Showing posts with label Germany. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Germany. Show all posts

26 June 2018

San Marino is bombed by Britain

British believed the Germans were using rail facilities

The British thought the Germans were using the San Marino trail network to transport weapons
The British thought the Germans were using the San Marino
rail network to transport weapons
The British Royal Air Force bombed the tiny Republic of San Marino on this day in 1944 as a result of receiving incorrect information.

It was recorded at the time that 63 people were killed as a result of the bombing, which was aimed at rail facilities. The British mistakenly believed that the Germans were using the San Marino rail network to transport weapons.

San Marino had been ruled by Fascists since the 1920s but had managed to remain neutral during the war.

After the bombing, San Marino’s government declared that no military installations or equipment were located on its territory and no belligerent forces had been allowed to enter.

A British soldier observing German  positions at the Battle of San Marino
A British soldier observing German
positions at the Battle of San Marino
However, by September of the same year San Marino was briefly occupied by German forces, but they were defeated by the Allied forces in the Battle of San Marino.

After the war, San Marino was ruled by the world’s first democratically-elected Communist government, which held office between 1945 and 1957.

The Republic of San Marino is not a member of the European Union but uses the euro as its currency.

The Fortress of Guaita in San Marino towers over the Italian landscape
The Fortress of Guaita in San Marino
towers over the Italian landscape
Travel tip:

San Marino, which is on the border between Emilia-Romagna and Marche, still exists as an independent state within Italy, situated on the northeast side of the Apennine mountains and surrounded by romantic battlements and towers, which can be seen from miles away against the skyline. San Marino claims to be the oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world. It covers an area of just 61 square kilometres, or 24 square miles.

The Palazzo Pubblico in San Marino
The Palazzo Pubblico in San Marino
Travel tip:

San Marino’s official government building, the Palazzo Pubblico, is similar in design to the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence but is on a much smaller scale. It is in the heart of the Città di San Marino in Contrada del Pianello. Designed by the architect Francesco Azzurri it was built between 1884 and 1894.


31 March 2018

Franco Bonvicini – comic book artist

Comic artist became famous for satirising the Nazis

Bonvi's Sturmtruppen was a hit in countries beyond Italy as well as at home
Bonvi's Sturmtruppen was a hit in countries
beyond Italy as well as at home
Franco Bonvicini, who signed his comic strips Bonvi, was born on this day in 1941 in either Parma or Modena in Emilia-Romagna.

The correct birthplace is unknown. According to the artist, his mother registered him in both places to obtain double the usual amount of food stamps for rations.

After a brief spell working in advertising, Bonvi made his debut in the comic strip world for the Rome newspaper Paese Sera with his creation Sturmtruppen in 1968.

This series satirising the German army was a big hit and was published in various periodicals over the years. It was also translated for publication in other countries.

Although left-wing and a pacifist, Bonvi was fascinated by war and built up immense knowledge about Nazi Germany’s uniforms, weapons and equipment, which he depicted faithfully in his illustrations. The cartoons satirised military life and the Nazis themselves, providing him with an endless source of comic and surreal situations.

Bonvi's characters first appeared in 1968 in the Paese Sera newspaper
Bonvi's characters first appeared in
1968 in the Paese Sera newspaper
Bonvi also created the character Nick Carter, a comic detective, who later featured in a play, two films and a number of television cartoons.

In the 1980s, Bonvi became a member of Bologna City Council and founded a publishing house and monthly magazine in the city.

He was killed in 1995 in Bologna when he was struck by a car while crossing a road on his way to the television studios. He was due to appear on a show hosted by DJ and TV personality Red Ronnie and it was believed he intended to appeal for financial assistance for a friend, a Bolognese cartoonist, who was unable to work because he was dying of cancer.

A plate of Parma's famous prosciutto
A plate of Parma's famous prosciutto
Travel tip:

Franco Bonvicini could have been born in either Parma or Modena, cities that are about 60 km apart in Emilia-Romagna. Parma is famous for producing Prosciutto di Parma, a type of cured ham, and Parmigiano Reggiano, a hard cheese. Modena for Cotechino Modena, a type of sausage, and aceto balsamico di Modena, a high quality balsamic vinegar made from grape must.

