The people despise the officers. The narrator recounts his experience with them as he and three other young officers would walk through town:
We walked the short way through the communist quarter because we were four together. The people hated us because we were officers, and from a wine-shop some one called out, "A basso gli ufficiali!" as we passed.
Roughly translated, the Italian phrase means "down with the military officers." The fact that the narrator is hated by these people emphasizes his isolation in this foreign country