The Alpini or mountain corps are the elite troops of the Italian army - "the few, the proud," etc. They are the ones who are sent in to straighten out dramatic situations, plug holes and rescue people. In Nikolayevka in 1943, they broke a Russian encirclement - I repeat: broke a Russian encirclement, which is not something people normally do. In the disastrous winter of 1917, they stood between Italy and defeat, indeed between the Allies and destruction. Their record is comparatively short (they were only set up in 1873), but it is glittering. I served next to them during my time in the Army, and ended up with genuine respect for their officers, whose integrity and efficiency put all the rest to shame. I have more respect for them than for my own unit.
Therefore, I have been quite delighted with these pictures of the Pope being given an Alpino hat by a little girl.