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1 bestselling author Lisa Scottoline offers a sweeping and shattering epic of historical fiction fueled by shocking true events, the tale of a love triangle that unfolds in the heart of Romein the creeping shadow of fascism.
What war destroys, only love can heal.
Elisabetta, Marco, and Sandro grow up as the best of friends despite their differences. Elisabetta is a feisty beauty who dreams of becoming a novelist; Marco the brash and athletic son in a family of professional cyclists; and Sandro a Jewish mathematics prodigy, kind-hearted and thoughtful, the son of a lawyer and a doctor. Their friendship blossoms to love, with both Sandro and Marco hoping to win Elisabettas heart. But in the autumn of 1937, all of that begins to change as Mussolini asserts his power, aligning Italys Fascists with Hitlers Nazis and altering the very laws that govern Rome. In time, everything that the three hold deartheir families, their homes, and their connection to one anotheris tested in ways they never could have imagined.
As anti-Semitism takes legal root and World War II erupts, the threesome realizes that Mussolini was only the beginning. The Nazis invade Rome, and with their occupation come new atrocities against the citys Jews, culminating in a final, horrific betrayal. Against this backdrop, the intertwined fates of Elisabetta, Marco, Sandro, and their families will be decided, in a heartbreaking story of both the best and the worst that the world has to offer.
Unfolding over decades,Eternalis a tale of loyalty and loss, family and food, love and warall set in one of the worlds most beautiful cities at its darkest moment. This moving novel will be forever etched in the hearts and minds of readers.
Goodreads Readers Choice Award Best Historical Fiction of 2021 Nominee
Best Historical Fiction of 2021 Cosmopolitan
Barnes & Noble Best Historical Fiction to Read Right Now
Best Historical Fiction of 2021 Foreign Policy Magazine
Chosen as a Buyers Pick by Costco
Good Morning America Must Read Book of March from Zibby Owens
AUSA TodayBook Not to Miss
A Bustle Most Anticipated Book of March 2021
Named One of the Best Historical Fiction of 2021 by SheReads
Based on true events, this is an addictive read. Make a plate of fettuccine, pour a glass of red wine, and settle in with this captivating tale. You will cry tears of sadness and joy.
Brilliant, heartbreaking, and moving,Eternals characters will stand the test of time in this gripping novel of love, friendship, and courage in the face of unimaginable circumstances.
Barnes & Noble (Named a Barnes & Noble Most Anticipated Book)
Eternalfeels so real you can almost taste the cappelletti, as you get lost in the pages on your glorious and heart-wrenching trip to Italy.
Martha Hall Kelly, bestselling author ofLilac GirlsandSunflower Sisters
I devouredEternalin much the same way and for many of the same reasons that I savoredThe English Patient,Atonement, orCorellis Mandolin. Lisa Scottoline has written a beautiful, heartbreaking, wrenching love story set in the Second World War. Its alive with characters I cared about deeply including the remarkable city of Rome, itself and their courage in the face of Fascism.
Chris Bohjalian, 1New York Timesbestselling author ofMidwivesandThe Flight Attendant
In this immensely readable, big-hearted novel, Lisa Scottoline paints a vivid picture of life in WWII-era Rome before, during, and after the Fascist occupation. With characters who change and grow and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing,Eternalis a blockbuster with cinematic intensity. I flew through the pages!
Christina Baker Kline, 1New York Timesbestselling author ofOrphan TrainandThe Exiles
ScottolinesEternalis a gripping story of suffering and survival. It unspools at a heart-stopping pace, yet each page resonates with emotions: fear, hope, sorrow, yearning, love, empathy, sympathy, and, ultimately, joy. The book lives up to its title. It will echo in the minds of readers for a long time.
Sandra Brown, 1New York Timesbestselling author ofThick as Thieves
In this book of her heart, Lisa Scottoline delivers what her readers expect and so much more, fast-paced intrigue, but also an authentic, tender coming of age tale of three best friends navigating the complexities of fascism, war, political and family strife and romantic competition.
Lisa Wingate, 1New York Timesbestselling author ofBefore We Were YoursandThe Book of Lost Friends
Eternalis remarkable historical fiction that brings to life Rome in the years leading up to and during WWII on the shoulders of unforgettable characters caught up on all sides of terrible events spinning beyond their control. Scottolines research is impeccable, her storytelling is propulsive, and the emotional times she describes are deep, moving, and yes, eternal.
