Naturally thrilled you have decided to travel with my company and it will be a great honour to work with you to give you a trip of a lifetime.

Every part of the Puzzle is set, just wineries really and restaurants but we have time on those, the Structure, the Guides and the Hotels are all Set.

Saluti

Tim


HOTELS

AMALFI

I have reserved the Santa Catarina. Its the best hotel in Campania and on the Amalfi Coast. 5 Star Luxury and it is perfection as it should be, Classic in style and understated and refined and family run, no snobbery here neither their clientele who are serial repeaters and friendly they have a 98% occupation rate. Full sea view Room. It just doesn't get better, But what we must do is give you some down time to enjoy it.  4 Nights

 

TOUR

It may not seem like there is a lot of wineries on your Tour but we can make lots of pre dinner tastings, you have a lot to see, so I have just kept it to the most genuine and interesting. I will be making tastings for you of these regions below that we are not traveling so you get a 360 degree panorama of Italy, not easy with over 1000 Varieties, yes thats right, Could be as many as 1400..Can you believe that.  We will be going to wineries in Campania  and  Frascati on the drive  back up to Rome.

Other Regions we will taste during the tour:

  • SICILY
  • PIEDMONT
  • FRIULI
  • TUSCANY

FOOD /MEALS 

Ok so where we will book and choose lunches is because its the best thing to do, but listening to what you said, I think giving you more flexibility and eating A la Carte would generally be the way to go.

Welcome and Farewell dinner Included in Rome. Would certainly like to touch a little more on the subject of Food and Restaurant choices with you.

Table of contents


—————————————–

Hotel: Santa Caterina, Amalfi Coast.Campania

Santa Caterina is a late 19th century liberty style villa immersed in the beautiful scenery of the Amalfi Coast, a very elegant seaside residence surrounded by the gorgeous blue of the Mediterranean Sea. All of this property enjoys luscious bougainvillea, cultivated olive groves and fruit orchards. The villa is stuffed full of treasures and none more so than the staff who are perhaps the best trained and friendliest that we have found in this region. Clients love the pools, the spa, the food, nothing is amiss. This is five stars luxury in every sense of the word. You need to book ahead, as they have nearly a 100% occupancy rate that should tell you everything you need to know.

Website Santa Caterina

TripAdvisor Comments

Hotel: Maison Blanche, Taormina

Having had the pleasure in staying in the best lodges in the world, it is easy to get jaded. Maison Blanche is right off the charts for even the most travelled amongst us. It is simply an incredible stay. Why? Is it the position perched precariously on a cliff in the beautiful village of Taormina or the James Bond like structure with all rooms experiencing once in a lifetime views or the owner, Francesco, who opens his home and delights in ensuring everything is just perfect for your stay? Naturally, it is a combination of everything.

The house is an architects dream, the interior is a feast of heirlooms from a distinguished industrialist family. With only four rooms, advance booking is essential. The property is not located in the centre of Taormina (15-minute walk). The path up or down is a real delight, but naturally stairs and inclines do predominate due to the elevation of Taormina. Breakfast like everywhere else here is served with a stunning view over Isola Bella and they will make whatever you want. We cannot recommend this extraordinary structure more highly.

Maison Blanche Website

TripAdvisor Comments

Hotel: Villa Dorata 7 Rooms and Country House. Noto. Sicily

Villa Dorata 7 Rooms: Central Noto

Country House Villa Dorat: 5 kms from Noto in the Countryside.

Two different structures, availability is an issue in both as its so good, simple as that.

Naturally people choose to be in tranquility at CountryHouse or in 7 Rooms in the delightful Sicilian town of Noto with the most incredible late Baroque buildings. Super restaurants and plenty of street life, yet this is a small town in the most wonderful of locations. Perfectly placed for Syracuse, Modica and Ragusa and Ispica and Scicli. The other notable plus for people who love nature reserves and the sea is the  Nature Reserve Oasis of Vendicari, just 15 kms away, The coastline is magnificent with one of the most incredible seas and beaches in Sicily. For wine we are blessed with Riovara and many other great producers of Nero D’Avola in the region.

The Townhouse or 7 Rooms Villa Dorata consists of 7  rooms of which one is a two bedroom suite.  Design wise this is outstanding, all rooms are all beautifully and we mean stunning; Wall to ceiling doors, Soothing fabrics greys and creams colours that contrast with the light reflections of the yellow sandstone buildings. All in all a very relaxing stay.

Website: 7 Rooms Villa Dorata

At the Country House there are 3 typologies and 8 rooms and one suite, Light airy and well laid out they have everything you want for a 2 to 4 night stay. Yes Taxis do work in the area but need to be organised prior where possible. The distance to Noto is 3 miles / 5 kms but requires walking on a road, not advised. Its been hard to find a quality lodge that is small and perfectly formed this is it.

Website: Country House Villa Dorata

 

 

Tour Outline and Guiding – Randy and Jane Southern Italy with Sicily Tour of Italy 2020


TOUR OUTLINE


 SEPTEMBER 2020

DAY 1 – Friday 18th.  Arrival IN from Rome / Train to Naples / Short Naples Tour / Transfer to Amalfi /  Sleep Santa Catarina

DAY 2- Saturday 19th. Wineries of Costa Amalfitana / Lunch with wines at Winery / Wine Tasting and enjoying Ravello / Amalfi Coast Sightseeing

DAY 3 – Sunday 20th.   Pompeii and Herculaneum / Enjoy Sorrento and or Positano / Return to Amalfi

DAY 4 – Monday 21st. Transfer to Sicily Options. Train, Drive or Plane. TBD / Check in Maison Blanche / PM Guided tour of Toarmina / Welcome Dinner and Tasting / Sleep Maison Blanche

DAY 5 – Tuesday 22nd.  Full Day enjoying Etna and Wineries and Seeing the Volcano

DAY 6 – Wednesday 23rd. Full Day enjoying Etna and Wineries

Day 7 – Thursday 24th.  Check out Taormina /Winery Visit/ Siracusa & Ortiga Guided /Transfer to Noto / Sleep 7 Rooms

DAY 8 – Friday 25th.  Baroque Towns of Ragusa, Modica and Scicli including winery tasting in Ispica.

DAY 9 – Saturday 26th.  Option 1. Agrigento full day out with Temples and World War 2 Memorial Scala De Turci / Option 2. Villa Roman Casale with Caltagirone

DAY 10 – Sunday 27th.   Check out of Noto  / Transfer to CTA Airport / Departure OUT

END OF SERVICES

Tour Day by Day – Randy and Jane Southern Italy with Sicily Tour of Italy 2020


 SEPTEMBER 2020

DAY 9 – Saturday 26th.  Option 1. Agrigento full day out with Temples and World War 2 Memorial Scala De Turci / Option 2. Villa Roman Casale with Caltagirone

DAY 10 – Sunday 27th.   Check out of Noto  / Transfer to CTA Airport / Departure OUT

END OF SERVICES


BREAKFAST / LUNCHES & DINNERS


In this itinerary we make it clear where meals are included:

Þ     (B) Breakfast

Þ     (L) Lunch

Þ     (D) Dinner


TOUR DAY BY DAY


DAY 1 – Friday 18th.  Arrival IN from Rome / Train to Naples / Short Naples Tour / Transfer to Amalfi /  Sleep Santa Catarina


Our  Total Journey time today is  5 and half hours

We leave when your ready and we calmly make our way to Amalfi. As we have lost a day in Amalfi lets get there, stop on the motorway services and grab a Panini and coffee (they are really very good in Italy) and move on this way we should be at the hotel for 3 to 3.30pm which gives you time to enjoy Amalfi and settle in

Arrival and Check in at Hotel in Amalfi

Dinner in Amalfi. The Hotel have a great restaurant and I think tonight would be a good opportunity to use it
Please let me know as they are asking for a reservation

Sleep Hotel LunaTransfer to Naples  1 hour 20 mins Approx

Non guided Naples

Museo Archeologico
https://www.museoarcheologiconapoli.it/en/

Museo Sansevero
www.museosansevero.it

Lunch in Naples included with wines.

