A forestry plantation in Italy that spells out Dux – Latin for Duce, the title by which Mussolini was known – has gone up in smoke from one of the many wild fires that have swept the country in recent days.
The 20,000 fir trees, which were planted on the slopes of Monte Giano in 1939 and spell out D-U-X in huge letters, can on a clear day be seen from Rome, 50 miles to the south.
Up to two-thirds of the historic plantation, in the region of Lazio in central Italy, has been reduced to ashes by a wild fire that spread across the mountainside.
The letter U (which is in fact closer to a Roman V) and the letter X were particularly badly hit, leaving only D intact.
The mayor of the nearby town of Antrodoco said he was distraught by the damage done to the plantation.
“I feel destroyed, this is an important piece of our identity and it’s gone up in smoke,” said Alberto Guerrieri.
He was also angered by receiving telephone calls from people who gloated over the loss and told him he should be ashamed of himself for having worked to preserve the forest in the past.
“I feel vanquished in the battle to preserve a national monument.”
The plantation was also “an amazing work of environmental engineering” that saved Antrodoco from landslides and floods by stabilizing the mountainside.
The mayor said he had repeatedly called for help to fight the fire, but none had come.
He said there were too few fire-fighting planes and helicopters to combat the many wild fires that have broken out in the region over the past few weeks.
Italy has had an exceptionally hot and dry summer, with temperatures reaching 110F in many parts of the country.
Lazio and many other regions have not seen rain for weeks and the countryside is bone dry, with sweltering heat predicted to continue for at least a week.