Mark Sullivan, bestselling author ofBeneath a Scarlet Sky
The master storyteller Lisa Scottoline is at the height of her powers withEternal.This magnificent epic is the story of three childhood friends who come of age during World War II Italy. You are with them in the worst of times as they navigate their lost dreams. You will root for their survival as they find redemption in a post-war world they must build with hope. Love. Faith. Friendship. Courage. Its all here and it is essential reading.
Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author ofLucia, LuciaandThe Shoemakers Wife
InEternal, Lisa Scottoline expands her formidable talents to World War II Italy and the heartwarming tale of three families whose intersecting worlds are torn apart. Scottoline captures the tragic beauty of wartime Rome through the eyes of unforgettable characters with whom readers will hope and mourn and cheer. A passionate story of friendship, loyalty, and unbridled heroism.
Pam Jenoff, bestselling author ofThe Lost Girls of Paris
Eternalbrings to vivid life the drama and tragedy of a dark chapter in history that is still not widely known, though it took place in the heart of Rome, one of the most popular cities in the world. The novels protagonistsElisabetta, Marco, and Sandroare unforgettable, and through their story, we can better understand the moral and ethical dilemmas inherent in the complex, yet eternal, struggle against fascism and barbarism, and for justice and love.
Dr. Stanislao Pugliese, Fulbright Scholar, professor of Modern European History, Queensboro UNICO Distinguished Professor of Italian and Italian-American Studies at Hofstra University, and author ofBitter Spring: A Life of Ignazio
What Elena Ferrante did with her Neapolitan Quartet, Scottoline does for war-time Rome: brings it to life as the city is ripped apart by men in power and barely held together by the courage and decency of those who stand against them.Eternalis a must read.
At its heart,Eternal is a beautiful, heartbreaking, yet ultimately uplifting love story. Meticulously researched, this riveting World War II-era novel explores what happens when beautiful Elisabetta must choose between lifelong best friends Sandro and Marco. As they get caught up in the madness that overtakes Italy when it becomes a satellite of Hitler and the Third Reich, each must make a gut-wrenching choice that determines the course of the rest of their lives. Action-packed and haunting,Eternalwill stay with you for a long time after you finish reading it. I loved this book!
Karen Robards, author ofThe Black Swan of Paris
Lisa Scottoline is a magnificent storyteller.Eternalis a triangular story of first love, told against the backdrop of WWII in Rome, that is both terrifying and magical; three young people at one of the worst times in history are filled with love, hate, fear, rage, and at the end, survival and hope.Eternalis brilliantly written. Scottoline hits new heights in this spellbinding tale of decades-old family secrets and rips apart the fragility of first loves. I was pulled in from the first page by the lives of Scottolines characters as they tried to make their way through events beyond their control in this richly detailed story that makes you feel like youre right alongside them.
Andrew Mayne, author ofThe NaturalistandThe Girl Beneath the Sea
Elisabetta had kept the secret for thirteen years, but it was time to tell her son who his father was. She had been waiting until he was old enough, but she didnt want to delay any longer. He deserved to know the truth, and she had never been comfortable concealing it from him. The secret had grown harder to keep over time, like a bag of groceries carried the first block, then the second, but by the third must be set down.
She stood at the kitchen sink, finishing her coffee, and the apartment was quiet and still, as her son was out playing soccer. She prepared herself for the conversation, realizing she would have to relive the worst days of her life and even of her countrys history, since her youth had encompassed theventennio, the twenty years of Mussolinis rule and a war that had turned Italy topsy‑turvy, during which good had become bad and bad had be‑ come powerful.
Tears filmed Elisabettas eyes, but she blinked them away. She hoped she could make her son understand why she hadnt told him. The revelation would shock him, as he suspected nothing, resembling her so strongly that it was as if his fathers biology expressed itself in his personality, rather than his facial features.
Her gaze strayed to the window over the sink. She eyed a view ingrained in her memory, from Trastevere to Vatican City, a palimpsest unique to Rome, which had been adding to itself since the beginning of Western civilization, layer upon layer of travertine marble, brick arches, medieval turrets with crenellations, and the red‑tiled roofs of houses with façades of amber and ochre. Church domes dotted the timeless scene, interspersed with palm trees, cypresses, and umbrella pines. Soaring above them all was Saint Peters Basilica, its iconic dome gilded by the Italian sun.