(B)

Transfer to Naples via Train. As quickly as 1 hour 17 mins Approx

Lunch in Naples included with wines

The most wonderful hole in the wall restaurant, full of Neapolitan flavour

http://osteriadellamattonella.com/

Or we go choose to go to the most famous Pizzerias in the World

http://www.damichele.net/

PM

Reception at the restaurant of choice with your local expert guide.

4 Hour Walking tour of ancient Naples

We will try to also include:
Museo Archeologico https://www.museoarcheologiconapoli.it
and
Museo Sansevero www.museosansevero.it

Private Transfer to Santa Catarina Hotel

Check in Santa Catarina Hotel

Dinner Suggestion At the Hotel Restaurant

 

Sleep at Santa Catarina Hotel

(B) (L)


DAY 2- Saturday 19th. Wineries of Costa Amalfitana / Lunch at Winery / Wine Tasting and enjoying Ravello / Amalfi Coast Sightseeing


AM

Instinct and experience tells me to take the morning slowly and enjoy all the wonderful areas of this hotel of which there are many.

If you feel more dynamic and want to push on perhaps a walk on the famed Amalfi ‘Path of Gods’ (Highly Recommended, but we need to ensure you are going to be comfortable on it Kevin). Starting at Priano or Agerola. 3 or 5 hours. Valle dei Mulini 5 kms, 3.5 hrs. Positano (Santa Maria del Castello loop 6 kms 4.5 hrs).

PM

Lunch with be at our first winery Appicella, great friends, lovely people and wines. Hosted by the Family. Giuseppe Apicella

Post lunch we will head back down from Tramonti to taste at a further winery. Tenuta San Francesco or Similar

Time to enjoy Beautiful Ravello and a coffee or Aperitivo

Return to Santa Catarina

Dinner Suggestion TBD (Dinner Transfers included)


Sleep at Santa Catarina Hotel

(B) (L)


DAY 3 – Sunday 20th.   Pompeii and Herculaneum / Enjoy Sorrento and or Positano / Return to Amalfi


AM

Transfer to Pompeii, 1 hour

Prefer to start the day a tad earlier so we are the first ones in

Pompeii in the morning with an expert guide who is an Archaeologist. Tickets included

Break for Lunch, Something lighter on the go suggested

PM

Herculaneum with our Archaeologist. Tickets included

Post Herculaneum If you wished we could head to Sorrento, do a little walking, Even stay for Dinner and see the Sorrento Coast and a different entry back  into Amalfi

WALKS
FYI. Amalfi: Path of Gods (Highly Recommended). Starting at Priano or Agerola. 3 or 5 hours. Valle dei Mulini 5 kms, 3.5 hrs. Positano (Santa Maria del Castello loop 6 kms 4.5 hrs). Both with big inclines

Return to Santa Catarina Hotel

Dinner Suggestion TBD (Dinner Transfers included)

 

Sleep at Santa Catarina Hotel

(B)


DAY 4 – Monday 21st. Transfer to Sicily Options. 1. Drive. 2 Train 3.Plane. TBD / Check in Maison Blanche / PM Guided tour of Toarmina / Welcome Dinner and Tasting / Sleep Maison Blanche


Option1. 1. Drive. 

AM

Check out and Reception at Santa Catarina with Tim Robertson

Transfer to Paestum

3 hour Visit with Archaeologist of Paestum, Tickets included

PM

Seafood and Fish Lunch Suggested at ‘La Cucina di Cozzechella’ in close by Agropoli

Transfer by Private transport with Tim to Sicily

Check in to Maison Blanche

Option. 2 Train

 

Option 3. Plane

 

Arrival & Check IN at Maison Blanche 

PM Free Sightseeing Taormina

Dinner Suggestion  Osteria Rosso di Vino in Taormina

Please Note: 20-Minute Walk / Chef Fabio Scordo

 

Sleep at Masion Blanche

 


DAY 5 – Tuesday 22nd.  Full Day enjoying Etna and Wineries and Seeing the Volcano


AM

Free to enjoy views, Maison Blanche and first look at Taormina

Lunch Suggestion TBD

Guided Walking City Tour of Taormina including Greek Theatre with Expert Local Guide of RWT

Departure from Masion Blanche with Tim Robertson

Private Transfer to Etna

Enjoy recent Lava Flows and understand Etna

Transfer to Passopisciaro Winery

Visit & Wine Tasting at Passopisciaro Winery

Private Transfer to Solicchiata

Lunch with wines at Ristorante Cave Ox

Please Note: Focusing on the Wines of xxx Winery

Private Transfer to Linguaglossa

Visit & Wine Tasting at Tenuta Fessina Winery

Private Transfer to Taormina

Arrival at Masion Blanche with Tim Robertson

Suggested Dinner Not Included a la Carte at Ristorante Tiramisu Taormina (Superb pizzas)

Sleep at Masion Blanche

 


DAY 6 – Wednesday 23rd. Full Day enjoying Etna and Wineries


ETNA Wineries and Lunch. TBD
Calabretta, Fessina, Pietradolce and Girolomo Russo

Other  PM Options

  • Castelmola and  and Isole Bella
  • See the Stunning towns and Locations of the Godfather Movies
  • An Afternoon in Catania guided or non guided

    Arrival at Maison Blanche

    Welcome Wine Tasting at Maison Blanche with Tim Robertson

    Welcome Dinner Included at Ristorante Tischi Toschi in Taormina

Sleep at Masion Blanche


(B) (D)


Day 7 – Thursday 24th.  Check out Taormina /Winery Visit/ Siracusa & Ortiga Guided /Transfer to Noto / Sleep 7 Rooms


Check out from Maison Blanche

Private transfer to  Tre Castagna

Tasting at Ciro Biondi winery

Transfer to Syracuse with Tim Robertson

Guided tour of the Archaeological Park and Island of Ortigia with our Local Expert Guide

Lunch Suggestion at Le Vin De Assassin in Central Ortigia

Time for more sightseeing and enjoying Syracuse non Guided

Transfer to Noto

Check in Villa Dorata 7 Rooms 

Free Time to explore Noto: Please note the next 3 nights, Dinner Transfers are included

Dinner Not Included a la Carte at Ristorante TBD

 

Sleep at Villa Dorata  7 Rooms


(B)


DAY 8 – Friday 25th.  Baroque Towns of Ragusa, Modica and Scicli including winery tasting in Ispica.


Departure from Noto with Tim Robertson

Private Transfer to Ragusa Ilba

Enjoy Ragusa Ibla

Suggested Lunch in Majore Restaurant in Chiaramonte Gulfi

Tasting of wines of Cerusuolo de Vittoria. Gulfi and Paolo Cali and Cos

Transfer to Modica

Enjoy Modica

Transfer to Ispica

Wine tasting at RioFavara Winery

Transfer to Noto

Arrival at Noto

Dinner Not Included a la Carte at Ristorante TBD

Sleep at Villa Dorata  7 Rooms


(B)


DAY 9 – Saturday 26th.  Option 1. Agrigento full day out with Temples and World War 2 Memorial  / Option 2. Villa Roman Casale with Caltagirone


Option 1.

Departure from Noto with Tim Robertson

Private Transfer to Agrigento

Guided Visit of Valley of Temples Archaeological Park with Expert Local Guide of RWT

Lunch with Wines at Ristorante Il Re di Girgenti in Agrigento

Please Note: Chef Salvatore Avenia

Private Transfer to Scala D’ Turcia

Enjoy This amazing Natural geological Phenomenon and swim if you wished.

Or Private Transfer to Sellinunte

Enjoy the Ruins of  Sellinunte with Expert Local Guide of RWT

Private Transfer to Noto

Dinner Not Included a la Carte at Ristorante TBD

Please Note:

Sleep at Villa Dorata  7 Rooms

Option 2.

Departure from Noto with Tim Robertson

Private Transfer to Piazza Armerina

Guided Visit of Villa Romana del Casale with Expert Local Guide of RWT

Lunch with Wines at Ristorante Al Fogher in Piazza Armerina

Please Note: Chef Angelo Treno

Private Transfer to Caltagirone

Time to enjoy the Beautiful Town of Caltagirone and its famous ceramics.

