September sees the celebrations of the liberation of the Mugello from the German occupation in the last world war. WW2 Gothic Line battlefields apparently are no holiday matter. However to consider facts well, it could be a nice opportunity to unite three basic factors. The valour of remembrance, culture and sheer relax and coziness. Easy to understand the first 2 but the latter? Simple: just get pampered in one of the many old villas and farm house resorts. They are arguably the best part of the Tuscan countryside in the Mugello just 18 miles from Florence.
The Mugello can boast well preserved WW2 Gothic Line battlefields. There is also a war museum and the largest German war cemetery of western Europe. The German cemetery at the Futa Pass lies at almost 1000 mt over a surface of 29 acres. Over 30.000 bodies of German soldiers are buried here coming from 2000 different Italian villages. It is a place of rare architectural beauty set in a wonderful natural backdrop.
Near the Giogo Pass there’s a meaningful Memorial to the American soldiers who lost their lives on the WW2 Gothic Line battlefields of Monte Altuzzo and Monticelli . Past Firenzuola towards Imola there’s the Commonwealth Santerno valley war cemetery. This cemetery, built by the 78th British division at the end of 1944, brings together 287 Commonwealth soldiers. 275 British, 10 Canadians and 2 South Africans who fell in World War 2 gothic line battles. There are other Commonwealth cemeteries and memorials near the towns of Forlì and Ravenna.
Florence American Cemetery and Memorial is south of Florence with over 4402 tombs on an expanse of 69 acres. The soldiers all belonged to the American 5th Army which fought in Italy from 1943 to 1945. Two large tree-lined avenues lead to the top of three terraces. Here stands the memorial dedicated to the soldiers whose remains have never been recovered. The shrine consists of two arcs facing the valley connected to each other by a wall covered by pink granite slabs. Here are written the 1,409 names, degrees, units and the state of origin of the missing in action. Watch this 3 minutes’ drone video on the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial
If you are really interested in knowing a more thorough description of the Cemetery you can watch this longer descriptive video in English
Needless to say all these war cemeteries and memorials are encompassed in the most iconic Tuscan landscape. This will contribute to give you an unforgettable World War 2 Gothic Line battlefileds memorial holiday near Florence. But first follow us in a short historical excursion starting with the year 1943. Mussolini led Italy first in a reckless alliance with Hitler and then to a hopeless war alongside the German dictator. On 25th July the fascist council itself disavowed the Duce and the king Vittorio Emanuele III ordered the arrest of Mussolini.
On 8th September 1943 the new Italian government signed an armistice with the allied forces. Mussolini is freed by Special German units on the Gran Sasso Mountain at 2200 mt in centre Italy and gives rise to the Italian Social Republic in Northern Italy. This is a 2.36 min short video on the liberation of Mussolini by the German special units Fallschirmjaeger
Meanwhile partisans are beginning to counteract the Fascists and the Germans who started to invade Italy. They were now considered the new enemies. The German armies in Italy retreated north to settle along the “Grüne Linie” (Green Line), better known as “Gothic Line”. This happened after the capture of Montecassino (May 1944) and the entry into Rome (June 4) by the allies. The Gothic line was a dense network of fortifications. They ran from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Adriatic Sea, cutting Italy into two. To face the Gothic Line are the Fifth American Army and the Eighth British Army.
The attack on Mount Altuzzo (12-18 September 1944)
The American 85th Infantry Division assigns the task of conquering Mount Altuzzo to the 338th regiment, which sends the 1st battalion. However, the difficulties of orientation on the ground and the poor or misleading information on the situation disorganize the attacks of the leading companies against the two ridges of mount Altuzzo. The west ridge was nicknamed by the Americans “Peabody peak” by the name of the commander of the B company.
The action breaks into a series of fights between a few men, with repeated German counterattacks broken only by the intervention of American artillery that also affects the backs, decimating the 1st battalion of the 12 paratroopers regiment holding positions on Mount Altuzzo.
On September 15, the Germans call the 3rd battalion to the front, which regains the lost positions. The German command finally understood that it was facing the main attack of the US Army. Later it ordered the influx of the few reserves available to the Giogo Pass, sending all the able men to the front line. Among them, 400 Lithuanians enlisted by the Wehrmacht, many of whom surrender to the Americans at the first opportunity.
On September 16, the 1st battalion of the 338 infantry again attacked finally reaching the top of mount Altuzzo. But the key to the breakthrough in reality was the conquest of Mount Pratone and Mount Verruca. This was carried out by the units to the right of the American deployment on September 17. Thus a 8-km breach in the defense of the German Gothic Line was made possible.The German command understood of being defeated and ordered the retreat on the mountains beyond Firenzuola.
On September 18, the Giogo Pass was in American hands. In six days of combat, the American losses were 2731. The German figures are unknown, but certainly higher. This was especially due to the effect of artillery fire falling on the few back garrisons sending men to the first lines. Meantime all the villages of the Mugello had all been liberated from German control .
Watch this re-enactment of the Altuzzo battle with a faithful reconstruction of the German and American sides
To better appreciate this WW2 Gothic Line battlefields and memorial holiday we prepared 3 special accommodation venues in the Mugello Valley and 2 in Florence
B&B in Florence centre
+ 6 activities to make your WW2 Gothic Line battlefields memorial tour even more memorable
The additional services listed below can be arranged with Carmen email@example.com +39331206 7654 WhatsApp available. Airport transfer, guided walking tour on the World War 2 gothic line battlefields by the Giogo Pass, guided visit to the little Gothic Line war museum in Scarperia, transfer + Visit of all or some American and Commonwealth war cemeteries, walking tour of Florence, tour of the Mugello.