There was once a small town called San Pietro Infine. It nestled peacefully on a hilltop overlooking the lovely Liri valley, to the south of the great medieval abbey of Monte Cassino (midway between Naples and Rome). In December, 1943, in the space of a few days, it was annihilated.
Its misfortune was to be on the site of the heavily fortified “Gustav line” during the second world war. The crucial battle which took place from the 8th to the 17th of December eventually led to the liberation of Rome. The town was used by the German army as a stronghold, and the townspeople were forced to take refuge in nearby caves, with very little food available. The town was attacked and completely destroyed, never to be rebuilt.
Nowadays, the ruins on the hillside are a stark reminder of those distant events, and contain a small, very touching museum. Nearby there is an excellent restaurant. Both are managed by people who were children then, or descendants of survivors; they’re happy to take the time to tell you their touching stories.
The famous documentary “The Battle of San Pietro” by John Huston, can be seen in the museum. Wander through the ruined streets and through the wreckage of the church. Bring hankies.