I spent a sunny and hot weekend of September on the Tiber Isle in Rome, in the shadow of the largest synagogue in Italy, attending far-right gathering "Atreju".
The title of the event spanning 3 days of conferences, book presentations and political chit-chat, was "Europe against Europe" and it was the first time the Italian far-right reached out somewhat coherently to the international scene.
A pop-up bookstore sold essays by Julius Evola among other national-socialist philosophers and thinkers - mostly rigorously Italian. A temporary exhibition was dedicated to national heroes of the 20th century, most of them of the military or police. Fascist nostalgia resonated throughout.
Julius Evola book at Atrju's pop-up bookstore
The host of the event was Giorgia Meloni, a strongly-opinionated, charismatic and straightforward woman of 41 years of age, born and raised in one of the most popular neighbourhoods in Rome, la Garbatella. She is also the leader of Fratelli d'Italia party (the Brothers of Italy) which won seats in Parliament with only 4,3% of votes and is considered a "swing party" as 4% can be enough to decide the orientation of a coalition.
Giorgia Meloni talks to journalists
With next year's European elections just a few months away, overturning the European establishment is on her mind, embarking her party onto a foreign journey which includes allies like President of Hungary Orban and the Austrian FPO leader Strache. Trump Campaign Strategist and Breitbart founder Steve Bannon, is on a similar mission, touring Europe to convince influential politicians to join his new political project The Movement, a trans-national network of populist right-winged parties.
After he secured Matteo Salvini, Italy's Interior Affairs Minister, Vice-Prime Minister and leader of the largest right wing party La Lega in a very private meeting in Milan last March, it was only natural for Giorgia Meloni to accept Bannon's invitation to join The Movement.
Meloni invited Bannon to address the far-right sovereigntist, nationalist and identitarian crowd during her gathering in Rome. Appealing to the most populist issues in Italy such as high taxation and African immigration and proposing himself as the linking man in Europe to create a trans-national movement and overturn the current European establishment, the crowd of Atreju applauded vehemently.
Steve Bannon being introduced at Atreju18
While staying at luxury five star Hotel De Russie near Piazza del Popolo (the square of the people), Bannon spent 5 days talking to foreign press and political leaders, knitting his web and trying to solidify his influence on European politics.
The next day he rented a private jet and flew to Prague to meet with Czech President Zeman, hoping to further his connections. And in Prague, Bannon's aspirations found a first halt. According to Bloomberg, Zeman received him for 30 minutes, argued with him over Trump's tariff policies and refused to join his movement.
Two days ago, French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, visited Matteo Salvini in Rome. After their meeting, she told journalist she was not going to join the Movement because "Mr Bannon was not born in Europe, he is American" and she prefers "to create the political structure which will save Europe on our own".
I asked Giorgia Meloni whether there was a contradiction in having an American strategist lead the path to Europe. She replied that "he is only offering his assistance in creating a network of like-minded politicians. We have our own path, and it is ours to keep, we are not joining a party."
From right to left: myself, Giorgia Meloni and Lester Feder
I helped report Bannon's visit to Italy for BuzzFeed News' correspondent Lester Feder. Here is his article about Bannon's speech in Rome: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/lesterfeder/steve-bannon-movement-italy-speech