The name Loreto is also used in a wider sense to refer to the district surrounding the square, which is part of the Zone 2 administrative division. The name "Loreto" derives from an old sanctuary that used to be there and that was dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto (a city in the Ancona province).
Piazzale Loreto was the scene of one of the most well-known events in the modern history of Italy, namely the public display of Benito Mussolini's corpse on 29 April 1945. The day before, Mussolini, his mistress Clara Petacci and some other high-ranking Fascists had been captured and shot by partisans near Lake Como. Their bodies were taken to Milan and hung upside down from the roof of an Esso petrol station in the square. Also on 29 April 1945 Achille Starace was taken to the square and shown the body of Mussolini just before being shooting himself. The body of Starace was subsequently strung up next to Mussolini's. The bodies were photographed as a crowd vented their rage upon them.
The display of these bodies took place in the same spot where, one year before, Fascist squads had exposed the bodies of fifteen Milanese civilians (the so-called "Martyrs of Piazzale Loreto") whom they had killed in retaliation against partisan activity. The square had even been renamed "Piazza Quindici Martiri" in honor of the executed.
After the war, the appearance of the square was changed to adjust to the increasing road traffic of the city. So today it is very difficult to locate the exact spot where Il Duce's body was displayed.
- "Death of the Father-Mussolini & Fascist Italy: the 'infamous' exhibit". Cornell Institute for Digital Collections. 1999.
- Time Magazine, 7 May 1945
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