Saturday, December 26, 2020

Monumento ai Caduti Partigiani – One Story of Resistance

Background | 1944 | Memorials | Photos

The Monumento ai Caduti Partigiani in Bergamo.A sign explaining what happened on September 26th, 1944.
Left: The Monumento ai Caduti Partigiani in Bergamo.
Right: A sign explaining what happened on September 26th, 1944.

Background

As we wind down a challenging year for the world and democracy in the USA, it takes stories from the past to shake us out of our daze and remind us of what we have in front of us and to not take it for granted. One of those stories for us is one we learned about recently on a hike around Bergamo. The story unfolded on September 26th, 1944 in the hills just behind Bergamo's upper city. On that day, nine young Italians were killed. Five were killed in a gun fight in the hills and four were executed in the nearby hamlet of Petosino. This monument we visited is a tribute to them.

The name Monumento ai caduti partigiani translates at the Monument to the Partisans. A partisan is "a member of an irregular military force formed to oppose control of an area by a foreign power or by an army of occupation by some kind of insurgent activity." In this case, the partigiani honored by the monument were fighting against the occupation of Italy by Germany between September 1943 and April 1945. The partigiani originated in the 1920s, but for our story here, we are in the middle of World War II, about a year after Italy changed sides and joined the Allies.

The partigiani were an important part of the Italian resistance movement, which was a mosaic of various groups with different goals, but more or less aligned to kick out the Germans. And they succeeded with the help of Allied forces. The nine partisans in this story belonged to a group called the Brigate Fiamme Verdi (Green Flame Brigade) of predominantly Roman Catholic orientation. Other groups in the resistance include anarchists, communists, and socialists.

1944

In the early morning hours of a September 26th, 1944, partisans of the Green Flame Brigade (including the nine later killed) raided a German supply point in Curno with the hopes of stealing much needed arms, ammunition, and other equipment. The raid didn't go as planned. The partisans expected that there would be a get-away vehicle they could also steal to help them escape with the loot, but unfortunately, there wasn't.  So, the group of partisans beat a retreat on foot to the hills, dragging the loot with them.

The hills they escaped to are the ones northwest of Bergamo's upper city in the area where the monument is located. Specifically, the partisans ended up on the crest of the hill behind Madonna della Castagna.  For an example of walk with this church as your destination, see the post A Walk from Bergamo to Madonna della Castagna.

So the partisans are on the ridge of the forested hill and realize that they are surrounded by German forces. Some of the partisans with papers in order are told to escape. Four of those were later captured and executed. The 15 or so remaining on the hill fought the Germans. Five died in battle and the rest escaped.  As suggested by the monument's information panel, the bodies of killed partisans (in battle and executed) were left out in the street for a day as a warning to others about joining the resistance. Only the day after, would anyone dare come to collect the bodies and take them for burial.

Memorials

We used to wonder about the number of war memorials in Italy, from big ones like the Parco delle Rimembranze (La Rocca), to a moderate-sized monument like this monument hidden in the hills, to a small plaques we have seen countless times hiking. Whatever the size, they seemed to us like heavy reminders to have around.

A recent book helped to understand the memorials a little bit better. The book is "On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century" by Timothy Snyder, where the author describes two antihistorical ways of viewing history, the politics of inevitability and the politics of eternity. In short, the politics of inevitability is "the sense that history could move in only one direction: toward liberal democracy." And the politics of eternity "is a longing for past moments that never really happened during epochs that were, in fact, disastrous." We realized that we were very guilty of the politics of inevitability. With the step backwards in the last four years in the US and elsewhere in the world, we struggled to understand what was happening. Because we subscribed to the politics of inevitability we couldn't understand the regression in liberal democracy. We learn from our past mistakes and we don't repeat them, right?  Societies move to more inclusion not less, right? If so, why is this happening.

So on this sunny and peaceful Sunday morning, standing in front of this monument, it dawned on us why these monuments exist. They are here to remind us of the past so that we don't make the mistake of the politics of inevitability. Just because something horrible happened in the past doesn't necessarily mean it won't happen again. As Mark Twain said: "History doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes." To this point, see the NOEMA article "Welcome to the Turbulent Twenties".

Photos

Views of the Monumento ai Caduti Partigiani.Views of the Monumento ai Caduti Partigiani.Views of the Monumento ai Caduti Partigiani.
Views of the Monumento ai Caduti Partigiani.


The three arches of the Monumento ai Caduti Partigiani on a hill above Petosino, near Bergamo.The three arches of the Monumento ai Caduti Partigiani on a hill above Petosino, near Bergamo.
The three arches of the Monumento ai Caduti Partigiani on a hill above Petosino, near Bergamo.

Information about the men killed and their route that led them to the hills.Information about the men killed and their route that led them to the hills.Signage in hills behind Bergamo indicating how to find the monument.
Left and center: Information about the men killed and their route that led them to the hills.
Right: Signage in hills behind Bergamo indicating how to find the monument.


