Behind the counter, amid the Mussolini clocks, swastika badges, fascist recipe books and busts of Hitler, Benizzi Ferrini has hung a T-shirt featuring the face of Paolo Di Canio.

"When Paolo gave his salute on the pitch it was a gesture from the heart, and the way he is being treated now in England is not correct," said Ferrini, a lifelong fascist, who runs one of the string of memorabilia shops that line the main street of Predappio, Benito Mussolini's birthplace. When Di Canio visited the store a few years back on a trip to the town, Ferrini wanted to show his respect for the soccer player. "I presented him with a bust of Mussolini," he recalls fondly.

As Di Canio battles on as Sunderland's new manager despite the furor over his Mussolini tattoo and notorious fascist salute to fans when he played for the Rome team Lazio, Predappio is a good place to start understanding what fascism means to Italy today, and why not all Italians are getting too riled by a stiff-arm saluting soccer player.