Thursday, August 08, 2013

July 22: A Trip to Montecassino

We took a tour to Montecassino on our last day in Rome. The bus ride was about 2 hours from our hotel and we stopped for a coffee break at one of the Autogrill (rest stop) just before arriving. The drive to the Abbey was uphill on a narrow road with lots of switchbacks. The view from the top was spectacular.

Our tour guide gave a brief history of the monastery which was founded by St. Benedict about the year 529. The Abbey of Montecassino has been destroyed and rebuilt four times.  Most recently it was  the site of the Battle of Montecassino in 1944, when the building was destroyed by Allied bombing and has since been rebuilt according to the original plan. Our tour included the only part of the Abbey not destroyed in 1944,  as well as the crypt and the basilica. The grounds include beautiful orchards and gardens that are tended by the monks. They sell "natural products" ranging from olive oil, jams, teas, and creams and lotions.
Courtyard garden at the Abbey

Vineyard and garden

The cloister at the Abbey

Inside the Basilica

The statue of St. Benedict  from 1736

We also visited the Cassino War Cemetery, the second largest Second World War cemetery in Italy. There are more than 4000 graves, 855 are Canadian. There was time to visit the large cement monuments which have the names of the deceased carved into them and walk through the long rows of white crosses and reflect on the many lives that ended much too soon.
The rows of grave markers

A view from the entrance

Many Canadians are buried here

When we returned to Rome there was time for some shopping, strolling the busy streets and then dinner overlooking the Roman Forum.

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