The hen is buried in Italy’s oldest pet cemetery, which this year marks the 100th anniversary of the laying of cats, dogs and other four-legged companions in an atypical cemetery in the southwest of the capital.
Over the decades, more than 1,000 pets have been buried at Casa Rosa, where brightly colored wooden shrines adorned with stuffed animals and statues share the place with classic tombstones under the shade of pine and palm trees.
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Many brag about pedigrees, including “La Dolce Vita” director Federico Fellini, Academy Award-winning actress Anna Magnani, and Brigitte Bardot, whose dog died while the French sex symbol was filming in Rome.
But the most famous was the late Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
“It really all started with Mussolini’s chicken,” cemetery owner Luigi Molon, 73, told AFP.
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“He doesn’t have the land to bury it…He brought it here, where Mussolini’s children would bring flowers to remember the happy times they had together.”
The children’s companion came to the Mussolini family in the form of a chick after winning an exhibition, and was buried on the plot of land owned by Mollon’s father, the veterinarian trusted to the Great Danes in the Duce.
– Empty house –
There are no signs of the hen and Molon laughs when asked where exactly she is buried – he doesn’t know.
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But the burial of the famous bird inspired others, and soon Molon’s backyard became the largest pet cemetery, since authorized by the public authorities in Rome.
Today, the vast majority of Casa Rosa pets have a more modest pedigree, from the Carlitos Shih Tzu to Lord Byron, the Irish designer, but they are no less loving.
“The house is empty and sad without you,” reads the inscription on the granite tombstone of Ringo, a German shepherd who died in 1979.
The phrase “I love you” says about a ruga tortoise who died in 2017.
Several graves include portraits of the deceased: a black and white spaniel Bellow is shown in the arms of his beloved family, while a puppy image of Shepherd Jack is placed next to an image showing him as a gray man in a dog muzzle.
Also here are horses, rabbits, monkeys, hamsters, turtles, ducks, pigeons, parrots, sparrow and lioness called Greta.
Mullon said some of the bereaved visit ex-boyfriends every day or week.
The ritual of visiting and bringing flowers or stuffed animals, he said, “is nothing more than continuing to brush him or take him for a walk,” he said, with Jenny the Libyan white dog at his side.
Mollon did not mention the cost of a five-year plot of land, although reports suggest around 150 euros ($146) per year. Many renew their plots but many do not, which opens the way for others to pursue.
“That’s not a bad thing, because if you don’t regenerate, that means the pain is over,” said Mollone, whose son will take over the private cemetery one day.
A ginger cat without a tail – saved by Molon but not yet named – naps on fake green grass above an unmarked grave decorated with dog statues.
Nearby lie Michelangelo, the Yellow Labrador, Mike Tyson Scotty, and Cindy the Rabbit, two stuffed bunny toys atop her grave.
“A sweet little pest that ran everywhere, it left us too soon,” reads the inscription of Giotto Tapi, who died in 2020 at the age of two.
“Now you can run and climb among the clouds.”
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