Rome Travel Guide

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Rome the Second Time Top 40. #12: The Fosse Ardeatine

Cells at the former SS prison on via Tasso
The grounds of the Fosse Ardeatine (Ardeatine Caves) include the caves [photo below] where, in March 1944, the German SS executed 335 Italian men--Jews, partisans, and others--in retaliation for a deadly partisan attack on the occupying German forces in via Rasella, and the haunting cemetery/memorial housing the bodies of all those killed there.  The Fosse Ardeatine are located a few miles south of the Centro on via Ardeatine, but can be easily reached by Bus 218, which has a stop in the city at the corner of Piazza San Giovanni and the wide via Amba Aradam.

Itinerary 6 ("Attack and Reprisal--a Story of Partisans and Nazis") in Rome the Second Time covers the via Rasella bombing and the SS prison on via Tasso, which now is home to the Historical Museum of the Liberation, where some of those killed at the Fosse Ardeatine had been incarcerated.   

The tombs of those killed at the Fosse Ardeatine
A good (Jewish) friend who read Rome the Second Time enjoyed and praised the book but was critical of the space devoted to Italian Fascism and the 1943/44 German occupation of Rome, which produced the Fosse Ardeatine tragedy and the deportation of many of the city's Jews to concentration camps.  We think the material is not only appropriate but vital.  More than half a century later, these issues and events--Mussolini and Fascism, the ugly Italian campaign, the role of the partisans, the inhumanity of the Germans, the occupation of the city after the withdrawal of Italy from the war, the deportation of Italian Jews--continue to resonate with and to divide Italians, shaping their social relationships, politics, foreign policies, and art and architecture, well into the 21st century.  You can't tell the players without a scorecard, and you can't fully understand contemporary Italy without knowing something about what happened between 1922, when Mussolini marched on Rome, and 1945, when sanity returned to the Eternal City.


A poster from the late 1930s, now in the Historical Museum of the Liberation, announcing the expulsion of foreign-born Jews from Italy and the exclusion of native-born Jews from banks, insurance companies and other occupations, as well as from the public schools.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Prompted by your book, I visited the museum in via Tasso last summer. It stands as a dignified and moving memorial to what happened there in the last days of the war. The messages, scratched out by prisoners, in the holding cells are inspiring. This one particularly struck me, maybe written by somebody facing execution the next morning.

L'anima a Dio
La vita al re
Il cuore alla donna
L'onore per me

My soul to God
My life to the king
My heart to my wife
My honour to myself