Monte Lagazuoi, September 16, 1917
On 23 May 1915 when the Kingdom of Italy declared war on the
Austro-Hungarian Empire, their opponents set up a line of defense from the Stelvio Pass along the Dolomites to the Carso and the Adriatic sea. Cortina, which had belonged to Austria since 1511, was abandoned by the
Austrian troops, who strengthened their positions at the Tre
Sassi Fort in the Valparola Pass and on Mount Lagazuoi, in
order to bar access to the Badia and Pusteria valleys,
which were the Italian objectives in this sector.
Austrian Fort at Tre Sassi
In the early months of the war, the Italian assaults on the
Austrian defense positions in the Valparola Pass were
unsuccessful despite the Tre Sassi Fort being immediately
knocked out of action by the Italian artillery grenades fired
from the 5 Torri. Both armies then began to tunnel Mount
Lagazuoi to seek shelter for troops and guns, transforming it
into a new 20th century fortress. They soon found that the
only way to conquer the enemy positions was by blowing
them up. Five charges of dynamite exploded on the
mountain, changing its appearance radically. The explosion captured in the photo at the top of the page is an Austrian mine detonated on September 16, 1917.
Austrian counter-attack, the Italians prepared a defense line
at 5 Torri, where the Italian artillery headquarters was based.
The positions where Italians and Austro-Hungarians fought
have been restored thanks to international collaboration and
funds from the European Union, and can be visited in a great
open-air museum. On Lagazuoi visitors can walk through the long galleries under the mountain and see the Italian and Austrian front-line positions; at 5 Torri there are the Italian defense lines and positions and artillery headquarters while, at the Tre Sassi Fort, there is a museum with exhibits recalling events of the Great War in the Dolomites.
View from Galleria on Lagazuoi
These three museums are about 15 kilometers west of Cortina on SS 48 delle Dolomiti and are located within a radius of 5 kilometers. They illustrate the different aspects of
mountain warfare during the First World War: the
defense of the Alpine valleys in the Austrian fort, the
front line in the mountains and mine warfare on
Lagazuoi, and the Italian defense line and artillery
headquarters at 5 Torri.
Lagazuoi in Distance from 5 Torri
Lagazuoi and 5 Torri may be visited during the summer
by walking up the mountain paths or using the cable
car or chair lift. In the winter cableways should be
used to get to the museum area and then the
entrenchments can be seen using skis or snow shoes,
preferably with an Mountain guide. The Tre Sassi
Fort, on the road through the Valparola Pass, is
accessible all the year round.