Wandering Around … Cemeteries
The small Orvieto war cemetery is primarily a battlefield cemetery, so the dates of death are almost all about the same — and all of them are way too close to the dates of birth. They were so young.
It’s startling to realize that the British men buried here died within weeks of June 5, 1944, when Rome fell to the Allies. So these men were fighting against the Italians in early June of 1944, and died in late June fighting by their sides chasing the Germans out of the country.
On a previous visit, we had stopped in on the Bolsena War Cemetery, also a short drive from Benano. That trip was in late May, and the photo from that visit (right) shows how meticulously maintained these cemeteries are. The sentiment of gratitude from the Italians is reflected by the flowers planted at the base of all the headstones — and in the guest books. The guest book comments from family members from England who have come to pay tribute to uncles and great-uncles they never met are heart-rending.
One of the Italian teachers at my school was surprised to hear me refer to the beauty of the War Cemeteries, and she strongly suggested that I visit the Italian Cemetery on a hill just across a very small valley from Orvieto.
We did, and I understand her point. It is everything the war cemeteries are not – lush, elaborate, and exuberant expressions of grief. Very Italian, and very beautiful.
And finally, a bit of perspective from home: the war came very close to Benano. A neighbor explained to us over coffee one morning that she lost her hand in 1947 when she picked up an unexploded ordnance in the field just outside Benano. From her description, I realized it was this field, which sits just below our dining room windows.