A Victory – Of Sorts.

OK, I’ve found where the picture problem is…yep, hotel WiFi strikes again!

It’s a bit of a source of annoyance to me really, I book into places that advertise WiFi and frequently I get let down by intermittent service, poor connectivity, slow speeds and other annoying issues. Normally it’s the places that like to think themselves as a bit more “up-market” that are the worse culprits…like where I’m staying at the moment! In contrast most smaller Bed and Breakfast/Chambre d’hôtes places score better, so here’s to the little people who make the world go round!

Right, rant over: what’ve you been up to Dookes?

I resolved to get out of the hotel, whatever the weather, by 13:00hrs and as it was still raining I put on my motorcycle leathers….well, they are waterproof, then took a stroll down to the local Rittner Bahn station, all of 150metres from the hotel. I’m going to do a separate post on this delightful, yet incredibly useful, little railway in future.

I’ve got to confess, the reason I chose this hotel wasn’t really the WiFi, it was the location and the fact that it had a narrow gauge railway at the bottom of the garden!

Better still, it’s the halfway point of the route and being single track, it’s where the loop is to allow two trains to pass; old Dookes knows his railways!

The two carriage train arrived vaguely on time and after climbing on board I enjoyed an entertaining ride to the Western end of the line at Soprabolzano, about fifteen minutes later. From there I transferred to a cable car for a twelve minute ride down to the City of Bolzano, which was somewhere in the mist below…

There’s something about Bolzano that I like.

It’s a bloody awful place in many ways, jammed into a narrow valley with industry, commercial, residential, retail and transport all fighting for space. It’s always steaming hot and often seems to have its own special smog, but I love it! The place is so….Bolzano, a melange of the Tirol, Italian and Dolomite culture, with these days a fair slice of the rest of the world thrown in on top!

I stepped off the cable car and took in the whole grubby panorama, definitely the base station is not in the most salubrious part of town, it that honest grittiness that makes me smile. After the almost ersatz and slightly false “chocolate box” surroundings of Ritten, this was the “real” Italy; my Italy.

I walked into the first grubby cafe I could find, sat on a high stool at the bar and ordered.

“Buon giorno, un cafe, per favore.”

Within seconds a tiny cup of potent black liquid was clattered on the plastic surface in front of me, a wrapper containing a chocolate coated coffee bean sat on the saucer.

“Grazie.”
“Prego.”

The barista pushed a small dish with the bill across the counter, €0.90. I dropped a €2 coin on top of the bill and pushed it back, shaking my hand, no change, that’s your tip.
The barista smiled at me.

“Grazie signore.”

I sipped the coffee thinking, “wow this is good,” then the caffeine whacked me somewhere at the back of my head, vaguely between the ears if I recall correctly. Why oh why, can only the Italians do coffee this good? I mean, it’s not hard – just take coffee, roast it properly, grind it properly, pass hot water through it and bingo, coffee! Coffee like nowhere else in the whole world.

I wandered the streets of the old town, just taking in the atmosphere and people watching. There were tourists everywhere, but as today was market day, lots of locals were out shopping too.

The narrow streets of the old town are today largely taken up with all kinds of boutique type shops, Mrs Dookes would be in her element here, but I find it all a bit faux. It’s just not my bag.

From the old streets I continued West and passed over the Ponte Talvera bridge. There was something I wanted to see.

Standing at the end of a small park is the Monumento alla Vittoria, the Bolzano Victory Arch.

To say that this structure is one of the most divisive in Italy, is a bit of an understatement. To many it is the epicentre of the unrest and continuing disquiet caused by the absorption of South Tirol into Italy in 1919. Originally conceived as a memorial to the men who died in the Alpine Campaign, it was hijacked by the Fascist regime and specifically Mussolini who dedicated it to “The Victory of Italy.”

Over the years this imposing structure has been defaced, reviled, worshiped and even considered for demolition. Today it has been restored, not to glorify it’s Fascist roots, but to serve as a reminder of past mistakes, errors and atrocities and act as a continuous dialogue between the past and present.

