I’ve taken the classes and listened to the lectures, but history has never been my strong point. Walking among the tiny mountain towns tucked in Tuscany’s hills, I began to understand happened here. From 1943 until May 1945, Tuscany stood at the epicenter of a bloodbath as Allied forces fought off German troops in what was known as the Italian Campaign.
While hiking in Tuscany in October, we met an old woman in one of these small towns. She was a rush of Italian words, pointing out homes along the street and the small chapel standing in the town.
Our guide gave a brief translation of her story: This small town was decimated during the war and many of the inhabitants killed. Only a few buildings remained standing — the buildings, I assumed, the woman had pointed out.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to linger and soon turned toward our hiking trail, leading us up and out of the town.
We walked only a few hundred yards before encountering a stone wall overgrown with aged moss. Our guide insisted we needed to push onward to stay on schedule. I insisted on seeing what lay beyond the stone wall. I pushed on the unlocked iron gate and it swung open, revealing an even more overgrown and wild cemetery.
The tiny lawn wasn’t much bigger than a small studio-sized apartment. A locked building sat in the center. Headstones rested against the building’s sides and hid under thorn-covered bushes, the words long lost to time and weather. Plastic flowerpots sitting at the grave sites sprouted dandelions.
Most had pictures of young men.
I wondered how many people ever stopped to consider their lives, their histories, and their stories. Forgotten and buried in this tiny Tuscan mountain town, off the trodden hiking path, and out of the way for passersby. Far from the history books and lectures that reduce them to numbers and facts.