World War I

World War I The transport of the remains of Sepp InnerkoflerWorld War I The transport of the remains of Sepp Innerkofler

Due to its position between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Kingdom of Italy the Dolomite quadrant became the territory of an heroic but bloody battle indelibly scored, not only in the memory of the populations involved, but also on the summits and peaks which literally carry the scars of this terrible mountain war. The First World War involved thearea from May 1915 to October 1917 (the Italian defeat at Caporetto) with a front extending along about 250 km.. The military tactical choices, made by both fronts, rapidly implied trench warfare which required a massive logistic involvement. To connect up with the main means of communication (from the north the Brennerbahn along the Adige valley and the Südbahn along Val Pusteria, from the south the Padua-Calalzo railway and the Conegliano-Belluno railway as well as the roads along the Piave and Cordevole valleys) many roads and even some narrow gauge railways were built (Val Gardena, Valle di Fiemme, Val di Landro and Val del Boite) to reach even the most remote valleys and render the Dolomite territory particularly accessible. In fact the construction of the Great Dolomite Road with the Pordoi and Falzarego Passes, and the Rolle Pass Road linking the Fiemme and Primiero valleys was immediately before the war.

The first battle lines, corresponding to the peaks and crests of the mountains, were fortified with complex systems of tunnels, trenches and underground passages for many kilometres, often excavated with the help of pneumatic drills or mines. Daunting cableways were built next to these, allowing access to the highest peaks. Many mule-tracks and military roads were built in the same way, still perfectly efficient today, giving access to the heart of the main mountain groups (e.g. Sesto, Marmolada, Tofane, etc.). Some of these military postings were later adapted into refuges (e.g. Lagazuoi refuge from a former Austrian posting and A. Bosi refuge from the Italian military command) as historic evidence. Aqueducts, radio stations, electricity and telephone lines were built to supply the outposts; heavy pieces of artillery were transported even to the highest postings, to altitudes of approximately 3,000 metres such as the Great Peak of Lavaredo and the Marmolada. Even glaciers became battle grounds: the network of galleries, postings and encampments excavated in the Marmolada mountain were so wide and extensive that they earned the name of “ice city”. The events which cost the lives of thousands and literally devastated the mountain skyline (the Col di Lana and Lagazuoi peaks were blown up by mines), have become history and traces of this international tragedy can still be found in the places themselves (fortifications, trenches, mule-tracks and roads), but also in museums and collections. Thus history is inseparably tied to the landscape, but what deeply divided then (often members of the same family found themselves fighting on opposing fronts), is once again a symbol of peace and union between populations.