Time and willing Chance to taste the wines of Nanfro

Private Transfer to Noto

 

Dinner Not Included a la Carte at Ristorante TBD

Sleep at Villa Dorata  7 Rooms


(B) (L)


DAY 8 –   Saturday 9th May.   Check out of Noto  / Transfer to CTA Airport / Departure OUT


Departure from Noto with Tim Robertson

Private Transfer to Catania Airport CTA

Arrival at Catania Airport

Departure OUT from Catania Airport (CTA )


(B)


END of SERVICES


ITINERARY INCLUSIONS


Airport Transfers

7 Nights (CONFIRMED) of Accommodation in the Hotels Included in the Itinerary

Private Transport with Driver & Air Conditioning

Expert Bilingual Guiding with specialist guides where indicated

Daily Breakfasts

2 Lunches and 1 Welcome Dinner with Wines

Entrance Fee & Wine Tasting at 3 Wineries

1 Welcome Wine Tasting

Other Activities Included in the Itinerary

Please NOTE that this itinerary is subject to small adjustments due to changes in the availability in the wineries or the restaurants and you can expect a final itinerary to be received two weeks prior to travel.


ITINERARY EXCLUSIONS


International & Domestic Flights

Lunches & Dinners Not Included in the Itinerary

Gratuities for Meals

Gratuities for Drivers & Guides

Entrance Fee to Museums & Sites

Personal Expenses & Others Costs Not Included in the Itinerary

 


Day 1. Arrival / Transfer Amalfi/ Sleep Hotel Santa Catarina


 


DAY 2:  Wineries of Costa Amalfitana Lunch with wines at Winery / Wine Tasting and enjoying Ravello / Amalfi Coast Sightseeing


 


DAY 3:  Capri and Sorrento Sightseeing


 


Day 4.  Pompeii and Hereculun Transfer to Sicily Options. Train, Boat, Drive, Plane.


 


 


DAY 2 – Sunday 3rd May.   AM Free to Relax and enjoy Hotel and Taormina / PM Guided tour of Toarmina / Wine Tasting


 


(B) (D)


DAY 3 –  Monday 4th May.  Day on Etna, Wine and Food and Seeing the Volcano

 


(B) (L)


DAY 4 – Tuesday 5th May.  Free Day to Enjoy yourselves


 


(B) 


DAY 5 –    Check out Taormina / Syracuse & Ortigia Guided /Transfer to Noto / Sleep  7 Rooms


Check out from Maison Blanche

Private transfer to Syracuse with Tim Robertson

Guided tour of the Archaeological Park and Island of Ortigia with our Local Expert Guide

Lunch Suggestion at Le Vin De Assassin in Central Ortigia

Time for more sightseeing and enjoying Syracuse non Guided

Transfer to Noto

Check in Villa Dorata 7 Rooms 

Free Time to explore Noto:

Dinner Not Included a la Carte at Ristorante TBD

 

Sleep at Villa Dorata  7 Rooms


(B)


DAY 6 – Thursday 7th May.  Baroque Towns of Ragusa, Modica and Scicli including winery of Ispica or Vendicari Nature Reserve


Departure from Noto with Tim Robertson

Private Transfer to Ragusa Ilba

Enjoy Ragusa Ibla

Suggested Lunch in Majore Restaurant in Chiaramonte Gulfi

Transfer to Modica

Enjoy Modica and Chocolate Tasting

PM / Early evening


1 of the Options Included:

  • Wine tasting at RioFavara
  • Walking the Vendicari Reserva
  • Scicli, Enjoy this beautiful Baroque Town

Transfer to Noto

Arrival at Noto

Dinner Not Included a la Carte at Ristorante TBD

Sleep at Villa Dorata  7 Rooms


(B)


DAY 7 – Friday 8th May  Option 1. Agrigento full day out with Temples and Scala De Turci / Option 2. Villa Roman Casale with Caltagirone


Option 1.

Departure from Noto with Tim Robertson

Private Transfer to Agrigento

Guided Visit of Valley of Temples Archaeological Park with Expert Local Guide of RWT

Lunch with Wines at Ristorante Il Re di Girgenti in Agrigento

Please Note: Chef Salvatore Avenia

Private Transfer to Scala D’ Turcia

Enjoy This amazing Natural geological Phenomenon and swim if you wished.

Or Private Transfer to Sellinunte

Enjoy the Ruins of  Sellinunte with Expert Local Guide of RWT

Private Transfer to Noto

Dinner Not Included a la Carte at Ristorante TBD

Please Note:

Sleep at Villa Dorata  7 Rooms

Option 2.

Departure from Noto with Tim Robertson

Private Transfer to Piazza Armerina

Guided Visit of Villa Romana del Casale with Expert Local Guide of RWT

Lunch with Wines at Ristorante Al Fogher in Piazza Armerina

Please Note: Chef Angelo Treno

Private Transfer to Caltagirone

Time to enjoy the Beautiful Town of Caltagirone and its famous ceramics.

Time and willing Chance to taste the wines of Nanfro

Private Transfer to Noto

Dinner Not Included a la Carte at Ristorante TBD

Sleep at Villa Dorata  7 Rooms


(B) (L)


DAY 8 –   Saturday 9th May.   Check out of Noto  / Transfer to CTA Airport / Departure OUT


Departure from Noto with Tim Robertson

Private Transfer to Catania Airport CTA

Arrival at Catania Airport

Departure OUT from Catania Airport (CTA )


(B)


END of SERVICES


 

Sicily. World War 2 Information

The Sicilian Campaign – 1943

“Many of you have in your veins German and Italian blood. But remember that those ancestors of yours so loved freedom that they gave up home and country to cross the ocean in search of liberty. The ancestors of the people we shall kill lacked the courage to make such a sacrifice, and remained slaves.”

“There are four hundred neatly marked graves somewhere in Sicily. All because one man went to sleep on the job. But they are German graves, because we caught the bastard asleep before they did.” – General George S. Patton

Prelude to War

Nobody ever commended George Patton for his tact, but he was one of the best “motivational speakers” of his day. The hapless Axis soldiers who found themselves in Sicily in the hot Summer of 1943 had only a vague idea of what awaited them, and it was far worse than what anybody – even Patton – could put into words.

Ill-advised and disastrous it may have been, but Italy’s entry into the Second World War was no accident, nor did it reflect exclusively Fascist policies, though these were certainly involved. It was prompted by an expansionist foreign policy rooted in earlier nationalist aspirations to establish an “Italian Empire” at the turn of the century, thus (it was hoped) aiding the economy and making Italy a “great power” on a par with Russia, Germany, France and Great Britain. Italy had seized some east African territories beginning in the 1880s only to be checked by Ethiopian forces at the Battle of Adwa in 1896 – a landmark defeat for a European colonial power. In 1911, the Italians occupied Libya, formerly part of the fading Ottoman Empire, following unexpectedly heavy fighting against a ferocious enemy. The Italian occupiers subsequently undertook a civilian massacre. This action shocked even powers such as Great Britain and France, whose own colonial exploits often led to high civilian casualties. There’s no escaping the fact that as colonialists the Italians were inept, and no great power took the “new” nation (united only in the 1860s) seriously, either militarily or politically. The First World War and its immediate aftermath led to acquisition of new territories in what is now northeastern Italy, but to this day the Germanic Tiroleans of “Trentino-Alto Adige” and the Slovenians of Trieste hardly consider themselves “Italians.”

The Sicilians were -and are- ethnically more Italic than these peoples, but in the 1860s Sicilian revolts against the new “unitary” regime of the House of Savoy were ruthlessly suppressed, with thousands of Piedmontese carabinieri troops stationed in Palermo, Catania and Messina for over a decade. Initially, the Sicilian secessionist Fascist building in Palermo.movement sought restoration of the exiled House of Bourbon of Naples (ousted in 1860). Decades later, with the increasing poverty of a region which (until the 1870s) had been more prosperous than most northern regions (now industrialized), the more radical Sicilian separatists desired full independence. This may seem arcane, but it partly explains the reluctance of many Sicilians to defend their “Italian” island when war came to their shores in 1943, and does much to define the kind of “liberation” that took place in Sicily, from “Italian” forces, as opposed to the liberation of peninsular regions which (after September 1943) were controlled primarily by German forces, augmented by the die-hard Fascists of Mussolini’s short-lived Nazi puppet state, the Italian Social Republic (“Salò”). In reality, Sicily was one of the least Fascist, and least nationalist, regions of the Kingdom of Italy.

