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I would say there were three main reasons why Italy turned out to be a "tough old gut" instead of the "soft underbelly" of Europe the Allies thought it would be. First, Italy represented some unique geographic challenges, given it's narrow width, the rugged Appenine Mountain range which is the spine of most of the country, as well as the series of rivers that crossed the coun try from east to west that made ideal defensive lines for the Germans. Second, when Italy surrendered to the Allies in 1943, the Germans immediately moved in and seized the territory, turning over the defense to Field Marshall Albert Kesselring, who was stunningly brilliant in delaying, counterattacking and defending against the Allied advance. Lastly, when progress on the Italian front slowed, the Allies diverted resources elsewhere, for both the Normandy landings and Operation Dragoon in southern France, at least delaying a successfully sustained offensive against German defensive lines until the war had succeeded elsewhere.
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