Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Italy's Unknown Soldier

Contributed by Steve Miller

Italy's Unknown Soldier lies at Rome's magnificent Victor Emmanuel II Monument, named after the first king of a unified Italy. Officially it's known as Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland), located in the center of Rome.

Italy's Unknown was chosen on 28 October 1921, in the Basilica of Aquileia by Maria Bergamas, mother of Antonio Bergamas whose body was not recovered. She chose the coffin from among 11 unidentified bodies of members of the Italian Armed Forces whose remains had been retrieved from various areas of the front. Passing in front of the first nine coffins, she screamed her son's name and slumped to the ground before the tenth. The bodies not selected were buried at Aquileia's Military Cemetery.

Victor Emmanuel II Monument

The Unknown lies in a place of honor beneath the statue of the goddess Roma. Official ceremonies take place annually on the occasion of the Italian Liberation Day (25 April), the Italian Republic Day (2 June), and the National Unity and Armed Forces Day (4 November), during which the president of the Italian Republic and the highest offices of the state pay homage with the deposition of a laurel wreath in memory of the fallen and missing Italians in the wars.

He was awarded Italy's highest military decoration, the Gold Medal of Military Valour. On the front door of the internal crypt are words written by King Victor Emmanuel III: "Unknown the name—its spirit dazzles—wherever Italy is—with a voice of tears and pride—they say—innumerable mothers:—it is my son". An honor guard selected from Italy's various armed services is present, alternating every 10 years.

My thanks to Angelo Romano for his assistance. Grazie, Paisano!


  1. I'm wondering if Italy have a separate memorial to its WW2 dead?

    1. Yeah it's in the shape of the meathook they hung Mussolini on.