Traccia Partigiana or "trail of the partisans" sign lists the partisans.
Traccia Partigiana or "trail of the partisans" sign lists the partisans.

One approach to the Monument ai Caduti Partigiani is from the Greenway del Morla bike trail with views toward Monte Linzone and Resegone.Walking back to the Bergamo, you can pass along the fascinating Via del Rione and pass by the Case Moroni.
Left: One approach to the Monument ai Caduti Partigiani is from the Greenway del Morla bike trail with views toward Monte Linzone and Resegone.
Right: Walking back to the Bergamo, you can pass along the fascinating Via del Rione and pass by the Case Moroni.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

A Walk from Bergamo to Madonna della Castagna

Via Madonna della Castagna with pollarded trees.The façade of church of Madonna della Castagna.The walk tracks presented in ViewRanger.Via Fontana connects to Via Madonna della Castagna.View from Via Monte Bastia looking toward “l’infinito”.The trail in the hills behind Madonna della Castagana.
Upper left: Via Madonna della Castagna with pollarded trees.
Upper Center: The façade of church of Madonna della Castagna.
Upper Right: The walk tracks presented in ViewRanger.
Lower Left: Via Fontana connects to Via Madonna della Castagna.
Lower Center: View from Via Monte Bastia looking toward “l’infinito”.
Lower Right: The trail in the hills behind Madonna della Castagana.

The walking options in and around Bergamo are endless. Today, we headed up to the hills "behind" Bergamo, which would be technically northwest of the upper city, to get out after days of gray inclement weather.

Today's hike clocked in at about 13 km (8 miles), with an elevation gain of 641 m (2100 feet), and a total time of just under 3 hours. A perfect late afternoon amble. Our start and end point was Piazzetta Delfino and our turn-around point was Madonna della Castagna.

Madonna della Castagna – officially called Santuario della Beata Vergine della Castagna – is a church located at the foot of the hills stretching southeast to northwest from Bergamo to Sombreno. The church is on the west side of the spine enjoying a sunny location on the edge of beech and chestnut forest. The prettiest approach to the church is on the small country lane flanked with trees called Via Madonna della Castagna. (Italy's roads generally are named from what the bring you to or from. We love that.)

Behind the church, you can pick up a number of trails that take you to the crest of the hill from which you can head southeast back to Bergamo's upper city or northwest to Sombreno, another church.  We descended from the hill to the church and took Via Madonna della Castagna back to home base.

Madonna della Castagna is said to have been build by a farmer who was busy working in his field when the Madonna appeared asking for a castagna (a chestnut) and he said no way and she plopped a church down on his land as retribution….well not really, she kindly expressed that an oratory be build and the farmer complied. Now if only that Madonna would make more appearances and tell people to wear masks.



The entrance to a cappella on Via Fontana.The Chiesa Parrocchiale di San Rocco Confessore sits on above via Fontana.Via Colle dei Roccoli.The backside of Madonna della Castagna.
Left: The entrance to a cappella on Via Fontana.
Left Center: The Chiesa Parrocchiale di San Rocco Confessore sits on above via Fontana.
Right Center: Via Colle dei Roccoli.
Right: The backside of Madonna della Castagna.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Stinking Bob – On the Wall

Photos of Geranium robertianum in Bergamo.Photos of Geranium robertianum in Bergamo.Photos of Geranium robertianum in Bergamo.

Photos of Geranium robertianum in Bergamo.

Stinking Bob is one name for Geranium robertianum and a plant we’ve observed occasionally on the walls of Bergamo. It's not as common as other plants (see list below).

Our first experience with Stinking Bob was in Seattle in our yard. We ripped out a lot of it in our yard in Seattle where it seemed to magically reappear overnight. Half the biomass in our yard was for a time Stinking Bob and it's friend Arum italicum. Stinking Bob is on the non-regulated Class B noxious weed list in King County, which includes Seattle. 

G. robertianum is a common species of Geranium native to Europe, and parts or Asia, North America, and North Africa. Stinking Bob gets around.

G. robertainum goes by many common names and we prefer a conflation of two of them, Stinking Bob and Herb-Robert, to come up with Stinking Robert, in honor of a friend of ours. So why "stinking"? It's because this geranium has a distinct smell when the leaves are crushed or even brushed up against. It is described as displeasing, but we would say displeasing depends on the nose of the beholder.

So here we are a continent away with our old friend except this time we just walking by and not thinking of ripping it out. On Via Ramera in Bergamo to be exact. Hello Stinking Robert, nice to see you again.

A list of our wall plants of Bergamo thus far:

  • Geranium robertianum - Stinking Bob
  • Erigeron karvinskianus (post) - Mexican Fleabane
  • Asplenium ceterach (post) - Rustyback Fern
  • Asplenium ruta-muraria (post) - Wall Rue
  • Asplenium trichomanes (post) - Maidenhair spleenwort
  • Parietaria diffusa (post) - Pellitory
  • Cymbalaria muralis (post) - Pennywort


Photos of Geranium robertianum in Bergamo.

A photo of Geranium robertianum in Bergamo.