April 25 marked the 66th anniversary of Italian liberation from fascism. This year, the national holiday fell on pasquetta, the day after Easter, marking rebirths both religious and national. On that day, president of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano commemorated a young Florentine man who was brutally killed by Fascists in 1938: Napolitano awarded Mario Pucci a post-humous gold medal. Although the day has now passed, those wishing to commemorate April 25 and the men and women who fell in the name of freedom, can do so throughout the year. Below are several itineraries in Florence and Tuscany, provided by Anne Saunders, a scholar of history and author of a guidebook to World War II sites in the region. Next time you're planning a weekend excursion, include a site near your destination-or make it your destination.
Today Tuscany is at peace, but the roar and smoke of battle filled this region in the summer of 1944. How and why did World War II reach Tuscany?
The events of 1943 provide answers to those questions. In July 1943, Italy's leaders deposed Mussolini. By early September they had withdrawn their nation from its alliance with Nazi Germany and agreed to an armistice with the Allies. The Germans quickly responded by occupying hundreds of villages and cities. From 1943 until May 1945, Allied armies fought to expel German forces from Italy in a series of battles known as the Italian campaign. Italian partisans aided this cause.
After liberating Rome in June 1944, Allied troops advanced north into Tuscany and from there into Emilia-Romagna and other regions. During those months, tens of thousands of soldiers died in combat and thousands of civilians were executed by German troops. Countless buildings were damaged or destroyed.
Today, monuments, museums, and cemeteries in Tuscany and other regions commemorate the events of World War II. A new guidebook, A Travel Guide to World War II Sites in Italy, makes these locations easier to find. The book is available online and at English-language bookstores in Florence and Rome. For more information, see www.travelguidepress.com.