Elisabetta withdrew from her reverie and set her coffee cup in the sink. Her son would be home any minute. The kitchen filled with the aroma of lasagna, his favorite meal. She had made it because he was going to hear a difficult story, but one he needed to know. One she needed to tell.
She heard the front door open, and he entered the apartment, dropping his soccer ball. She braced herself.Ciao, amore!
Yes! Come in the kitchen, would you?
Elisabetta made up her mind. Marco Terrizzi would be her first kiss.
She watched him doing bicycle tricks by the river, riding on his back tire, his head thrown back in laughter, his teeth white against his tanned face. His thick, dark hair shone with pomade in the sun, and his legs were knotted with muscles inside the baggy shorts of his uniform. He rode with joy and athleticism, achieving a masculine grace. Marco Terrizzi hadsprezzatura, a rare and effortless charm that made him irresistible.
Elisabetta couldnt take her eyes from him, and neither could the others. They had grown up together, but somewhere along the line, he had gone from boyhood to manhood, from Marco toMarco. That he was terribly handsome there could be no doubt. He had large, walnut‑brown eyes, a strong nose, a square jaw, and a broad neck marked by a prominent Adams apple. He was the most popular boy in their class, and everything about him seemed more vivid than everyone else. Even now, the sun drenched him in gold, as if Nature herself gilded him.
Elisabetta wondered what it would be like to kiss him. She guessed it would be exciting, even delicious, like biting into a ripe tomato and letting its juices run down her chin. She had never kissed a boy, though she was already fifteen years old, and at night she practiced kissing on her pillow. Her tabbycat, Rico, with whom she slept, had grown accustomed to her routine, as cats endure the silliness of young girls.
Elisabetta had no idea how to make Marco think of her as more than a friend. She usually achieved what she set her mind to, getting good grades and such, but this was different. She was too blunt to flirt. She lacked feminine wiles. She had been amaschiaccio, a tomboy, when she was little, which was how she had grown close with Marco. She was trying to become more womanly, but she still didnt wear a brassiere. Her mother said she didnt need one, but the other girls made fun of her, talking behind their hands.
Elisabetta, help, Ill drown! Marco raced toward the river, and she was about to call to him, but stopped herself. She had read in a female advice column that denying men the attention they craved drove them mad with desire, so she ignored him, while the other girls responded.
Marco, no! Livia called back. Marco, be careful! Angela gasped.
The boys waited to see if calamity befell Marco, but he cranked the handlebars, veering away from the rivers edge. They laughed and returned to their textbooks, spread out on the grass. They were doing homework, having come from their Balilla meeting, the partys compulsory youth group. They all wore their uniforms, the boys in their black shirts and gray shorts, and the girls in white muslin shirts and black skirts.
This quiet spot on the riverbank, just north of the Ponte Palatino, had become a hangout of her classmates after school, though Elisabetta typically sat with Marco or Sandro, apart from the other girls. Somehow she had missed her chance to become their girlfriend, and it was too late now, for they rebuffed her overtures. Perhaps they had judged her as preferring the boys, which wasnt true, and she would have loved to have had a good girlfriend. Whatever the reason, Angela and the other girls kept her at a distance, and she tried not to let it bother her.
Look, Betta! Marco called again, using her childhood nickname. Use my proper name! Elisabetta called back, from behind her newspaper. She did prefer her full name, as she hoped to become a journalist someday. She practiced her byline at night, too.By Elisabetta DOrfeo.
Elisabetta! Marco rode over, sliding to a stop on the grass. Hop on my handlebars. Lets go for a ride.
No, Im reading. Elisabetta hid her smile behind the newspaper. Angela rose, brushing grass from her skirt. Marco, Ill go, take me! Okay! Marco extended his hand, Angela clambered onto his handlebars, and the two rode off together.
Elisabetta lowered her newspaper, wondering if the female advice column had been wrong. If she wanted Marco, she would have to attract him another way. She sensed she was pretty enough, now that she had grown into her features, according to her mother. Her large, round eyes were greenish‑brown, and her shoulder‑length hair was a rich brunette, wavy and abundant. Her nose was strong, but proportional to her prominent cheekbones, and her lips were full. Her problem was herbocca grande, big mouth, which proved a disadvantage when it came to boys, her Latin teacher, and that old bitch at the newsstand.
