Mud, Mountains, and Mules
Following the initial landings in the south, the Allies found themselves bogged down facing the formidable Gustav Line, a network of German defenses in the mountains between Naples and Rome. Attempting to outflank this line, the 36th and 45th Infantry Divisions achieved a successful amphibious landing in Anzio on January 25, 1944, but sluggish commanders failed to move rapidly enough, resulting in another stalemate. The destruction of Monte Cassino by the Allies in 1944 served mainly to generate headlines and fodder for German propaganda. The spring thaw in the mountains found the Allies once more on the advance, liberating Rome on June 4, 1944, creating brief headlines around the world that would soon be outshined by the June 6 landings in Normandy. Meanwhile, German Field Marshal Albert Kesselring retreated to the northern Apennines to establish yet another defensive position known to the Allies as the Gothic Line. General Mark Clark’s Fifth Army faced a desperate enemy and unforgiving terrain, and it was here he coined the phrase that defined the Italian Campaign: “Mud, Mountains, and Mules.”
- Full-time logistical Tour Manager
- Expert local battlefield guides
- Roundtrip Airport Transfers (when arriving & departing on scheduled group tour dates)
- 3-nights in Rome at the Rose Garden Palace Hotel
- 4-nights in Florence at Grand Hotel Baglioni
- Private, first-class, air-conditioned motor coach transportation
- VIP access to sites not offered on other tours
- Video oral history presentations from the Museum collection
- Included gratuities to guides, drivers, porters, and servers
- Personal listening devices on all included touring
- 6 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 1 reception, and 3 dinners
- Beer, wine, and soft drinks with included lunches and dinner
- Informative map book including useful battlefield maps and archival images to be used throughout your journey
- Personalized luggage tags and customized name badge
Tour Itinerary & Map
October 8, 2023 - Day 1
Arrival in Rome / Colosseum
Upon arrival at Rome-Fiumicino Airport, transfer to the Rose Garden Palace Hotel in the center of Rome. This afternoon, explore the Roman Colosseum before a welcome reception and dinner.
Rose Garden Palace Hotel (R, D)
October 9, 2023 - Day 2
Today, visit the Anzio Beachhead, where an initially successful Allied landing turned into a brutal stalemate. On January 22, 1944, the Allies initiated a surprise landing behind the German defensive positions known as the Gustav Line. Once ashore, the Allies paused for several days to reorganize, allowing the Germans to move reinforcements to the beachhead. Throughout February, Allied attempts to break out of the beachhead were met by German counterattacks. The unforgiving terrain hindered movement, and the scene soon resembled the trench warfare of World War I. A month of German counterattacks failed to dislodge the Allies, but casualties mounted. By March, both sides had dug into defensive positions. Tour the Anzio Beachhead Museum, the Caves of Aprilia, and the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery to gain a more comprehensive appreciation of one of the most vicious campaigns of World War II.
Rose Garden Palace Hotel (B, L)
October 10, 2023 - Day 3
After the Allied breakout from the Gustav Line and the linkup with the Anzio Beachhead in May 1944, the Allies successfully liberated Rome on June 4, 1944. A tour of the Eternal City features a mix of architectural styles. From the ruins of the ancient Romans to the “New City” of Benito Mussolini, witness the changes in Rome since its founding.
Benito Mussolini ordered a major construction project in a district of Rome to be called EUR (Esposizione Universale Roma, or Universal Exposition Rome) to celebrate Fascism and serve as the host of the 1942 World’s Fair. The neoclassical architecture of the area still bears Mussolini’s image in several locations. The planned World’s Fair and the celebration of 20 years of Italian Fascism never took place. Continuing to the south, visit the Ardeatine Caves where the Germans murdered 335 Italian citizens in revenge for a partisan bombing that killed 33 SS police officers in Rome.
