We will be starting with the town I know most about where a lot of my family live and where I have lived while young myself. If any non Italians have heard of the town it is usually the generation who lived through the war, the second world one, and know of the Anzio beach landings. Many men died there in 1944, Germans, British but mostly Americans. Not so many Italians themselves as they had been evacuated out of the town before the landings. They lived where they could during this time, most in caves nearby, some of my family even slept in a large wine barrel for a while. There is a lot of recorded history regarding the military aspects of this place but not of the inhabitants themselves, less well known is how the residents, along with most of the other Italians of the country were starving, literally down to skin and bone yet took in soldiers and cared for them if they were injured - soldiers of all nationalities. Their allegiances were meant to be for the Fascists yet so many Italians never wanted to follow the Germans into the war, so many were not Fascists but the opposite, Communists. Families were often torn between the two, mine included with my grandmother following one side my grandfather the other, but the main thing on their minds was not winning the war, it was "where will the next meal come in, how do we protect our children, where do we sleep tonight".
Anzio now is very different, almost completely rebuilt as so much had been bombed and destroyed, it's back to being a holiday town for the people of Rome in the hot Summer months, just as it has been for the last 2,000 years. Nero had his Summer palace there, the place where he allegedly played the violin while Rome burned. The legends go that there are tunnels leading from Rome to his ruins some of it under the sea, something that many of the youth of Anzio over the years have tried and failed to find. Beaches, lots of fish restaurants, weekly mercato full fresh and inexpensive fruit and vegetables, bustling Piazza next to the busy harbour, not a huge amount to do other than walk around meet your friends and acquaintances and pass the time with them and a caffe or glass of water.
It's not a 'pretty' town, not like a hilltop one or a medieval one set in the deep countryside of rolling hills like in Tuscany, but the people are happy, kind, expressive and welcoming. It's my favourite of all Italian towns, I know I'm prejudiced but why not, it really is the best.