On the 03 September 1943, the Italian Government led by Badoglio (who had replaced Mussolini in July), signed an armistice agreement with the Allies. The armistice was made public on 8th September 43, at a time when many thousands of Allied POWs were still detained in POW camps throughout Italy.
Despite the Allied order that all POWs should remain in their camps, thousands either escaped or marched out of the camps into the surrounding Italian countryside. Italy had lost many of its young men in its war against the Allies at that point and the Allied bombing of Italian towns and cities up until September had become increasingly intense.
There was no reason for the many young serviceman who walked out of the camps to expect anything other than hostility and resentment from the civilian population. What they received was in almost every case the exact opposite.
They were housed, fed, nursed and often led to safety by the Italian people of the countryside, usually the contadini. The motivation behind the help that they received was simple humanity. The price that the contadini paid was horrendous.
Many were shot, either because of their involvement in helping POWs, or simply as a reprisal or deterrent, many had their houses burnt to the ground and what little possessions they owned were confiscated or stolen. In some cases, as in the hospital in Sulmona, not only were the POWs helped once they had escaped but also in the escape.