Angelita da Anzio

A day trip to Anzio (fig. 1), south of Rome, led me to discover the wonderful but sad story of “Angelita da Anzio,” a young local child who became a legend over the years. In fact, a song popularized in the 60’s was titled after her.

It all took place on the night of the Allied WWII landing on the beaches of Anzio (fig. 2) and Nettuno on January 22, 1944. The landing, which led to a terrible bloody battle among the American, British, Canadian, and New Zealand soldiers against the German troops, occurred under heavy bombing of the villages and towns along the shore throughout the night, with heavy civilian casualties as well. The arrival of Allied Forces ultimately led to a victorious march towards Rome and finally to the “liberation” of the Italian Peninsula.

Soon after the landing, a Scottish soldier found a young girl, probably five-years-old, who was desperately trying to find safety in the freezing night from the danger of the bombing and the ground battle. She had been separated from her family and nobody knew her name or where she lived. The poor child immediately conquered the hearts of the soldiers who quickly found blankets, food and shelter for her and later brought her to a Red Cross Station to be saved! Her family could not be located, despite multiple attempts, and none of the locals could help at the time. The soldiers came to know her only by her name, Angelita.

Her saviors moved on to Rome but, sadly, shortly after, the young girl was killed by enemy fire while still under the protection of the Red Cross. Her story, however, never died with her. She later became a legend, as Angelita turned into a symbol for all the innocent young war victims.

On January 22, 1979, the citizens of Anzio unveiled a wonderful statue in her memory (fig. 3), located on the lungomare facing the beach where the Marines had landed 35 years before.

On our trip, we had stopped for lunch at Alici & Pecorino (fig. 4), a local trattoria facing the sea with a wonderful atmosphere serving fresh fish (figs. 5, 6) and local wine. I met the owner of the restaurant, also the Captain of one of the local fishing boats (figs. 7, 8), who explained the buonissimo fish available on that day. As we talked and became friends, I heard about the legend of Angelita; the young girl was related to the fisherman’s family. When I saw the statue, I had a few tears in my eyes and knew then that, to honor her, her story needed to be told once again, even as far away as Cleveland, Ohio.