Former Trump advisor Steve Bannon hits Rome as far-right candidate runs for prime minister of Italy

  • Steve Bannon, a former senior advisor to President Donald Trump, is in Rome just days before the Italian elections.
  • A leading candidate for the premiership in those elections is Matteo Salvini, whose far-right Lega Nord party espouses anti-immigrant policies.
  • Lega Nord's slogan is "Italians First," an echo of Trump's "America First."
President Donald Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, poses at Piazza Navona in Rome, March 2, 2018.
Tony Gentile | Reuters
President Donald Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, poses at Piazza Navona in Rome, March 2, 2018.

Steve Bannon, the fallen former top aide to President Donald Trump, visited Rome this week, where he is getting a first-hand look at the upcoming Italian elections.

Those elections, set for Sunday, just happen to feature a far-right, anti-immigrant populist candidate who is seeking the office of prime minister whose views are largely in line with Bannon's nativist stances.

The Italian newspaper La Stampa, which first reported the trip, said Bannon is "intrigued" by the elections.

Without naming sources, La Stampa said Bannon has been paying attention to Matteo Salvini the leader of the right-wing, anti-migrant party Lega Nord.

A lawyer for Bannon did not immediately return a request for comment from CNBC.

The slogan of Salvini's campaign this year is "Italians First." Trump, during his populist campaign, his inauguration speech last year and since then, has often used the phrase "America First."

The Guardian newspaper confirmed Bannon's trip, before the above photograph appeared, with a senior lawmaker in Lega Nord, which previously was called the Northern League.

In the photo, the former chief White House strategist is seen standing in front of the famed Fountain of the Four Rivers in the Piazza Navona in Rome.

The shadow of Mussolini

In 2015, Salvini donned a black T-shirt before addressing a crowd that included people waving Russian flags and flags with Celtic crosses that are a favorite sign of neo-Nazis; others were toting photographs of the fascist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, according to the Daily Beast. Mussolini's paramilitary supporters were known as the Blackshirts.

In 2016, Salvini traveled to the United States and attended a rally in Philadelphia for then-candidate Trump. The two men, who reportedly met for about 20 minutes after the rally, posed for a photo together that Salvini posted on Twitter.

Trump reportedly told Salvini, "Matteo, I hope you become prime minister of Italy soon."

The New York Times, in a Feb. 24 article, noted that "Mr. Salvini has said on the campaign trail that fascism had done positive things for" Italy.

Bannon previously was executive chairman of the right-wing news site Breitbart, which continues to highlight stories about immigrants who commit crimes.

Bannon, who was forced out as Trump's senior counselor in August, fell completely out of Trump's graces in January after the publication of the Michael Wolff book "Fire and Fury," which included critical quotes from Bannon about Trump's son Donald Jr. and daughter Ivanka, among other issues.

Trump blasted Bannon after the book's release, saying, "He not only lost his job, he lost his mind," and "has nothing to do with me or my presidency."

Bannon resigned as Breitbart chairman on the heels of that flap.

The Guadian noted that Bannon has ties to the conservative American Catholic Cardinal Raymond Burke, who met with Salvini last year at the Vatican.