The genesis of the Path of Peace

A journey into the historical memory of Trentino

Grandpa, but who won the First World War?” 

“You Italians. Let me explain…” 

“From that day on, all our mountain excursions overlooked the front line. I spent too many years there.” So when Claudio Fabbro, then a child and later an engineer with a passion for history and the mountains, in 1986 began to create the Sentiero delle Pace, he already had the whole plan before his eyes. 

Valle del Chiese - Lardaro - Forte Corno

Alpini and Schützen Troops

For the people of Trentino and South Tyrol, the Great War was “the memorable and indelible event that forever marked their collective subconscious”. It was the event that eclipsed all others in order of importance, becoming the indelible memory of two opposing identities on a territory that had previously seen them close and living in peace. 

“The Trentino Bulge”, this is how the front line of our mountains went down in history. It was a bulge made of trenches where men braved the bitter cold perched in kilometres of holes that bordered the crests of abysmal peaks above 2500 metres above sea level, surrounded by hard-to-distinguish friendly or enemy fire coming from multiple fronts. 

There, Alpini and Schützen troops separated only by a shared valley watershed, suddenly found themselves pitted against one another. The conditions faced by these men are still hard to fathom to this day. Hence all their sudden and undying heroicness. 

The Sentiero delle Pace, recognisable by the trail sign of a golden dove, is, in short, the common thread of the historical memory of Trentino-South Tyrol

La genesi del Sentiero della Pace

The Memory Trail

The Sentiero delle Pace is a 495 km-long route that connects the places and memories of the southern front of the Great War. It is a trail to be followed in stages, a project, a very long journey, born to unite at last “the Italic and Central European people who fought and suffered in these mountains”. 

“The Sentiero delle Pace is like a line that goes from the Stelvio to the Marmolada and then to Rovereto, forming an inverted pyramid which roughly draws the shape of our Trentino. The trail is ideal because it unites the main points of an immense war theatre, from armored forts to outposts and the logistical terminals of the first rear areas”. 

Its longitude and latitude allows as many variants as possible. 

Up to the Marmolada there are three levels, each of them corresponding to the three phases of the war fights. The first phase, namely the first level, stops in front of the armored forts and the valley fronts. The second occupies the intermediate hills and the third rises up to 3500 metres, where the Alpine positions stood at Cevedale and Adamello. 

San Martino di Castrozza - Lagorai - Pale di San Martino dal Lagorai | © Daniele Lira

Il Big Project of 1986

In Trentino there are today around twenty museums dedicated to the Great War that can be visited along the trail. They were born of the recovery of the forts which, before 1986, were nothing more than stone rubble overtaken by vegetation, and degraded by bad weather and passing time. Recovery was possible by the work of salvagers who rummaged in WWI sites in order to find memorabilia and artifacts, and who eventually opened their private collections letting go of their “own memories”. 

In 1986, the Autonomous Province of Trento established the “Special employment project through the enhancement of tourism and ecological-environmental potential”, intended to find a solution to the employment emergency of the mid-1980s. Hence the “Big Project” and, in 1990, the Environmental Restoration and Enhancement Service. Claudio Fabbro, a young civil engineer and recipient of one of the first Environmental Engineering degrees, as well as expert mountaineer with a passion for history, was tasked with putting together the pieces and traces of a memory to be polished. To this end, in 1986, Fabbri undertook, in his own words, his “search for maps, charts, war diaries, which was associated with my very perception of the mountains. For me, if the mountains weren’t war, it would lose interest. My life was in this phase. I wasn’t interested in mountains that were not affected by the war front”. 

In 1986 it wasn’t fashionable to go into the trenches. There was no literature. The forts were nothing but a pile of rubble and boulders. The recovery work lasted years. Metre by metre all the trails were cleared and teams of technicians spent three and a half years just to trace a new trail. “In the summer of 1986, 650 workers did work on the trails, cleaning riverbeds that had become nothing more than rubbish dumps. “Surveyors and technicians working across 4 districts started to draft the project on the ground. There was no GPS, only compasses, altimetres, paper, pen, pencil and tablet. The new trail was created by working only on existing paths, 60% of which were owned by SAT”.  

La genesi del Sentiero della Pace

The Feeling of Memory

Everything that we can see today in the dedicated museums, and which allowed the design and reconstruction of the Trail, is the result of another great recovery work that took place in those years. 

Immediately after the war, so-called recuperanti (salvagers) began rummaging in war sites to locate copper and iron to be re-sold for subsistence. Then came those who salvaged for passion, who were sector experts and jealously safeguarded artifacts in their private collections. For this reason, most of the original documents were not found on peaks, but in attics. It was there that Fabbro’s team recovered topographic maps, photographs, diaries, and everything needed to remap routes and, indeed, memories. Documents became important, rather than objects in and of themselves.  


The Path of Peace

We invite guests to walk on the trail, choose their own stage and, perhaps, the variant most accessible to their experience. To experience their journey surrounded by an extraordinary landscape. To remember the fruit of the work of men who first travelled these roads and paid with their lives for the defense of two worlds at odds with each other, as well as of men who continued to make these roads accessible.  

The memory of Claudio Fabbro is still one with each of the men who worked with him. Love for the mountains continues. Sometimes private and professional destiny intersect, allowing the achievement of exceptional goals for the benefit of all

“I would like to trace their stories. I am getting older...” 

Happy walking everyone! 

Published on 02/05/2024