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roadside memorial

A beautiful Italian day bathed us in the soft air of the Lake Como countryside. We had arrived at the town of Lenno via the lake’s “slow boat” (see Louise’s post here) and, feeling a little lethargic from beer and pizza (my gawd, the pizza is good here!), we decided to hike back to the prior boat landing rather than return to the landing where we had just got off. The five-kilometer route took us high into the hills overlooking the quaint community of Mezzegra, not far from the Swiss border. Wildflowers and chalets surrounded us. If this had been Austria, we no doubt would’ve seen Julie Andrews twirling through a meadow, singing Rogers and Hammerstein.

Walking along a quiet road, we chanced upon a roadside memorial – a little cross with a few flowers – like the ones you see along highways at the sites of fatal accidents. But this was no highway. Most of the traffic here is on foot. A fatal accident here in the neo-Saltzburgian hills? Not likely.

We walked over for closer inspection: “Benito Mussolini, ” it said, “28 Aprile, 1945.”

The Mussolini,” we wondered. “What was he doing up here with the von Trapps?”

But yes, it was the Mussolini, executed at this very location while hastening to Switzerland to escape Italy. (“Shoot me in the chest,” he commanded, a dictator to the end – and a vain dictator as well, one might presume.)

The details of his death and disposition of his body are a grisly tale. I leave it to the reader to do his own Googling on the subject. Suffice it to say that post-war Italians weren’t too fond of the man. Fascism and Catholicism, it would seem, don’t play nice together.

Like much of Europe, Italy is a war-torn country. Americans fought wars, but not since 1865 have we fought them on our own turf. Here in Italy, one encounters reminders of wars from Mussolini’s era back to beyond Roman times. But the death of Mussolini here in the hills alive with the Sound of Music? Say it isn’t so, Maria!