San Pietro Infine

June 25, 2013 / Places
sfolati

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.

S.-Pietro

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.

street
street
church
church
church
church
rovine

Liri valley
Liri valley

Patricia Glee Smith

by Patricia Glee Smith

Accomplished artist and very involved archaeology aficionado based in Otricoli, Umbria. Click here to view her artwork.

12 Responses to “San Pietro Infine”

  1. There is beauty in life as there is in death as seen by these incredible photos. Outside of the museum are there any photos which are sharable to show the sharp contrast of the present images? Out of the ruins and ashes come life as seen through your post. Italian Notebook is in it’s own way is restoring the past, healing wounds and giving honor where it is due. God bless the remnant of people who still consider San Pietro Infine their home.

    Reply
    • Patricia Glee Smith

      Thanks, Tom, for our lovely comment. There are some photos at the museum, and I’m sure that families have some of their own. It was a rather poor community, so probably not many. The stories they tell are so moving. As they told them, they cried, and of course, so did I.

      Reply
  2. Anonamis de Incognito

    Wow, these photos are great. There’s something strangely beautiful about the ruins.

    Reply
  3. What beautiful photos, Pat, and what a sad story. I’ve heard of the battle for Monte Cassini – it was one of the fiercest in Italy during that fierce war, wasn’t it? But I never heard of this town and its sad, sad fate. Don’t you wonder why they never rebuilt? Just didn’t have the heart for it?

    Reply
    • Patricia Glee Smith

      We spent two days in the area, talking to people and visiting sites. Other villages were heavily damaged, but not like San Pietro. I think they built the new town on the plain below for practical reasons.

      Reply
  4. David Bridgdes

    Very moving. I knew about the tremendous fighting that went on there but not about that town. The photos are a sort of redeeming action for the destruction.

    Reply
  5. Hi Patricia,
    thanks for this article and the photos. It is a strong reminder that our life of today is founded also on those horrible things happened in the past, our collective past as Germans, Italians, americans……
    See you soon!
    Heidi

    Reply
  6. Dianne

    A friend of ours was a child in a nearby town during the war and he had had family in San Pietro Infine. He was absolutely thrilled to read the article and see the pictures. Thank you for making a now elderly man so happy.

    Reply
  7. Teresa

    My Mom’s home town, Aquino, was also located on the “Gustav Line” during the war. It suffered heavy bombardments due to its strategic location on the Rome-Naples rail line and because it had a small airport. Mom often spoke of running from town during the bombings, heading with the rest of the townsfolk to shelter in the caves up the side of Monte Cairo.
    When we visited in 1960, many of the houses were only half there – and the notorious foot-dragging of the Italian government was doing little to assist reconstruction. In spite of it all, the town reconstructed homes and built a new church to honor its patron saints. Today, there is so much new in Aquino but the shadow of the war and its atrocities does still hover over the town.
    Thank you for this note: it brought back my visits to Aquino and all Mom’s stories. None of this should ever be forgotten, not in Italy or anywhere else.

    Reply
  8. Arny Stieber

    We (my spouse and I) just returned from a three week trip to Italy. My spouse’s father was born in San Pietro, so we spent two nights at the magnificent 10 room hotel in San Pietro. Once the hotel owner, staff and museum owner heard that the daughter of a San Pietro resident was there we became “family” and the experience was overwhelming. Walking the village, going into the caves, reading the long peaceful history of this beautiful village in the mountains, touring the magnificent museum, was an experience of a lifetime. I’m an Army, infantry veteran of the U.S. war against the people of Viet Nam. The time in San Pietro furthered my resolve to do all that I can to end war.

    Reply

Leave a Reply