Rose Garden Palace Hotel (B, D)
October 11, 2023 - Day 4
Florence American Cemetery
Following the liberation of Rome, the Allies continued north to push the Germans completely out of Italy. During the fighting in the next series of German positions, the Allies coined the term “Mud, Mountains, and Mules” to describe the conditions of battle. Well-hidden German positions in the mountains, and the difficulty of keeping the troops supplied, resulted in a months-long battle of attrition. As the tour moves to Tuscany, stop at the Florence American Cemetery where the remains of 4,393 Americans are interred along with an additional 1,409 names on the Tablets of the Missing. The cemetery serves as a permanent reminder that the war in Italy did not end with the liberation of Rome. The evening is free to explore Florence on your own.
Grand Hotel Baglioni, Florence (B, L)
October 12, 2023 - Day 5
The Gothic Line
The morning starts in the picturesque walled city of Lucca. On a walk through this Tuscan city, the guide leads a discussion of life under fascism, the harshness of the German occupation, and the celebrations accompanying the liberation. Spared from destruction, Lucca retains its ancient charm. The walking tour of the city center includes stops at the Fascist headquarters, buildings occupied by the German administration, and a balcony on which Mussolini delivered a speech to the local citizens. After lunch on your own, continue to the Gothic Line fortifications near the town of Borgo a Mazzano. Local associations dedicate time and funding to preserve the bunkers, anti-aircraft emplacements, communication trenches, and antitank ditches that serve as ever-present reminders of the battles. During the visit, descend into the bunkers and tunnels constructed by Italian laborers under the orders of Organization Todt. Return to Florence for an evening to enjoy the city independently.
Grand Hotel Baglioni, Florence (B)
October 13, 2023 - Day 6
As the Allies reached Florence, the options to move through the mountains were limited to two mountain passes: Futa and Giogo. The Futa Pass, along the main road from Florence to Bologna, was heavily fortified, but offered a quick route to Bologna. The defenses in the Giogo Pass were less formidable, but the terrain would be more difficult. Attacks on German positions on Monte Altuzzo and Monticelli, the mountains that dominate both sides of the Giogo Pass, led to a clearing of the pass. On tour, visit the Gotica Museum in Ponzalla, reconstructed German fortifications, monuments to the 91st Infantry Division, and the German Military Cemetery in Futa Pass. On the final evening of the tour, enjoy a farewell dinner with the group.
Grand Hotel Baglioni, Florence (B, L, D)
October 14, 2023 - Day 7
Return to US from Florence
Bid farewell to Italy this morning and transfer to Florence Peretola Airport (FLR) for individual flights back to the United States.
Rose Garden Palace
The Rose Garden Palace is housed in a 19th-century building featuring a classic architectural design with a limestone exterior and an elegant glass awning. Ideally located just off Via Veneto, in the heart of one of Rome’s most popular neighborhoods, the Rose Garden Palace Hotel is a short walk to historical sites like the Spanish Steps, Colosseum, and Borghese Gallery. In addition to a stunning setting rich with history, the Rose Garden Palace provides guest access to its spacious L’Oasi fitness center, complete with spa, sauna, and whirlpool, and II Roseto Restaurant, a classic Italian dining experience on the hotel’s indoor/outdoor garden patio. Room amenities include complimentary Wi-Fi, satellite flat-screen TV, bathrobe and slippers, soundproofed walls, and rainfall showerheads.
Grand Hotel Baglioni
Opened on August 12, 1903, the Grand Hotel Baglioni has hosted kings, heads of state, artists, and intellectuals, carving out its place as a true landmark of the cultural and economic life of the city of Florence. The building that houses the hotel was built in the late 1800s by Prince Carrega di Lucedio. The hotel’s prime location and close proximity to the Santa Maria Novella station contributed to its transformation into the luxury hotel it is today. The Grand Hotel Baglioni is synonymous with elegance and sophistication, offering the most exceptional services. Room amenities include room service, free Wi-Fi, satellite TV, stocked mini bar, safe, telephone with 24-hour reception, laundry service, and air-conditioning.