Mario Lago – The Governor

Mario Lago

Mario Lago was born in Savona (North West Italy) in 1878. He was an Italian Diplomat, Politician, Statesman and Legislator.

He played an important role during his time on the island of Rhodes and he was the appointed Governor of all the Aegean Islands from 1922 until 1936.

First off, please let me say, when it comes to politicians and law, I will admit it is not my field. To be honest, it does not really interest me at all. I do not want to make this website political, so I will say what I feel is important to say about Mario Lago and the history of Rhodes, and I will leave it at that!

The Italian Rule Of Rhodes

It was in September 1911 that The Kingdom Of Italy went to war with The Ottoman Empire. It is known, that back during these times almost 3.5 million Italians had left their homeland and the aim was to find different locations for its surplus natives abroad.

Italy had a massive strike force when it came to naval activities, and after forcing The Ottoman Empire into peace talks (they stopped the delivery of weapons) they landed on Rhodes in May 1912. It was only a matter of a few days before they had taken over the island completely.

At the same time they also landed on the island of Kos, and then 10 other islands. 12 in total. These were then called the Dodecanese Islands (meaning 12 islands), for which they are still known today. (They were originally called The Southern Sporades).

In actual fact The Dodecanese is made up of 13 islands as they also occupied an extra one called Kastelorizo. The Italians found the number 13 to be unlucky though (like most) so the name Dodecanese was kept in place.

Mario Lago – The Governor Of The Dodecanese

Portrait Of Mario Lago
Mario Lago – The Governor

After the year 1920, The Dodecanese became a Civil Administration. It was Mario Lago who was appointed The Governor in 1923.

It was this man who saw potential in the islands. He could see ahead and understand what a great opportunity he had to create something beneficial and rewarding. From here, tourism started to develop.

He went on to liaise with Florestano Di Fausto (A Roman Architect) and they set out on an action plan to restore some of the older classical structures in Rhodes as well as some luxury refurbishments and new buildings.

For example, The Hospital used by The Knights Of Saint John was transformed into what is now known as The Archaeological Museum.

A massive hotel was built on the North tip of the island which was then called The Grand Albergo Delle Rose, which means The Grand Hotel Of Roses. This structure today houses The Casino Of Rhodes.

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The new market place was built next to Mandraki Harbor which is still there today. It houses many food outlets and it is a beautiful place to relax.

The Evangelismos Church was constructed also at the entrance to the harbor where The Colossus is said to have stood centuries before.

So much work took place and the efforts of Mario Lago and Florestano Di Fausto (among other architects) really transformed Rhodes into a place of luxury. It attracted thousands of people to the island and most of the structures still stand today attracting millions of visitors from all over the world.

The Integration Of Communities

During this period, a lot of integration was needed between the communities. Let us not forget, that although The Kingdom Of Italy occupied and controlled the island, there were still Greek, Jewish and Turkish people residing here.

Under the fascist government of Benito Mussolini, Mario Lago was able to bring these communities together. Simple things such as coffee shops became a place for people to get together. Price lists were fixed in both Greek and Italian to accommodate everyone.

He arranged for all children to be educated in Italian while at school, but classes were also made available in Greek as extra tuition outside of schools.

He also arranged for marriage to be allowed across the board.

All the efforts of Mario Lago became known as ‘The Golden Age’. He was able to take the island of Rhodes and turn it into a place of culture and the economy became highly profitable with most people living in harmony with one another.

Mario Lago - The Governor's Mansion
The Governor’s Mansion

After The Governor

It was in December 1936 that he was superseded by a leader of the fascist party who went by the name Cesare Maria De Vecchi. From here things changed once more and a lot of the work carried out previously was undone.

Mario Lago died in 1950 in Capri – Metropolitan City Of Naples, Italy.

In my opinion it is a shame that a lot of the work done by The Governor was changed by his successor. He was able to turn the island of Rhodes into something very special and in difficult times too.

Thankfully, a lot of his creations are still here for you to appreciate.

Have you been to Rhodes and seen some of his work? The Evanglismos Church, The Governors Mansion or The New Market? I would love to hear from all of you out there.

Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below, they are important to me.

Click From Below To Learn More About Some Important Historical Figures In Rhodes

Posted by

Chris Towers

Hi there, I am Chris and I live on The Island Of Rhodes In Greece. I am more than happy to assist you in anyway possible if you are looking for information or help on this amazing Greek Island.

Feel free to leave me a message if you have any questions or need advice!

Hey, maybe you have visited this beautiful place yourself and you have something you want to share?

I look forward to hearing from all of you.

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(24) Comments

  1. kemdi21

    Mario Lago was an amazing guy. he was the one that began the success of tourism in today’s Rhodes. I wish i could take a trip there someday and visit The Casino of Rhodes as well as The New Market.

