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September 26 - October 3, 2021

Operation Avalanche

Between September 26 and October 3, our group visited Italy, specifically the area south of Naples. Our goal was to visit several sites related to Operation Avalanche (1943) and other historical places in the area. Below we present the plan of our trip. If you are planning a similar adventure, we are happy to answer your questions. 

➡ Day 1
Our tour began with a landing at the Naples airport. From there we took a train to the seaside town of Vietri Sul Mare, which is famous for its pottery production. In September 1943, the British commandos landed here.

➡ Day 2
On the second day we visited Salerno, which is only 15 minutes by train from Vietri. It is a fairly large city. Unfortunately, the local museum (Museo dello sbarco e Salerno Capitale) was closed and we learned that we had to make an appointment by phone in advance. Instead, we visited the historical city center and the beautiful Cathedral Church of Matthew the Apostle. We also found a moment to swim in the warm sea.

➡ Day 3
On the third day we went back in time to 79 AD. Our destination was the ancient city of Pompeii which was buried under volcanic ash in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The archaeological park is really huge. If we wanted to visit it thoroughly, we would have to spend 2-3 days there. Unfortunately we had only one day. Nevertheless we highly recommend visiting Pompeii. Beware of the sun, because even at the end of September it can be very hot.

➡ Day 4
The fourth day was a uniform day. We started it very early. Before sunrise we went to Venafro. Luciano and Renato from the War Museum WinterLine were waiting for us at the train station. From autumn 1943 to spring of 1944 Venafro was the scene of bitter fighting between the Germans, entrenched in the mountains to the north and the British – French – U.S. along the Gustav Line, during the Battle of Monte Cassino. Mistaken for Monte Cassino, Venafro was hit hard by aerial bombing on March 15, 1944. We were very impressed by the ruins of the town of San Pietro Infine, which have been untouched since the war. The hill of San Pietro overlooks the Purple Heart Valley. Our Italian friends took us to many interesting places, including the 5th Army headquarters in Venafro, the French military cemetery, the sites of American, Polish and French field hospitals. We ended the day with a tour of the museum, which contains a large number of original artifacts from battles in the surrounding hills. Thank you so much for hosting such a wonderful day for us!

➡ Day 5
On the fifth day we conquered Vesuvius. The volcano last erupted in March 1944. Today there is a national park and visitors can walk along the rim of the crater. We recommend visiting Vesuvius on a cloudless day, otherwise the cities below will not be visible. On this day, we wore our new t-shirts purchased the previous day at the museum in Venafro. 

➡ Day 6
Our second day in uniform. We headed further south to the beautiful town of Paestum. It contains three of the best-preserved ancient Greek temples in the world. On September 9, 1943, Paestum was the location of the landing beaches of the U.S. 36th Infantry Division. The U.S. 95th and 16th Evacuation Hospitals (less nurses) landed at the Red Beach on D-Day. Once again, thanks to the great help of our Italian friends, we were able to visit the places mentioned. The highlight of the day was meeting the mayor of Capaccio Paestum, who presented us with souvenirs. In addition, we also visited a museum, Greek ruins, a monument to the 36th Infantry Division, and even a local buffalo farm. This region is famous for producing mozzarella and other products from buffalo milk. We ended the day at the beach, watching the sunset over the Salerno Bay. It was hard to imagine that in this same spot, 78 years earlier, the British hospital ship HMHS Newfoundland, with 103 American nurses on board, had been sunk in an air attack. With our presence, we wanted to remember these events and the forgotten heroines of Operation Avalanche. Giorgio Cafasso, thank you for organizing this wonderful and unforgettable day.

➡ Day 7
On the last day we left our lodging in Vietri and headed back to Naples, from where we were to fly home. We had several places on our list to visit, but the city was quite disappointing. Let's say it is not the safest place for women traveling alone. We managed to make our way through the crowded streets to the Caffè Gambrinus which is a historic coffeehouse with beautiful interiors. The coffee and tiramisu that we ordered were delicious. On the way back we had a quick look at Castel Nuovo, Teatro di San Carlo, Galleria Umberto I. The next morning we returned home.

We would like to thank our new friends from the bottom of our hearts for welcoming us to Italy. Thanks to the help of people like Luciano Bucci and Giorgio Cafasso we had a chance to visit many known and unknown places connected with the history of the Second World War (and not only WWII). We hope that this is the beginning of a long and fruitful cooperation, thanks to which the events of the MTO will not be forgotten.

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