Category Archives: Casa della Memoria

Four Months Until the Grand Event at P.G. 59

View from the hilltop comune of Santa Vittoria in Matenano, five miles from Servigliano

It seems that just yesterday I advised followers to “mark your calendar” for a September 2023 eightieth anniversary celebration of the Italian Armistice—and subsequent POW camp breakouts. (See “Mark Your Calendar for September 2023.”)

Amazingly, we are now four months away from this wonderful event, co-sponsored by UK-based Monte San Martino Trust and the Escape Lines Memorial Society (ELMS), in conjunction with Casa della Memoria in Servigliano. Details of the program are set and excitement is growing!

The September 7–10 program will be packed with activities that you can pick from, but there will be plenty of time for socializing and discovering local food and wine as well.

A Special Reason for Americans to Attend

In January 1941 the internment camp at Servigliano, which had been constructed as a First World War POW camp, reopened as P.G. 59. The first prisoners were Greeks; but soon the Greeks were transferred and the camp filled with Allied soldiers who had been captured in North Africa.

Records show that through the end of 1942 there were only a handful of Americans in the camp, but beginning in January 1943 there was a sudden influx of American captives.

By the end of August 1943, 236 of the 490 noncommissioned officers (NCOs) and 814 of the 949 enlisted men in the camp were American. (See the MSM Trust/Istituto Nazionale Ferruccio Parri website Allies in Italy for a month-by-month count.) By then most British and Commonwealth soldiers had been transferred to camps farther north, including work camps in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. So at the time of the September breakouts, P.G. 59 interns were overwhelmingly Americans.

Over the years many Americans have shared with me how a father, grandfather, or uncle had escaped from P.G. 59. Some of these contacts had visited Servigliano; a smaller number had connected with descendants of the Italians who protected their family member on the run.

Most have not made connections, but expressed a desire to one day visit Italy and see the camp. The trip, they tell me, is on their “bucket list.”

If this sounds familiar, I’d like to suggest this event could be the perfect time for your visit.

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Mark Your Calendar for September 2023

View from the hilltop village of Santa Vittoria in Matenano, 9 km (5 miles) south of Servigliano. Escaped POWs crisscrossed this landscape in September 1943.

Organizers at London-based Monte San Martino Trust are now making plans for an eightieth anniversary celebration of the Allied Forces’ armistice with Italy, the event that triggered the escape of Allied POWs from Italian camps in September 1943.

The September 2023 anniversary activities will be based at the site of P.G. 59 in Servigliano.

Servigliano is nestled in the beautiful Le Marche region of Italy, located in central Italy between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea. The main event of the celebration will be a six-day Freedom Trail walk, on September 6–11, co-hosted by the Trust and the WW2 Escape Lines Memorial Society, also of the UK.

The Trust has posted on their website information about the area, links to several area hotels and restaurants, and a brief history of P.G. 59.

The Trust’s founder, J. Keith Killby, escaped from P.G. 59, which in 2021 was designated an Italian National Memorial.

Casa della Memoria (the House of Remembrance association) in Servigliano will be supporting the anniversary activities. The group is active in preserving the history of P.G. 59. Their Remembrance Museum, housed in the renovated railroad station adjacent to the camp grounds, is a hub for educational activity—including classroom activities, tours of the camp, and historical research.

The Freedom Trail walk will take hikers through Tenna Valley terrain crossed by escaped soldiers, visiting historical landmarks and meeting with families of Italians who assisted the escapees. Historians on the tour will serve as guides and answer questions.

For more information on the activities of Monte San Martino Trust, visit

Queries about the anniversary events can be sent to the Trust at

P.G. 59 on Track to Become a National Monument

P.G. 59, during my visit to the camp in November 2010

I received exciting news yesterday from my friend Anne Bewicke-Copley, a Trustee of the Monte San Martino Trust in London. Senator Francesco Verducci, who represents the Marche Region in the Italian Senate recently put forth legislation to designate the site of former P.G. 59 POW camp in Servigliano a National Monument.

On Friday, March 5, the Senate Chamber passed the bill unanimously at its first reading. It now goes to the Chamber of Deputies for consideration. If the bill passes the chamber, as expected, it will advance to President Sergio Mattarella to be signed into law.

The following news item, written by John Simkins, was posted yesterday on the Monte San Martino Trust website:

The Italian Senate, parliament’s upper house, voted unanimously on March 4th 2021 for the former prisoner of war camp at Servigliano in the Marche to be made a national monument. The bill now passes to the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house, where it is expected to be approved and passed into law once it is signed by President Matarella.