    This was quite nice and informative to read. thanks for sharing!!

    1. Chris Towers

      Well my friend, the Casino and the New Market have now been here for many years, and they will be here for many more. 

      When you are ready, it is all here awaiting your visit 🙂



  2. Eli

    Mario Lago is a great leader. Sad to say that after great leaders, those who followed doesn’t have the heart or vision. That’s the usual trend in history. I’ve never been to Rhodes but I heard so much from it online and on television. 

    I think you love this place so much to make a site dedicated for this island only. I wish I can go there someday.

    1. Chris Towers

      Thank you Eli, I hope also you manage a visit here someday.

      You are right too, a lot of what Mario Lago achieved was undone by his successor, but he will always be remembered for the good he brought here. If more were like him, things would be a lot better than they are.

      Thanks Eli


  3. Stratos K

    Very nice article. I always like to read a bit about history as a lot of this info is relatively unknown to most, even to Greeks. As one of them I am a bit ashamed to say that I have never visited Rhodes although many times in the past I wanted to but other things got in the way. My future plans are to visit a couple of Greek islands and Rhodes is one of them.

    As for Mario Lago, unfortunately we are missing this kind of politicians today. He seemed to put people above all else, something that nobody is doing today unfortunately. I don’t know how he would fair in this day and age but for his time it seems he left his mark.

    1. Chris Towers

      Thank you Stratos.

      If you have never had the chance to visit Rhodes, then you will not be disappointed on your arrival.

      Lots of history here, and as a Greek, i think you will appreciate it 🙂

      I agree with your statement about Governor Lago too. If more people were in high places today with the same standards as him, things would be a lot better.

      Thanks Stratos. Hope to see you here soon!


  4. John

    Thanks Chris,  I’ve been to the island of Rhodes but there and another cruise of the Greek Islands is definitely on my bucket list!  

    Thank you for piquing my interest in the history and culture of Rhodes.  It’s great to know about Governor Lago and the history of the Italian rule of Rhodes.  I would have no idea otherwise.

    I love it that you have built a website around your homeland.  Keep up the great work!  John

    1. Chris Towers

      Thank you John. great to hear from you.

      Hope to see you back here again soon. There is always something you miss when it comes to history here in Rhodes, simply because there is so much of it.

      The Italians had a massive power here during the term of Mario Lago. I hope you come back and see it all again with a fresh set of eyes 🙂

      Thanks John


  5. swangirl

    Mario Lago sounds like a wonderful Governor and a visionary. I have not been to Rhodes but have always wanted to travel to Greece and would love to go and see all these places. Being able to save historical places and highlight them for tourism was a brilliant idea which has made Rhodes a travel destination long after Mario Lago was gone. 

    It is wonderful he was able to instill changes to allow the different cultures to live in harmony as well. That is truly the best accomplishment a Governor could bring. 

    1. Chris Towers

      I agree yes. For his time, he was quite the visionary and saw a lot of potential in the island which he was able to bring to blossom.

      Even today, the tourism on the island is booming and it all started back then with Mario Lago. Quite a man.

      Thanks for reading.


  6. Greg Cook

    I have always dreamed of visiting Rhodes and the other Greek Islands. Thanks for all that history, it is always good to learn a bit of history about a place before you visit in order to appreciate what you are seeing. 

    Mario Lago seems like the sort of Politician that would do well today. I like that you have included him in your history as he played an important part. 

    It’s great that you have built a whole website about your homeland, you must really love it there. I found myself following all your links to learn more about Rhodes. I have never read a negative word about the island.

    You’ve made me want to come and visit, it is now on my bucket list. Thanks for a great article.

    1. Chris Towers

      Thank you Greg and I am happy you enjoyed your visit here.

      Rhodes is a wonderful island and it is packed with history. Although you could say the role of Mario Lago was small when you look at the whole picture, a lot of what he achieved is still here to witness.

      I hope you can make it here some time and see it all for yourself.

      Thanks Greg.


  7. Paul

    What a lovely article,

    I have only visited Rhodes once, and that was many years ago. I found it to be a beautiful, relaxing place of culture, with super friendly people.

    I’m from the UK, and at the time Rhodes was one of the more expensive package holiday options.

    However, I think things are changing. The UK consumer is looking for different holiday destinations from their beloved Spain. Brexit is also having an effect, so the main European destinations are not as affordable as they used to be.

    In addition many Europeans are not as friendly towards us as any more so we are looking at options.

    The British holiday maker simply wants the sunshine, value for money, friendly treatment and attractive places, and they have a lot of money to throw at it.

    Rhodes keeps popping up more and more as a place to visit along with other countries who are trying to reinvigorate their tourist market.

    So stand by Rhodes, you could be the next beneficiary of the GBP.

    Have a lovely day everybody.


    1. Chris Towers

      Hi Paul.

