The Italian Almanac

Assisi war cemetery

Italian News - August 23

The Assisi War Cemetery contains the resting places of 949 WWII Commonwealth soldiers, including Britons, Canadians, Australians, Indians, South Africans and New Zealanders who took part in the central Italian campaign. Although the Rivotorto memorial is beautifully kept by Commonwealth officials, too few visitors spare time to honour the foreigners who died to free Italy of Nazism and Fascism, says retired Italian general Romeo Cianchetta.

The general, who heads a local chapter of a veterans' association, decided something needed to be done to remedy the "lonely" atmosphere of the war memorial. Over a year ago, he asked the council to support the 'adoption' idea. Since then, more than 300 tombs have been 'assigned' to residents and applications to join the initiative are flocking in daily.

The 'adoption' scheme is straight forward. Anyone who agrees to join simply visits a chosen soldier's tomb from time to time, as a sort of 'substitute' for far-away relatives and friends. A woman who lives near the Rivotorto memorial is looking after the resting places of ten Indian soldiers while members of the local tourism board have 'adopted' the graves of 49 Canadians.

Vincenzo Cavanna, one of the driving forces behind the initiative, said he had phoned several embassies in Rome to obtain approval before launching his publicity drive around Assisi last year. Some residents are in touch with the soldiers' relatives while others, including the Assisi man who received a visit from the son of his 'adopted' soldier, have become friends.