Tag Archives: WWII

Discovering Some Family Treasures

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After falling back to sleep around 4:30 am, we slept until about 9. By the time we made it down to the “bar” for breakfast, they were almost out of goodies! Luckily, they still had my absolute favorite – a marmelade filled croissant. The pastries and the coffee here are uniquely good – there is no comparison to anything I have had anywhere else.


After breakfast, we crossed the street from our hotel to head to the bank for some currency exchange. On the way, we passed Il Nazionale, the establishment that my grandparents had during the War. It was a bar and restaurant, with a few rooms to rent upstairs. My dad grew up here, and I have a picture of him as a little boy standing on this same balcony.


The house is now owned by an old friend of my father’s…and while we were strolling in front of it and stopping to take pictures, he saw us and invited us in!!! What a treat it was! I was able to see furniture, light fixtures, floors, and other things that were in the house when my Dad lived in it.


He was telling us that they want to redo the house, and they are planning on THROWING AWAY some of these pieces of furniture! Can you believe that they are just going to toss them? I am determined to see what I can do about saving them! Hopefully, I can figure out a way to send them safely across the seas to find a new home in California!


After living some of my father’s family history, we strolled towards the home that my mom grew up in. Her family home is located in the historic center of town, and as a historic building, the exteriors cannot be altered. Therefore, the outside of her home looks just like it has for hundreds of years….but evidently, the interiors have all been modernized.


Unfortunately, I was not able to see the insides. The small cobblestone alleyway was the path my mom took on her wedding day that led to the Church.


Visiting some old family friends, I enjoyed listening to stories of the “old days”! They were reliving their youth, and saying that even though they were poor, they enjoyed life! Perhaps it is just the story of the elderly, but they all looked upon their youth with such good memories.

Before being whisked off to dinner with another cousin, we took a walk down to the “lungolago” – the beautiful lakefront promenade. We sat on a bench, happy to take in the gorgeous panorama in front of our eyes!


Dinner tonight was at a town festival in an adjacent town, Sesto Calende, where my cousin lives. They were celebrating the feast of the “oratorio” – a sort of boys and girls club run by the town priests. My cousin used to hang out here as a boy, and now his son does. Rows and rows of tables were set up under some tents, and volunteer cooks made the meals. We had a choice of spaghetti with clams, codfish with onions, polenta with ragu sauce, tripe, or polenta with gorgonzola cheese! It was all delicious (except I didn’t try the tripe – a little too adventurous for me). And of course, a little bit of wine! Even though they were cooking for hoards of people, the food was prepared with such care and it was phenomenal. And the 5 Euro fee was a steal!

Time for bed now….we shall see what tomorrow brings us!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Ispra

Don’t blow up, George!!!

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Now, I’m not usually an “Entertainment Tonight” type of person and celebrity gossip doesn’t interest me much, but I have to confess that I make an exception when it comes to George Clooney!  Maybe it’s because he lives in Italy on a lake not far from my home roots.  Or perhaps it’s because he loves everything about Italy like I do… but I have a soft spot in my heart for George!  Therefore, when I heard that there were WWII bombs just feet away from his villa buried deep in the lake, I instantly became interested in this developing news story!  Evidently, a fisherman spotted the bombs lying at the bottom of the lake and alerted authorities to their existence.   Italian soldiers have been surrounding Villa Oleandra and working to bring up the 500 pounds of unexploded bombs, grenades and mortars.  The situation is tense because the bombs are unstable, with a possibility of an explosion.  The entire town of Laglio has been closed off while the Navy removes the bombs and brings them to a cave for detonation.

An Italian Tragedy

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Last weekend, I watched a Spike Lee movie entitled “Miracle at St. Anna”.  This movie portrayed the role of the Buffalo Soldiers stationed in Italy during WWII.  It was a good movie, a bit graphic at times, but nonetheless interesting and thought provoking.  Because this film was historical fiction, I knew that some of the situations portrayed were indeed fact.  This sparked my interest on a massacre that was described in the movie in the small Tuscan town of Sant’Anna di Stazzema.  Did this massacre truly occur?  To my horror, I found out that it did.  560 innocent women, children, and elderly were massacred by German troops in the early morning of Aug. 12, 1944 as part of a cleansing, or scorched-earth policy.  The victims were shot and their bodies were burned.  The pews from the church were used as kindling for the fires which consumed the entire town.  Among the dead were 116 children, with the youngest being 3 months old.  The reason for this atrocity is a bit unclear.  One theory states that the German troops wanted to leave nothing but devastation in their wake.  Another states that they wanted to obliterate all the possible Partisan hiding places.  Supposedly, Sant’Anna was known to be sympathetic towards the Partisans. 

Interestingly enough, no one was prosecuted for the war crimes that occurred in this tiny town until 2005 when some secret documents were found stuffed into a cabinet.   The events that took place here had all been forgotten by both the Italian and the German governments, but the town never really recuperated after the massacre.  In fact, much of the town has remained abandoned and is now mostly a memorial for those that perished.  Even the Italian government hushed this over, and no one spoke of it except for those few that remembered what happened.  The reasons for this secrecy are a mystery to me,  but most likely it was for some political reason.  This story would undoubtedly lend itself to quite a bit of interesting  detective work on the part of a WWII historian.  During the trial,  six SS officers were tried and found guilty of the war crimes committed here.  They were tried in absentia, due to their advanced ages, and given life sentences.  But, to my knowledge, they did not serve any time.  None of those convicted ever confessed to their role in this horrific event.  It was as if this town and it’s people never existed.