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Portomaggiore, totally destroyed by the allied bombing raid of April 13,1945, was heavily damaged together with Argenta. Few historic buildings survive because the bombs mostly hit the city centre. While the allied troops advance, in conjunction with the local communities, the partisans organize Resistance actions. The most equipped units are placed along the Comacchio valleys and on the border with Ravenna along the Reno river up to the Argenta valleys. The "men of the valleys", the Resistance men, integrate their units to strengthen the allied troops advance through the "Argenta gap": a corridor surrounded by water where between April 1 and 9, 1945, the last fight of the eighth army leading to the liberation of Argenta and Portomaggiore takes place. 

Every nook and cranny of Portomaggiore still has scars of the long 1944-45 winter, when Italy is split into two by the Gothic line: the allied troops are advancing from the  south and in the north the resistance fighters fight against the Germans and the supporters of the Salò Italian social republic. The partisans, in mutual consent with the local communities, lead several and thorough actions. The best Resistance units are placed along the Comacchio valleys along the border with Ravenna up to the Argent valleys. The so-called "men of the valleys" back the allied advance along the "Argenta gap": a corridor surrounded by water where between April 1 and 9, 1945, the last fight of the eighth army leading to the liberation of Argenta and Portomaggiore takes place and thus saving the lives of hundreds of people. 

Those scars still dot the local area with several memorial stones, plaques and monuments. Their size and location may vary, from squares to the countryside, bigger or smaller, but they all strongly recall through long name lists one of the darkest pages of our history. 

From Portomaggiore to Maiero, from Sandolo to Gambulaga, from Runco to Quartiere and Portoverrara, all the epigraphs express a clear intention: to tell and transmit the memory of both the soldiers and civilians, in order to favour the working-through of such tragic events that deeply devastated those people and lands.

The victims of  “La Gnola” farm.

The name of the farm, that does not exist any more, recalls about fifty civilian victims. It is the symbolic place of the events that heavily hit the area and its population the end of the war.  In the isolated “Gnola” farm hid many families who had escaped Portomaggiore after the carpet-bombing of April 13, 1945. Because of its strategic position the building had also been used by the Germans to position a radio station. Over one hundred refugees had been locked up in order to prevent them from being in the way.

On the morning of April 20 two allied planes fly over the area at the end of a mission over the Po river: one of them goes back to the base while the other one drops a bomb on the just-spotted building. A second bomb hits the people in the courtyard who have just run out of the collapsing farm. The unusual bombing turns into a massacre. The survivors, injured and shocked, hide in a ditch for hours. Finally a woman, carefully creeping on the ground, succeeds in reaching the farm well to wet some rags to be used to relieve people, especially children, from the scorching heat. The soldiers of a passing by tank unit deliver first aid only in the afternoon. A memorial stone, a plaque and a well, wanted by the survivors, recall that tragic event occurred in an intimate and isolated place like the “Gnola” farm was.

In particular the well, reconstructed after the destruction of the original one, has a very important symbolic value in relation to the crucial role it played for the survivors, as expressed by this excerpt from the epigraph: ... only the water from this source / made us realize / we were still alive ...

The victims “Ca’ del Gallo” di Ripapersico hamlet

During the cold 1944-45 winter the frontline got stuck along the Senio River. Ripapersico, not far from Portomaggiore, is heavily air bombe. The hardest raid takes place on April 18,1945, when Ca’ del Gallo hamlet is fully hit by a bomb and dozens of people hidden in an air-raid shelter die.


Texts by the Institute of Contemporary History of Ferrara


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