It probably comes through in my blog writings that I have a keen sense of history. Travelling around Europe it is not hard to pass through places that have seen through the centuries both tragedy and triumph.
Riding along the shores of Lake Como I was aware that I was going to be very near the place where a defining moment in European history had occurred.
In the Spring of 1945 the Second World War was drawing to a close in Europe. Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini had taken his country to war in 1940 forming the Axis with Nazi Germany, he met with complete military failure. By 1945, Mussolini had been reduced to the head of a German puppet state in the Northern part of Italy. He faced the ferocious Allied advance from the South and increasingly violent internal conflict with Italian Anti-Facist Partisans.
By April 1945, with the Allies breaking through the last German defenses in Northern Italy and a general uprising of the population taking hold in the cities, Mussolini’s position became untenable. On 25th April he fled Milan, where he had been based, and tried to escape to Switzerland.
Two days later Mussolini and his mistress, Claretta Petacci were captured by local partisans near the village of Dongo on Lake Como. The next day, the pair were taken to the gateway of the Villa Belmont in the village of Giulino di Mezzegra and with a burst of sub-machine gun fire were summarily executed by the anti-fascists.
One version of events is that the execution was carried out by Walter Audisio, a communist partisan who used the pseudonym “Colonnello Valerio.” In more recent times, however, the circumstances of Mussolini’s death, and the identity of his killers, have been subject to continuing confusion, dispute and controversy in Italy.
The people of Italy are divided in their retrospective view of Mussolini. To some he remains a hero of their nation, while others revile him.
As I was literally passing within 200metres, I felt that I should stop for a moment, not for any morbid fascination, but rather to witness the spot where history had occurred.
It’s a bit strange really and frankly I don’t really know what to make of it, I came away feeling rather uneasy.
History did indeed occur here, that’s all I’m going to say.