This post continues the chronicles of Steve Bridge’s class trip to Rome.
Today, we took the train to Anzio, a coastal city 30 miles south of Rome. Known as Antium in ancient times, Anzio was the birthplace of Nero, the emperor accused of burning down Rome.
For the students, the main goal of this excursion was to bask in the Mediterranean sun. Although I always enjoy a trip to the beach, I had another reason for wanting to visit Anzio.
On January 22, 1944, 71 years ago, British and American troops invaded Anzio during World War II. My Grandfather Norman (Nonno) Langevin, was one of them. The invasion, “Operation Shingle,” was devised by Winston Churchill. It took the Germans by surprise and ended up lasting four grueling months. Nonno, the same age as a typical Saint Joe’s student at the time, was a long gun operator. He used to tell us of his very close brush with death when a bomb landed right next to him but never detonated. After that event, he counted himself very lucky to be alive and was assured that someone above was looking out for him. It should come as no big surprise that while in Anzio, we ate gelato. We stopped by “Bar Gelateria Mennella” which has been open since 1898. Inside, the owner had hung pictures of troops eating at the very same establishment during World War II.
It was such an overwhelming feeling knowing that my Nonno could have eaten gelato at the very same place 71 years ago!
After lunch and gelato, we spent several hours on the beach where we searched for seashells and waded in the surf.
I was able to spend some time pondering what it must have been like for my Nonno, a fresh-faced 20-something, to risk his life in a foreign land in defense of his country. He passed away in 2007 and I relished today’s opportunity to remember him and appreciate his life.
Submitted by Camilla Fecteau (faculty)