The initiative is an important step in securing the future of PG 59 Servigliano, with its long, and in many respects, tragic history of holding prisoners. During the First World War the captives were Austrians; in the next conflict the inmates were captured Allied servicemen and Jews. It then became a refugee centre and is now known as Parco della Pace.

The bill was presented by a Marche Senator, Francesco Verducci, and supported by Liliana Segre, a Senator for Life.

Senator Verducci said: “The former prison camp of Servigliano is a symbol… part of a memory map that links countless cities throughout Europe. A map that must be traced and preserved, to hand over the memory of what has been. Memory needs places to live. A society that loses its memory remains blind, without identity and without a future.”

He added that the law was linked to the cultural and political battle to strengthen the study of history in schools. 

Supporters of the former camp have worked hard over the years to raise interest in preserving it, starting with the renovation of the former railway station, which is now the home of the Casa della Memoria. Marco Rotoni, the mayor of Servigliano, said that the Casa della Memoria’s committee, supported by the province of Fermo, intended to restore the former camp’s infirmary, for which a project had been presented to the Ministry of Cultural Heritage. It was also planned to develop memory trails. “As a municipality we have already approved the allocation of some funds and we hope that, thanks to the help of both national and local institutions, all these works will be able to see the light in a short time,” said Mr Rotoni.

The former PoW camp, through which passed thousands of prisoners and which is one of the best known in Italy, is the base of an annual Freedom Trail organised by the WW2 Escape Lines Memorial Society and co-hosted by the Monte San Martino Trust. The Trust was founded by Keith Killby, who escaped from Servigliano and found refuge at the nearby village of Monte San Martino.

Watch Senator Verducci’s presentation of the bill to the Senate on YouTube. (To view closed captioning in English or another language, select your language preference under “auto-translate” in “settings.”)

The barracks, or “huts,” of P.G. 59, photographed by Tony Vacca during his visit to the camp in 1968

Interior view of the wall photographed by Tony Vacca in 1968

To see other photos of the Camp 59 taken by Tony Vacca, see “Twenty-five Years After the Escape.”

Purchasing Casa Monti

an old italian brick house

Casa Monti

Ian McCathy of Casa della Memoria, the association dedicated to preservation of the history of P.G. 59, is spearheading a crowdfunding initative for community purchase of a historic building, Casa Monti, in Servigliano:

According to, “the big house is used by various community groups and currently to temporarily house young people in difficulty and migrants, and which also houses the Servigliano English Library. There is no set time frame for this project but we hope to achieve the goal within 1 year from August 2020. The aim is to preserve the social use of the property where other community projects can be developed.”

“The house was the original base of Casa della Memoria before we had the museum in the old station,” Ian wrote to me, “but it’s now used by other associations.”

For families of Allied POWs who were sheltered by courageous local Italians after the P.G. 59 breakout, this an excellent opportunity to show gratitude. I encourage you to support this worthy endeavor, and I will look forward to seeing many British and American names on the donor list in months to come!

A Future Home for Casa della Memoria

After years of collecting documentary material and recording stories related to the history of Camp 59, an educational center is in sight for members of the Associazione Casa della Memoria (the House of Remembrance) of Servigliano.

The old train station—through which Allied prisoners were brought to camp—will be renovated. The building has been granted to the association for its educational mission.

The old Servigliano train station viewed from the north.

The front of the station faces the northwestern wall of Camp 59. At one time tracks paralleled that wall of the camp.

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Casa della Memoria on Facebook

The Associazione Casa della Memoria (House of Remembrance Association) of Servigliano, Italy, is now on Facebook.

While the focus of the “Survivors of Camp 59” site is on World War II, the camp has a longer history.

According to the Casa della Memoria website, the association’s broader remembrance of the past is defined in this way:

“These events left their mark on the history not just of the small community of Servigliano, but also of the many villages that overlook the Tenna Valley.

“Recovering the memory of all these events involving the Prison Camp is a duty we have to the people who lived through those difficult times, but also to the new generations. The events can be divided into three moments, in relation to the three great dramas of the 20th century:

the First World War;
the Second World War;
the Cold War.

“Each of these moments can be seen as a ‘crisis of values’ in our society, the enslavement of human intelligence and of resources to ideologies that claimed to be absolute, leading to an apocalyptic climax of destruction and death:

the use of the Camp during the First World War was due to nationalism;
the use of the Camp during the Second World War was due to Nazi-Fascism;
the use of the Camp during the Cold War was due to totalitarian socialism.

“Among the various Prison Camps scattered around Italy, the one in Servigliano permits a possibly unique reconstruction of twentieth-century history and its twisted ideologies.”