Hot on the trail of Hemingway in Monastier

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A historical itinerary and a permanent exhibition located in the large congress centre describe the dramatic years of the First World War

In 1918, Ernest Hemingway was an 18-year-old American boy finding his way in the world, a very different path from that of his parents. On the editorial tables of the provincial newspaper where he was practicing, news of the great and tragic European events continued to arrive. The young Hemingway, rejected by the Marine Corps, manages to embark on a ship headed for Europe, as an A.R.C. (American Red Cross) driver. The United States government had decided that the American Red Cross needed to make the solidarity of the American ally visible and tangible while the expeditionary corps was being organized - one million soldiers - that would land in France and only a small part of them, a few thousand men, would then be sent to Italy. Hemingway arrived in Italy in mid-June 1918, and was assigned to Section IV of the ARC in Schio. The Battle of the Solstice created serious problems for the ARC's assistance structures - refreshments posts and ambulance services; so, volunteers were requested from the ARC sections in the quiet areas on the front. Hemingway left Schio for Basso Piave.

From 25 June, he was in Monastier, first at the Casa Botter, then at Villa Fiorita and lastly at Villa Albrizzi. While wandering on the front line, he saw the places where the terrible clashes had taken place in the recent battle and he “absorbed” stories of memorable endeavours from the Italian officers he befriended. During the night of 8 July, he was hit on the Piave river at the "Buso de Burato" first by a grenade and then by a machine gun bullet while he was taking an injured Italian to safety. For this action, he later received the silver medal.

On 17 July, he arrived at the American hospital in Milan, after a painful journey from the medications station to the field hospital and lastly the slow hospital train. In Milan, he underwent surgery on his right leg and fell in love with a nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky, who was seven years older than him. In October Agnes went to Florence to assist sick Americans and Hemingway returned to the front, in the Grappa sector, where he not only frequented the friends from the Ancona brigade, transferred from Piave to Grappa, but also intrepid outfits, probably joining them on some trips to Grappa. On 27 October, in the midst of the battle of Vittorio Veneto, he was sent back to the American hospital in Milan as he was suffering from jaundice.

On 9 December, Hemingway went to visit Agnes in Dosson, at the American hospital where she had been transferred. Then, in early January, he returned to the United States, certain that he would soon be getting married to his nurse. In 1919, Agnes wrote to him saying that she was too old for him, that she could not wait for him and that she thought she would "be getting married soon" to another man. Hemingway suffered the blow to the point of falling ill. These months of war and love, this Italian experience that left an indelible mark on his skin and in his soul led to the creation of the poetry of “Farewell to Arms” and many other stories.

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