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Solferino, Italy

The Ossuary at San Pietro

The bones of some 7,000 soldiers killed in the historic Battle of Solferino are stored here. 

After the Battle of Solferino on June 24, 1859—a decisive battle of the Second War of Italian Unification that led to the founding of the Red Cross— both the French army under Napoleon III and the Austrian army under Franz Joseph withdrew. They left the battlefield, strewn with the bodies of tens of thousands of fallen soldiers, to the locals to clean up.

The bones of around 7,000 dead soldiers were placed in the Church of San Pietro, where they remain today. The vast collection of bones are neatly stored according type. Thousands of skulls line the walls behind the altar, stacked on row upon row of shelving.

It may sound very gruesome, but the ossuary is a quiet and respectful place to reflect on the aftermath of war, and pay respects to the fallen soldiers. 

Know Before You Go

There is much to do in the area. The Red Cross was founded as a result of the battle, and there is a museum nearby. Walk up to the Rocca to get a birds eye view of the battlefield. The town is south of Lake Garda and west of Verona.