Hitler became internationally known after the beer hall putsch in 1923. When did he first come to Mussolini's attention, and what did he say?
Mussolini's earliest known statements referred to Hitler's 'confused' NSDAP program (in 1922). Shortly after, he said Hitler was an 'extreme rightist'.
Mussolini's first known statement after actually meeting Hitler for the first time in 1934 was that the German dictator was a 'mad little clown'. Just before the meeting, he had called him a 'silly little monkey'.
Mussolini first became aware of Hitler sometime during or before September 1922 (so before the Beer Hall Putsch) when he met with an aide (Kurt Ludecke) of Hitler in Milan. He was read the 25 points of Hitler's program as presented to the NSDAP in February 1920.
puzzled by the details of this confused program.....and requested more information regarding this Herr Heidler, Hidler, or Hitler. The man's last name was unclear to him. Ludecke then gave Mussolini an enthusiastic summary of Hitler's life.
Source: Santi Corvaja, 'Hitler & Mussolini: The Secret Meetings' (2001)
Mussolini had several other questions for Ludecke, including why such a noted figure as General Erich Ludendorff was associating himself with what Mussolini later (November 1922) called "extreme rightist elements."
When he later received a report in response to his request (in November 1922) for more details on the political situation in Bavaria,
Mussolini found the details of this report alarming
In particular, it seems that Mussolini was unhappy about Hitler's plans for Austria, and he had no sympathy with Hitler's anti-semitism, although Mussolini later complained to his mistress Claretta Petacci (in 1938, with reference to being considered Hitler's junior partner),
"I've been racist since 1921,"
A year later, in the wake of the failed Munich Beer Hall putsch in November 1923, Mussolini reportedly referred to Hitler and his associates as 'buffoons.' (in 'Mussolini' by R.J.B.Bosworth, 2011)
Hitler's attempt at contacting Mussolini in 1927, when he requested Mussolini's autograph, was rebuffed. The response from Il Duce's office was
The Duce regrets being unable to fulfill his [Hitler's] request but thanks him for the expression of support
At some point, probably before they first met, Mussolini read Mein Kampf, which he described as "boring". He also described Hitler's ideas as "coarse" and "simplistic".
Several planned meetings with Hitler in the early 1930s were stopped by Mussolini himself (though he had approved limited financial support since the late 1920s) so they did not meet until the 14th of June 1934. This didn't go well and Mussolini was bored by Hitler's long monologues. Even before the meeting, Mussolini
referred to Hitler as that "silly little monkey"
Source: Italy’s foreign policy
What was his impression? Mussolini was asked afterwards. "A mad little clown," he said.
All emphasis is mine.