There was another subtle force at work. In view of widespread poverty, thousands of Sicilians emigrated in search of better lives abroad between 1890 and 1930. In the less populated northern regions of Lombardy and Piedmont, which by 1900 were at least marginally wealthier than Sicily, there was less emigration. This meant that many Sicilians, having close relatives in the United States (some of whom sent money to their families in Sicily), did not readily accept the Fascist propaganda that painted the Americans as barbaric animals. Fascism itself offered the Italians a mixed bag of realities, both good and bad, and it was less successful in the South than elsewhere.

Despite a few pragmatic and beneficial social programs (public housing projects, old-age and widows’ pensions come to mind) initially praised by the British and Americans alike, Fascism rapidly evolved from a vaguely socialist, populist –if authoritarian– movement in 1922 to a full-fledged dictatorship by 1928. Though not intrinsically monarchist, Fascism propped up the existing order of social classes through a nationalist philosophy embraced by many as a reaction against Communism, perceived as a worse evil. Protectionist policies shielding much of the economy from international influences created a certain false prosperity but illiteracy and poverty, while alleviated somewhat by an improved public education system, remained high. Italian society, despite a slightly improved industrial base, was still essentially agrarian, with more than sixty percent of the population involved in agricultural-related fields or minor trades.

Before long, Fascism evolved into a totalitarian system complete with its political exiles abroad (Umberto Nobile, Arturo Toscanini, Emilio Segré, Enrico Fermi, Sandro Pertini, Luigi Sturzo and thousands of others). In retrospect, however, the police state of the 1930s, with its repression and censorship, was generally acceptable to many Italians because, to the ordinary citizen, it was not much different from the state that existed twenty years earlier, particularly in Sicily. The intellectual and creative classes suffered most and, tragically, these represented a tiny minority in a nation of what seemed to consist primarily of semi-literate “peasants” and drones. Even before Fascism, the Kingdom of Italy, with its shadowy democracy and theoretical constitutional liberties, could not be said to have been a free or democratic state –or even a very prosperous one. Under Fascism, it remained a backward nation where (to cite a few examples) senators were appointees, women could not vote, the study of foreign languages was prohibited in public schools, public policy and even elections were rigged, severe nutritional diseases and malaria raged and millions still sought to emigrate for lack of opportunity. In its cultic cronyism, curbing of free expression and cruel treatment of human rights, the observable effects of Fascism (and the Nazism inspired by it) were not much different from those of Soviet-style communism. At the outbreak of war, the most obvious difference, at least to those in Allied nations, was that the Russians were on the Anglo-American side while the Italians were not.

Until Italy’s declaration of war against the United States following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a number of pro-Fascist organizations thrived in cities such as New York, where Mayor La Guardia had spoken against them. Fascist activity of this kind ceased following the declaration of war, and indeed a number of Italian citizens active in such associations in the United States were arrested, to be interned for the duration of the war. In the United Kingdom, most adult Italian male citizens were arrested and imprisoned when Italy declared war against that nation.

Wars Before The War

The mid-1930’s were not Fascism’s best moment. At home, the anti-Semitic laws did little to help the nation’s prestige. Abroad, Fascism’s expansionist policy leading to the bloody invasion of Ethiopia made Italy an international pariah, resulting in economically ineffective –but politically devastating– sanctions by the League of Nations. Italy declared war on the “Allies” in June 1940, though this did not yet include the United States. The British were already engaged in military actions against the Italians (leading to their defeat of Italian forces in Ethiopia) before the entry of the United States into the Second World War in December 1941. Fascist Spain, a close ally of Italy, was wise to stay out of the war while Italy, in the spirit of her Pact of Steel with Nazi Germany, couldn’t resist the chance to gain additional territory. With her African aspirations dashed, she looked to the Balkans. The fact that Italy, whose military troops in 1941 outnumbered those of the United States, was unprepared for a full-scale war against a competent and motivated power such as the United States or Great Britain, was lost on the country’s fanatical leadership. Benito Mussolini and his closest supporters actually believed, partly due to the implications of Germany’s early military successes, that the war would be a brief one lasting perhaps a few months. By then, new territory could have been acquired across the Adriatic.

Italy’s invasion of Greece (October 1940) was a disaster to rival that of the Ethiopian debacle to follow a few months later. The targeted slaughter of Greek civilians failed to suppress a formidable resistance, and Hitler had to send in troops to prop up the incompetent Italians. It was difficult to deny that Italian forces rarely met with success in anything even remotely resembling a campaign against a well-matched adversary, or even partisans, even when (as in Ethiopia against the British) they vastly outnumbered the enemy. Italian commanders were becoming infamous for blaming severe field losses on the troops they commanded!

Out of Africa

British victories against the Italians in Ethiopia (January-May 1941), and against joint Italian-German forces in El-Alamein, Egypt (August-October 1942), were discouraging to the Italian military leadership. With the Germans’ simultaneous defeat at Stalingrad, El-Alamein marked a turning point in the war as the major Axis advances were halted, even without direct American intervention. The Italian escapade in Russia was also a disaster, and one long-remembered; the Soviet Union freed its last Italian and German prisoners only in 1955. But Ethiopia and Russia were far away. For many Italians, the British bombing of the Italian Ionian port of Taranto (which had provided the Japanese with a tangible idea of how to attack Pearl Harbor) was the first sign of Fascism’s weak military link, making it obvious that Italy itself could be attacked to devastating effect. The myth of Italian military invincibility, if ever it was taken very seriously, was easier to sell to Italians when their cities were not being bombed.

In November 1942, the Americans joined the British in the North African campaign, landing in Algeria and Morocco. Between February and May 1943, the American forces under Dwight Eisenhower and the colorful George Patton, collaborating with British forces under Harold Alexander and Bernard Montgomery, pushed Italian and German forces to Tunisia’s Kassarine Pass, where a hundred thirty thousand (130,000) Italians, and an equal number of Germans, were taken prisoner following extensive fighting. The brilliant Erwin Rommel, the “Desert Fox” (but never a convinced Nazi), reached Germany, his tank and infantry corps destroyed. In the bargain, Italy lost Libya, a territory it forcibly acquired from the remains of the Ottoman Empire in 1912. The Axis had invaded –and lost– Africa; now it was time for the Allies to invade Europe.

Into Sicily

With the Axis defeat in North Africa foreseen, the invasion of Sicily was decided upon by Roosevelt and Churchill at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943. Strategy of the Italian Campaign was never very well defined (it was conceived partly to draw German forces away from Russia and France), and the invasion of Sicily was always secondary to the invasion planned to take place at Normandy a year later. Now overshadowed by the Normandy Invasion, the Sicilian operation was the largest amphibious invasion in history until D-Day (6 June 1944), and in its first day included more divisions and a larger landing area than the D-Day operation’s first day. The Sicilian operation was to be called “Operation Husky.”

Even before the invasion, the Sicilian Campaign had some interesting aspects. Hitler and Mussolini knew an attack to be imminent, but where? To deceive the Germans and Italians about the real location of the Allies’ Mediterranean invasion of southern Europe, British Naval Intelligence devised “Operation Mincemeat” (described in the book “The Man Who Never Was”). Overwhelmingly successful, this startlingly simple plan convinced Axis intelligence that the Allies would initially attack elsewhere but not in Italy. The covert operation planted a body disguised as a British military officer with “secret” papers. Inspecting the fictional “Operation Brimstone” documents outlining an attack in Greece, the Balkans and possibly Sardinia, the Germans fell for the ploy (on 12 May Hitler ordered improved defensive measures for both Greece and Sardinia), though they never actually ruled out the possibility of an eventual attack on Sicily. The mastermind behind this plan was Ewen Montagu, working with a young intelligence officer named Ian Fleming, later distinguished as author of the James Bond novels.

