Comune di Vicenza

Vicenza: città patrimonio dell'Unesco

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The First World War

The exceptional extent of Vicenza’s involvement in the war can be better understood by analysing some numbers; the numbers regarding the Great War give a precise and clear idea of how terrible and how disruptive the relationship between the town and what even today is considered the biggest mass conflict in history was.

The Italian Army, that entered the war with little more than 800 thousand men, in November 1918 counted over 5 million soldiers - out of 7 million men of military age - and of these 4 million were combatants, about 3 million 3 hundred thousand were rotated in 4 years of conflict to defend the Vicenza border. If to these we add the 130 thousand French soldiers, the 110 thousand British, the 3800 Americans, and the 12 thousand Czechoslovak soldiers that came to fight on the Italian front in the last year of the war, we reach the massive number of 3 and a half million men that passed through Vicenza during the conflict.

In those days Vicenza was still mostly contained within the perimeter of the medieval walls. Including the hamlets, that were called "colture", the population was just above 42,000 inhabitants (27 thousand in the old town centre).

The headquarters of the 1st Army were in Vicenza and an evacuation plan was immediately drawn up for the town in case the front was broken. To react against the Italian offensives that were the cause of high losses in men and material, that could not be easily replaced, in October-November 1917 Austria, with the help of her German allies, launched an offensive against Italy, that took the name of Offensive of Caporetto. A collection of favourable circumstances allowed the enemy to exploit the initial successes, forcing the Italian Army to retreat to the river Piave. Italian losses in men and material were heavy, but the will of the army and the country to resist on the Piave-Mount Grappa line was decisive. And it was this line that halted the Austrian attempt to overrun the plain in June 1918. In the following autumn the Italian Army defeated the enemy in the great battle of Vittorio Veneto gaining a total victory that was ratified by the Armistice, asked for by the Austrians, which was signed on 4th November 1918 in Villa Giusti near Padua.

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Musei Civici Vicenza - Museo del Risorgimento e della Resistenza , Viale X Giugno, 115 Vicenza – phone (+39) 0444 222820 - museorisorgimento@comune.vicenza.it

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