Following the defeat of Turkey in the Italian-Turkish War of 1911, Italian troops took over the island of Rhodes, together with the remainder of the Dodecanese Islands. In 1923, they established an Italian colony called Isole Italiane dell’Egeo (“Italian Islands of the Aegean Sea”). Italian dictator Benito Mussolini initiated a program of “Italianization.” it had been designed to force cultural and ethnic assimilation of the native minority populations hoping to create in Rhodes a contemporary transportation hub that would serve as a focal point for the spread of Italian culture in the East. The new Italian buildings reflected the spirit of public administration and set new benchmarks within the urban landscape. All these public buildings are samples of colonial policy and are closely linked to the presence of two general governors, equally active but diametrically opposed in their choices in architecture, Mario Lago (1924-1936) and Cesare Maria De Vecchi (1936-1943).
During the years of the occupation, the Italians administered an in-depth program of building and restoration using the almost free local labor force. Among other projects, the whole length of the fortification walls was consolidated and conserved. They preserved what was left from the Knights’ period, skipped most Ottoman buildings and removed Ottoman additions that had been made to ecclesiastical monuments. They reconstructed the Grand Master’s Palace, the Knights’ Hospital and Filerimos Monastery.
The restoration methods they used are the topic of fierce criticism today. Although they were restricted by the political circumstances of their day, they nevertheless helped to preserve many sites that otherwise won’t have survived to this.