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Italy 2023

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80th Anniversary Italian Campaign
Commemorative Tour

The Pipes and Drums Italy 2023 journey began in the present-day peaceful town of Ortona. Located on the Adriatic coast, the beauty of Ortona stands in stark contrast to its past. As the band walked through its streets, it was hard to imagine that this town was once the scene of one of the fiercest battles of the Italian Campaign. In December 1943, Ortona was a crucial objective for the Allies, particularly the Canadians and the British, as they fought against the German forces. The battle was part of a larger campaign to push the German army northwards from Italy. In the heart of Ortona, the band explored areas where the Loyal Edmonton Regiment and the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada engaged in brutal urban combat. The “Mouse-Holing” technique, where soldiers broke through walls to advance from house to house, was extensively used here.

The tour was both an educational and commemorative experience, allowing band members to learn about and pay tribute to the historical events and individuals associated with the Battle of Ortona and its neighbuoring villages.

The first day of the tour started at the Sant' Apollinare lookout, which provided a view of the River Moro. The tour then moved on to San Leonardo and San Donato, where lunch was enjoyed at Casetta di Tamarete, and they had the opportunity to meet Guido Berardi. During this meal, Guido Berardi explained the story of Casa Berardi Gully. Later the band performed at a monument which was dedicated to Paul Triquet, Canada's first Victoria Cross recipient of the Italian Campaign. This monument overlooks the gully, which had significant importance in the battle's history.

On the second day the band departed for Cesena, where they played a tribute to Smokey Smith, another Victoria Cross recipient, in Piazza del Popolo. This was followed by a short ceremony with greetings from the mayor. The tour continued to Pievesestina on the River Savio which was the spot where Smokey Smith won his Victoria Cross.

Lunch was enjoyed in Cesenatico on the Porto Canale, which was designed by Leonardo da Vinci. This provided an opportunity for band members to appreciate both historical and culinary aspects of the region.

The Bunker Tour with archaeologist Walter Cortesi was an educational experience where the group learned about the historical significance of the area. The mayor of Cesenatico greeted the band and a lone piper played a tribute to the town, continuing the warm reception and cultural exchange.

The next stop was Coriano Ridge War Cemetery, where homage was paid to the 427 Canadians buried there with a solemn and respectful ceremony.

The day ended with a wonderful wine-tasting dinner at Cantina Nicodemi. Owners Elena and Alessandro provided an unforgettable cultural and gastronomic Italian cuisine and wine experience for the band members.

Day three began with a departure for San Pietro Avellana, where they visited the Rainbow Monument which was erected by the local community to honor the men of the West Nova Scotia Regiment buried there. It signifies the gratitude and respect of the community towards the Canadian soldiers.

During the visit to San Pietro Avellana, band members met with the local community, fostering a connection between the tour participants and residents. They also visited the local war museum, which showcased artifacts and history related to the war and the soldiers.

Lunch was enjoyed at Ristorante Sottosopra in Castel di Sangro, which provided a chance to savour local cuisine. Near the restaurant, a solo piper played a tribute at the civilian cenotaph. This musical tribute was another solemn and respectful gesture to remember those who lost their lives during the war.

Later in the day, the tour stopped at Moro River to pay homage to the 1,375 identified Canadians who rest there. This cemetery visit was a moment for reflection and remembrance of the fallen soldiers.

Day four continued to be a meaningful and eventful day, with a mix of cultural experiences and commemorations. The day began with an appointment with Emiliano Bozzelli, the Mayor of San Vito Chietino. The band played at Belvedere Marconi, a promontory that offered a spectacular view of the sea and Ortona in the distance. The performance provided an opportunity to appreciate the natural beauty of the area while paying tribute to historical events. Lunch was enjoyed at Punta La Fornace, whose owner is Canadian.

The band was joined by one of the security guards from the Rome Embassy and a member of the Brussels embassy. These individuals were involved in running the "Ortona Challenge" with band members the next day, which provided a collaborative and friendly international effort.

The people of Ortona eagerly awaited the band along the parade route from the Christmas Dinner Church to Piazza degli Eroi Canadesi and the Price of Peace monument. The Mayor of Ortona greeted the band in this square, with a warm welcome and appreciation from the local community.

On October 15th, the band began the day with an early morning start at the Ortona Challenge – Making History Matter, held near the Ortona cathedral. This event involved several band members participating in a run that made three laps of the town, symbolizing the endurance and spirit of the soldiers who fought there.

The day continued with lunch at Tapanì, where the group was joined by Eugenia Annovazzi, the granddaughter of Philip Seagram, the first Canadian officer killed in WWII. This meeting added a personal and poignant touch to the tour, connecting the past with the present generation.

