Buongiorno ragazzi, oggi è una bella mattinata! In case you didn’t get that, it is a good morning. I’m slowly catching up, though I was so deep in sleep when the alarm went off, it scared the you know what out of me (we have to keep things PG here)! Anywho, it is another beautiful sunny morning as prepare to leave Rome behind for the east coast of Italy. It’s supposed to be 17C here, but only 12C when we arrive in Ortona, so hopefully we don’t freeze our derrières off when we get there. I know, I shouldn’t be complaining as it’s snowy and cold back home, but we were sort of getting used to the high teen temperatures!
It’s close to 8:30 now and we’re on the road to Cassino. The drive here is beautiful, with the hills and mountains of the Apennines lining our route. I keep pulling out the GoPro to record the scenery…it is something to see! So when we arrive, we’ll proceed first to the top of Monte Cassino itself, where we will tour the abbey and the nearby Polish monument. Afterwards it will be down to the base to the Cassino War Cemetery and Memorial where we will have a prayer service and visit the graves of the soldiers buried there.
🎶On the road again!🎶 We have now left Cassino behind and are on our way to Ortona. There was certainly a lot to see in the area. The tour of the abbey was fantastic and sad all at the same time. I knew a little of its history, including that it dated back to medieval times, but I definitely learned a great deal more. The sadness comes when you see what remains and what had to be rebuilt after the war. The reconstruction is beautiful and the original must have been more so. Before we left, we also visited the nearby Polish cemetery, which is very visible from the abbey itself.
The only issue we had was getting up to it. The mountain is high, and the road as you can imagine twists and turns its way up the side. It was spectacular and nauseating all at the same time. There were a few instances on the way up that I had to close my eyes as I am not great with heights and it looked like we were going to drive right off the edge of the road. However, our bus driver, Salvatore, is a real pro and handled it with ease. I know I would have been pooping my pants, but then again I would have not been driving a 57-seat bus either.
Immediately after our decent, we moved on to the Cassino War Cemetery, where over 8000 Commonwealth dead are buried or commemorated, including 1045 Canadians. These visits are never easy, especially if you have never been to a war cemetery. Cemeteries are not happy places, but when they are filled with the graves of young men cut down in their prime, it is even more somber. At the Cross of Sacrifice, we held a brief prayer service before the students proceeded to visit pre-determined graves of Canadian soldiers. I was very emotional when I left, as I normally am, but there students who were very overwhelmed by the experience. I certainly felt for them, but I think that every Canadian needs to visit a war cemetery at least once in their lives to truly understand what freedom means and the price our country has paid with our youth for that freedom.
After lunch in Cassino, we left for the 2.5 hour drive to Ortona. Many slept, but I didn’t want to miss any of the scenery along the way. Working our way through the Apennine Mountains was amazing, and it was so interesting to see all the towns and villages along the way. I took a lot of photos and videos, so much so that I am running out of room on the SD card in my GoPro. I do have another one, but I think I can only get another hour of footage on it. If worse comes to worse, I’ll see if I can get another one somewhere.
It’s now 10:45 and I’m trying to get this post finished so I can get to sleep in preparation for another early day tomorrow. We arrived at our hotel, La Chiave dei Trabocchi, around 6:00 and had dinner at the ground floor restaurant. We were supposed to have salad and risotto, but ended up with some great bruschetta, gnocchi and gelato. Not complaining! Everyone, especially those of us who have been on EF tours before, have been very impressed with the food we have been served. Our next two suppers are in the hotel in Rimini, so hopefully the trend continues.
Anyway, I should head off to bed. Maybe I’ll get something close to a normal sleep tonight. Following another cemetery visit and museum tour here in Ortona, we have a long drive to Rimini. Until then…
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