Dove Vai? – The American Sicily-Rome WWII Cemetery & Memorial

The Florence American World War II Cemetery is the smaller of two such cemeteries in Italy and thus seems more personal, more approachable, nestled in the classic Tuscan countryside below the hill town of Impruneta.

The World War II Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial is more imposing in its sheer vastness, bringing home the horrible cost of war, but it is still a beautiful, meditative, and educational place to visit.

The Memorial and Chapel
The Memorial and Chapel

The southern Italian memorial, often know as the Anzio Cemetery, is located on the northern edge of the town of Nettuno near the site of the Anzio beach landing (January 22, 1944). It covers 77 acres, rising in a gentle slope from grand pool that surrounds an island containing a cenotaph flanked by groups of Italian cypress trees. Beyond the pool are row upon arcing row of headstones, marking the graves of 7,861 of American military war dead on broad green lawns beneath rows of Roman pines.

The pool surround a island of cypress and a cenotaph
The pool surrounds an island of cypress and a cenotaph

Beyond the almost unfathomable number of gravestones, the personal cost is readily apparent in the following stories:  23 sets of brothers are buried side by side, including two sets of twins; seventeen women and two children are among the dead; almost 6,500 soldiers died in two weeks starting with the bloody Anzio landing; in the attack on the City of Cisterna by the 1st and 3rd Ranger Battalions, only six men survived out of 767 soldiers; and only 35% of the of the Americans who died in the fighting between Sicily and Rome are buried in the cemetery or commemorated in the chapel. The marble walls of the chapel contain the names of 3,095 personnel missing in action.

The majority of these men and women died in the liberation of Sicily (July 10 to August 17, 1943); in the landings in the Salerno Area (September 9, 1943) and the heavy fighting northward; in the landings at Anzio Beach and expansion of the beachhead (January 22, 1944 to May 1944); and in air and naval support in the regions.

Fresco depicting the capture of Sicily
Fresco depicting the capture of Sicily

An educational map room, across from the chapel, contains a bronze relief map and four fresco maps depicting the military operations in Sicily and Italy. The maps on the east and west walls were designed by Carlo Ciampaglia of Middle Valley, New Jersey and executed in true fresco (mixing of pigments with the plaster as it is applied to the wall) by Leonetto Tintori of Florence. At each end of the memorial are ornamental Italian gardens.

Headstones of the American soldiers who fell in battle between Sicily and Rome
Headstones of the American soldiers who fell in battles between Sicily and Rome

The cemetery and memorial are cared for by the American Battle Monuments Commission and are open daily to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except December 25 and January 1. The gates are open on Italian holidays. When the cemetery is open to the public, a staff member is on duty in the Visitor Building to answer questions and escort relatives to grave and memorial sites.

13 thoughts on “Dove Vai? – The American Sicily-Rome WWII Cemetery & Memorial

  1. Ann, I read with interest your Tuscan Traveler article. My uncle, a US Naval Academy graduate, was in command of the USS Rowan, a destroyer, during the landing at Salerno in 1943. His ship was sunk by a torpedo on September 11. He was standing on the bridge at the time and sucked down with the ship, his hand and foot being caught in a window and door. Miraculously, water pressure released him and he rose to the surface (missing 2 fingers and with a crushed foot) and was pulled on to a floating mattress by some crew members. I remember my mother (his sister) anxiously awaiting news of him after hearing of the sinking of his ship. After his rehabilitation (about a year) he was put in command of the cruiser Nashville and sent to the Pacific Theatre. I have newspaper clippings, etc. of the event and a book published not too long ago by some surviving crew members in which he is described as a strict, steely blue-eyed commander. Thanks for the opportunity to reminisce. Gail

  2. Gail, Thank you for sharing your family story. During my time in Italy I have had the pleasure of hearing the stories of many of those young men and women who, but for the war, would probably not left their country, much less their state, but who showed so much bravery here. I have also gotten to learn the stories of Italians during those years and understand why they still have warm feelings for Americans. Ann

  3. I was watching a movie the Miracle at St. Anna, Tuscany, Italy. It is at story of WWII in the area of a remote Tuscan Village. I was wondering if there is a mountain called The Sleeping Man. The movie was very war like and reallistic and they showed a mountain that looks like a sleeping man. The movie was based on a novel of James McBride.

  4. Why do all these things say “Sicily-Rome” American cemetery? Why no mention of the actual American cemetery IN or ON SICILY? I know it is there, I’ve been there. It is not far from Sigonella, a Naval Air Station in Sicily, just outside Catania. Hope you can answer.

  5. Is it possible for someone in charge of that Rome-Sicily Cemetary to take a picture of a certain grave and send it back to me here in Massachusetts?? Bill B

  6. Thanks Ann, i have recieved an e-mail back from the American Battles Monuments Commission in DC and they will get me a photo of that grave to me in a few wks. Also, Find-A-Grave people may send me a photo also. I have been doing research for a friend of mine who always thought that his uncle was MIA from WW2. However, his uncle was killed in the Battle of Cisterna and buried later at the Rome -Sicily American Cemetery. The fallen soldiers’s immediate family ( all Deceased) may of never known he was found and interred there.

  7. Bill, did you get an answer to your questions? I will be visiting WWII sites in Sicily this summer…including Sigonella….and can take a photo of this cemetery if you have an address.

    BTW there are 3 Commonwealth cemeteries in Sicily… Agira, Syracuse and Catania.
    And sometimes Allied soldiers were buried in a municipal cemetery.

  8. Looking for the grave of my step brother who died 28 May 1944 during the battle of Anzio, U.S. Army “F” 157th Inf. Sgt. Tank 45 Inf. Div.

    William Paley Edwards b. 20 June 1924 d. 28 May 1944

    sgt. for Danville, ILL

  9. I am trying to find a grave of my uncle Leon Corso US Army Ranger that was killed in the battle at Cisterna. There were only 6 rangers out of 767 that survived. He was one of the men that the Germans captured that morning and placed in front of their tanks as they commanded the Rangers to surrender. According to my deceased father his brother was killed by friendly fire as the Rangers exchange fire with the Germans. He was buried in Italy.
    Best regards,
    Joe Corso

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