THE ITALIAN FREEDOM TRAIL
IN SEPTEMBER 1943 ITALY DECLARED AN ARMISTICE AND RELEASED THE ALLIED PRISONERS OF WAR. MANY PRISONERS WERE HELD IN PARMA, MODENA AND BOLOGNA. THEY FLED INTO THE APPENINE MOUNTAINS BETWEEN EMILIA-ROMAGNA AND LIGURIA TO HIDE FROM THE NAZIS WHO STILL OCCUPIED THE COUNTRY. ERIC NEWBY'S WONDERFUL BOOK 'LOVE AND WAR IN THE APENNINES' TELLS THE STORY OF CROSSING THE APENNINES, BEING PROTECTED AND SHELTERED BY LOCAL PEOPLE WHO RISKED THEIR LIVES HELPING STRANGERS.
THE ESCAPEES' ROUTE FROM EMILIA-ROMAGNA TO THE LIGURIAN COAST WAS CALLED THE ITALIAN FREEDOM TRAIL. WHEN I HEARD A BBC DOCUMENTARY ABOUT IT, it RE-CONNECTED SOME LOCAL FAMILIES TO THIS TOUCHING HISTORY and i burst into tears.
the castle of levanto was the local nazi hq DURING THE WAR. i remember meeting an old lady whose husband HAD BEEN shot in the courtyard there by the nazis. she showed me the bullet holes which were still in the wall! if people were found to be protecting escapees the whole village would be shot. the prisoners would be rounded-up by the nazis and sent to germany.
many escapees were so grateful of the humanity that they were shown by the italians that they fell in love with the country and its people forever.
when i was a kid there were almost no foreign tourists in levanto or the cinque terre. but there was one english family whose father had been one of the MODENA escapees and who HAD FALLEN IN LOVE WITH italy and the italians. he bought one of the grandest villas in town and spent every summer there with his family FROM THEN ON. HE AND HIS FELLOW MODENA ESCAPEES funded a young people's charity IN MODENA called 'citta' dei ragazzi'.
ONE OF LEVANTO'S BEST SURFERS and photographers , ADELMO MASSOLA, IS A DESCENDANT OF THE LOCAL BARONIAL FAMILY THAT PROTECTED WW2 ESCAPEES. WHICH LEADS ME ONTO SURFING AND ANOTHER YOUNG PERSONS' INITIATIVE....
WHO KNEW YOU CAN SURF IN THE CINQUE TERRE?
IT USED TO SEEM THAT SURFING WAS ONLY IN HAWAII OR CALIFORNIA. THE CLOSEST WE GOT TO A BOARD IN LIGURIA WAS AN AIR MATTRESS, WHICH QUICKLY DEFLATED. IN FACT HOPING FOR CALM SEA FOR WATER-SKIING WAS MORE NORMAL. I'M GLAD THAT NOW SURFING HAS REPLACED WATER-SKIING (THERE IS A MARINE NATURAL PARK OFFSHORE THE CINQUE TERRE WHERE MOTORBOATS ARE NOT ALLOWED). IT IS HEALTHIER AND GENTLER ON THE SURROUNDINGS.
LEVANTO IS A MAGNET FOR ITALIAN SURFERS BECAUSE THE CONFIGURATION OF THE BAY MAKES IT ONE OF THE FEW PLACES ON THE ITALIAN RIVIERA TO SURF. 'BROTHERS SURF CLUB' BASED THERE RUNS CLASSES AND WEEK-LONG CAMPS. THEY SET-OFF FROM THE PORTICCIOLO DEI PESCATORI WHICH IS PROTECTED BY THE ROCK OF 'LA PIETRA'. more on this to follow...... :)