In the basement of the structure is a fascinating and very professional exhibition telling it’s story through the past 90 years. I found it fascinating yet sobering, particularly the persecution of the German speaking population of South Tirol under the Fascists; then of course along came the Axis Alliance with Nazi Germany…and things changed a bit, causing Mussolini to think twice. The Italian Proclamation of Empire in 1936 caused the monument to take on a new mantle, that of a centre of new national glories and ideology, the construction of the modernised city of Bolzano underlined the Fascist significance of the monument.

My visit left me feeling quite uneasy. I don’t like extremism from whichever end of the political spectrum it raises it’s slimy head and the Fascists of the 20th Century are right up there on the Dookes revulsion scale.

I admire both the City of Bolzano and Italy in general, for confronting the past as personified by this monument in a straightforward and honest way. I hope it will serve as a reminder of how things get screwed up when jingoism and extreme views are allowed to run riot.

The place left me feeling uneasy…I was glad to walk away, but I worry that the lessons of the past have not been learnt. My own country’s current stance with Europe being of particular concern, along with the joint madmen in Pennsylvania Avenue and Pyongyang…

I returned to Ritten still troubled, but then the sun came out and the view from my balcony gave me hope. There’s nothing like a little sunshine to raise the spirits!
In the words of Pete Seeger.

“When will they ever learn.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Playing Amongst the Clouds

Apologies before you start reading this dear Blogonaughts; I’m still having trouble loading pictures, so until I can make the technology work, please read on, enjoy and by all means comment or message me. – Dookes

There are times when I find it quite difficult to articulate exactly what I think without reverting to boring superlatives, or even worse, tedious exclamations.

Tonight, I’m enjoying dinner at my hotel which is located in Ritten, just North of Bolzano, Northern Italy.

Well, that’s the first problem.

Look on the map and yes, indeed, we are in Italy. Speak to the local people and you’ll find out that we are in the South Tirol. The predominant language is German and certainly in the restaurant tonight, that’s all I can hear. The food, is pretty Germanic too, some rather nice Schnitzel.

It’s one of those unfortunate situations that history has bestowed on the world. In this case until the early 20th Century the region was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, then along came war. The fighting in the Alps and Dolomites during World War One was vicious and protracted, men fought at altitude in trenches dug in rock and snow. The casualty rate was incredibly high and a considerable number from the weather conditions and malnutrition. It became known as “The White War.”

After hostilities ceased, Italy claimed large tracts of the region as war reparations. Then twenty years later along came World War Two and Mussolini tried a further land grab. Once everything had settled down in 1945 new lines were drawn on the map, but unfortunately no-one spoke to the local people…I believe that you can colour a map, but not people’s hearts. The end result is a fascinating bubble of Austrian-ness nestling at the very top of Italy’s boot.

To the credit of the government in Rome, they have recognised that there is a difference and Bolzano is now recognised as an “Autonomous Region.” Travel around the area and you will see many more Austrian flags hanging from houses than the Italian Tricolore. I consider myself lucky to have had a very interesting conversation with a couple of local folk earlier today about both their history and identity. There will be more of that in a future post, but today I rode around their truly beautiful region.

The weather accurately lived up to forecast, changeable. We are in high mountains after all and what we missed from time to time in panoramas, we gained by playing in the swirling clouds and enjoying tantalising glimpses of wonderful limestone crags.

In many ways the lack of distracting views was a bit of a benefit, we rode literally hundreds of hairpins today. If I was rusty on them before, I’m an old hand now!

At the start of the South West climb to Passo di Giau, 2236m/7336ft was a sign, 34 Tornante, 34 Hairpins…after riding 22 I found myself screaming, “No, there’s only another 12!”

It was heavenly, in a totally indulgent two-wheeled petrol-head sort of way!

I am so glad that I brought Harls with me; I really wouldn’t have enjoyed it, or probably even attempted where we rode today, on Big Baby Blue. The more I got into the swing of things, the better my Harls responded, her exhaust seemed to spit contempt at the gradient as she conquered each climb and bend. Yes, she’s a bit of a handful going downhill; the rear brake has a delightful habit of fading as it gets hot or wet, fortunately her engine braking helps out a lot, but hey I’m sort of used to it and wouldn’t have her any other way.

