About an hour and a half south of Rome lies Montecassino, an enormous Benedictine monastery whose environs witnessed a very costly battle of World War II.
The Battle of Montecassino, which was actually a series of four battles, took place from January to May of 1944, and saw the loss of 55,000 Allied soldiers, which includes Americans and Commonwealth (British, New Zealand, Canadian, Indian, Gurkha and South African) troops, and 20,000 German troops. The monastery was also bombed to ruins by the Allied forces, who were convinced that the Germans were using the elevated outpost as a lookout station. Following the war, Montecassino was restored and reconsecrated by Pope Paul VI in 1964.
Cassino and Montecassino (which sits on a hill high above the residential and commercial town of Cassino) are solemn sites of pilgrimage for many who wish to remember the war dead on both sides of the battle. In particular, Polish descendants of the more than 1,000 Polish soldiers who perished during the Battle of Montecassino come to this Lazio town to visit the massive Polish cemetery which is situated on the hill behind the monastery.
Cemeteries to the other men who lost lives during the Battle of Montecassino are located near Anzio at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial (American); the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Cassino Memorial and Cassino War Cemetery on the western outskirts of Cassino; and on Route 6 in the Liri Valley (French and Italian troops). There is even a German cemetery, located in the Rapido Valley north of Cassino.
Should you wish to plan a visit to Montecassino, Dr. Danila Bracaglia, a licensed tour guide, has set up this Battlefield Tours website with information on each stage of the Italian campaign and details on tours to other sites in the area, including to the coastal battlefield town of Anzio and further south to Naples and its environs.
Also appearing on Dr. Bracaglia’s site is the following video, which I found to be a basic, but moving look at the Battle of Montecassino and its casualties as well as a lovely glimpse of the rebuilt monastery:
Last Updated: May 8, 2021