Sunday 21 December 2014

Available to let: Mussolini's Greek retirement villa

Nick Squires

Published 17/08/2014 | 02:30

The leader and inspiration of the cause of Italy in Africa, Il Duce Benito Mussolini, is shown in this new character-portrait in full Fascist uniform. Rome knows this pose of Mussolini well. It is the familiar stance of their leader as he adresses them from his rostrum-balcony of Venezia Palace
The leader and inspiration of the cause of Italy in Africa, Il Duce Benito Mussolini, is shown in this new character-portrait in full Fascist uniform. Rome knows this pose of Mussolini well. It is the familiar stance of their leader as he adresses them from his rostrum-balcony of Venezia Palace

A once-magnificent villa built for Benito Mussolini on the Mediterranean island of Rhodes is to be leased out by the Greek government as part of the country's plan to collect the billions of Euro it needs to pay off its international debts.

The timber and stone Villa De Vecchi was built in 1936 by Count Cesare De Vecchi, a Mussolini loyalist who was appointed governor of the Dodecanese islands, which had been seized by Italy from the Ottoman Turks in 1912.

Despite the islands forming part of Mussolini's plan to carve out a new Roman empire - he hoped to use Rhodes as a naval base from which he could project Italian power into the Near East - the fascist dictator never set foot in the villa.

Nor did he live to see out his planned retirement on the idyllic island. Instead, after being caught trying to flee to Switzerland at the end of the war, he was shot by partisans and his body, along with that of his mistress, was strung up from a petrol station.

The villa was abandoned after the Dodecanese were ceded to Greece in 1947. Now the government's Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund is offering a 50-year lease on the rundown two-storey villa to help pay off Greece's debts.

The Italianate-style property, which sits high above the town of Rhodes and has panoramic views of the Aegean Sea, has fallen into disrepair and shows few signs of its former glory. Paint is peeling from the walls, which are covered in graffiti and streaked with green algae.

The villa is one of 14 former hotels and hospitals that are being offered for conversion into boutique accommodation.

"Villa De Vecchi is a historic, two-storey building which was built by the Italian occupation authorities," the development fund said. "It is of unique architectural value and is in an area of unique natural beauty, a popular tourism destination throughout the year."

The Greek government is offering to sell or rent thousands of properties, including a castle on Corfu and a former US military base in Crete, to help pay off its debts to the EU and IMF.

© The Sunday Telegraph

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