At the top of Passo di Giau is a delightful “Refugio,” sort of cross between a bar, restaurant and hotel. This being the South Tyrol, I went native and enjoyed an “Apfel Strudel und Kaffee” for lunch and very good it was too.

Overall today we topped the following Passes:
Costalungo 1745m
Fedaia 2075m
Di Giau 2230m
Tre Croci 1809m
Falzarego 2105m
Valparolo 2197m
Campolongo 1875m
Gardena 2121m
Sella 2240m
Pordoi 2239m

Not bad for an Old Geezer on a getting on a bit Harley Softail!
Favourites, by a country mile, Di Giau and Pordoi, hairpin heaven.

Was it a good day? You bet is was!

“My uniform is leather
And my power is my age!”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

“You Rode in That?????”

I can almost hear Mrs Dookes saying that when she gets to see some of the photos in this post!

Let me put the record straight before anyone jumps to conclusions about my sanity; I’m not reckless, but sometimes circumstances develop that you just have to deal with and today was one of those.

I woke to wonderful alpine rain, just like yesterday really…except this wasn’t as heavy and there was no wind driving it. There was quite a bit of hanging cloud but Wet is still Wet though!

Checking out of my hotel in Gaschurn, I had a conversation with the receptionist about, yep, the weather and local road conditions. It’s always good to check out what the locals think.

I wanted to ride the Silvretta High Alpine Road, but I didn’t want it to become either an ordeal or dangerous.

The local view was that it would be fine, if a tad cloudy, “ein bisschen bewölkt!” There was the rider, to speak to the staff at the toll booth…

It was turn right from the car park then. Harls seemed happy enough; she’d spent the night in the underground car park and had dried out nicely, her two cylinders burst into life at the first turn of the crankshaft and she sat burbling away nicely, eager for the off. Or do I give that motorbike too much personality credit?

Off we set; the rain had eased enough that I could actually see where I was going, which after yesterday was a bonus. In addition the road surface was delightful!

After a few short miles we arrived at the toll booth and I coughed up the required €12, but just as I was getting my ticket, a car came down the hill covered in snow! I made a comment about this to the toll collector who said that it was ok, the road was clear! Leap of faith time then, let’s go…

The Silvretta Hochalpenstraße, High Alpine Road, is considered one of the most beautiful panoramic roads in the Austrian Alps. It’s just over 22km long and on the West side has 34 hairpins up to the 2,032m/6795feet Bielerhöhe Pass. We were attacking it from the West, tasty!

Originally the road was constructed to assist the construction of a hydro-electric scheme and dam, after the project was completed somebody thought that it would be a good idea to keep the road and open it to the public, I don’t know who that was, but I like them!

Like a lot of alpine roads there’s no mucking about, the climb started almost straight away, just round a bend from the toll booth and “Bang,” welcome to the mountain. Up we went and then the bends started, we were nicely getting into the swing of things when around one of the hairpins we caught up a coach. At first I cursed the thing, particularly as the driver insisted on staying in the middle of the road, no surprise there it was a Swiss coach! Just as I was starting to get a bit impatient about passing this bus, we rode into falling snow and things suddenly got “interesting.”

The bus, that only a turn or two earlier had been a pain, now became very useful. I could ride behind, take my own line through the corners and not have to worry about any oncoming traffic as they were pulling aside to let the bus through! Neat eh? As we got higher the snow got heavier, but with each numbered hairpin passing by I just kept the old girl ticking over and we carefully negotiated the climb.

At the summit we pulled into the car park adjacent to the dam and literally slid to a stand. It did cross my mind that I’m getting too old for all this adrenaline pumping excitement, it only lasted a second though, then I thought …”nah, bring it on!”

Ok, I know that there will be some folk with “Adventure” type bikes reading this and slightly scoffing. Yep, I suppose with your knobbly tyres and “ride on the pegs” approach this little ride would have presented no problem at all, but this is a Harley cruiser we are on, it’s different, very different!

In the way of things these days, the summit has a hotel, restaurant, visitor centre and gift-shop, but hey you can’t pass up the opportunity to use a high altitude loo, can you?

