chapter  3
19 Pages

The Italian Military in War and Peace 1860-1960

In 1881, the English writer, Samuel Butler, published an account of a holiday tramp around alpine Italy. His mood had been euphoric: 'Who does not turn to Italy who has the chance of doing so? What, indeed, do we not owe to that most lovely and loveable country?' he asked himself as he began writing a journal of his trip.1 And he duly had a fine time. But near Susa, in those pre-Fiat days not yet a resort town, he had an odd conversation which might even have been worrying to a less confident and less carefree spirit. While Butler was sketching mountain scenery, a local man approached him and asked if his engagement in this seemingly innocent activity meant that war was near. For, Butler explained not altogether convincingly, 'the people in this valley have bitter and comparatively recent experience of war, and are alarmed at anything which they fancy may indicate its recurrence'. Even though, as Butler added, there were no other British, French or German travellers in the neighbourhood, one straniero mapping out the environment conjured up for an inquisitive local the dread possibility of military conflict.2