FROM THE MEMORY OF WAR COMES A CALL FOR PEACE
Eighty fortresses, nineteen museums dedicated to the Great War and hundreds of kilometres of military trails and trenches: Trentino’s extraordinary historical heritage, a precious opportunity to not forget the past and underline the importance of peace
A hundred years have passed since the end of the first global conflict, an event that changed the course of history in Europe and deeply marked that of Trentino, having entered the conflict in 1914 as a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
From 1915 to 1918 this land was a battlefield. This long war front that crossed valleys and mountain peaks was stage more to an interminable struggle with the natural elements than with the enemy.
With its network of 19 museums, 80 Hapsburgh fortifications, miles of trenches, military roads, tunnels and other military facilities which tell of the events of a hundred years ago, Trentino can be considered a right “Park of Remembrance”.
The Peace Trail
The Peace Trail, an itinerary of over 520 kilometres, links up the both the locations and the memories of the Great War on the Trentino Front, from Passo del Tonale to the Marmolada. The entire trail takes about a month to complete, however, it’s possible to undertake treks of one day or more along the various legs of the itinerary, and stop at one of the many mountain huts along the way and even choose between easier paths at lower altitudes or high mountain treks. Most of the trail can also be covered by mountain bike.
From Passo del Tonale, through the locations of the “White War”, the trail leads down to the Valle del Chiese and then onto Riva del Garda and Monte Altissimo. From there it leads towards Rovereto with its War Museum and its "Bell of the Fallen" (Campana dei Caduti). From here, the trail leads up the Vallarsa valley towards the Pasubio mountains and the highlands of Alpe Cimbra and then onto the Lagorai mountain chain. The final stages of the trail cross, from both a historical and panoramic point-of-view, a series of exceptionally important locations, including Passo Rolle, Paneveggio, Passo San Pellegrino and the Val Contrin. The trail then ends with the dramatic views of the Marmolada at Passo Fedaia.
The Circuit of Forts
Along the Peace Trail, visitors will also come across the roughly 80 Austro-Hungarian fortresses which today form part of the culture and geographic landscape of these lands, the Circuit of Forts of Trentino. With their imposing presence, they are testimony to the role played by Trentino in this conflict, whereas the varying architectural styles, construction methods and materials used highlight the transition from 19th century warfare to that of the modern era, with its new and more powerful weapons.
The better preserved forts have been, for a few years now, the subject of an intense restoration project. Just a few kilometres from Rovereto, in the Vallarsa valley, we find Forte Pozzacchio, built directly into the mountainside. In the Valsugana, at Levico Terme, on a hill overlooking the lake, there’s the Forte delle Benne whereas in the Valle del Chiese, in western Trentino, you can visit Forte Corno, part of the Lardaro fortifications. The Tagliata superiore di Civezzano (upper fortification of Civezzano) is located just a few kilomteres from Trento and the Forte Luserna, is found just above the linguistic minority area of the same name.
Places to visit
In the Val di Sole, the main testimony to the War is the military blockade at the Passo del Tonale: five Austrian fortifications built to stop the advancement of Italian troops.
If you’re feeling fit, it’s possible to reach on foot the defence positions of the Punta Linke at an altitude of 3,632 metres in the Ortler-Cevedale group. Here, the highest First World War military site in Europe, an Austrian cableway and adjoining tunnel have recently been recovered and opened to the public.
In the Val Rendena, a difficult yet rewarding trek takes you to the tunnels of the Corno di Cavento in the Adamello group. The approach route takes you across a glacier from either the Rifugio Carè Alto or the Rifugio Ai Caduti dell’Adamello mountain huts.
Around Lake Garda, the military fortifications of the Monte Brione are worth a visit as are the views from the nearby Monte Altissimo whose summit is criss-crossed with bunkers and trenches.
In Rovereto, “City of Peace”, it is possible to visit the Italian War History Museum, the Ossuary of Castel Dante, and the Bell of the Fallen “Maria Dolens”, forged in 1925 from the bronze recuperated from the canons used by both sides of the conflict. Every evening, with its hundred tolls echoing across the valley, it commemorate all those fallen in war. Above the city and easily reached is Monte Zugna, interesting not only from a historical point-of-view. Here Italians built a series of defensive positions, the most noteworthy of which is the “Trincerone” (the Big Trench) from where, in 1916, Italian troops managed to halt a major Austro-Hungarian offensive known as the “Strafexpedition” towards the plains of Veneto.
Along the summits of the Pasubio mountains, over 100,000 Italian and Austro-Hungarian troops lived for more than three years. Over 10,000 of them died or were killed during the conflict, be it in battle or from the cold, illness or avalanches. Over the course of the war, troops from both sides built roads, cableways, aqueducts, makeshift shelters and defensive positions in caves.
On the highlands of Alpe Cimbra on the other hand, between 1908 and 1914 an imposing wall of fortifications was built which included seven forts.
For more information: trentinograndeguerra.it