Photos taken, souvenirs purchased and Harls checked over, I started her up and headed on down the Eastern side. We dropped out of the snow pretty quickly, it’s to do with the foehn effect, which I tell you about in another post.

I had thought about riding into Italy via the Timmelsjoch Alpine road, but as this is at 2,474m/8,117ft a fair bit higher than the Silvretta, I exercised caution and chose the Reschen Pass route, which is a mere 1504m/4934ft. Unfortunately, so had most of the other traffic in Austria, Italy and Switzerland and then it rained again.

Just over the top of the pass is the village of The village of Reschen. In 1950 a reservoir was built that flooded part of the old village, all that remains is the bell tower of the old church that rises defiantly from the water. I quite like that.

Dropping down from Reschen would have been great, it’s a brilliant engineered road, but today it was choked with traffic. Further on, near Merano, things really did grind to a halt. It took half an hour to cover four kilometres and half of that was in a tunnel, even more reason to hate tunnels; it was hot, smelly, slippery, fume filled and noisy, but we survived! No chance of a cheeky bit of motorcycle filtering there today either.

Then after a nice blast down the Autostrada to Bolzano, we had another bit of climbing and hairpins to enjoy on the road up to Ritten, where we are staying for a few nights. More about that later, but wow, that road up from Bolzano was fantastic and as its local I’ll be doing it again and again, and maybe once more!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Only 152 miles today, trip total 1089 so far.

Stand By For Action!

It’s been a frustrating summer this year, not just because since the middle of July the weather in Cornwall has been pants, but I’ve been sort of stuck in the land of Dookes H.Q..

Mrs Dookes has been pursuing new and exciting business openings; well she’s excited by it all, I just keep out-of-the-way! For my part it didn’t seem right to clear off on two wheels and leave her with the hassle of running the H.Q. as well as developing her career and managing other stress levels.

So yeah, I’ve been a good Dookes and stayed at home doing the supportive husband bit, but now it’s getting time to ride! Or as Mrs D says,

“Please clear off on two wheels as you are getting to be a major pain in the backside!”

Here’s the plan gang….

Italy is calling again. I’ve said before that I’ve sort of fallen in love with the place; it’s just so….crazy, in a totally bonkers lovely sort of way! It also has some wonderful mountain roads that I still need to ride! The food is great and the language musical, something I’m still working on but getting there slowly….the language that is, I’m totally there with the food!

Now regular Blogonaughts might have spotted that I said “Mountain Roads” and after last year I vowed not to take ‘Baby Blue’ into the high country anytime soon. I’m a man of my word, so on this trip I’m delighted to be riding ‘Harls,’ my beloved Softail Centenary model.

There’s cool and there’s my Harls – Supercool!

Taking ‘Harls’ is a bit of a step back in time, but not in a bad way; it’s also an opportunity to get back to a more stripped back, lightweight, way of touring and I’m really excited about it. True, she’s more basic in the comfort department than the big tourer, but makes up for that with her lighter handling and bags of character, plus she’s a real head turner too!

The plan will start as many of my trips do, with the sea crossing to France from Plymouth. We’ll cut across France towards the Vosges Mountains, where I’ve not been before and do a bit of exploring there, before looping through the Black Forest in Germany; then Switzerland and Austria before the Italian Alps and Dolomites. That should keep us out of mischief for a while anyway! I’m going to try to avoid too many Autoroutes if I possibly can, apart from when I need to cover some serious miles; the idea is to take it easy.

As usual, I’ll be sharing our experiences on this blog and a really hope that you will be able to ride along with us.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’d better go and start to get ‘Harls’ ready….I think that she’s quite looking forward to the trip too! We set sail on Wednesday.

“White lines on the highway rolling out into the night
Got no bag to slow us down
We’re travelling light, travelling light tonight.”

Catch you soon,

Dookes

Lake Como – Flying on Water

Our trip to Bellagio on board MV Milano was relaxed and quite delightful.

Bellagio is one of those “must go to” places that everyone tells you about, my experience is that normally these places disappoint me and yep, you guessed, so did Bellagio!

