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Home Front: Train Travel & Beach Vacations


Staff member
by Dusibello » Sat Dec 12, 2009 5:02 pm
Could an Italian family living in Rome take a beach holiday in August 1943? Was civilian train travel available at that time? Sicily was of course out of the question, but what if a Roman family had a villa in Puglia, say. Could they still have done their August beach vacation?


by jwsleser » Sun Dec 13, 2009 5:17 am

Some general comments and then some books to read.

Fascist Italy, like all the nations at war in the 1940s, attempted to maintain normality on the home front as much as possible. The greatest impact on family was rationing. Unlike the other nations, Italy was already rationing key items before the war, and the war rapidly made thing worst. So gas for the few cars in Italy, permission to travel by train, etc., were subject to availability. Of course, means and connections can alter the equation.

There are two factors that affected the situation. The first was the role of the Fascist state. Because of the austerity programs of the thirties, the government provided services to the population to a level not seen in other countries. Vacation camps, social clubs, children programs, etc., were all part of what the government did to placate the public when faced by the lack of wealth in the nation. These programs were continued during the war, as there was little else for the people. The fascist state basically structured family life to a great degree.

The second was the lack of bombing until mid-43. While Italy saw some raids, it never reached the scale of the Allied air offensive against Germany. This was partly an Allied resource issue, but was also partly Allied strategic policy. The heavy raids in 43 were start more with trying to drive Italy out of the war than an effort to cripple Italian industry. Until May-June of 43, the Italian home front didn’t really feel the effect of war except for rationing and the usual wartime restrictions.

You should read two books (others might have better selections). The first is Mussolini’s Italy by Bosworth. The second is How Fascism Ruled Women by de Grazia. Both will provide some insight to family life during the war.




by Gian » Sun Dec 13, 2009 7:06 am
As the conditions of roads and railways rapidly deteriorated, and the war moved literally "into the backyard", the preferred beach resorts for Roman people would have been Ostia, Anzio, or any other location near the shore.
Cars were not common, as Jeff already said. Bicycles were the most widespread vehicles. In the immediate wartime and postwar periods, trains were preferred for the longer distances, particularly "third-class trains" and "Littorinas", i.e. self-propelling diesel trains (some are still in service).


by Dusibello » Sun Dec 13, 2009 10:00 am
jwsleser wrote:Dusibello

Some general comments and then some books to read...
Jeff, thanks for the quality comments and the great references... Was familiar with Bosworth, but de Grazia's work was unknown to me, and it is just where my research was going... Many thanks again,

by Dusib
» Sun Dec 13, 2009 10:04 am
Gian wrote:... In the immediate wartime and postwar periods, trains were preferred for the longer distances, particularly "third-class trains" and "Littorinas", i.e. self-propelling diesel trains (some are still in service).
Wonderful stuff, Gian. Many thanks for the delightful detail about the Italian rail system. The railroad museum is on my must-do list for my next trip to Italy... Thanks again.

Found this image of a Littorina:


Staff member
by Gian » Sun Dec 13, 2009 11:03 am
One of them is on display at the Tennessee Valley Railway Museum.


by Dusibello » Sun Dec 13, 2009 5:22 pm
Gian wrote:One of them is on display at the Tennessee Valley Railway Museum.
No! Ok, now can you help me persuade my girlfriend to take a road trip to Tennessee to look at an old Fiat railcar?


by jwsleser » Sun Dec 13, 2009 7:46 pm
I cleaned up some typos in my last post. It should be easier to read.

As Gian stated, the rail system was the major form of long distance travel. Certainly from 43 on, the rail system in the north took a pounding. This wasn't the case in 40-42. While military traffic and the economy took priority, the rail system deteriorated more from shortages and heavy use than Allied actions.

My interest is 1940-43. In 40-41, except for the ever increasing rationing, life was pretty good. Since rationing was a fact of life over the previous 8 years of peace, this wasn’t anything new. As most leisure time in the prewar years was sponsor by the state for the middle and lower classes, the government did their best to resource this during the war to maintain morale. If a family had the time and was a member of a dopolavoro, vacations could still be taken. Again, wealth provides the means even during the bad times. With the Allied bombing in 43 on, life changed for the worst, and a vacation was likely a trip to the surrounding countryside.

I haven’t yet discovered any great books covering the Italian home front during the war. Even de Grazia’s book is a bit disappointing in that the war years are covered in less than twenty pages (if that). One comes away with the idea that not much changed during the war. Italy didn’t mobilize women to any great extent, so the home front was the struggle against rationing. So how good (or bad) life was in Italy depends on where and when. But until the summer of 43, it wasn’t that bad.

RE: Girl friend. No, you just persuade her to go to Italy to see the trains. Much easier…..