The epicentre of the narrative shifts to the history of Cassino and the martyr villages: the protagonist is the war. On 10 September 1943, just before 9 a.m., the Allied bombers, the Flying Fortresses, appeared over Cassino.

It was immediately clear that this air raid would not be an isolated incident. The area was suddenly caught between two fires: the German one and the Allied one. The armies took advantage of the terrain: mountains with no paths and natural caves.

Fields of anti-personnel mines and nets were laid, the course of the Rapido River was diverted and the area in front of the abbey became a junction of the Gustav Line. The operation cost 16,000 dead and wounded.

On 25 October ’43 the Allies crossed the Volturno. But the battle for Cassino would last from 15 January to 18 May ’44.

This area, once again in history, was the last natural defence in the clash between two armies. The Germans lost positions but quickly regained them: the Gustav Line was designed not only to resist but also to allow rapid counterattacks. It was the largest land battle ever fought in Europe. A large part of the population, caught between two fires, abandoned their villages. Many went north, others south, beyond the Allied lines.

Some sought refuge in the mountains. A few hundred in the monastery. A life-size optical theatre will recount the last hours of the Abbey of Montecassino, a place considered by all as sacred, inviolable and the heritage of all humanity.

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