2023 Italian Campaign
Canadian Battlefield Tour
The WWII Battlefields & the Famous Culture of Italy
2023 Italian Campaign Canadian Battlefield & Remembrance Tour
The WWII Battlefields & the Famous Culture of Italy
At a glance
October 16-30, 2023 • Sicily - Italy • 15 days
Syracuse • Catania • Salerno • Cassino • Rome • Ortona • Ravenna • Venice
Bark West Beach • Monte Assoro • Liri Valley • Montecassino • Melfa River • Ortona • Casa Berardi • Moro River Valley • Coriano Ridge • Savio River • Commonwealth War Cemeteries at Agira, Cassino and Moro River • scroll down to see complete details
Your guide for this amazing tour is Mark Zuehlke, one of Canada's best-known historians and author of the award-winning Canadian Battle Series, each volume of which focuses on a battle or campaign fought by the Canadian Army in World War II.
Mark has written extensively on the Canadian contribution to the Italian Campaign, and is uniquely qualified to lead you on your journey.
Monday October 16
We depart from Canada for our overnight transatlantic flight to Italy, except for those who choose to leave sooner to extend their trip. Where available, guests on the group flight will enjoy the luxury of a premium airport departure lounge.
Tuesday October 17
Upon arrival at Catania Airport we travel south to our hotel in Syracuse, for our first evening and our Welcome Dinner. Overnight Syracuse - hotel tba. [D]
Wednesday October 18
This morning we begin our tour of the battlefields where it all started, at the landing site code named 'Bark West Beach' at Pachino. In the early morning hours of July 10, 1943 the amphibious assault went in. For the 1st Canadian Division the invasion of Sicily was the first major campaign of WWII - Operation Husky. We discuss the landings right at the water's edge, and then move into Pachino to visit the plaques on the local school.
After landing against Italian coastal units the Canadian troops moved inland through the dusty summer heat. We follow their route to Grammichele, where on July 15 they came up against the elite Hermann Göring Division who put up a strong defense before relinquishing the town. We pause here for lunch with local-made organic Sicilian wine.
We continue inland revisiting the efforts of our troops as they engaged the increasingly determined German units, who fought tough delaying actions from vantage points of towering villages and almost impregnable hill positions. Overnight Catania - hotel tba. [B,L]
Thursday October 19
We begin along the Dittaino River to review the progress of the Canadian Army thus far. It's then a short drive, and steep climb, to ascend Monte Assoro to visit the spot where the Canadians made their legendary night assault - and to take in the awe-inspiring view of the Sicilian countryside.
Following lunch, we make our way to Agira where after five days of hard fighting, at heavy cost, enemy resistance was overcome and a route opened to Adrano, and with it, the closing of the Sicilian campaign. We end our tour of Sicily with a solemn visit to Agira Canadian War Cemetery and the final resting place of 489 young Canadians. Overnight Catania - hotel tba. [B,L]
Friday October 20
We set out again on the path following the Canadian Army, crossing the Strait of Messina to recount the first battles on mainland Italy as we make our way ‘up the boot.’ Overnight Salerno - hotel tba. [B,L]
Saturday October 21
On Day Six we approach our destination of Cassino from the south, passing in the shadow of Monte La Difensa and recalling the famous achievements of the First Special Service Force.
Following a visit to the museum at San Pietro Infine we continue along the valley and then ascend a little mountain village to hold a breathtaking view across the floor of the Liri Valley, the scene of heavy fighting for Canada in 1944. Overnight Cassino - hotel tba. [B,L]
Sunday October 22
Our focus today is the Liri Valley and Canada’s attack upon the formidable Hitler Line. We stop at the monument at Kingsmill Bridge and also at the Rapido River outlook. Then it’s down to the valley floor and the battleground at Forme d’Aquino. The morning concludes with the 25-lbr. monument atop the village of Pontecorvo.
In the afternoon we pay our respects at Melfa River, the site where Canada was awarded the second of three Victoria Crosses during the Italian campaign. Overnight Cassino - hotel tba. [B,L]
Monday October 23
We make a couple of short stops at points of interest at the exit of the Liri Valley, then it’s onward to the historic city of Rome for two nights. Overnight Rome - hotel tba. [B,L]
Tuesday October 24
Enjoy a full free day at your leisure in Rome. Overnight Rome - hotel tba. [B]
Wednesday October 25
We depart Rome for an relaxing trip through the scenic Apennine Mountains, to the small town of Ortona on the east coast. Overlooking the beautiful Adriatic Sea the medieval town is now a pleasant place to visit, but in 1944 it was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the war. Here Canadian troops inched forward along the Moro River against repeated German counter-attacks. Finally entering the town, our soldiers encountered fanatical resistance in a battle that would come to be known as Little Stalingrad. A walking tour through the central streets of Ortona helps paint a vivid picture.
We stop at The Gully, and at Sterlin's Castle, and also at Casa Berardi where Capt. Paul Triquet earned his Victoria Cross ... before concluding the day at the Moro River Canadian War Cemetery, our largest cemetery in Italy where 1376 young men await our visit. Overnight Ortona - hotel tba. [B,L]
Thursday October 26
After breakfast we continue our journey north along the Adriatic coast and visit the monument at Point 204. Following lunch we stop at Coriano Ridge to remember the twenty-eight day clash that took place in August and September 1944. Here the Germans had constructed the formidable Gothic Line, the most powerful series of heavily fortified positions that had been thrown in the path of the Canadian army. Months of hard fighting took place before the Germans finally relinquished their hold. Your tour guide Mark Zuehlke, in his renowned history The Gothic Line, refers to this fierce battle as "Canada's month of hell."
We continue the day with a visit to the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, from where we can take in a wide view of the battlefields, and conclude our day in beautiful and historic Ravenna, last capital city of the Roman Empire. Overnight Ravenna - hotel tba. [B,L]
Friday October 27
This morning we gather near the place where the third and final VC was earned in Italy, awarded to Smokey Smith for his exploits at the Savio River.
Later we pay a visit to the Villanova War Cemetery to discuss the overall importance and costs of Canada’s almost two years of campaigning in Italy. Local citizens are often on hand to welcome us.
For the afternoon we return to Ravenna, the seat of the Roman Empire and Byzantine Italy from 5 CE to the 8th century. Ravenna boasts a series of superb Byzantine mosaics which are generally recognized as the best to be seen outside of Istanbul. The afternoon is free to visit the UNESCO World Heritage mosaics, including an optional (no extra charge) private tour with our local expert guide. Overnight Ravenna - hotel tba. [B,L]
Saturday October 28
The coach departs early morning and takes us to our final destination and yet another world famous cultural centre - Venice. We arrive mid-day so you will have the afternoon to discover this amazing city on the lagoon. Venice in its entirety is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Overnight Venice (Lido) - hotel tba. [B]
Sunday October 29
Your final day of this grand tour of Italy is yours to discover Venice at your leisure and our guides are ready to share their knowledge of a host of fascinating sites to see and places to eat. In the evening we gather to raise a toast to those brave soldiers who fought for Canada as we come together for our Farewell Dinner. Overnight Venice (Lido) - hotel tba. [B,D]