Photo of book by Professor Teresa Fava Thomas

Faculty Publication: The Allied Bombing of Central Italy

November 8, 2023
Professor Teresa Fava Thomas' new book examines the results of a World War II bombing campaign in Italy and its unexpected role in revealing ancient history.
Photo of book by Professor Teresa Fava Thomas
Professor Teresa Thomas at book talk in Center for Faculty Scholarship

In Professor Teresa Fava Thomas’ (Economics, History and Political Science) newly published book, The Allied Bombing of Central Italy (Routledge), she examines the results of the campaign on Palestrina and Rome, Italy, the long-term consequences on the people who lived there, and its unexpected role in revealing the area’s ancient history.

Professor Thomas discussed the book at a talk hosted by the Center for Faculty Scholarship in the Amelia V. Gallucci-Cirio Library’s archives and special collections this fall.

Ironically, it was the bombardment of what was once the Roman settlement of Praeneste that brought a hidden historical site to modern attention. Using photographs taken after the bombing campaign, Thomas described architectural details of what was later determined to be the Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia.

“Nobody had seen that structure in 500 years,” said Thomas, who has previously published about the sanctuary itself.

Professor Teresa Thomas book cover Allied Bombing of Central Italy

The area was restored and became home to the The National Archaeological Museum of Palestrina. Among its artifacts is the Nile Mosaic, which was moved from the town in advance of the bombardment and later returned once the museum had been built. Famed Italian filmmakers Dino DeLaurentiis and Carlo Ponti subsidized the 12-year restoration of the Nile Mosaic itself.

“Within the town, there are records of a discussion about whether any restoration could be accurate,” she said. “The ironic thing is they weren’t trying to rebuild destroyed housing as much as excavate this site.”

Beyond its historic treasures and artifacts, Thomas said the area serves as a microcosm of war’s impact. “When I walked into the town, there was a plaque on a wall that said the Allied bombs killed more than 100 people,” she said. 

Thomas was able to interview witnesses and family members of the victims. Hearing the human toll of the war made as vivid an impression as the artifacts that were left behind. “It’s hard to look at something and know it’s never going to go back to the way it was,” she said. “The people will always be lost.”