffi) at the corner with Via Jacopo Allegretti (1885-1909). The first Telegraphic Office was built in 1857 inside the civic tower and later found a temporary location in Palazzo della Provincia, in via delle Torri and at Palazzo Rolli, in Piazza Maggiore, and then merged with the postal service in 1889 at the headquarters in Palazzo dell'Intendenza di Finanza.

In 1909, the postal and telegraphic services were located in Piazza XX Settembre. At the end of 1920’s, having ascertained the absolute insufficiency of the building, the Ministry of Communications prepared a project for the expansion of the premises which was however inadequate with respect to the actual needs represented, also in consideration of the planned establishment of the offices of the Provincial Directorate of Regie Poste. It was agreed to study the possibility of locating the offices elsewhere. For its construction, some historic buildings were sacrificed and the most central place in the city, (Piazza Aurelio Saffi) was chosen.

At the end of July 1930, Mussolini’s government ordered the construction of several post offices in many different cities, including Forlì. The Minister of Communications Costanzo Ciano commissioned the architect Cesare Bazzani (1873-1939), a well-known Italian scholar and designer of several institutional buildings (including the post offices of Imperia, San Remo, Faenza, Ascoli Piceno, Macerata, Terni, Viterbo, Rieti, Pescara, Taranto, etc.). Having rejected the first hypothesis of constructing the building in the area of the former Baratti’s houses in Corso Vittorio Emanuele (current Corso della Repubblica) since this place was too small for a rational distribution of services, Bazzani decided - probably on the recommendation of the Head of Government - to build the palace on the northside of Piazza Saffi, in correspondence with the so-called “Castellini Island”, after the demolition of the existing buildings. The new Palazzo delle Poste e dei Telegrafi sketch, approved by Mussolini, was presented by the architect Bazzani to the local authorities and citizens on December 22nd 1930. The relative project was drawn up on January 12th 1931 and approved by the Minister for Communications Ciano with the Ministerial Decree of January 17th 1931. The prefectural decrees of 20th February 1931 (temporary occupation) and 18th November 1931 (permanent occupation) ordered the expropriation of the properties owned by Pantoli, Rolli, Landini, Danesi and Monti. The agreement stipulated in October 1931, between the Ministry and the Municipality of Forlì, established the latter's participation in the construction costs of the new postal building, for the amount of 700.000 Italian Lira and the free acquisition of some areas, portions of squares and streets.

In Spring 1931, the eviction of all the expropriated rooms was ordered, for the most part rented for residential use, the transfer of some commercial activities to the premises made available on the ground floor of the building called “Monte di Pietà” and the payment of all the compensation for expropriation payable to the owners, as well as a sum, by way of compensation, to the evicted merchants. The demolition works of the expropriated buildings, contracted in June 1931 to the Teofilo Raimondi and C. company of Cesena, began in the following July and continued throughout the summer. In September 1931, the exact location of the new building was defined, providing for its further retreat with respect to the line of the demolished buildings, in such a way as to widen the perspective of the square, obtain a wider road outlet along the Largo De Calboli and a greater breadth of vision on the monumental facades of the Romanesque church of San Mercuriale and of the Palazzo Paolucci - De Calboli behind it.

The construction work of the new building, assigned to the Company Ettore Benini from Forlì, began in November 1931 and was mostly completed in October 1932. The works were entrusted to the Bologna Works Section of the State Railways, in the person of the engineer Presutti, on behalf of the head of the Agazzi engineering section. The building was inaugurated on the 10th of October 1932, in the presence of the Head of Government, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the March on Rome (when Mussolini’s party took power). As reported by the newspapers of the time, costs amounted to 6.680.000 Italian Lira, of which 4.500.000 for the construction works, 2.000.000 for expropriations and 180.000 for furnishings. The property was taken over in the assets of the Postal and Telegraphic Administration by means of the delivery report dated April 1933, drafted by the Bologna Works Section of the State Railways. From that date, the offices of the Provincial Directorate and the postal and telegraphic services began their activities at the new headquarters. On 25 August 1944, the air raids also hit the city of Forlì and the building was seriously damaged, with particular reference to the roof structures, the public hall and the facades overlooking Piazza Aurelio Saffi and Piazzetta della Posta. Part of the offices was transferred for a short period to a building located in the hamlet of San Martino in Strada and, subsequently, to some premises of the headquarters “Monte di Pietà”, located in Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi. Curated by the Civic Engineering Office of Forlì, the reconstruction works were approved by the regional superintendent on the 10th of August 1945 with an overall budget of 7.370.000 Italian Lira. Following private negotiations, the work was entrusted to the Company Edile Forlivese, in February 1947, with a budget of 5.000.000 Italian Lira, and ended in 1950.

Values of the Building

The post and telegraph office building is one of the most symbolic buildings in Forlì, connected to the regime's architecture. Made by the Roman engineer Cesare Bazzani, a very important technician and academic in Italy, it was located in the economic and political centre of Forlì and equipped, both outside and inside, with one of the richest decorative elements, partly lost in the postwar period. The building was transfigured by the new building, which then served as a tragic backdrop to episodes linked to Nazi repression and war destruction, with the population as the main victim. In the hours following the fall of Mussolini (25th July 1943), a crowd vented its joy and hatred against the dictatorship by removing the fascist decoration on the walls of the building, while the allies hit the buildings during the air raids, on the 25th of August 1944. A large plaque placed inside the building remembers the postelegraphonics who died as a result of the bombing, while the bodies of the partisans Silvio Corbari, Adriano Casadei, Arturo Brusholi and Iris Versari, who were captured by the Nazi-Fascists then killed and hung on the street’s lamps in the main square on 18 August 1943, stays indelible in the city’s memory.

Description of the Urban Context and Development

The Palazzo delle Poste e dei Telegrafi in Forlì is located in Piazza Aurelio Saffi, on which the main façade faces, laterally it borders with Corso Giuseppe Mazzini and with Piazzetta Don Pippo (formerly Piazzetta della Posta), while the rear façade faces on Via Guido Bonatti. The current Regulatory Plan places the building in Zone A - Historic Center. The property is identified at N.C.E.U. of the Municipality of Forlì on Sheet 178, Mappali 114, 116 and 125.