This past weekend, the majority of our students were away on an optional trip to Sicily. For the students who remained, we decided to make the most of the weekend an explore some of Abruzzo. The region is often over looked by tourists, but I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Italy.
On Friday, we spent the morning in Ortona, starting with the Battle of Ortona Museum. There, our students learned of the terrible fighting that occurred in this area during the winter of 1943. Canadian and German troops fought house to house in this town in one of the bloodiest battles of WWII. Eventually, the Germans fled north. To this day, Canadians are well received in the town by the locals who have never forgotten the sacrifices made.
The museum houses actual uniforms worn by soldiers and weaponry used during the Second World War. At its centre, is a model of the town showing what it would have looked like during the battle.
From there, we travelled to the nearby Moro River Canadian War Cemetery to visit the graves of the 1375 Canadian soldiers who sacrificed their lives. It is always an emotional experience for anyone visiting the site. Friday was particularly moving, after one of our students found the grave of her great uncle who died in battle.
In the afternoon we learned about the process of winemaking at Cantina Eredi Legonziano. This winery is a cooperative, where local farmers sell their grapes every fall - the most abundant of grapes being Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. We were fortunate to arrive just as one of these farmers showed up with a load of white Trebbiano grapes. We witnessed the first testing of the grapes, where the juice is measured for acidity, sugar content, and about twenty other different qualities. We were even allowed to eat a few and taste a sample of the juice. Afterward, we went on a tour of the inside of the winery to learn about the process of making white, red, and rosé wines, as well prosecco (the Italian sparkling wine).
On Monday, we regrouped and went to the Museum of the University of Chieti. Our guide brought us through an exhibit on the origins of life. We were shown fossils, dinosaur remains, and even mummified humans. This was followed by a lab on plants where we extracted chlorophyll from spinach leaves and classified angiosperms from gymnosperms. The students where given free time for lunch and to explore the historical centre of Chieti.