Military action began with the intensified bombing of Sicilian cities by the United States Army Air Corps early in May 1943, Death in Palermo.coinciding with the attack of targets in the occupied Balkans to mislead the Axis about the true location of the planned invasion. (The British had undertaken isolated bombing raids over Sicily since late 1942.) Officially, the “carpet bombing” of cities such as Palermo and Messina (so-called because it was to “lay the carpet” for Allied landings), like subsequent bombings in mainland Italy, was intended to destroy port facilities, anti-aircraft batteries, air fields, military bases, railway stations and certain factories. Unofficially, it was meant to frighten the Italians, both military and civilian, discouraging resistance against Allied troops when the actual invasion came. In that sense it was not very different from the bombings in Germany and Japan, though in the case of Italy civilian objectives were rarely targeted deliberately, and it was always presumed that any resistance against the Allies, either military or civilian, would be minimal. Civilian casualties were presumed, and imprecise bombings from high altitudes destroyed churches and even schools. They also served to impose upon the Italians, as well as the Germans stationed in Sicily, the resolve and military might of the Allies.

The Axis had conducted extensive bombing raids over Malta. Now, in late May, the Italian islands of Lampedusa and Pantelleria (located south of Sicily), with their radar stations and large military garrisons, were targeted by the Allies. The massive bombing was lethally effective. The islands were easily sealed off, their supplies of food and drinking water somewhat restricted. In one of the war’s most astounding chapters, thousands of Italians were to surrender the islands, without a shot being fired, on 11 and 12 June, a month before the main Allied invasion force landed at Sicily. In a sense, this echoed the mass surrender of Italian troops to Ethiopian and British forces two years earlier. On Pantelleria, Admiral Gino Pavesi surrendered some 11,000 troops; Lampedusa’s garrison was about 6,000. A few Germans were also present.

The Generals and Their Troops

Dwight Eisenhower was supreme Allied commander for the operation, but General Alexander was to be in charge of the land invasion, supported by Patton commanding the US Seventh Army (of about 200,000 men), with assistance from the likes of the distinguished Omar Bradley, and Montgomery commanding the British Eighth Army of over 100,000 troops, including a young Philip Mountbatten, who lived to marry the future Queen of England. With the Americans were some French Moroccan units, while the British forces included Commonwealth units, Canadians prominent among them. Both George Patton and Bernard Montgomery had strong characters, each was profoundly respected by the troops under his command, and the antipathy between the two intrepid “prima donnas” was becoming well known.

On the Axis side, General Alfredo Guzzoni was supreme Axis commander in Sicily, though in practice the German disdain for Italian generals extended to him as well as other Italian officers. Guzzoni was actually one of Italy’s more competent generals, having seen action in France and Africa, but not particularly gifted as a strategist. Personally, he commanded the Italian Sixth Army and related units –a total of nearly 300,000 men. Hans Hube commanded some 30,000 German troops in tank and infantry units. Italian carabinieri units, military forces normally charged with law-enforcement duties, were also placed under Guzzoni’s command.

Much was at stake, and the battles of Sicily made up in tactics and execution what they lacked in strategy and vision. The Sicilian Campaign was nothing if not interesting. The rivalry between two great Allied generals, set against a European backdrop in the torrid days of a Mediterranean Summer, has become legendary. Sicily marked the most significant fighting in military history between exclusively American and Italian units, prompting the dismissal of a ruthless dictator. New kinds of equipment were used, and new kinds of alliances –such as the behind-the-scenes participation of the Mafia.

The Italians’ tactics in Ethiopia and elsewhere were characterized by every form of disingenuous treachery and cruel atrocity, from the use of poison gas to the use of Nazi-style reprisals against civilians. Now, in Sicily, Guzzoni found himself commanding the true face of Italy’s military –a demoralized, poorly-armed force consisting primarily of poorly-trained, poorly-educated farm boys led by unmotivated officers (who one author characterized as “playboys” more interested in wine, women and song than patriotic service) facing a worthy adversary of nearly equal numerical strength and far superior firepower. These were hardly unprepared Ethiopians, Greeks, Albanians or Serbs, but highly motivated, well-equipped troops led by competent generals intent on making Sicily an example for both Mussolini and Hitler, and despite propaganda to the contrary the Italians could not readily deny the significance of a foreign power bombing and then invading Italy. By the Summer of 1943, the Italians had been defeated almost everywhere; only in certain Balkan regions and a tiny part of southeastern France did they still occupy any foreign territory, and this was soon to change. The false Italian nationalism imposed by Fascism was already crumbling long before the Allies touched Sicilian shores.

A team of Americans of Sicilian ancestry acted as interpreters. It has been suggested that the Americans, whose army included many Italian descendants (the largest single “ethnic” group among American draftees), generally were more kindly disposed to the Italians than to the Germans, but there is little evidence to support this theory. “Why We Fight,” a U.S. Army film produced by Frank Capra, himself an immigrant (he was born in Palermo), paints Mussolini’s Italy with the same brush used to depict Hitler’s Germany. It is human nature to hold some affinity for one’s own kin, but few of the U.S. Army’s Italo-Americans had ever met their Italian cousins or set foot in Italy. When they did, most were appalled at the abject poverty and squalor they encountered in Italian towns and cities –some thirty years after many of their parents or grandparents had emigrated– and astounded that any nation which had threatened weaker ones with such arrogance might fall so easily in the face of American resolve.

The Landings

The plan called for British troops to land in the southeastern region near Syracuse (Siracusa), with American forces controlling a landing zone westward in the Gulf of Gela. On the Landings and initial action.night of 9-10 July, almost half a million Allied soldiers, sailors and airmen, with an armada of 2590 vessels, began the assault on Sicily, using various transport ships and even gliders. By morning, the Axis command near Palermo knew of the landings. Pantelleria and Lampedusa had fallen, and reconnaissance flights had spotted part of the invasion force the day before. The Italians and Germans raced to the landing area. (As it was beyond the range of Allied aircraft, Messina was not initially a bombing objective, but the Gerbini airfields on the Plain of Catania were targeted early in the campaign, to be captured or –if necessary– destroyed.)

By daybreak, fighting had begun. Apart from the coastal areas, Gela and Licata were the first populated localities to see it, though inland Comiso was soon secured. It had been predicted that German forces would fight fiercely, and this was the case. Montgomery’s prediction that the Italians would be tenacious now that they were defending home territory proved true only in isolated circumstances, particularly when they were fighting closely alongside the Germans. They offered little resistance the first sunny day of the attacks, and by the end of the day Syracuse, Ragusa and Noto were under British control, while the Americans grappled with a strong German tank advance. German aircraft also posed a threat. Still, a beachhead had been established; it was about four miles deep and extended along some fifty miles of coastline.

The Allied success could be found in the numbers. By the end of the first day of fighting, the Seventh Army had taken 4,000 enemy prisoners while suffering 58 of its own men killed, 199 wounded and 700 missing (some were captured by the Germans during a strong tank and infantry advance). On the second day, fighting was particularly fierce, with the German tank divisions advancing into the American lines. They were repulsed.

The Push Inland

Within three days of the initial landings (13 July), the push inland had begun and Niscemi had been captured by the Americans while the British took Vizzini. But here the campaign began to take an unexpected turn. As the Americans steadily pushed northward and westward against both German and Italian forces, the British were now encountering German ones in the hills leading to the Plain of Catania with its airfields. In response, Montgomery requested that Alexander authorize British units to move westward in an effort to encircle the Germans, into the zone designated for the Americans. Alexander approved the move, removing the city of Enna from the American zone.

It was always presumed that the American Seventh Army would play a supporting role to that of the British Eighth, which was more experienced in African combat against the Germans. What annoyed Patton was Montgomery’s opinion that his seasoned troops were superior to the Americans, and Alexander’s decision to extend the British zone westward only seemed to confirm this belief. The Allies’ objective was Messina, where the Axis were to be stopped before they could retreat across the Strait of Messina into Calabria. Unfortunately, Alexander’s orders provoked controversy because they effectively required the Americans to wait for the British to reach the road leading northward to Enna, giving the Axis time to reinforce their position by establishing a defensive line in a favorable position. The underlying problem in all this chaos was that Alexander’s strategy was never clearly defined, thus leaving open the possibility of the Sicilian campaign becoming a vaguely-planned series of battles left to “micro-managers” surrounded by mountainous terrain.

Americans Go West

This encouraged the Americans to seek their glory in western Sicily. Patton (supported by his generals) solicited Alexander’s permission to conduct reconnaissance in the Agrigento area, just beyond the current front line. With Agrigento taken on 15 July, he requested authorization to proceed westward. Alexander agreed, but soon sent revised orders for Patton to move northward to cover Pillbox bunker near Palermo.Montgomery’s flank. Patton’s staff later claimed that these were “garbled.”

