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Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis Hardcover – May 6, 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 254 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Alongside the Allies’ push north against the Nazis, there was another war fought in WWII Italy, a battle to preserve the country’s rich cultural contribution to Western civilization. With Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic The Last Supper nearly demolished by a bomb, protecting the nation’s art became an urgent task, requiring hundreds of paintings and sculpture to be hidden throughout the country (Michelangelo’s David was entombed in brick). The group assigned to save the art in Italy was made up of 40 American and British “Monuments Men.” Edsel (who has trod this ground before, in The Monuments Men, 2009) clearly presents the war in Italy as a battle not just to occupy the land but also to preserve the country’s culture. In urgent and precise prose, he puts the reader in the cockpit, the foxhole, and the cramped offices of those charged with saving the artwork. Most of the pilfering and destruction of art treasures was done by the Nazis, of course, but Edsel points out that the Allies were not blameless, either. This is a must-read for WWII buffs and anyone interested in the fight for art history. --Bridget Thoreson


“Edsel’s knowledge and appreciation of art amplifies this celebration of the unheralded group of men who ensured the safety of Italy’s greatest treasures.” — Kirkus Reviews

“ is an astonishing account of a little known American effort to save Italy’s vast store of priceless monuments and art during World War II. While American warriors were fighting the length of the country, other Americans were courageously working alongside to preserve the irreplaceable best of Italy’s culture. Read it and be proud of those who were on their own front lines of a cruel war.” — Tom Brokaw

“Revealing…. That the Monuments Men were able to do as much as they did, amid a war with more urgent priorities is remarkable….” — Hugh Eakin (The Wall Street Journal)

“Robert Edsel has written a captivating, and at times hair-raising, book on the audacious Allied effort during World War II to save the priceless art treasurers in Italy. It is impossible to imagine what Western civilization would be today without these cultural masterpieces. Edsel has written a gripping, heroic story of the Monuments Men who saved them from certain destruction.” — Susan Eisenhower

“ is a teeming work…by an author passionate about his subject.” — Matthew Price (Newsday)

“Edsel’s recovery of the history of the Monuments Men makes for a remarkable and fascinating story. As more recent conflicts have shown, the havoc that war can wreak upon our artistic heritage has unfortunately not diminished and there are important lessons in this book for policy makers and all who care about the preservation of the world’s artistic legacy for future generations.” — Timothy Potts, Director, the J. Paul Getty Museum

“Edsel is very good on how the officers charged with identifying what had happened to Italy’s art went about their work. He gives a vivid flavor of what life must have been like as they searched among the ruins.” — Alsadair Palmer (The Mail on Sunday)

“What a dramatic story!” — Andrew Nagorski (Washington Post)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (May 6, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393082415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393082418
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (254 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #176,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert M. Edsel is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of the non-fiction books, Rescuing Da Vinci, The Monuments Men and Saving Italy. Mr. Edsel is also the co-producer of the award-winning documentary film, The Rape of Europa. Mr. Edsel published Beyond the Dreams of Avarice: The Hermann Goering Collection by Nancy Yeide, the first study devoted to Goering's entire paintings collection. In addition, he is the Founder and Chairman of the nonprofit, Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, which received the National Humanities Medal. Mr. Edsel has been awarded the "Texas Medal of Arts" Award; the "President's Call to Service" Award; and the "Hope for Humanity" Award, presented by the Dallas Holocaust Museum. He also serves as a Trustee at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. A film based on Mr. Edsel's book, The Monuments Men, directed by and starring Academy Award winner George Clooney, was released in February 2014. The film also stars Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville, Jean Dujardin and Bob Balaban.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What an adventure I just returned from. Saving Italy puts you right back into the Italy of WWII and the threat war meant to the art and monuments of the country. Written from the perspective of the Monuments Men, the Allied art historians who volunteered for service to help saving and protecting whatever they could, as they joined the armies on their way up the Italian peninsula., this book is full of fascinating first hand experiences, combined with historical facts about places and Italian, German and Allied characters involved in the protection (or not) of the cultural heritage of this treasure trove of a country. And on top of that, Robert Edsel compellingly tells the story of how the war in Italy was brought to an early end through secret negotiations between the US Secret Services (OSS) and an SS-General who was in charge of some of the most important works of art Italy owns, the treasures from the Uffizi in Florence. What their fate was, and how Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper" in Milan made it through - barely so - you might want to read yourself. Absolutely fascinating! Ollie Hill
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I couldn’t put it down! Saving Italy is a page turner with a compelling narrative that often keeps you on the edge-of-your-seat with suspense. The drawings that Monuments Man Deane Keller sent home to his young son offer a revealing insight into the man’s mixed emotions about his eagerness to help save the treasures of a country he loved in the midst of war, coupled with the loneliness and isolation he felt being separated from the family he adored. The passion and impulsiveness of Monuments Man Fred Hartt help the thrilling adventure of Saving Italy come alive. Edsel does a great job bringing out the very human side of his complex characters, including a little known Nazi General, Karl Wolff. The book is well-researched with many author interviews noted, but is presented in a way that reads more like an espionage novel. I highly recommend Saving Italy not just to those who love art or WWII History, but to anyone looking for an inspiring story about the human spirit and the sacrifices people make to follow their passion, risking their lives for a cause greater than themselves. Five stars doesn't seem like enough!
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This is an amazing story about a part of WWII history that I was not familiar with. The author did a great job researching and writing this compelling narrative about a "new kind of soldier" empowered to protect rather than destroy. I have read many books about the war but can't remember one that included so many rich details. The characters practically leap off the page. The story is fast-paced, reading more like fiction. As a reader I felt like I was almost part of the adventure. One of the most interesting plots in Saving Italy involves a secret Nazi surrender of Italy in which the art work is held hostage while an SS General negotiates with American spies. I was surprised and riveted by these details. Overall, this is an exciting read and I would highly recommend it. (And I can't wait to see the Clooney movie based on the author's last book, The Monuments Men.)

Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis
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What an amazing story! My father lived in Italy during WWII and I never spoke with him when he was alive about how it was in Italy during the war. Many cities experienced much destruction, including Naples, Milan, Florence and Monte Cassino. In 1980 I saw DaVinci's fresco The Last Supper and there were photos of the destruction of the church where the fresco was. Did not dawn on me that it was allied bombs which blew up the church but the bombing was of the train yards right near the church. Even in a brutal war men realized the importance of these masterpieces, men on both sides of the war. The story that is told is incredible and I am surprised it took this long to get this story out there. I see where a movie is being made on this subject and will be released in December. Interwoven in the story is the German surrender in Italy and how complicated it was, the Germans just could not surrender that easy. Also did not know all the bridges in Florence were blown up by the Germans (rebuilt after the war) except for the Ponte Vecchio (which Hitler loved that bridge). The bombing of the abbey in Monte Cassino, allied forces had no choice but to bomb it. All the men searching for these masterpieces, college professors, museum curators, what a story. Thank you Robert Edsel for writing this story.
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Robert Edsel's book is a completely wasted opportunity. I read "The Monuments Men" and generally enjoyed that book, perhaps because he had another writer working with him. This follow-up, which tells the story of the Monuments Men in Italy, is painstakingly researched but it is dry, boring, and doesn't focus enough on Deane Keller and Fred Hartt. I thought I would learn much more from reading this book, but he didn't add too much. If you're looking for a book to read about the fate of Italy's art during World War II, read Lynn Nicholas' definitive "The Rape of Europa." It has an excellent section on Italy and puts this story into context.
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