Prosperity came to Italy in the fifties. This was not a sudden discovery but a victory resulting from years of hard work. After the moral and material devastation of fascism and war, the Italian people pulled up their sleeves and showed the world their persistence and creative talent in the fields of industry, art and entertainment. 1960 represented the key moment of the entire period, the year when Federico Fellini's movie "La Dolce Vita" was released. But was Italian life really so sweet?
What was the cost of living at the height of the economic boom?
Apartment buildings, functional yet often anonymous, and economy cars were typical of the period between reconstruction and the economic boom.
The Fiat 600 family car was introduced to the public for the first time on 9 March 1955, with 4 or even 5 seats and a top speed of 95 km per hour.
The Fiat 500 was launched in 1957, aimed at Italians who could not afford the modest cost of the 600.
In these years, Italy could be described as a peculiar mixture of old and new. However, everyone was looking for progress – labourers, entrepreneurs, women and young people alike.
In the fifties, illiteracy fell to approximately 10% in Italy, even though differences between the North and the South remained very pronounced in this area.
Labour and consumption went hand in hand and seemed to affect everyone in the same way, but significant imbalances persisted; while many Italians were still obliged to seek their fortunes elsewhere, the public entrepreneurial economy was involved in business all over the world and the middle classes were discovering mass consumption.
Italians are predominantly Catholic so they chose to be governed by a party with a strongly religious orientation, the Christian Democrats; but society continued on the road to the secularism imposed by modernisation and even the Vatican in these years was open to changes in mentality.
In these years, Italian society experienced ground-breaking cultural and anthropological changes. These were marked by the role of women in the workplace and the new attitude of Italians towards sex, which within a few years, with the tremendous popularity of erotic films and magazines, made Italy unique across the whole of Europe.
With its entrepreneurship and creativity, Italy appeared to be the best place to create an "entertainment society", both rivalling and in contrast to American culture. This refers not only to the world of courageous producers and local stars, but also to extraordinarily talented stars, for whom the term 'Hollywood sul Tevere' was coined, as well as a real and uniquely Italian culture, expressed not only in cinema or fashion, where many original records were seen in the following decades.
The home of the Italian film industry, Cinecittà, was created in the era of fascism in the thirties, but enjoyed its Golden Era in the fifties. Even the Americans preferred to shoot their blockbusters, such as “Quo Vadis?” or "Ben Hur", in Rome.
The night life activities of the American and Italian stars on the Via Veneto in Rome inevitably created the 'paparazzo', an indiscreet and often intrusive photographer, as defined by Fellini himself in "La Dolce Vita".
The film quickly attained an iconic status and remains one of the bitterest and fiercest criticisms of the impact of modernisation on Italian society.
Curator — Roland Sejko
Curator — Gabriele D'Autilia