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  20 sept. monte cassino

we depart from anzio early in the morning. my head hurts....death, even by airplane, would hurt less than my head hurts right now.

we drive south along the coast until we hit gaeta and head inland to monte cassino. we end up seeing it miles away as we climb up the endless switchbacks.

monte cassino is a rocky hill about eighty miles (130 km) south of rome, a mile to the west of the town of cassino (the roman casinum having been on the hill) and 520 m (1700 ft) high...straight up from the valley bottom.  benedict of nursia established his first monastery, the source of the benedictine order, around 529. cassino was also a major battleground for the loyal edmonton regiment towards the end of World War II and is why we are here.

the battle of monte cassino (also known as the battle for rome and the battle for cassino) was a costly series of battles in world war II, fought by the allies with the intention of breaking through the gustav line and seizing rome. The gustav line was anchored by germans holding the rapido, Liri and garigliano valleys and surrounding peaks and ridges, but not the historic abbey of monte casino, although they manned defensive positions set into the steep slopes below the abbey walls.

it was only after the february 15, 1944 destruction of the monastery by american bombers that german paratroopers poured into the ruins to defend it. from january 12 to May 18, 1944 it was assaulted four times by british, american, canadian, new zealander, south african, french, poles - even newly arrived brazilians.

over 54,000 allied and 20,000 german soldiers were killed in the battle for cassino. 39 loyal edmonton regiment soldiers, all killed on 23 may 1944, are  buried in the commonwealth cemetery in cassino. a polish and german cemetery are nearby. 

after holding my breath the entire death ride up the side of the 1700 ft hill, we reach the abbey proper. there are about out a million tourists and while l am good enough for the local rentacop to have his picture taken with me, some swirly dressed monk decides he isn't.  we spend the time exploring the monastery in the pouring rain.

we pack up and head to the polish war cemetery where a friend's uncle is of two relatives killed in the italian theatre. there are busloads of polish tourists in the cemetery. it is nice to see so many people there and we watch a solemn service, conducted in polish, in the pouring rain.

we end up heading into naples in the dark. it is also our first adventure with the autostrada.....a toll highway with literally a different way of paying each time we come to a different toll booth. l am sure this thing has been designed by germans...

our first opinion of naples, other than it appears to be full of packs of wild dogs, is a cart being pulled by a pony down an otherwise deserted highway. we decide that we will not drink and drive anymore.

we end up in the hotel clinton for the night and then after searching for an hour for anything that resembles a restaurant, poison ourselves with gas station fare and warm beer.  

 click on a picture to see a larger image. hit arrows at either end of the slideshow for more pictures.


monte cassino from the commonwealth cemetery in cassino. we have seen this hill for commands every view for miles.


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