ITALY BATTLEFIELDS WW2
Sangro River War Cemetery
We flew in with British Airways (http://www.ba.com), who have regular flights between Heathrow and Rome, and Gatwick and Pisa. Many Budget airlines run low-cost flights from the UK. From the US, many companies fly into Rome, which is by far the easiest route. Car hire from the main airports is not a problem, and many big towns have their own car hire offices as well. There is a good train network in Italy (see http://www.trenitalia.com/home/en/index.htm) , but to reach most of the battlefield locations is impossible by local transport; although taxis might be able to take you to a specific cemetery. This is certainly true in Cassino; but the cemetery there is easily walkable from the Railway Station. Walking parts of the battlefield, especially at Cassino, is thoroughly recommended, but remember to take plenty of water, supplies and insect bite cream, if you are prone to this.
WHERE TO VISIT
The Italy Battlefields of WW2 cover a vast area; it would be impossible to visit them all in one trip. On our first visit in May 2003 we travelled over 1,500 miles and only covered Anzio, Cassino, Sangro River and the ground around the British sector of the Gothic Line. It is therefore essential to decide which area to visit, and do them individually or some together in one trip. The British Battlefields in Italy can roughly divided up into the following areas:
ANZIO & ROME: Based in Anzio or Rome, covering the Allied landings, and the push to Rome, and the ground North of Rome (Orvieto, Montegabbione, Lake Trasimere etc).
CASSINO: Based in Cassino, from here you can visit the ground around Monte Cassino, and go up to the nearby French cemetery, and even go up to the Sangro. Going south, you can easily visit Minturno, and the area along the Rapido and Garigliano rivers.
ADRIATIC COAST: This covers the ground between the River Sangro and Rimini, where the British sector of the Gothic Line is located. Best done with two locations to stay, as it covers a lot of ground. There are many hotels along here, as it is a popular holiday area; and thus gets busy in the Summer. The town of Urbino is a good base for the Gothic Line.
RIVER PO & LAKE COMACCHIO: This covers the ground around Faenza, fought over during the winter of 1944/45, and from here up to the River Po and Lake Commaccio where some of the final battles in Italy were fought.
SICILY & SALERNO: This is a seperate part of the Italian battlefields, and one I haven't visited yet. It is also some distance from the areas mentioned above.
WHERE TO STAY
This depends on where you want to visit, but there are some excellent hotels in some of the key WW2 battlefield areas, such as Anzio, Cassino and Urbino (Gothic Line).
Two hotels I have used, which I can thoroughly recommend are:
Hotel La Pace
Via Abruzzi 16
- The owners are very pro-battlefield visitors and have a display of WW2 relics in the hotel lobby. They also have free internet access for guests, and a superb restaurant.
Hotel La Meridiana
Via Calibiancone 154/A
61020 Trasanni di Urbino (PS)
- Again, very friendly owners and in a wonderful, picturesque location. Also close to the beautiful town of Urbino, and ideally situated for the Gothic Line battlefields. Free internet access for guests.
Some good websites for Italy Hotels in other areas are:
Hotels in Italy
Azienda Autonoma di Soggiorno e Turismo
Riviera Zanardelli 115
Azienda Autonoma di Soggiorno e Turismo
Via Condotti 6
Azienda Di Promozione Turistica
Della Provincia di Frosinone
Via Aldo Moro 465
From these you can get a good free leaflet 'Battlefields in Latium'.
Maps are a problem in Italy. There are few suppliers of good scale maps; most of what we found was 1/150,000 at best. Therefore useful only for road journeys. Detailed maps seem non-existent, although in Cassino we found a photocopying shop that could supply 1/5000 maps of the Cassino area, which we found useful walking Snakeshead Ridge and Hill 593. For the trip we have planned for May 2004 I have copies a large number of British 1/25,000 wartime maps, which we hope will prove useful.
A couple of useful web links are:
Italy Maps Online - they sell the 1/150,000 series.
Italy Maps from Omnimap.com - they have numerous scales.
In some of the battlefield areas well off the tourist trail,
such as around Monte Cassino and on the Gothic Line, there are many relics of
the war; from cartridges, mortar fins, ammo boxes etc to mortar bombs and
shells. It is prohibited to bring this sort of material back on a flight within
Europe, and back to the USA, and metal detecting is against the law. There are
also the dangers of live grenades, bombs and shells, and even land mines. All
this should be left well alone, as these items still kill people every year in
ŠPaul Reed 2004-2006