On this portentous day in history (my, what a pretentious opening!), Pisa and Aragon signed a peace pact in 1327. Unclear what they were bickering about, but thrilled that they resolved their issues. In 1719, Daniel DeFoe published his highly unreadable Robinson Crusoe. In 1945, Italy was liberated by the Allies, thus bringing World War II, European Theater version, to an almost close.
It’s a national holiday here. Everything’s shut. Re-watch the English Patient, if you have it on video, or (re-)read it, it you have the patience. Praise Ralph Fiennes.
A lot of Americans died in Italy during World War II, including some 4,402 souls who are buried in an American military cemetery a short drive south of Florence. This cemetery is beautiful, haunting, and worth a detour. The tombstones carry the soldier’s name, his date of death. Tombs are distinguished by Christian crosses or Jewish Stars of David. Go there, and have a Saving Private Ryan kind of moment.
Even more are buried (7,861 of them) in Nettuno, near Rome. Spoke with a lovely man at the American Military Cemetery (the one out of Florence) who was unable to give me clear figures of casualties. He said that 39% of American dead are buried here (in Italy), the rest were returned to the United States. Wikipedia’s numbers are high (74,725 casualties, which presumably includes the wounded and maimed).
It’s pretty amazing, if you stop to think of it: all these young corn-fed boys, and Buffalo Soldiers from everywhere in the United States of America, coming here to fight and die to help preserve Italy (and the rest of Europe). American girls died, too, but their numbers are even less precise.
American Military Cemetery, via Cassia south, Località Scopeti (Florence), 055/2020020. (www.abmc.gov/cemeteries for information on how to find Nettuno).
Il Cimitero di Guerra del Commonwealth brittanico, S. Pietro a Quintole, southwest somewhere of Florence. No web site, but know that it’s there.
Il cimitero militare germanico, il passo della Futa, Mugello. Like the British cemetery, but with lots more buried there.
Happy Liberation Day, and thank you to all the Allied troops. Europe remains beautiful because you helped it be so.