There are two beautiful and poignant WWII cemeteries near Benano.
The Orvieto war cemetery is primarily a battlefield cemetery. The dates of death are almost all about the same — and all of them are way too close to the dates of birth. They were so young.
The British men buried here died within weeks of June 5, 1944, the day that Rome fell to the Allies. So in early June, these Brits were fighting against the Italians. They died in late June, fighting with Italians to chase the Germans out of the country.
The Bolsena War Cemetery is also a short drive from Benano. The sentiment of gratitude from the Italians is reflected by the meticulous maintenance bestowed on these cemeteries. There are flowers planted at the base of all the headstones that bloom every year.
And the guest books! The guest book comments from family members from England who have come to pay tribute to uncles and great-uncles they never met are heart-rending.
One of my Italian teachers was surprised to hear me refer to the beauty of the War Cemeteries, and she insisted that I visit the Italian Cemetery on a hill just across a very small valley from Orvieto.
We found the cemetery on the road toward Bolsena. As soon as we entered, I understand her point. It is everything the war cemeteries are not – lush, elaborate, and exuberant expressions of grief. Very Italian, and also beautiful.
A Bit of WWII Perspective from Benano
The war came very close to home. A neighbor explained to us over coffee one morning that she lost her hand in 1947 when she picked up an unexploded ordnance in the field just outside Benano. From her description, I realized it happened in this field, which sits just below our dining room windows