The impromptu change of plans facilitated a rapid advance through western Sicilian territory largely abandoned by the Germans and left to Italians. (Hube and Guzzoni themselves were in eastern Sicily.)

Even today, the concept of “eastern versus western” Sicily has strange implications for Sicilians. Two small but historical cities little known outside Sicily straddle a socio-political “divide” in the island’s rugged interior. Mountaintop Enna is considered “eastern” while Caltanissetta, just twenty miles to the west, is part of “western” Sicily. (People residing in Enna gravitate toward Catania, while those in Caltanissetta often work or study in Palermo.) While the British moved toward Enna, the American 45th Infantry took Caltanissetta on 18 July. Some brief but intense fighting at the Fonduto Pass was the most notable action against Italian troops in this region of west-central Sicily.

Other American units sped northward in a “cavalry charge” toward the Madonie Mountains and westward toward Marsala, meeting with little serious resistance. By this time, most of the German units in western Sicily had already moved along the northern coast toward Messina. A sociological point overlooked by many historians is that Allied action in western Sicily brought two predominantly Roman Catholic armies –Italian and American– into direct engagement, a rare event in the Second World War.

The Americans’ advance was to see some bizarre developments. In at least two incidents, overzealous Americans mowed down groups of (unarmed) German prisoners with machine gun fire. Advancing inland with his troops, Patton encountered some Americans helping an Italian farmer push a stubborn mule off a narrow road. Annoyed, the general got out of his jeep, drew one of his revolvers and shot the animal, remarking that his Army would not be delayed by an ass! But perhaps the most unusual incident involved a unit sent with special orders to Villalba, a town of no strategic importance in the province of Caltanissetta. Their orders were to contact a rustic Mafioso, Calogero Vizzini, for information which would make it easier (with the help of “anti-Fascist” criminals) to govern Sicily in the months to come.

As the Allies advanced, identifying (if not always arresting) the various mayors and local Fascist podestàs (“commissars”), members of the Fascist party hid or sought to conceal their identities. Many burned their party membership cards.

Events in Rome

On the morning of 19 July Rome was bombed for the first time in its history. Railroad yards were targeted but some bombs hit civilian areas, killing 717 people and wounding many more. On the 25th, King Vittorio Emanuele III had Benito Mussolini removed from office and placed under protective arrest. Almost overnight, the bombing of the capital and the removal of the dictator, coupled with news of an impending and humiliating defeat in Sicily, drove many common Italians to isolate, harass –or even kill– a number of locally prominent Fascists. In Sicily, effects of this sudden revolt were less than those in other parts of the country. Sicilian Fascist party offices in various localities were sacked, but in truth these were already largely abandoned during the first days of the invasion.

The Plain of Catania

Meanwhile, the British Eighth Army found itself bogged down in protracted and bloody battles on the Plain of Catania and in the Nebrodi Mountains northwest of Mount Etna. Deprived of American support, they suffered heavy losses, and it was probably then that Montgomery, who was always highly sensitive to the matter of battlefield casualties, began to resent Patton’s bravado. (The poorly coordinated Anglo-American efforts at the Kassarine Pass had not helped matters.) The drive to Messina was taking longer than what had been envisaged, and only on 23 July did the Eighth Army near Catania.

“Battle” of Palermo

By 21 July, the Americans were nearing Corleone and Termini Imerese. There wasn’t much fighting around Palermo. In some cases, Italian commanding officers in areas such as the Madonie Mountains east of the city actually ordered their subordinates not to fire on the Americans. A day later, Patton would arrive in Palermo.

The last German soldier, holding out in a small pillbox bunker outside the hilltop town of Altofonte (formerly “Parco”), was handily disposed of and the American “cavalry charge” to Palermo began in earnest from high ground around Altofonte and Monreale. The orders of the day were explicit: Occupy the city, and along the way commandeer the army andAmericans arrive in Palermo. carabinieri bases to the south of the old city, destroying any resistance. Second, find and arrest the Fascist podestà, the prefect and the mayor, wherever they might be hiding, and seize their headquarters, again destroying any resistance. Third, commandeer the jails and the main prison (Ucciardone), freeing certain political prisoners, particularly several high-ranking Mafiosi whose collaboration was promised by their associates to ensure smooth administration. Last, but hardly least, in fulfilling a personal promise made by President Roosevelt to King George, free the “Anglo-Italian” families at Palermo, the Whitakers prominent among them, at all costs and wherever in the city they were, and liberate the Anglican pastor and his church (confiscated under a Fascist law prohibiting British ownership of property). It happened that no British were actually imprisoned and the church was in good condition except for a few windows destroyed during a bomb blast. The Whitakers offered the Americans the use of their palatial residences.

Palermo is considered by historians to be the world’s most conquered city, occupied by Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Angevins, Aragonese and others, but nowhere else in the Second World War was any city conquered so quickly and easily, without even token resistance. The Palermitans rejoiced en masse, welcoming the American jeeps and trucks along the rubble of their narrow old streets. In the Anglican church, now restored to its proper owners, a memorial mass was celebrated for fallen Americans, attended by General Patton and other officers.

The rapport with the Catholic Church in Italy was more complicated, despite covert American relations with the Vatican. Palermo, of course, was full of churches, and only two were not Catholic (the other one was the Waldensian church). The American ranks were overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, but so were those of the Italian Army –whose military chaplains had rarely officially spoken against atrocities witnessed in Africa and the Balkans. (An infamous incident occurred in occupied Yugoslavia, where the massacre of Orthodox Christians took place in a concentration camp with the knowledge –and possible collaboration– of Franciscans, notably Father Miroslav Filipovic, who supported the establishment of a “Kingdom of Croatia” as an Italian-Fascist puppet state.) Despite a weakly-worded encyclical criticising certain Fascist policies, the Vatican had never taken a strong official position against Mussolini’s government, with which it had signed the Lateran Treaties in 1929. Even in Sicily, high-ranking clergy sometimes took questionable positions; before the invasion a Sicilian bishop had actually preached against the Americans, though the opportunistic Archbishop Lavitrano of Palermo (whose closeness to Fascism and the House of Savoy did not go unnoticed) was almost as cordial with Patton as he had been with the Fascists. All of this left the moral situation of many ordinary Italians ambiguous; their nation’s position was weak but so, it seemed, was their Church’s. Later, in the partisans’ northern Italian war, such sentiments would fuel the fires of Communism and anti-clericalism. (Overzealous Italian partisans killed a number of priests for alleged collaboration with Fascism.) In September, when an aged monarch changed sides, Italy’s ambivalent position became truly ridiculous. For now, it seemed slightly bizarre that both the American chaplains and the Italian ones had believed in the concept of a “just war.” Against each other! Could both sides be right? Yes, war was Hell.

A further irony was that many of the people welcoming the Americans as liberators had close male kin who had fought against them in Africa, many never to return. This was not the only affront to Sicilian dignity (such as it was). The wholesale prostitution of Palermitan women to American soldiers was shocking, particularly considering that most of the young women in question had never formally prostituted themselves before, if indeed many had ever been intimately involved with any man. Even where actual prostitution was not an issue, Sicilian men rushed to betroth their daughters to Italo-Americans. Almost immediately, the occupation government had to contend with acute food shortages (further afield the Americans provided drugs to cure malaria) and a generally unruly populace.

Once order was established, Colonel Charles Poletti, in peacetime a lieutenant governor and (for one month) governor of New York state fluent in Italian (also conversant in Sicilian and Neapolitan), was appointed assistant administrator of Sicily by the “Allied Military Government of Occupied Territory” (AMGOT) and at his office in Palermo soon found himself dealing with everybody from aristocrats to Mafiosi to separatists. Technically, the chief allied administrator was an Englishman, Lord Rennel of Rood. The eccentric Scotsman Robert Gayre was responsible for reorganizing the public education system in occupied Italy, eventually purging it of Fascism but not all Fascists (who in any event “re-created” themselves in their former careers after 1945), arresting and detaining certain Fascist professors and teachers –at least for a few weeks– and attempting to destroy Fascist-oriented school text books. In his memoirs, Gayre observed that the Americans’ attitude toward the Fascists was more adamant and less tolerant than his own, and that he (like Churchill) supported preservation of the Italian monarchy while the Americans desired a republic. The situation in Palermo was eclectic, to say the least.

