Great War

An open air museum
The excursions that set off from the arrival of the Costabella chairlift and the mountain station of the Col Margherita funicular lift lead to an interesting territory in terms of nature and history. During the First World War (1914-1918), in fact, the Crests of Costabella, Monzoni, Cima Bocche and Juribrutto were the scenes of bloody battles between the Italian army and Austrian troops, and there are several well preserved testimonials to the presence of both sides.

At the same time these routes pass through areas that are extremely special from a naturalistic point of view, so much so that the Monzoni has been defined as the most interesting geological and mineralogical museum in Europe.

The fauna is also remarkable, with plenty of marmots, deer and mountain goats.

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    Alta via dei Monzoni

    The battles fought in this sector of the Dolomite front were determined by the strategic importance of the mountain chain that had been conquered by the frontline declared “Monzoni – Costabella”. This would have enabled the Italians to penetrate Val di Fassa and Moena, upsetting the Austrians’ strategic defence.

    Cima Alochet was captured by the branch of the Bersaglieri forces on June18th, 1915, but it was immediately abandoned under heavy Austrian machine gun fire aimed at a peak in front of them (Punta dell’Ort).

    Subsequently, Italian troops set up position in trenches under the “Colifon”, and there they remained until the beginning of November, 1917, when Caporetto fell and forces were ordered to abandon this front to head for the Piave. Along the entire crest, all the way to Cima Ricoleta, today there are many wartime remains: triage posts, cannon positions, trenches, foundations of barracks and steel bolts; in the final part you can visit the Austrian watchtower at Zigolade.

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    Creste di Costabella

    In the month of May, 1915, among the wide open pastures of Passo San Pellegrino, the first Italian push into Austrian territory began. However, the Austrians were well positioned, just beyond Passo San Pellegrino and on the overlooking Passo delle Selle, where they built a small village. This precluded the possibility of any advance towards the Val di Fassa.

    The Italian-Austrian war was thus moved to the creste di Costabella, where various victories and defeats and much bloodshed led to shifting boundaries, with traces that were once Italian, then after a few days, Austrian. A particularly significant battle for control of Cima Costabella took place in March 1917. Tons of lead and grenades rained down on the outposts, with devastating effects on the Italian troops stationed there.

    At the end of October of the same year, the Austrians broke through the Isontino front; the Dolomite line was abandoned and peace and quiet returned to these mountains. Today the area is still well preserved: there are caves, trenches, outposts and foundations of barracks. In the first part you can see the Austrian chambers of the “KAISERSCHÜTZEN” in their original state, and in the final part you can visit the Italian observatory that houses the exhibit “GUERRA ALLA GUERRA”. It’s a series of panels, which were brought to the peak in the summer of 2005, depicting a collection of photographs from the German anarchist Ernst Friedrich, which were first published in1924 and in which the photographer denounces the horrors of the war.

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    Col Margherita

    The area of Col Margherita – Juribrutto was the focal point of the Italian advance on this part of the front: the peaks provided the territory for brutal, bloody attacks. The most violent battles took place beyond the forcella Juribrutto on the southern face of Cima Bocche, where Italian troops from the Tevere brigade clashed with Autrian-Hungarian soldiers.

    All of these war moves on behalf of the Italians weren’t meant to open a pass towards the Val di Fiemme; they were just a diversion to obstruct the movement of Austrian troops to the Isonzo front. Today, the area is well preserved on the rim and on the peak of Juribrutto, while in the final part: “Col de le Palue”, you can visit the recently restored Italian tunnels.

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    Cima Bocche

    The Austrian-Hungarian front line cut a swath through the valley of Travignolo, just above Paneveggio, then continued up the opposite side all the way to Cima Bocche. The area of Cima Bocche was the centre of the Austrian defence on this part of the front. In 1915 significant numbers of troops were amassed on the peaks, at inestimable costs sustained in terms of effort and logistics necessary to make conditions liveable in all seasons. For each soldier on the front line, there were eight soldiers bringing up the rear; the building of cable lifts came as a great relief for the endless columns of porters, but these lines couldn’t reach every place so the only means of transportation were by mule or on the backs of soldiers.

    In 1916, after a particularly harsh and snowy winter which caused many casualties, especially due to springtime avalanches, the battle for control of Cima Bocche broke out. At dawn on July 20th, 1916, the 1st battalion of the Tevere Brigade sprung a surprise attack and came up behind Austrian lines, but the reaction was so fierce that it forced the Italians to retreat to their trenches, which by that time were very close to enemy lines. Fighting raged throughout the summer, until the final battle on November 3rd,1916, when the Tevere Brigade, which had already lost about 2000 men, managed to expunge a strategic point called “osservatorio”, which they were able to hold for a brief time. The Austrians counter-attacked, leaving 200 soldiers dead in front of the lost outposts.

    After 5 days of furious, hand to hand combat, the Austrians retook the “osservatorio”. Along the entire ridge of Cima Bocche and throughout the equipped trail on the Gronton there are still several wartime remains and artefacts, silent testimonials of that age: trenches, posts, walkways, ladders and remains of barracks.