The burst of the Powder Keg in Montecchio and the Gothic Line on Liberation Day

January 21st, 1944

Montecchio after the explosion – pictures of Emma Parola (collection: Anna Capponi Donati)

Today, on Liberation Day, I would like to share with you two uforgettable facts that upset our territory during WWII and which left a mark on the people around here. Two ‘ordinary’ events in times of war, not to forget… I owe both of the following contributions to Cristina Ortolani. The first comes from the Memoteca Pian del Bruscolo Project and the second from the book: ‘Itinerari tra storia, memoria e realtà’ and tells about the Gothic Line where the British 8th Army and the German 10. Armee fought during the final Autumn of WWII.

On January 21st 1994 – around 9.10 pm – the village of Montecchio was destroyed by the burst of mines and explosives which had been stored since December 1943 at the Campo Boario and the seat of the Recreational club. Today the number of victims is still unknown. According to witnesses and researchers the victims were about thirty.

For many people living in our territory, the burst of the Powder Keg in Montecchio represents the hardest event of WWII – a vivid recollection among the elderly (and among my generation who learned the facts from our grandparents’ direct experiences).

* * *

The Gothic Line (Gotenstellung) represented, soon after the Gustav Line, the second defensive system of the German army on the Italian territory. The Germans started to build it after the Allies’ landing in Sicily (July 9th 1943): in the German’s military strategy the Gothic Line (or Green Line) would serve both as a protection of the agricultural resources of northern Italy and to slow down the march of the Allied troups.
Fortifications of the Gothic Line cut the Italian peninsula in two: from the Tyrrhenian coast between Viareggio and Massa-Carrara to the Adriatic coast between Pesaro and Rimini with a length of 280 kms and with a depth that, in certain sites, reached up to 20 kms.
It was calculated that the Wehrmacht lost about 75.000 men on the Gothic Line, whereas the Allies lost about 65.000 soldiers.
For those of you who read Italian, HERE is the link to the chapter of the original book ‘Itinerari tra storia, memoria e realtà’ devoted to the Gothic Line.


  1. what a great piece of history, such should be known by the younger generation…how great their grandfathers were and they should be proud of them…thanks for sharing a piece of Italy. I’m looking forward of visiting Italy in the future.

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