Meanwhile, the British were fighting the Germans, and Guzzoni’s few remaining Italians, on the Plain of Catania, only gradually pushing them northward toward the Peloritan Mountains and Messina. The Axis command had recently foreseen the fall of Palermo, and the main body of German troops had already left the city days before the Americans arrived, in their wake destroying several buildings they had occupied and randomly shooting a number of civilians on the streets. Still, a defeat of such magnitude was a major blow for the higher-ranking officers of the Italian military, even following severe defeats elsewhere.

The Race to Messina

George Patton had little time to enjoy this victory. On 23 July, Alexander ordered him to proceed eastward to Messina. When the American learned that both Alexander and Montgomery had maligned the American Seventh Army, he decided to reach Messina before the British, and in so doing prove his troops’ superiority or at least competence. This was easier said than done. By now, most of Guzzoni’s troops had melted away, so General Hube was actually in charge. The Germans had established an “Etna Line” beginning from an area north of Catania, encircling the volcano and then extending northward across the Nebrodi Mountains to the sea.

Though a coastal approach was attempted, it was also necessary to cut right across the mountains to the Axis line, and on 31 July, at Troina, where the last battles were fought between Normans and Saracens in the eleventh century, the Americans, led by General Omar Bradley, ran up against the Germans, and a few Italians, head-on. Set on high ground amid rugged terrain, Troina seemed impenetrable, and the torrid Summer heat only made matters worse. This was to become the most difficult battle of the Sicilian Campaign, lasting a week until the Germans retreated on 6 August. German mining made a pursuit to Messina difficult.

Hube was able to delay the Americans long enough to begin evacuating Sicily, transporting troops and equipment across the Strait of Messina. This was precisely what the Allies had hoped to avoid. Around Mount Etna, the British Eighth Army was pushing Axis troops northward, and in the Peloritan Mountains overlooking the Ionian coast progress was difficult but steady. By 15 August, the Americans had reached Milazzo, and the British had moved beyond Etna. Bombings in the northeastern region of Sicily, including Messina, did not make their job much easier.

On 17 August, the Germans and Italians evacuated their last fighting forces across the straits — some 100,000 men and as many as 10,000 vehicles. Guzzoni’s actions don’t seem to have reflected any great concern for the troops left behind. The Americans arrived a few hours later, followed by the British.

Patton had won his race, but the campaign could have been managed much better than it was. Initial landings at Messina might have facilitated the capture of the Axis rather than their efficient escape. This shortcoming partly reflected the Allies’ initial intention to invade Sicily but not peninsular Italy, though in the end the rest of Italy was invaded anyway. In retrospect, one may conclude that while strategy of the Sicilian campaign was less than far-sighted, the battles constituted a tactical success. Ideally, all might have been concluded more speedily.

Death in Victory

A precise account of the number of civilians killed in Sicily is difficult to calculate. It is certainly far less than was previously believed (i.e. over eight thousand), but the toll was still high. Among military personnel, the figures were hardly balanced. Around 29,000 Axis soldiers were killed or wounded, with around 140,000 Axis troops captured. Most were Italians sent to the United States, where thousands applied for citizenship following the war. The Americans suffered 2,237 killed and 6,544 captured or wounded. The British lost 2,721, with 10,122 wounded or captured.

Mafia Support

The involvement of organized crime remains one of the more enigmatic aspects of the Sicilian campaign, and much nonsense has been published about it. In exchange for deportation to Italy in lieu of serving a prison sentence in the United States, the American (but Italian-born) gangster “Lucky” Luciano aided the war effort by encouraging the members of the Mafia-influenced labor unions working American ports around New York to cooperate in identifying possible sources of espionage. This followed the destruction of the SS Normandie, possibly due to German sabotage. (The ship would have been useful in troop transport, as it could outrun any German submarine.) In Sicily, Mafiosi acting on the advice of American contacts cooperated with American forces after the landings, but their efforts did little to aid the invasion itself. Indeed, that was unnecessary; the poor condition and morale of Italian troops had been proven in Africa and elsewhere, and Allied armies needed no internal coercion to encourage such troops to surrender. Moreover, Allied intelligence was already efficient, and aerial bombardments had softened many targets while demoralizing the population. None of this was owed to the Mafia, many exponents of which were in prison –where they perhaps should have remained. Calogero Vizzini and others provided additional intelligence and identified friendly parties (Mafiosi) imprisoned in Sicily as opponents to the Fascist regime. (It was easy for the Mafiosi to pose as anti-Fascists.) These individuals were promptly released. A number of key Mafiosi assisted the Allies in administration during the occupation and several were appointed to replace Fascist mayors of Sicilian towns. This paints a complex picture of collaboration, but nothing like the colorful escapades described by some authors.

Allied Perceptions of Sicilians

Booklet distributed to Allied troops.What might be described as foreigners’ “anthropological” view of Sicilians was not very flattering and in some cases it was nothing less than bizarre even when it contained a few grains of truth. A 20-page booklet distributed to several hundred thousand Allied soldiers reflected what were then prevailing perceptions about Sicilians, their living conditions, values and “morals” (sexual behavior). Edited in Britain with an introduction by General Dwight Eisenhower, the Soldier’s Guide to Sicily was intended as a guide to the local history and culture, with a section translating useful phrases. A handful of negative stereotypes – or at least overstated generalities – made their way into its otherwise accurate and informative pages, but so did some remarkable historical insights. Among the less favorable observations:
• Page 2: “Today 40 percent of the people are still illiterate, compared with 20 percent on the mainland… Two houses out of three are without drinking water laid on, and only about one-half have sanitation.”
• Page 6: “Morals are superficially very rigid, being based on the Catholic religion and Spanish etiquette of Bourbon times; they are, in fact, of a very low standard, particularly in the agricultural areas.”
• Page 6: “The Sicilian is still, however, well known for his extreme jealousy in so far as his womenfolk are concerned, and in a crisis still resorts to the dagger.”
• Page 7: “An American report maintains that ‘gangsterism’ in the USA had its origin in Sicilian immigration.”
• Page 12: “The native, living as he does in primitive conditions, has become immune from many diseases which British soldiers are likely to contract.”
• Page 12: “The insanitary condition of the island is one of its best defences against an invader, and casualties from disease could well be higher than those caused in the field.”
• Page 13: “Venereal disease thrives on the island…contact with the civilian population may bring other diseases such as those mentioned above.”

Aftermath

On 8 September 1943 Italy changed sides, though the British and Americans never regarded (or treated) the Kingdom of Italy as an Allied nation on the same level as France or Russia. Internally, the war destroyed whatever was left of Italian nationalism, rendering the position of Italy and Italians ambiguous at best. Was Italy essentially Fascist, or was she to be viewed as a “new” nation created by partisans fighting in regions north of Rome? War memorials commemorate both the Fascist troops fighting before 8 September and the “Allied” Italians (such as partisans) fighting against German and Fascist Italian forces (of Mussolini’s short-lived “Republic of Salò”). By 1945, Sicily was a “semi-autonomous” political region, an act undertaken by King Umberto II (then heir apparent acting as the “viceroy” of King Vittorio Emanuele III) on an Allied “suggestion.” The Italian Republic was born by popular referendum in June 1946, Umberto was exiled, and the work of reconstruction began –hampered a bit by widespread corruption resulting, at least in part, from the involvement of Mafia-oriented politicians whose power was owed to the Allied appointments of 1943 and 1944. In February 1944 Sicilian administration was officially ceded to the Kingdom of Italy headed by Prime Minister Piero Badoglio, though Allied troops remained present.

Corruption was not the only problem. Cowardice was everywhere. Longtime members of the Fascist party now denied their involvement. Some destroyed their membership cards. Others (such as public officials and police officers) cited circumstances, defining themselves as “victims.” Axis troops could claim to have served through forced conscription rather than by choice. Hardly an Italian family exists in which there is not a father, uncle, cousin or grandfather who did not serve in the war. Yet, given the Italians’ reluctance to fight, it is perhaps unsurprising that one rarely meets an aging veteran who was actually wounded in the war. Sicily was not Saipan, and few Italians ever fought with the raw courage of the Japanese, even when defending their own country. This is one of the most tragic facts of the war.

