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Prince Harry in Italy visits Colosseum, WWII site

Associated Press Updated: May 19, 2014 at 2:16 pm 0

ROME (AP) — Prince Harry paid solemn tributes to fallen Allied troops during World War II and made a surprise trip to the Colosseum as his two-day visit to Italy ended Monday.

Wearing full military dress, Harry shook hands with British Army veterans and laid a wreath of poppies at the Commonwealth cemetery in Monte Cassino south of Rome, site of an epic 1944 battle over a hilltop monastery.

The 29-year-old prince left a handwritten note that read: "In memory of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Thank you. Harry."

The battle of Monte Cassino was one of the bloodiest wartime clashes with an estimated 55,000 Allied troops and 20,000 Germans killed or wounded during four months of battle that concluded in Allied victory on May 18, 1944, opening the way to advance on Rome.

It was the prince's second day at the battle site, as on Sunday he joined in separate commemorations honoring the thousands of Polish and New Zealand soldiers who died in the battle. The Allied forces featured an exceptionally multinational mix, with troops from Canada, French Morocco, India, Nepal and South Africa taking part alongside soldiers from Britain and the United States.

Later Monday, Harry made an unscheduled stop at the Colosseum where, dressed casually in jeans and a checked shirt, he surprised tourists as he walked around the amphitheater with a guide. As they recognized the prince, the visitors waved to him and called out his name.

"I was in shock. That was really exciting. It was the highlight of our visit," said Wanda Quenneville, a 45-year-old Canadian tourist from Toronto, who along with her husband, son and daughter ended up touring the ruins of the 1st century amphitheater within yards (meters) of the prince and his private guide.

Her daughter, Alyshia, said seeing Harry was "unbelievable — better than the Colosseum."

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Associated Press reporter Alessandra Tarantino in Monte Cassino contributed to this report.

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