Two months before carabinieri sergeant Alfio Ragazzi, 39, was killed in Wednesday's suicide attack in Nasiriya, he sent a letter home describing life in Iraq for Italian soldiers.
The letter below was published in Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Thursday.
Two months have passed since I left our country, and even though there are thousands of kilometres between us, I can constantly feel your thoughts and Granny's prayers for me.
Things are quite OK here, despite the fact that journalists do their best to make our loved ones back home worry, and the news bulletins yell out the news.
We always receive communiqués of the terror attacks that take place in the North, and sometimes the alert level is raised here, too.
Alfio Ragazzi with Iraqi children (picture: Enrico di Giacomo)
But being true Italians, and with our 'football-spaghetti' policy, we have immediately managed to win everybody over: wherever we go, we are met with sympathy and esteem.
'Italy good', say the Mau Mau [sic], but it is the children in particular who go crazy when they spot our blue cars. They run after us and shout 'mister water' or 'mister food', which has become our trademark.
On a practical level, my squad and I have started a humanitarian aid campaign. We supply hospitals - mainly children's hospitals, which are in a pitiful state - with various goods and medicines.
When we leave Nasiriya to go on a mission, we often come across isolated villages where everything seems to have stopped at the time of the Sumerians.
Houses built with a mix of mud and straw; ovens made with hollow pottery where dung is used as fuel; bread made with flour ground by hand and food they gather after walking for several hours.
They drink water from the river and eat meat on special days.
Time goes by and the days before we can meet again are fewer and fewer and go by increasingly faster
The difference with our western civilization is unbelievable and difficult to understand unless you experience it first hand.
Apart from the outside world, life at the camp is perfectly Italian: lots of pasta and no shortage of bottled water, apart from some occasions when we celebrate K-day and eat combat lunch packs.
All considered, after the initial period of acclimatisation (which was really hard), things are becoming more normal.
We sleep in a bed, wash ourselves every day, we have a laundry service and eat at a canteen.
In short, time goes by and the days before we can meet again are fewer and fewer and go by increasingly faster.
I urge you not to worry too much.
A big hug and see you soon.