OK, it’s a nice enough little place, but like many “nice little places” it’s popularity proves its downfall. We found a nice restaurant for lunch and I did manage to find one little alley that wasn’t crammed with shops selling crap or heaving with people!image

Now, I’d been doing a bit of devious planning about our return trip. Where it had taken us two and a half hours to reach Bellagio, I’d figured that forty minutes would be better for the return journey!

You see, Lake Como is one of the few places outside the former Soviet Union where regular Hydrofoil services operate and as regular Blogonaughts know Dookes is rather partial to savouring different modes of transportation!

Years ago I rode the Jetfoil that used to operate between Dover and Oostende, but being an open sea service it was prone to cancellation due to adverse sea conditions. As Lake Como is a tad more sheltered, I was sure that our trip would be more assured!

Because Lake Como is so big, 46km/29 miles long, a high-speed service between the principal towns makes sense. For many years this has been provided by a fleet of Italian built hydrofoil fitted boats, which is pretty apt seeming as how an Italian virtually invented the hydrofoil!

Enrico Forlanini born in Milan on 13 December 1848 was an Italian engineer well-known for tinkering around with various concepts and machines, I think I would have got on well with him! He started playing with hydrofoils in 1898 and by 1911 had a vessel that exceeded 40 mph on Lake Maggiore, just over the hill from Como.

40mph in 1911, on this!

40mph in 1911, on this!

Err, what’s a hydrofoil, Dookes?

Oops! Sorry, I should have explained earlier…

A hydrofoil is best described as the boat equivalent to an aircraft wing and just like the wing of an aircraft provides lift to the aeroplane to make it fly, the hydrofoil wing (which is like a big letter C under the hull of the boat) passing through the water lifts the hull of the boat out of the water. This means that drag is reduced, the vessel moves faster and best of all energy is saved making the whole thing more efficient. On the down-side, hydrofoils are very demanding when it comes to maintenance and that makes running them a very delicate balancing act that most accountants balk at; fortunately, engineers love them and at the end of the day, wonderfully, I’m not an accountant!

Those blasted accountants are unfortunately winning the battle, the ‘foils are gradually being replaced by high-speed catamarans, which though not quite as fast are lot cheaper to build and operate. Anyway, in the meantime, hydrofoils are just so sexy!

Sexy eh?

Sexy eh?

Oh yes, by the way my love affair with hydrofoils can be blamed on that secret agent James Bond 007! In the film “Thunderball,” one of the stars was the “Disco Volant,” a hydrofoil used by the villain Emilio Largo, which obviously was blown-up by Bond in the end!

Disco Volante in "Thunderball."

Disco Volante in “Thunderball.”

Anyway, there we were waiting on the pier at Bellagio for the return service to Como, our tickets for the high-speed service safe in my top pocket. Mrs Dookes is used to me at time like this, I get all excited and stressed up at the same time!

There was quite a crowd, this was a popular service and we probably were not going to be able to pick and choose where we sat, bummer! Once we got on-board, we ducked left and found two seats right at the front of the vessel on the port side (left to the land-lubbers) right ahead of the hydroplane. Excellent!

The hydrofoil the pale blue thing sticking out of the side of the boat.

The hydrofoil the pale blue thing sticking out of the side of the boat.

As we settled into our seats the vessel cast off and the two big 1,400 HP diesel engines propelled us towards the centre of the lake. Safely away from the landing stage the engines spooled up and the hydroplanes began to work, the spray around the windows dropped away as the hull climbed away from the water and we were literally flying above the lake! It’s a bit like being on an aeroplane as you speed down the runway and lift off the ground. I was as excited as anything, Mrs Dookes was less impressed. Boys stuff, I guess!

Looking out of the window at speed, we're flying on that hydrofoil!

Looking out of the window at speed, we’re flying on that hydrofoil!

We skimmed along the lake for around ten minutes before we made our one intermediate stop. Then the process of slowing is very like a water-skier who settles back into the water as speed declines, only in our case it was the hull that dropped back into the water to become a real boat again.

Cut the speed and now the hydrofoil drops the hull back into the water.

Cut the speed and now the hydrofoil drops the hull back into the water.

