Lush parks shaded by Roman pines and stately cypresses are familiar fixtures on the Italian landscape, but few of these retreats are as immaculately kept, as tranquil , and as simply lovely as the grounds of the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in the seaside town of Nettuno, 38 miles south of Rome. Only birdsong and the sound of splashing fountains intrude on the contemplative silence of these 77 acres, where white crosses are arranged in gracefully curving rows to mark the graves of World War II service members who died in Allied landings and the fierce battles that led to the liberation of Italy.
The campaign for the Italian peninsula began in July 1943, with landings on the southern coast of Sicily. More Allied forces came ashore in Salerno in September, then on the beaches at Anzio and neighboring Nettuno on January 22, 1944, when 36,000 Allied troops established the so-called Anzio beachhead. The Allies met fierce German resistance and became entrenched on muddy coastal plains and in high mountain passes as they moved north toward Rome, liberating the city on June 4, 1944.
Of the 60,000 to 70,000 members of the Allied forces who died in the Italian campaign, 7,860 or close to 8,000 are buried on these lawns that slope gently above a large reflecting pool. A marble wall in the chapel is inscribed with another 3,095 names of the missing. Among those buried here are William and Preston Kaspervik, one of 30 sets of brothers in the cemetery, and Ellen Ainsworth, a nurse killed by enemy fire while moving surgical patients to safety in a field hospital; she is one of 16 women interred at Nettuno. As former president Dwight D. Eisenhower said when he dedicated the cemetery in 1956, hose interred here rest tranquil and secure in the friendly soil of Italy.
Veterans Day Commemorations
As Veterans Day approaches, travel-inclined descendants of World War II veterans might set their sights on visits to the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery or the other military cemeteries that the American Battle Monuments Commission maintains around the world. In total, the ABMC commemorates 207,621 U.S. war dead from World War I and World War II. The most visited site is the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France, with a million visitors a year. The website www.abmc.gov provides information on ABMC’s 26 cemeteries and 32 memorials and monuments, as well as a searchable database for service members interred in the cemeteries.
If you go to Nettuno
The Sicily-Rome American Cemetery is at the eastern edge of Nettuno, off Piazzale John Fitzgerald Kennedy. It’s about a ten-minute walk from the train station, where trains from Rome arrive at least hourly; the trip takes an hour and ten minutes. The cemetery is open daily except December 25 and January 1 from 9am to 5pm. An excellent visitor center details the Italian campaign with maps, photo displays, and videos, and also profiles some of those commemorated in the cemetery. In addition to the burial area, the cemetery includes a chapel, a map room in which bronze and marble reliefs show Allied World War II operations in Italy, and a couple of beautifully tended gardens.
Nettuno’s seaside old quarter, the Borgo Medievale, is an enticing warren of lanes and squares. Zero Miglia on Piazza Marconi is a local favorite for a seafood meal, accompanied by a bottle of Cacchione, the region’s white wine. I Nobili, practically next door, is the stop for gelato. To enjoy some time in the sun, you can rent a lounge at one of the many beach clubs that line the sands of Nettuno and neighboring Anzio. Ex-pat and local guide Paula Clark (email@example.com) can show you around town and provide lots of insightful commentary.