In this two-part series, we’re going to take you on a hike through the Italian Dolomites in South Tyrolean territory. In our post in July, we’ll give you a list of the museums dedicated to bringing the region’s war stories up close and personal. Virtual tours, movies and live webcams in the links below!
Setting the Scene
In 2015, my husband and I stayed in Welschnofen for a week-long excursion of hiking. We were out and about for 6 to 7 hours a day in some of the most breathtaking alpine landscapes I’ve seen… and I’ve seen a lot.
For WW1 and WW2 History Buffs
In 1914, before the war broke out, the Trento, Tyrol, and Ladin valleys of the Dolomites belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. On May 23, 1915, Italy was fueled by rising nationalism, and launched a military campaign to annex these regions, particularly those inhabited by Italian-speaking people.
A 370-kilometer battle line ran through the Dolomites and the high passes became the setting for the fiercest and most treacherous battles of WWI. High altitude and severe winter temperature made trench warfare particularly deadly.
In the first book of the Reschen Valley series, No Man’s Land, Angelo Grimani is a veteran of the first World War and an engineer. He recalls his battles on the Marmolada. The Austro-Hungarians were only one enemy. Others included the elements, the poorly-informed commanding officers, and the dangerous projects such as “blowing the whole of the Marmolada sky high”.
Luis Trenker, a South Tyrolean alpinist and filmmaker, also made one of the most famous films about the battles in the Dolomites, Der Berg Ruft (The Mountain Calls). You can watch it on YouTube in its entirety. Although it’s not in English, you will see scenes of what life was like. It’s an excellent story that depicts the friendship between one Italian and one South Tyrolean before Italy joins the war.
For the Outdoor Enthusiast: If you’re serious about a trip here…
If you do go it alone, the best tip I can offer you is to combine your hike(s) with transportation by gondola so you can cover more ground without over-exerting yourself. Many of mountain huts are also accessible by gondola, so you can catch a ride to the top for an overnight and can continue hiking from there.
And if you are coming, do let us know. If I can, I’m more than happy to meet a reader in person. Maybe even give you a guided tour!