OK, I admit that the hydrofoil doesn’t have the charm of the more traditional ferries. I love them for what they are, a brilliant example of applied engineering that really does the job very well indeed.

Yes, that’s right it doesn’t take much to make Dookes happy; just a big noisy machine generally!

We sped back to the delightful city of Como with plenty of time to partake of some lovely Italian ice-cream and have a little pause before enjoying a super evening meal in a fantastic little no-nonsense restaurant, but that’s another story!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Travelling in Time – The Lady of The Lake.

When we decided to visit Lago di Como I did some research about the ferry boats that travel on the lake. You can imagine my delight to discover that there is a paddle steamer, named “Concordia,” that has only recently been restored and which operates regular Sunday excursions from Como. Plans were put into place for a day of steam cruising!

Imagine my disappointment when I arrived in Como to find that the weekend’s excursion had been cancelled – bummer!

All was not lost though, Mrs D and I decided that on the Sunday we would take a trip to the famous village of Bellagio and probably grab some lunch. Looking at the ferry schedule, we had a couple of options, but arriving at Como ferry terminal all bets were off – a major change of plan came into play.

You see, moored against the jetty ready for a 10:00 hrs departure up the lake was the classic 1904 built “Milano.”P1070317

This delightful vessel has quite a history. She was built by N. Odero of Genoa, taken apart and moved to Lake Como where she was resembled and launched into the lake. As built she was a side paddle steamer of 43.2 metres length, but in 1926 she was converted to a diesel-powered motor vessel with screw propulsion and as such has served on the lake ever since.

To say that she is much-loved is a bit of an understatement, basically she is the flagship of the lake ferries and very much in the hearts of the lake side communities.

To see her tied up ready for the morning “end to end” service certainly got my heart racing and fortunately, just before I bought two tickets, Mrs Dookes said “yes!” To be honest, I think she was relieved that it wasn’t a steam-powered vessel, with all the soot, smoke and hot oil that can entail!

We grabbed a pair of seats on the forecastle deck and settled in for the ride. Two minutes later I was on my feet and off exploring; which was how it stayed for the two and a half hour cruise to Bellagio!

I loved every minute of it and to be fair, for different reasons, so did Mrs Dookes!

The old girl is obviously well loved and cared for by her crew, “Milano” that is, not Mrs D! Her beautiful wooden weather decks smelling delightfully of fresh teak oil, whilst brass work was well buffed and polished with the odd trace of brasso left here and there. All companionway steps still have the original cast gunmetal anti-slip plates that proudly proclaim the vessels name “Milano” and all of these have obviously been cared for too, a nice touch.P1070432

The crew themselves seemed a happy bunch and obviously loved their charge, their pride especially noticeable at the many stops that we made as we cross-crossed the lake heading north.P1070438

“Milano” rides the lake waters beautifully, her straight stem parting the water like a keenly sharp knife whilst her counter stern is pure class. Despite the cross winds and at times enthusiastic helm work she is a real lady, without any nasty rolling or pitching – not bad for over 100 years old and without any stabilisers.P1070442

She’s obviously a bit of a handful to manoeuvre when on-shore breezes pin her against the landing stage. “Milano” is not fitted with bow thrusters like modern vessels, but with teamwork from the mooring crew and skilful handling in the wheelhouse it’s not too much of a problem that a bit of time, patience and experience can’t deal with.P1070443

Oh, I forgot to mention, I fell totally in love with this old lady of the lake! The two and a half hours trip to Bellagio and lunch flew by and if it hadn’t been that she filled to passenger capacity at the last two stops I’d have stayed on board all day!

MV Milano, travelling through time.

MV Milano, travelling through time.

As we disembarked it was with more than a slight twinge in my heart that I watched my beloved “Milano” slip away north for the rest of her day’s work. Such a classy lady!P1070462

….and the trip back?
Well that’s another story!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

History Occurred Here

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.

Gateway to Villa Belmont

Gateway to Villa Belmont

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.

Today the location of Mussolini and Petacci’s execution is marked by a small black cross in the gateway to the villa in Mezzegra.image

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.

As you can see, it’s really very understated and a few flowers, now shrivelled have been left.image

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.

Dookes