Day six began with a trip to Roccasecca, where the band had the opportunity to meet the mayor and their friends Roberto Molle and Alessandro Campagna from the Associazione Battaglia di Cassino - Centro Studi e Ricerche. This meeting involved discussions related to the tour, historical research, and their shared interests in military history. A tribute was made to John Keefer Mahony, another Victoria Cross recipient. Following the tribute, the band laid a wreath at the Battle of the Melfa monument to show respect and remembrance for those who fought and died in battles. The photos below taken on day six are courtesy or our friend Tommaso Marsella.

The next day the tour proceeded to Cassino, where they visited the Winterline Museum in Venafro. This museum focuses on the history and events related to the Winter Line, a German defensive line during World War II. Visiting the museum provided valuable insights into the wartime history of the region. Following the museum visit, the band had dinner with Luciano Bucci, the founder of the museum where they discussed the museum's mission and objectives, as well as connecting with someone passionate about preserving historical memory.

The tour then moved to the abbey of Montecassino, a significant location in the history of World War II. They were greeted by the abbot, which involved discussions about the role of the abbey during the war and its historical significance. A performance took place on the Chiostro del Bramante, an open courtyard within the abbey. A guided tour of the abbey followed the performance. This tour provided insights into the abbey's history, architecture, and its role as a pivotal site during the Battle of Monte Cassino.

The next stop was Pofi, where the group heard the story of how Antonio Graziano Ferraro asked the Canadians to save the people of the village from the Goumiers. This story recounted a heroic act during wartime and highlighted the connection between Canadians and the local Italian communities.

On the last day of the tour the band travelled to Rome to visit the Rome War Cemetery and had the opportunity to meet with members of the Canadian War Graves Commission staff. The Canadian War Graves Commission is responsible for maintaining the graves and memorials of Canadian soldiers who died in service. The band was privileged to meet with the Canadian Ambassador to Italy, Elissa Golberg. Ambassadors play a crucial role in representing their countries abroad, fostering diplomatic relations, and promoting cultural exchange. Meeting with the Canadian Ambassador added an official and diplomatic aspect to the tour. The also met with Canadian Defence Attaché Boisjoli. A Defence Attaché is a military officer assigned to represent their country's armed forces in a foreign country.  

As the tour came to an end, the members of the band reflected on the lessons of history. The quiet streets of Ortona and surrounding villages, once a war zone, now stand as a symbol of peace and remembrance. They leave with a deeper understanding of the sacrifices made and the importance of preserving these memories for future generations.

The video below was produced by Edmonton Police Service Corporate Communications to highlight the connections between the citizens of Edmonton and the Battle of Ortona.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Italy 2023 Gallery

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St. Apolinaire

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Ccasa Berardi

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Casa Berardi

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Italian Veterans in Cesena

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Casa Berardi Landscape

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Pievesestina on the River Savio - Smoky Smith Battle

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Cesena Town Square

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Cesean Town Square

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Coriano Ridge Cemetery

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Coriano Ridge War Cemetery

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Dinner and wine tasting at Cantina Nicodemi

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Mini band performance after dinner and wine tasting at Cantina Nicodemi

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Caatina Nicodemi winery and restaurant

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San Pietro Avelano Overlook Photo

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Drummers with town folk in San Pierto Avelano

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Sgt. Perry musing at Moro River Cemetery

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Prince of Peace Monument in Ortona

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Moro River Cemetery

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San Pietro Avelano with Pipe Sgt. Gulinowsky

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San Pietro Avelana memorial to West Nova Scotia Regiment

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Townfolk of San Pietro Avelano

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School kids in San Pietro Avelano

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School Kids in San Pietro Avelano

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San Pietro Avelano Presentation with Band Officer McIntyre

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Band with a local police officer in San Vito Chietino

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Retired members of Pipes & Drums in San Vito Chietino

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Playing out of San Vito Chietino

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Children in San Vito Chietino

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San Vito Chientino

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Presentation in San Vito Chietino

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Belvedere Marconi San Vito Chietino

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Trabocco Punta Fornac Restaurant

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View towards Ortona from San Vito Chietino

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Mayor of San Vito Chietino

Refurbished Tank with our tour guide Angela

Refurbished Tank with our tour guide Angela

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Roccasecca

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Roccasecca

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Roccasecca

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Laying of wreath at Battle of Melfa monument

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Laying of wreath at Battle of Melfa monument

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Laying of wreath at Battle of Melfa monument

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Playing in the Abby at Montecassino

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On Parade in Montecassino

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Montecassino

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Official Tour Photo Montecassino

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