The Boy in the War Zone

After watching the tank battle on the roof, we went to the street, retrieved the cart and once again headed north. Our fate would depend on the Roman bridge that was only a block away from our apartment building. Practically all of 30,000 inhabitants of the ancient Roman city of Ariminum had left. The carpet bombing of the city, targeted because of its position as a railway junction, had destroyed 75,000 buildings, including many historic monuments. Ironically, there were no German forces deployed in the town. Just two monuments survived: the triumphal Arch of Augustus, dating from 27 B.C., and the bridge of Tiberius that the Germans, many of whom were admirers of Roman civilization, had left unimpaired. The bridge, whose construction had begun under Emperor August, was completed by Tiberius in 27 A.D.

We reached the only bridge that crossed the Marecchia river (the ancient Ariminus), in the Rimini area. The retreating German army did not destroy it, although they had placed a few explosive charges. I distinctly remember the Roman bridge for the simple reason that at the beginning of the war I had played near it. The bridge had five semicircular arches and it marked the beginning of the Via Emilia headed to northern Italy. It was built with Istrian stone in the Doric style and paved with the traditional basalt cobblestones. It featured a narrow pedestrian walkway on its side. Most impressive, it is still standing today and was used for pedestrian and light traffic. In December 2019, Rimini’s city council called for the bridge to be limited to foot traffic only. To me, it has always been the symbol of the resilience of Italy in that it survived several wars, two earthquakes, a failed attempt at destruction in 552 during the

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