Elisabetta leaned back on her elbows, breathing in the odors of the Tiber, its water a milky jade with wavelets topped with ivory foam. Swallows skimmed the surface for a drink, cicadas rasped, and dragonflies droned. Pink oleander bushes, umbrella pines, and palm trees lined the riverbank, and the natural oasis was shielded from the hustle‑bustle of the city by gray stone walls.
Elisabettas gaze found the Ponte Rotto in the middle of the river, a bizarre sight. Centuries ago, the stone bridge had connected the riverbanks, but time had reduced it to only a single arch rising from the water, leading nowhere. Romans called it the broken bridge, but she thought that it was a survivor, standing despite the elements and the Tiber itself, which sent blackish‑green vines up its sides, as if trying to pull it underwater.
Beyond the Ponte Rotto was Tiber Island, the only island in the river, barely large enough to contain the Basilica di San Bartolomeo allIsola with its faded‑brick belfry, the Church of San Giovanni Calibita, and the hospital, Ospedale Fatebenefratelli, with its rows of green‑shuttered windows. Across from the hospital was Bar GiroSport, which Marcos family owned and lived above. Elisabetta lived only a few blocks away from him in Trastevere, the bohemian neighborhood that she and her father loved. Unfortunately, her mother had ceased loving anything.
It was then that Elisabetta spotted Sandro Simone striding toward her and the others. Sandro was her other best friend, and Marcos, too, as the three of them had been a trio since childhood. Sandro walked with his characteristically lanky stride, and his light brown curls blew back from his long, lean face. He was handsome in his own way, his features more refined than Marcos and his build like a sharpened pencil, slim but strong, the way a wire cable supports a modern bridge.
Ciao, Elisabetta! Sandro reached her, smiling and taking off his fez. He wiped the sweat from his brow, slid off his backpack, and sat down. His eyes, a brilliant azure color with long eyelashes like awnings, narrowed against the sunlight. His nose was long and aquiline, and his lips finely etched into his face. Sandro lived on the east side of the river in the Jewish quarter, called the Ghetto, and throughout their childhood, Elisabetta, Sandro, and Marco had traveled back and forth on an axis from Trastevere to Tiber Island and the Ghetto, riding bikes, playing soccer, and generally acting as if Rome were their private playground.
Ciao, Sandro. Elisabetta smiled, happy to see him.
I stopped to get us a snack. Have one. Sandro produced a paper bag from his backpack and opened its top, releasing the delicious aroma ofsuppl, rice croquettes with tomato sauce and mozzarella.
Grazie! Elisabetta picked up asuppland took a bite. The breading was light, the tomato sauce perfectly salty, and the mozzarella hot enough to melt on her tongue.
Wheres Marco? I brought some for him, too.
Too bad. Sandro chewed asuppland glanced at her newspaper. What are you reading?
Nothing. Elisabetta used to love reading the newspaper, but her favorite columnists were gone, and she suspected they had been fired. Benito Mussolini and the Fascists had been in power for fifteen years, and censorship had become the order of the day. All the articles are the same, about how great the government is, or they reproduce ridiculous posters like this one.
Let me see. Sandro wiped his hands on a napkin.
Here. Elisabetta showed him a picture of an Italian peasant woman in traditional dress, holding babies in each arm. She read him the caption. The ideal Fascist woman is to bear children, knit, and sew, while men work or go to war. Its propaganda, not news, and anyway, not all women are the same.
Of course they arent. The newspaper isnt always right.
No, its not. Elisabetta thought of the female advice column. Marco and Angela still werent back.
But it does. Elisabetta disagreed with the Fascists, though she didnt discuss it with anyone other than Sandro and Marco. Those who spoke against the government could be arrested and sent intoconfino, exile, far from their homes. Informers abounded in Rome, even in Trastevere, and though Elisabettas family wasnt committed to any particular political party, as artists they were congenitally leftist.
You dont like being told what to do.
No, but I dont take it so much to heart as you. Sandro leaned over. Guess what, I have amazing news. I was accepted to an internship with Professor Levi‑Civita at La Sapienza.
