Mario Fiorentini, Italy’s most decorated resistance fighter against fascist and Nazi forces during World War II, died Tuesday in a Rome hospital. He was 103.
The Rome chapter of the National Partisans Association of Italy announced his death. Fiorentini commanded a group of partisans, the term that Italians who fought the regime of dictator Bettino Mussolini and then Italy’s German Nazi occupiers used to refer to themselves.
In one battle, his group emerged victorious against three German battalions. Fiorentini became legendary among partisans for having escaped from Nazi-run jails four times. In December 1943, he lobbed a hand bomb at a Nazi truck near a Rome jail where the inmates included two future Italian presidents – Giuseppe Saragat and Sandro Pertini.
“The purpose was obviously to attack the Nazis but also to let the two imprisoned anti-fascists feel that the resistance in Rome was still strong and active,” Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera of that bold exploit.
Fiorentini escaped on his bicycle, dodging bullets the Germans from widows of the jail along the Tiber River, the newspaper said.
He married a fellow resistance fighter, Lucia Ottobrini, in 1945, the year Italy was liberated. Ottobrini died in 2015.
For his courageous actions, Italy later awarded Fiorentini three silver valor medals and three War Merit Crosses.
After World War II, Fiorentini turned down an opportunity to run for Parliament and instead pursued a mathematics degree. He later taught at universities in Italy, Canada and the United States.
In 2018, he co-authored a book about math, “Zero One Infinity/Entertainment for the mind,” that highlighted mathematical curiosities for readers as young as middle-school age.