Bologna's best food shops can be found in the Quadrilatero
Bologna's best food shops can be found in the Quadrilatero
Travel tip:

Bologna, where Franco Bonvicini lived in later life, is known by Italians as La Grassa, the fat one, because of its rich culinary traditions. It is the home of the world’s most famous pasta dish, tagliatelle Bolognese, long strips of pasta served with a rich meat sauce. The best traditional food shops in the city can be found in the area known as the Quadrilatero, which is bordered by Piazza Maggiore, Via Rizzoli, Via Castiglione and Via Farini.

More reading:

How Benito Jacovitti became Italy's favourite cartoonist

Hugo Pratt, the Rimini-born creator of comic book character Corto Maltese

How comic actor Sergio Tòfano invented comic cartoon favourite Signor Bonaventura

Also on this day:

1425: The birth of Bianca Maria Visconti, the Milanese Duchess who led her army into battle

1675: The birth of intellectual leader Pope Benedict XIV


15 February 2017

Destruction of Monte Cassino Abbey

Historic monastery flattened in Allied bombing raid

An American B17 bomber shortly after releasing its payload over Monte Cassino
An American B17 bomber shortly after
releasing its payload over Monte Cassino
The Abbey of Monte Cassino, established in 529 and the oldest Benedictine monastery in the world, was destroyed by Allied bombers on this day in 1944 in what is now acknowledged as one of the biggest strategic errors of the Second World War on the Allied side.

The Abbey was attacked despite an agreement signed by both sides with the Vatican that the historic building would be respected as occupying neutral territory.

But Allied commanders, who had seen their infantrymen suffer heavy casualties in trying to advance along the Liri valley, the route of the main highway between Naples and Rome, were convinced that the Germans were using the Abbey, which commands sweeping views of the valley, at least as a point from which to direct operations.

This perception was reinforced by a radio intercept, subsequently alleged to have been wrongly translated, which suggested a German battalion had been stationed in the Abbey, ignoring a 300-metre area around it that was supposed to be out of bounds to soldiers on both sides.

What remained of the abbey after four hours of sustained bombing by American planes had stopped
What remained of the abbey after four hours of sustained
bombing by American planes had stopped
Knowing that attacking a historic and religiously sensitive target would divide public opinion, particularly among their Catholic populations, military sources in Britain and the United States leaked details of their suspicions to the newspapers, who obligingly printed stories that seemed to justify the plan. On Valentine's Day, 1944, leaflets were fired towards the Abbey and the nearby town of Cassino to warn residents and monks of what was coming.

The raid began at 9.24am the following day as the Abbey was bathed in wintry morning sunshine.  It continued for more than four hours in what was the biggest sustained attack on a single building of the entire war and, many have contended, the greatest aesthetic disaster of the conflict.

Fortunately, many of the art treasures contained in the Abbey had already been removed to safety in Rome by two far-sighted German officers, including paintings by Titian, El Greco and Goya, along with tens of thousands of books and manuscripts. They had been transferred to the Vatican in more than 100 truckloads the year before, although some did end up in Germany.

Parts of the abbey were almost completely destroyed,  although many art treasures had been removed
Parts of the abbey were almost completely destroyed,
although many art treasures had been removed
But nothing could be done to save the frescoed walls of the building itself.  In all, 229 American bombers, arriving in wave after wave, dropped 1,150 tons of high explosives and incendiaries, reducing the entire top of the 488 metre (1,600 feet) mountain to a mass of smouldering rubble.

The 79-year-old Abbot, Gregorio Diamare, escaped, along with the other monks, some of whom hid in the underground vaults. But 230 refugees given shelter inside the Abbey were killed.  There were no German casualties.  The German positions above and below the Abbey, outside the neutral zone, were seemingly untouched.  The information passed on from the radio intercept was wrong.  No German troops were inside the building, nor had been, although it was more than two decades before the mistake was fully acknowledged.

