July 2, 1944
Anzio, Italy

Dear Judy and Dave,

            For the last month I have been meaning to answer your very swell letter of May 9, which I received just before pulling stakes in Sicily and heading for this considerably fairer country.

            Sicily really wasn’t too bad, despite its filth, squalor, beggars, etc. I managed to take a couple of trips around the Island accompanying the enlisted men, and saw most of the sights, but, by golly, give me California or, in fact, just give me Palo Alto, Tahoe and Yosemite and you can have the whole rest of the world!

            Italy, we have found, is considerably better than Sicily in many ways. Where we were first situated here, the countryside was very nice and in fact was reminiscent of the Los Gatos-Saratoga area. Now, however, we are a bit more exposed to the elements – trees only in the distance, but are luckily kept somewhat on the air-conditioned side by a mild breeze coming off the water.

            Rome, which I have been lucky enough to visit on two occasions now, was very fortunate in being only very, very slightly hit by bombs or gunfire, and that only in the very outskirts of town. In fact, there was no closing down of shops at all – -they were all functioning the first day that the Americans walked in – far different from the situation when we arrived in Sicily, for there it had taken weeks and even months for the people to even come out of the hills and back into town.

            Different too, from Sicily, are the things that they have for sale – whereas in Sicily they had practically nothing but hand work, linens, jewelry, etc., in Rome they had everything from the little things to luggage, hardware, furniture, etc. In fact, the large department stores (of which they had no such thing in Sicily) that they have seemed to have quite a stock. The Germans apparently didn’t have time to take much with them from there.

            I visited St. Peters Cathedral and the Vatican and was duly impressed. But the Tiber was quite a disappointment for me.  If it were a clean river, it would undoubtedly be very pretty, but it is worse than the Mississippi, just as muddy as can be. But, by golly, the Italians do a lot of swimming in it, and right in Rome, too.  In fact, they even have houseboats and boat-houses on the river right under the bridges of the city, from which they do their swimming.  Not for me, thank you — it’s got to be blue before I do my swimming!

            Outside of the Cathedral, the most impressive building was the Vic. Emanuel Monument, which is of a beautiful white stone and stands out all over the city. It looks down, too, on the balcony from which Mussolini did most of his screeching. The Coliseum, too, is rather an interesting spot.

            When first in our present spot, I bumped into Dad’s ex-assistant, Leon Michels, and my first jaunt to the big town was with him, not too long after the place had been taken. ‘Twas quite an experience. The people were jubilant and wanting to invite the soldiers and officers into their homes all over the place. They were mighty friendly. Now, however, some of that has cooled down and they are out to try to sell all they can at the highest prices they can.

            We are once again in tents, but actually it is sort of a welcome change – something to break what had become rather an appalling monotony back in Sicily. We’ll never again have as nice a set-up, but after all, if we could keep busy we’d be satisfied in any set-up – it’s only when not busy that one has time to complain about things. The only bad feature here at the moment is the sand that won’t stay settled, despite the occasional hot rain, and all our clothes, our sleeping bags, and at times, our food, becomes well saturated with the sand. Actually, we moved right into some of the tents that another outfit left on the spot for us, when they moved out. We gave them tents in exchange for those they left standing for us, and we set up right over the same dugouts that they had been using for some time. See—we’re still rear stuff!! Damn!!

            I’m hoping to be able to get another trip to Rome sometime in the not too distant future, as Irving Berlin’s “This Is The Army” has been playing there, so we are told. Also Jascha Heifitz is supposed to be there soon.

            I enjoyed your letter greatly – in fact more than any letter I’ve had in a long time. It was so newsy and just like you two that it brought back swell memories.

                                                                                        Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for my next letter
July 4, 1944

René tells Judy and Dave about the tents they are living in on the sand.

He also tells them about the sights he saw in Rome on his two trips – including the Arno and St. Peter’s Cathedral (above).

In front of St. Peter’s Cathedral.

View from St. Peter’s Cathedral.

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