      Although you are not directly talking about Mario Lago here, the fact that you are talking about the tourism on the island is very relevant. It was Mario Lago that had the vision and saw the potential of Rhodes as a holiday destination.

      As years have passed, of course times have changed. Now, there are thousands of holiday destinations to choose from and Rhodes has been one of the more expensive to experience.

      Things are been done to be competitive with the prices, and the UK sends thousand (upon thousands) of tourists to the island every year. I too hope Brexit does not play a negative part when it comes to people searching for an escape for a few days. We will see on that one. Let’s hope it continues to boom.

      I hope you manage to plan another visit in the near future Paul.

      Nice to hear from you.


  8. Steve

    Thank you for taking the time to put up this site, Mario Lago was an interesting figure. I love to learn more about the history of a place before I visit. It draws you in and gives you an opportunity to enjoy more of what you see along the way as you experience things first-hand. 

    I can’t wait to learn more about the Island of Rhodes!

    1. Chris Towers

      Hi Steve.

      I also think paying attention to some of the history of a location you plan to visit can add to your experience and enjoyment.

      Sometimes I know people visit places such as Rhodes, and they have a look around but they do not really know what they are looking at and/or why.

      People such as Mario Lago have left a huge mark on the island here, and it is important to understand why. A lot of the structures still seen were constructed during his time in office, and they can still be appreciated.

      Whilst looking around, it is nice to have his name on your mind don’t you think?

      Thanks Steve, nice to hear from you.


  9. Kent

    It’s so interesting reading about the history of Rhodes and it’s connection to different groups of Europeans. Mario Lago sounded like someone I’d totally get along with. I especially love how he encouraged the acceptance and respect of the local Jewish, Turks, and Greeks in the colony.

    If he was to be a modern day politician I’m sure he would be someone who would unite the country and all it’s people, unlike a certain politician we hear a lot about on the news these days. I know you said you don’t want to get political on your blog, so I’d just stop at that.

    1. Chris Towers

      Thank you Kent. Yeah politics and political debates I am certainly trying to avoid, as for the best best I have little time for any of them. 

      I feel I had to mention Mario Lago though, as his important actions actually shaped the island of Rhodes in the early days, and since then it has prospered.

      To me, he seemed very educated and intelligent and always had the communities in mind. Like you say, there are many politicians today that do not give a cr*p for the people but only for their paychecks. Me too, i will stop there 🙂

      Thanks Kent, I appreciate your thoughts.


  10. Parmi

    To be quite honest, I have been reading up a lot on the Island of Rhodes since I first came across your website some weeks ago. I love that you’ve created an entire website just around this little island which has so much history and meaning. 

    I’ve never been to Rhodes, but I certainly want to go there now after your great reviews and so many articles. 

    Mario Lago seems to have done a lot on this island, and bless him for being so selfless and helping the community.

    It is a pity that his successor changed a lot of policies, but at least the fact remains. 

    I look forward to coming and seeing this amazing place for myself.

    1. Chris Towers

      Thank you Parmi, it is great you have visited my site and got enough information to make you want to visit Rhodes. You will not regret it 🙂

      The work of Mario Lago has never been forgotten, and a lot of what he accomplished is still here to witness.

      Make sure you visit soon. We are waiting for you 🙂



  11. Ty Hook


    I came across your website and this article. It sounds like there is a lot of history- which I like.

    I like reading about the history of places before and during my visits. Since you have got me thinking about someday visiting Greece – are there any good books you would recommend I read?



    1. Chris Towers

      Hello Ty

      Of course there are many book available to read when it comes to the history of Greece. I have some of them already in the Rhodes Shop if you would like to take a look. There is more coming too, so feel free to call back.

      There is an isle dedicated to Rhodes and another for books in Greece. Have a look around 🙂

      Feel free to ask me any questions on the selection available should you need to.



      Rhodes Shopping Area

  12. Michael Howell

    We might say that the conversion of Rhodes from a war fortress to a peaceful tourist attraction began with Mario Lago. It is one thing to have great plans. It is another to have the will and means to execute them. Governor Lago appears to have been a talented statesman.

    Unfortunately, his work is far from done. In the wake of World War II, the Island of Rhodes has kind of lost its way, it seems, in building itself as a tourist attraction.

    1. Chris Towers

      Hey Michael, yes Mario Lago was a key figure when it came to transforming the island. They were difficult times, and he had the courage and will power to carry out his plans.

      I wanted to ask, as you say Rhodes seems to have lost its way while building itself as an attraction for tourists, what do you mean?

      I ask this, as Rhodes now has become one of the number one locations in the Mediterranean for holidaymakers. If anything, Rhodes has become more popular and as a result infrastructure has been put in place to accommodate tourism.

      Just curious as to what you mean?

      Thanks my friend.


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