Fontana-Monumento al Paracadutista d’Italia - Atlas Obscura

Fontana-Monumento al Paracadutista d’Italia

This war memorial commemorates some of the world's first paratroopers. 


This very evocative sculpture of a pair of wings, with one wing broken, commemorates the proud history of Italy’s parachute troops. The broken wings form a fountain, though the fountain has not been operational since October 2023.

Italy has a long history of parachute troops (slightly later than the Imperial German Army’s Fallschirmjäger troops, which were history’s first paratroopers to execute large-scale airborne operations). In 1918, the Italians completed the second-ever operation involving paratroopers.

These early Italian attacks were small-scale sabotage missions. In 1938, the first specialist, large-scale, formation of paratroops was formed in Italy. The country’s first paratroopers were born in Libya and of Arab-Berber descent. They were known as the Ascari del Cielo and operated from Italy’s first parachute training school in Castel Benito, near Tripoli, Libya.

Between 1938 and Italy’s declaration of war on Britain and France in 1940, this experimental unit lost 21 dead in jumping accidents.

In 1940, the Tripoli paratroops training school was moved to Tarquinia, just north of Rome, the first school of its kind in the Italian mainland. The second paratrooper school was at Viterbo, close to a major Italian Air Force base, which is now Viterbo Rome Airport. Presumably, this link with parachute training is why the memorial is in Viterbo.

During World War II, Italian parachutists served with distinction in the Axis forces and, after the Armistice of Cassibile, on the side of the Allies. The tradition of Italian parachute troops continues to this day. In 2014, Italian paratroopers were deployed to Afghanistan.

Around its perimeter, the monument lists the battles and missions Italian paratroopers have taken part in. Fittingly, a war memorial to Italian Army Aviation is nearby. 

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December 13, 2023

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