The Allies destroyed the worst form of Fascism but not the Fascists themselves, many of whom continued their careers as educators, military officers or lawyers in a “new” Italy, this time as Christian Democrats or (in rarer cases) even Socialists. Forced to subsist on American generosity (the Marshall Plan and other programs) and deprived of her ill-won foreign lands (reparations to Greece, Albania and Ethiopia were paid “in kind” by a cash-poor Italy), the nation tried hard to forget its hapless wartime experiences. Upon returning home, more than a million prisoners of war were treated with indifference, even disdain.

By a tradition dating from the medieval Norman rule of southern Italy, the Archbishop of Palermo is the Primate of Sicily. In modern times, this has entailed little more than a titular (and symbolic) precedence over other Sicilian bishops, but an important one. It was deemed inopportune for the Archbishop of Palermo (since 1928), Luigi Cardinal Lavitrano (1874-1950), who had been sympathetic to the Fascist regime, or at least perceived in that light, to continue in his position; General Patton’s dislike of cardinal Lavitrano was well-known. Therefore, he “resigned” to a post in the Roman Curia in December 1944. For a bishop to retire from active pastoral work at seventy years of age was unusual (the mandatory retirement age is now seventy-five), but in the case of this unforeseen wartime resignation – possibly the first of its kind in modern Italy – the Vatican did not have an immediate successor in mind. In fact, Ernesto Ruffini (1888-1967) was not appointed Archbishop of Palermo until October of the following year. Though conservative, Cardinal Ruffini was regarded as less reactionary and less monarchist than his predecessor.

Moral ambiguity made justice a rarity. Rodolfo Graziani, the general responsible for the use of outlawed poison gas in reprisals against Ethiopians, was tried for war crimes by the Italian Republic but released following a symbolic sentence. The more fortunate Alfredo Guzzoni escaped such a fate, retiring on a generous military pension and living into the 1960s. In 1946 the new governmernt passed a general amnesty law which made it impossible for Italians to be prosecuted for wartime crimes connected in any way to official policies or Fascism, or indeed any such crime committed at any time before 1946.

War is never pleasant, but its immediate aftermath is decidedly easier for the victors than the vanquished. Hitler himself said that history would be written by the victors, though neither he nor Mussolini lived to face their adversaries. So shameful and absolute were their military defeats that Italian veterans knew not what – if anything – they could tell their children about a lost war. (Most have said nothing.) Though the situation is improving, little of the Second World War (in Italy) or Fascism is taught in Italian schools even today, leaving the nation with several ignorant generations of citizens. Not only is history written by the victors, the vanquished are often vilified. In truth, however, there was rather little of this disdain reserved for the Italians, with whom the Americans and British seemed not to be angry so much as profoundly disappointed.

Equally disappointing is the degree of revisionism which has emerged in recent years, often from unexpected quarters. In Italy, “historical authors” of both the Left (liberals and Communists) and the Right (conservatives and neo-Fascists) seek to paint their own self-serving pictures of the nation’s disastrous defeat, both militarily and politically. Outside Italy, though scholarship is generally more balanced, certain “Italo-centric” organizations minimize the evils of Fascism, the significance of the war in Italy, and even the fact that Italy ever fought a war against the United States and Great Britain. That kind of partisan point of view will not be found in the publications suggested below (some may be ordered from the books page).

For Further Reading

Except for some archival research, augmented by interviews with numerous well-informed Italians, Britons and Americans involved in the events described (particularly the late James Risk CVO and Douglas Fairbanks Jr), there is little original material presented in this article. However, as wars usually occur based on some pretext or reason, we have sought to outline the subject in its complete historical context. For more detailed information regarding particular topics, we suggest the following historical works, some of which themselves contain useful bibliographies. Our recommendations are listed according to the usefulness of each work in learning more about the Sicilian campaign.

Carlo d’Este, Bitter Victory – The Battle for Sicily 1943 (1988). The first and still definitive general history on this subject, sober and traditionalist in tone.

Rick Atkinson, The Day of Battle – The War in Sicily and Italy 1943-1945 (2007). Lengthy work that places the Sicilian Campaign in context, considering personalities, motivations and the sometimes distasteful (illegal) behavior on both sides. This follows the author’s Pulitzer prize-winning book An Army at Dawn about the African campaign.

Samuel Mitcham and Friedrich von Stauffenberg, The Battle of Sicily – How the Allies lost their chance for total victory (1991). Analytical work with insights into Axis strategy and the Allied response.

Ben Macintyre, Operation Mincemeat – The true spy story that changed the course of World War II (2010). Bestselling book about the fascinating espionage operation and intrigue that led to what was then (until the Normandy Invasion) the world’s largest amphibious military invasion, inspiring one of its planners, the young Ian Fleming, to create the world’s most famous fictional secret agent, James Bond.

Andrew J. Birtle, World War II Campaigns: Sicily. U.S. Army Center of Military History (CMH Pub 72-16). Official United States military history available online.

Martin Blumenson, The Patton Papers: Volume 2 (1974). From the general’s archive, with additional sources.

Omar Bradley, A Soldier’s Story (1951). Autobiography of a general present during the campaign

William Breuer, Drop Zone Sicily (1983).

Philip Cannistraro, Historical Dictionary of Fascist Italy (1985). Excellent reference.

John Cornwell, Hitler’s Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII (2000). Controversial (in some Roman Catholic circles) but well-researched.

William Darby, Darby’s Rangers: We Led the Way (1980). Good firsthand account.

Peter De Rosa, Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy (1988). Detailed chronology and historical outline.

Vladimar Dedijer, Anriman Verlag, The Yugoslav Auschwitz and the Vatican (1988).

Roy Palmer Domenico, Italian Fascists on Trial (1991).

John Eisenhower, Allies (1982).

Albert N. Garland, Howard McGaw Smyth, Sicily and the Surrender of Italy (1965).

Trumbull Higgins, Soft Underbelly (1968).

W. G. F. Jackson, The Battle for Italy (1967). Good history and commentary.

Robert Katz, The Fall of the House of Savoy (1971). Excellent description of context and key Italian events (and blunders) leading up to the invasion of Italy.

Harold G. Marcus, A History of Ethiopia (1994). Good general history.

C. J. C. Molony, The Mediterranean and Middle East: Volume 5 (1973).

Samuel Eliot Morison, Sicily-Salerno-Anzio (1954). Good history written in a time before “political correctness.”

G. W. L. Nicholson, The Canadians in Italy: 1943-45 (1967). The little-known but important role of the Canadian troops.

S. W. C. Pack, Operation Husky: The Allied Invasion of Sicily (1977). Solid military history.

George Patton, War As I Knew It (1947). Good autobiography.

Hugh Pond, Sicily (1962).

Denis Mack Smith, Italy and Its Monarchy (1992). Excellent history of the Savoys in Italian history from about 1848 to 1946, dealing with the leadership and aspirations of a unified Italy and the shameful defeat of a nation and a dynasty.

Denis Mack Smith, A History of Sicily: Modern Sicily After 1713 (1968). Good general history of Sicily, more detailed than the condensed single volume of this series published later.

John Strawson, The Italian Campaign (1987). Excellent strategic analysis, though superficial compared to Atkinson’s book (above).

Lucian Truscott, Command Missions (1954). Autobiography by a distinguished general present during the campaign.

Costs, Inclusions & Exclusions- Randy and Jane Southern Italy with Sicily Tour of Italy 2020


COSTS


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Tour Price Per Person. TBD Euros



ITINERARY INCLUSIONS


Airport Transfers, Train Tickets and transfer to Sicily

9 Nights  of Accommodation in the Hotels Included in the Itinerary

Private Transport with Driver & Air Conditioning

Expert Bilingual Guiding Tim Robertson  with specialist guides where indicated

Daily Breakfasts

TBD Lunches and 1 Welcome Dinner with Wines

Entrance Fee & Wine Tasting at TBD Wineries

2 Welcome Wine Tastings Campania and Sicily

Other Activities Included in the Itinerary


ITINERARY EXCLUSIONS


International & Domestic Flights

Lunches & Dinners Not Included in the Itinerary

Gratuities for Meals

Gratuities for Drivers & Guides

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