Ciao, ragazzi! Oggi è una mattina molto bella (today is a beautiful morning)! It doesn’t get better than this I must say. While the folks back home are dealing with snow, I am sitting in my room overlooking the Adriatic Sea while the sun shines brightly in the clear blue sky. I was even able to capture the sunrise this morning as it rays first illuminated the buildings here just south of Ortona.
It’s now 4:30 and we’ve just left a roadside stop on our way to the next hotel in Rimini. Our day began with an early morning visit to the Moro River Canadian War Cemetery. This site contains the graves of over 1500 Canadian and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the battles to approach or take the city of Ortona. This cemetery had a different feel that yesterday, maybe because the majority of the burials are Canadians. I also think the stillness and the crisp morning air added to somber tone. After a brief prayer service, the students had a short time to wander amongst the whitewashed headstones adorned with maple leafs.
We could not linger as we had to meet our guide in Ortona at 9:30. Angela was extremely knowledgeable about the battle and the Canadian involvement in it. She first took us through the museum before we proceeded to walk part of the city to see where significant events had taken place. Personally, I found it neat to be able to match photos that I had seen of the battle to what they look like today. It is such a beautiful town and it’s a shame that much of it was destroyed trying to wrestle it from the Germans.
The fight for Ortona was some of the most difficult urban combat of the entire war, and people took to calling it “Little Stalingrad,” after the famous urban battle on the Eastern Front. Although I was a soldier myself for a short period of time, and I did FIBUA (Fighting In Built-up Areas) training, it is something to see the actual terrain that the Canadian soldiers to had fight through. I will definitely be using some of the information and photos in my lessons.
After some time for lunch, we were back on the bus for the three hour ride north to Rimini. Everyone was in great spirits, and we also had some fun during the drive. Our Tour Director or TD, Kent, had everyone on the bus, chaperones included, put the title of their favourite song on a sheet of paper. He then would play the songs randomly and the person who picked it had to come to the front of the bus and give their name, what school they were at and why they picked it. They then had to answer some questions from the rest of the bus. It was a great way to bring the group together through music. The kids area really starting to gel, and you do see a number of new friendships being formed which is fantastic.
Before arriving in Rimini, we did a slight detour to the Tavullia Monument, which honours the Canadian Army breakthrough of the Gothic Line in the spring of 1944. It was rather interesting to hear the story of what occurred there, as I personally was not familiar with it, and the entire Italian Campaign is often overshadowed by the fighting in Northern Europe.
Our hotel in Rimini is known as the Hotel Venere, and is one of many hotels near the beach in this area. It is much smaller than the other hotels we have been at and the students unfortunately have to share much “cosier” accommodations. Fortunately supper, which was at the hotel, was very good. We had three courses, the first being vegetables, small pizzas and bread served buffet style. They later brought pasta for the second course and finally veal with mushrooms for the third. Dessert was another helping of Tiramisu…I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much tiramisu in my life.
Anyway, I better wrap up. We do have a later start tomorrow morning, but it is already after midnight. Our travels on Saturday will take us into Rimini and Sean Marino. Until then…