Nazis at the Beach

Posted: Jul 03, 2014 12:01 AM

BOSA, SARDINIA -- That is right, you read "Bosa, Sardinia." Well, you might ask, how did I get into this place high atop vertiginous hills along the Temo River in western Sardinia with not another Yank for miles and only the Internet to keep me abreast of the Obama terror?

My Italian adventure began last summer in Rome. There my wife and I were sitting, having dinner with an Italian friend of 40 years, Antonio Martino, and his wife Carol. In his distinguished career he began teaching his Italian countrymen free market economics, which had he learned at the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman. Eventually, Italy came alive, and he served in the Berlusconi government as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defense. Through the evening we had much to talk about, and when we shut down he invited us back to his summerhouse this summer.

Upon returning home my wife with superb efficiency booked our return flights for Sardinia in June and fun in the sun with the Martinos. She got an enviable discount for booking early and shortly thereafter I emailed Antonio with the good news. "Antonio," I wrote, "we arrive in Sardinia on June 21. Have a glass of red wine waiting!" Unfortunately, there was a snafu. Back came Antonio's reply, "Bob I am from Sicily not Sardinia." Alas our flights were booked. Our hotel reservations were made. My wife was adamant. We would go to Sardinia. And so here we are, and my only lifeline with America is the Internet.

Yet, Sardinia is full of surprises. All the local wine -- both white and red -- is very good and somewhat unusual. Both the whites and the reds are medium bodied but quite delicious. The fish -- after all this is a Mediterranean island -- is delicious. Finally, the pace of the island is slow -- just what we were looking for, though it would have been more amusing with Antonio.

En route to Bosa we stopped off at La Speranza, a very cozy -- if remote -- beach for a swim and a fine lunch, which reminded me again of the old apothegm: "You cannot get a bad meal in Italy." As I say, the beach was lovely and the Italians frolicking with their children made a very agreeable scene. Yet there was a discordant note. Down the beach, to the north, tucked ever so tastefully, in fact unobtrusively, into the foliage were two angry-looking concrete edifices. Upon closer observation they appeared to be concrete pillboxes with menacing slots for machine guns. I asked the jolly Italian lifeguards, members of the rising generation, what these concrete monstrosities might be. They did not know and in their insouciance did not care.

A bit later we stopped by the beachside restaurant for lunch, where the waiters were older than the lifeguards and mindful of the Italian past. One answered, "Germans." The scales fell from our eyes. These edifices were German pillboxes. They and those like them in the hills above would have made heavy weather of it for any invasion during World War II. The Sardinians had not chosen to eliminate them. It would be too expensive.

We climbed up to the two pillboxes above the beach and discovered that one was inhabited by squatters, complete with their lounge chairs and drying laundry. Once again history makes a fool out of Hitler.
These fortifications never saw action in World War II. On July 10, 1943, the Allies executed Operation Husky, choosing to invade Italy through Sicily. Sardinia was spared. Unlike the pillboxes along the coast of Normandy these pillboxes never saw action, which leaves them as silent testimonials to a terrible war -- as they peer down on the frolicking Italian families, they represent the war that might have been. Call it trouble in paradise.