I spend an inordinate amount of time hanging out at tracks.
My younger son is a track and field
junkie athlete, and I would suspect there are few tracks in central Italy in which I have not spent a fair amount of time.
So, as a track mum with years of experience, you can trust me when I tell you that a track is worth visiting. Rome’s Stadio dei marmi (Marble Stadium) most definitely belongs on that vaunted list.
I have been so many times to this track, but the sparkling, white Carrara marble and the sixty-four colossal, marble statues gracing its perimeter never fail to impress.
Constructed between 1928 and 1932, this is an example of Italy’s Fascist architecture.
It was built to service the students at the adjacent Accademia fascista machile di educazionne fisica (Fascist Academy of Physical Education for Men).
It was designed by the architect Enrico Del Debbio, who also constructed the entire sports complex, the Foro Italico, that surrounds it.
The project brought in many artisians to construct the Carrara marble stands that can seat over 5200 spectators, and the monumental statues forming a ring around the track, and representing the various sports.
You can’t help but be in awe before these colossal statues.
Mussolini drew inspiration from the Ancient Roman Empire for his “new” empire. This is evident in much Fascist architecture, and certainly in the grandeur of these statues that were meant to evoke the heroic gods of Ancient Rome. Every time I visit, I notice new details.
The stadium is used for track and field events, and also serves as a warm-up and cool-down track for all the famous athletes of the international track world at the annual Golden Gala. My son always stakes the place out post-race to meet all his favorites.
In 2013, following his death, the Stadio dei marmi also adopted the name of Italy’s most famous sprinter – Pietro Mennea.
Don’t miss out on visiting the Stadio dei marmi on your next visit to Rome. Interesting to note that most tracks are not open to the public in Rome, and this track is the exception to the (unfortunate) rule. So for runners visiting Rome, this is your opportunity to run amidst the deities.
Whether you’re an athlete or not, when you’re next here in Rome, be sure to pay tribute to the impressive athlete-gods standing guard at this beautiful track.