Davvero? Elisabetta asked, astonished. You, a high school student? At the university?
Yes, it will be an independent study. Sandro beamed with pride. Congratulations! Elisabetta felt delighted for him. He was a mathematical prodigy, and his preternatural talent had been plain since primary school, so she shouldnt have been surprised that he would be at La Sapienza, the city campus of the University of Rome. And this professor is the one you always talk about, right? Levi‑Civita?
Yes, and I cant wait to meet him. Hes one of the greatest mathematicians of our time. He developed tensor calculus, which Einstein used in his theory of relativity. In fact, he just got back from seeing him in America.
How wonderful. How did this come about, anyway? For you? Professoressa Longhi recommended me, and Ive been waiting to hear. I just stopped by the hospital to tell my mother.
She must be so proud. Elisabetta admired Sandros mother, who was one of the few female doctors she had ever heard of, an obstetrician at Ospedale Fatebenefratelli.
She was, but she was surprised I hadnt told her I was being considered.
I am, too. Why didnt you tell us? Elisabetta meant her and Marco.
I didnt want you to know if I failed.
Oh, Sandro. Elisabetta felt a rush of affection for him. You never fail, and Levi‑Civita is lucky to have you. Youll be a famous mathematician someday.
Sandro grinned. And youll be a famous journalist.
Ha! Elisabetta didnt know what Marco would become, but dismissed the thought.
How can you read in the sunlight? Sandro squinted at her newspaper. Its so bright.
Allow me. Sandro slid the newspaper page from her hand and stood up. No, give me that back. Elisabetta rose, reaching, but Sandro turned away, doing something with the newspaper. Its only the obituaries.
I like the obituaries. Elisabetta always read the obituaries, as each one was a wonderful life story, except for the endings.
Ecco. Sandro held out a hat of folded newspaper, then popped it on her head. This will keep the sun from your eyes.
Grazie. Elisabetta smiled, delighted, and all of a sudden, Sandro kissed her. She found herself kissing him back, tasting warm tomato sauce on his lips until he pulled away, smiling down at her, with a new shine in his eyes that confused her. She had just decided that Marco would be her first kiss.
Sandro, why did you do that? Elisabetta glanced around, wondering if the others had seen. Her classmates were bent over their homework, and though Marco was approaching with Angela on his handlebars, he was too far away.
Sandro grinned. Isnt it obvious why?
Elisabetta felt touched. So why me? Why now?
Sandro laughed. Who asks such questions? Only you!
But I thought we were just friends.
Are we? I Sandro started to say, but Marco interrupted them, shouting from a distance.
Ciao, Marco! Sandro called back, waving.
Elisabetta blinked, and the moment between her and Sandro vanished, so quickly that she wondered if it had happened at all.
Marco pedaled home from the river on the Lungotevere dei Pierleoni, the wide boulevard that ran along its east side. The sun had dipped behind the trees, shooting burnished rays through the city, which had come to boisterous life as the workday ended. Cars honked, drivers cursed, and exhaust fogged the air. The sidewalks thronged with people, and businessmen hustled to catch trams.
Marco accelerated, preoccupied with Elisabetta. He was in love with her, but she treated him as a pal, the way she always did. She hadnt even cared when he had taken Angela on his bike. He felt stumped, which never happened to him with girls. He could have his pick, but he wanted Elisabetta. She was beautiful, which was reason enough alone, but he loved her passion, her strength, herfire. She had thoughts about everything, and though her intelligence was superior, she treated him as if he were equally intelligent. Marco would stop at nothing to win her over. He was loves captive.
He flashed on seeing Sandro by the river today, standing oddly close to her, as if they had been having a great discussion or even sharing a secret. Anxiety gnawed at Marco, and he experienced a flicker of envy at the bond that Sandro and Elisabetta shared, for they were always talking about books or the like. But Marco knew that Sandro and Elisabetta were only friends, and Sandro had no female experience whatsoever.
Marco turned onto the Ponte Fabricio, his tires bobbling on the worn travertine. The footbridge was the oldest in Rome, walled on both sides and since it connected to Tiber Island, it was essentially the street on which he lived. He dodged businessmen and veered smoothly around a cat that darted in front of him. He reached the top of the gentle span and saw that his father, Beppe, wasnt standing outside his familys bar, Bar GiroSport, as he usually did. It meant that Marco was late to dinner.