To make matters worse, the bombardment created for the Germans a superb defensive position among the ruins.

There had been a plan for Allied troops to storm the site in the aftermath of the bombing but communications between the Air Force commanders and the Army on the ground were poor and it is thought the raid was launched to take advantage of good weather with no consideration of the readiness of the follow-up plan.

As it was, essential supplies and equipment had not reached the valley and some of the soldiers who were ready to attack were forced to withdraw after stray bombs hit their positions.

As a result, the Germans were able to take control of the ruined site and create the strategic stronghold the Allies had thought they were destroying.

The Abbey of Monte Cassino after it had been rebuilt  in the 1950s following the original plans
The Abbey of Monte Cassino after it had been rebuilt
in the 1950s following the original plans
Pope Pius XII made no public comment about the destruction of the Abbey but his Cardinal Secretary of State, Luigi Maglione, denounced it as "a colossal blunder, a piece of a gross stupidity."

The Allies did eventually capture Monte Cassino but it took them until May 18, when soldiers from the Polish II Corps planted a Polish flag among the ruins, the only remaining Germans being those who lay wounded.  However, the cost was high, Allied casualties numbering 55,000 from a total of four assaults, compared with 20,000 on the German side.

Travel tip:

After the Second World War, the Abbey of Monte Cassino was painstakingly rebuilt based on the original plans, paid for in part by the Vatican and in part by what could be raised in an international appeal.  Today, it is again a working monastery and continues to be a pilgrimage site, housing as it does the surviving relics of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica. It also serves as a shrine to the 183,000 killed in the area around it.

Hotels in Cassino by

The Commonwealth Cemetery in Cassino with the abbey on top of the mountain in the background
The Commonwealth Cemetery in Cassino with the abbey
on top of the mountain in the background
Travel tip:

There are two major war cemeteries close to Monte Cassino. At the Cassino War Cemetery, some 4,271 Common- wealth servicemen killed are buried or commem- orated.  The graves of more than 1,000 Poles and 200 Belarusians can be found within a separate Polish Cemetery, including that of General Wladyslaw Anders, who commanded the Polish force that finally captured Monte Cassino.

More reading:

How Italy entered the Second World War

Mussolini's last stand

Alcide de Gasperi begins to rebuild Italy

Also on this day:

1564: The birth of Galileo Galilei

28 November 2016

Fabio Grosso - World Cup hero

Unspectacular career illuminated by unforgettable goal

Fabio Grosso at the 2006 World Cup finals
Fabio Grosso at the 2006
World Cup finals
Fabio Grosso, the unlikely hero of Italy's victory in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, was born on this day in 1977 in Rome.

Selected for Marcello Lippi's squad for the Finals as cover for first-choice left-back Gianluca Zambrotta, Grosso eventually secured a place in Lippi's team and went on to score one of the most important goals in Italy's World Cup history as they beat the hosts, Germany, to reach the final.

He then secured his place in Azzurri folklore by scoring the winning penalty in the final against France as Italy lifted the trophy for the fourth time, equalling Brazil's record.

Yet Grosso arrived at the finals as a player who, if not an unknown, seldom attracted attention and had enjoyed a career that was respectable but certainly not eye-catching.

Five years before 2006,  he was playing in Serie C for Chieti, in the town in Abruzzo where he grew up, and only two and a half years before the tournament he left Serie A side Perugia to play for Palermo in Serie B.

Nonetheless, Palermo did win promotion to Serie A soon after Grosso arrived and at the same time he quietly established himself as Lippi's first choice at left back in the 2006 World Cup qualifying competition.

Yet his solid performances seldom making headlines.  Commentators have speculated that some Italian fans might not have even recognised him before 2006.

Even after the finals, when he earned a €5 million move to Internazionale, his career was notable for its fits and starts.

Marcello Lippi, Italy's coach
Marcello Lippi, Italy's coach
He won championships with Inter under Roberto Mancini and then in France with Olympique Lyon but at both clubs he quickly fell out of favour.  Inter sold him after one season, Lyon after two.

