The morning of Day Two of the Rossano Freedom Trail was dedicated to the opening of the new war memorial at Chiesa di Rossano. The monument commerates Operation Galia, a SAS mission, and the seven aircrew who died when their supply plane crashed in Zeri in December 1944. The new monument is located outside the old school house in Chiesa, which now belongs to Brian Lett and is the base for the Rossano Freedom Trail walks.
The ceremony was organised by the Comune of Zeri and was led by the Deputy Mayor. The Alpini came to pay homage, as did the Carabiniere and the Pontremoli Naval Division, based in La Spezia.
Brian Lett represented his father’s Battaglione Internazionale and Rob Hann, whose father took part in Operation Galia, represented the SAS. Fl Lt Gareth Hare, who has been involved in airdrop missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, represented the British Military Attaché, and Graham Chapman, the deputy leader of Nottingham City Council, represented the home town of the two British airmen who died in the crash. Sadly, no US officials could make the event.
Many local villagers supported the event, as did local expats. I was privileged to meet a local lady who remembers hiding potatoes in her pinafore and taking them up to Brian Lett’s men when she was just a small girl. A local man with a marvellous Cockney accent told us how he accompanied his father up the mountain to visit the partisans. His job was to loudly call his dog if he spotted any Germans.
After the ceremony and refreshments provided by the comune in the local bar, the walking party set out, accompanied by Fl Lt Gareth Hare. A stiff walk up the ridge, down the other side with a pause at the old bridge near Noce, and then a climb up to Due Santi through the woods on the old partisan trail.
We make a short detour to visit the deserted village of Formentara, which dates back to the 16th century and was occupied during the alpeggio – the time when livestock was moved up to the summer pastures. We marvel that so many of the houses still remain. We peek through the windows of the church, which looks like it is still used occasionally and try and picture the dancing that took place in the piazza during the summer feste.
Slightly below the height of the new wind turbines on Monte Colombo, we move on to a partisan monument, set in a tranquil glade of trees besides a stream. As the evening light streams through the trees, sheep dogs round up the cows grazing near by. The tinkle of cow bells in the crisp evening air remains unchanged from the bells the partisans would have heard 70 years ago.
With sadness and deep respect, we reflect on the fallen men, as Brian lays the wreath and tells us the story of their execution in August 1944.
We spend the night at the ski lodge at Due Sante. We stoically endure freezing cold showers while the hot water system is being repaired and at dinner fortify ourselves with a spectacular feast of local dishes
Very approximate statsDuration (including stops): 5 hours 45 min Distance: 14 kilometres Vertical up: 1,170 metres Vertical down: 646 metres .