He sped to the foot of the bridge, passed the bar, and steered around to its side entrance on Piazza San Bartolomeo allIsola. He jumped off his bicycle, slid it into the rack, then flew inside the crowded bar. He scooted upstairs, dropped his backpack, and entered a kitchen so small that one pot of boiling water could fill it with steam. On the wall hung framed photos of his father in the Giro dItalia and a calendar featuring Learco Guerra, the great Italian bicycle racer. A small shelf held a framed photo of Pope Pius XI, a crucifix of dried palm, and a plaster statue of the Virgin. Marcos mother worshipped Christ; his father worshipped cycling.
Ciao, everyone! Marco kissed his two older brothers, Emedio and Aldo, then his father, as they were sitting down at the table.
Marco! Emedio smiled, looking like a younger version of their father. Both had curly, dark brown hair, a prominent forehead, and thick brows over coal‑dark eyes, wide‑set above broad noses and flat mouths. Marcos father still had the muscular build of a professional cyclist, his skin perennially tanned and his upper lip scarred from a wolf attack in the mountainous farming region of Abruzzo, where he had grown up. The story was that Marcos father, only ten years old at the time, had been watching the familys sheep when the wolf had struck, but the boy had wrestled the animal to the ground, then chased it away. No one who knew Beppe Terrizzi doubted the veracity of the story.
Ehi, fratello. Aldo smiled in his tight‑lipped way, self‑conscious due to his teeth, which were crooked in front. He took after the Castelicchi side, with a quieter temperament, eyes set close together, and a characteristic cleft in the chin. Aldo was the shortest of the Terrizzi sons, but he loved cycling and still had on his sweaty white jersey and bike shorts. If their mother wished he would change for dinner, she would never say so. Everyone knew who ran the household, and it wasnt her.
Mamma, that looks delicious.Brava. Marco kissed her as she was ladlingpomodorosauce with whitish chunks of crabmeat onto a platter of spaghetti for the first course. Bright orangey claws stuck through the red‑ dish pulp, their pincers jagged, and the uniquely fishy tomato aroma made him salivate.
Ciao. His mother smiled up at him, her small, light brown eyes warm. Steam billowed from the sink, curling the dark tendrils that had escaped her long braid, and she had a flat nose, a broad smile, and the honest, open face of a country girl. Marcos parents werecontadini, of peasant families, and they had grown up in houses shared with goats and chickens. They had married and moved to Rome, where his father had parlayed his cycling celebrity into Bar GiroSport. The caf was frequented by hospital employees, locals, and cycling fans, calledtifosi, for they were as crazy as those afflicted with typhus.
Just sit, son. His father motioned from at the head of the table.
Here, boys. His mother set the platter of spaghetti near Marcos father, served him first, then the rest. They prayed over the meal, and everyone ate quickly except for Marco, who savored every bite while his father quizzed Aldo about his training times. Emedio stayed out of the line of fire, having escaped a cycling career by entering the priesthood. Marco could never make such a sacrifice, as he had a duty to the female population. And someday, to Elisabetta.
His mother turned to Emedio, who worked at the Office of the Holy See. What news? Anything?
Did you hear about the German encyclical on Palm Sunday? No, what is it?
Mit Brennender Sorge. It means With Burning Anxiety in German. The Pope issued an encyclical that was distributed to almost thirty thousand German churches, a direct message to German Catholics. Emedio leaned over. Cardinal Pacelli assisted in its composition, but I tell you that confidentially.
His mother drew her index finger across her lips like a zipper, and her eyes twinkled. To her, Vatican gossip was the best gossip.
The encyclical was read by German parish priests to their congregations, with no prior notice to anyone. Can you imagine, all those churches, and no one let it slip out? It was printed and distributed in complete secrecy.
Why in secrecy? His mother frowned. Its the word of Our Holy Father.
It was reiterating his teaching that German Catholics should follow God, not Hitler. As a result, Hitler sent the Gestapo to arrest those who had printed and distributed the encyclical.
His father shot Emedio a look. No politics at the table.
Emedio fell silent, and their mother pursed her lips. His father was a Fascist of the First Hour, meaning he had joined in 1919, even before the March on Rome in 1922, when the King appointed Mussolini to be Prime Minister. Traditional by natur.