The Tolmino


Stops in Tolmino and the nearby village of Santa Lucia on the Isonzo [Soca] midway between Gorizia and Caporetto are keys to understanding the most famous battle of the Italian Front: The Battle of Caporetto. It was nearby that the Central Powers made their decisive breakthrough and routed the Second Italian Army.

The Front at the Start

Detail of Front, October 1917

By the spring of 1917, the Italian Army had gained control of both sides of the Isonzo river from the Plezzo basin, where the river exits the Julian Alps and flows to the Adriatic Sea. But a small 7-kilometer long bridgehead running across a bend in the Isonzo River just south of the town of Tolmino remained in Austrian - Hungarian hands. From a dominating hill called Santa Maria on the west side of the river, the German planners could observe Italian preparations and at the right time, launch their offensive.

The Italian 19th division (deployed directly opposite Tolmino) was overrun in a few hours by the German 12th Silesian division, allowing the Germans to take the all-important position of Mt. Jeza (where all three Italian lines of defense nearly ran together) and advance west along the Kolovrat ridge. Assault troops including the one-day famous Erwin Rommel captured both of these objectives the morning of October 24, 1917.

Tolmino Today
In 1917 the Central Powers Occupied Both Sides of the River

Austro-German troops then advanced along the Isonzo valley from Tolmino using roads paralleling the Isonzo valley. By 16:00 hrs, they were already in Caporetto and by the evening of the 24th, they had joined up with the Austrian - Hungarian 1st Corps at Saga, behind the Italian second line.

For a small town of 12,000 Tolmino [Tolmin in Slovenian] has a rich history. It was a center of peasant uprising in the middle ages, all the battles of the Isonzo of the First World War and of partisan anti-Nazi activity in the Second. It was damaged heavily in the earthquake of 1976 and many of its structures have been rebuilt or strenghtened. Today it's a tourism center drawing canoeists and trout fishermen -- thanks to the river --- plus hanglider enthusiasts -- thanks to the local topography.

Javorca nad Tolminom
Memorial Chapel

Several war memorial are in the area the most being the Javorca nad Tolminom - Church of the Holy Spirit. Built by Austro-Hungarian veterans in memory of the thousands of victims of the First World War in this area it is located high on the mountainside overlooking the town and river.

Visit John Farina's article on Caporetto to learn more of why the Tolmino Bridgehead was the key to Caporetto: Click Here

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Additions and comments on these pages may be directed to:
Michael E. Hanlon ( regarding content,
or toLeo Benedetti ( regarding form and function.
Original artwork & copy; © 1998-2003, The Great War Society