At international level, he retained Lippi's loyalty in the qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup but was not selected in the final squad for South Africa.

After Lyon, he joined Juventus, where he enjoyed a respectable first season but figured in fewer matches in his second campaign and was rarely selected after Antonio Conte took charge in the summer of 2011.  After making just two appearances in the 2011-12 campaign, he announced his retirement.

Yet thanks to the 2006 World Cup, his career will never be forgotten.  Picked for the opening group match after Zambrotta had been injured in training, he then benefited from right-back Cristian Zaccardo's poor form, which persuaded Lippi to switch Zambrotta from his normal position and play Grosso at left-back.

His first important contribution came in the round-of-16 match against Australia, when he won a disputed penalty in stoppage time that enabled Italy to scrape into the quarter-finals.

Relieve Fabio Grosso's goal against Germany and Italy's second moments later

The semi-final goal in Dortmund that made him a star came with a penalty shoot-out just two minutes away after a match that had been goalless but full of dramatic excitement, with Germany desperate to reach the Final in their own country.

It stemmed from a corner on the right that found its way to playmaker Andrea Pirlo on the edge of the penalty area.  Pirlo kept the ball at his feet before he spotted Grosso in a yard of space inside the box to the right, threading the ball to him between two defenders.

Grosso admitted to half closing his eyes as he swung his left foot, aiming at where he hoped the far corner of the goal might be.  His guesswork and delivery could not have been better, the ball curling inside the post just out of the reach of goalkeeper Jens Lehmann's dive.

Andrea Pirlo
Andrea Pirlo
Grosso ran away, repeatedly shouting 'Non ci credo' - 'I don't believe it' - in a celebration reminiscent of Marco Tardelli after his goal in the 1982 final in Spain, before teammates piled on top of him.  Moments later, Alessandro Del Piero scored Italy's second goal on a break from defence as Germany threw all their players forward in search of an equaliser.

The quality of Grosso's shot took some fans by surprise but he had been a goalscoring winger in his early career, scoring 47 times in 108 games for Renato Curi Angolana in regional football in Abruzzo.  Only when he had joined Perugia was he converted to a full back.

It impressed Lippi enough to name him as the man to take the often crucial fifth penalty, and after David Trezeguet's miss for France gave Grosso the chance to win the match and the trophy for Italy, he kept his cool and duly scored, to be the man of the moment for the second time.

Married with two children, Grosso returned to Juventus in 2014 to join the coaching staff.  He is currently in charge of the Primavera (Under-20s) team, having turned down the chance to coach Crotone in Serie A earlier this year.

Travel tip:

Chieti is among the most historic Italian cities, supposedly founded in 1181BC by the Homeric Greek hero Achilles. Among its main sights are a Gothic Cathedral, rebuilt after earthquake damage in the 18th century on the sight of a church that dates back to the 11th century, and the Villa Comunale, a neo-classical palace of the 19th century that is home to the National Archaeological Museum of Abruzzo.

The Fontana Maggiore in Perugia's Piazza IV Novembre
The Fontana Maggiore in Perugia's Piazza IV Novembre
Travel tip:

Perugia, an ancient city that sits on a high hilltop midway between Rome and Florence, has a history that goes back to the Etruscan times, when it was one of the most powerful cities of the period.  It is also a university town with a long history, the University of Perugia having been founded in 1308.  The presence of the University for Foreigners and a number of smaller colleges gives Perugia a student population of more than 40,000.  The centre of the city, Piazza IV Novembre, has an interesting medieval fountain, the Fontana Maggiore, which was sculpted by Nicolo and Giovanni Pisano.

More reading:

1990 World Cup: Italy's semi-final heartbreak on home soil

1982 World Cup: Paolo Rossi's hat-trick in classic victory over Brazil

1970 World Cup: Gianni Rivera - the midfield maestro who became a politician

Also on this day:

1907: The birth of novelist Alberto Moravia