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World War 1

When the Italian army occupied Cortina on 24th May 1915, the Austrians abandoned the Ampezzo valley and retreated to the Tre Sassi Fort on the Valparola Pass, built more than 25 years before.

The Italians pursued them on the Great Dolomites Road (inaugurated in 1909) intending to reach Val Badia and cross the Brenner Pass via the Puster Valley.

©Foto Archivio Marco Zardini

Line of defence between the 5 Torri and Mount Pore

The plan proved unattainable as the Austrians had established several defensive and observation posts across the territory conquered by the Italians on the line from Mount Col di Lana to the Tofana.

The Austro-Hungarian trenches at the Valparola Pass blocked the Italian advance; the front was consolidated with the construction of a second Italian line of defence between the 5 Torri and Mount Pore.

Both armies built roads, trenches, artillery emplacements and telephone networks to conduct warfare, and cable cars to reach the most inaccessible emplacements.

On the Alpine front, after 29 months of war, no army could boast of progress.

On 5th November 1917, after the retreat of Caporetto and shortly before the return of the Habsburgs, the last Italian soldier left Cortina.


The trenches

The trenches were intended to protect the soldiers from enemy fire and were defended with several rows of barbed wire. To launch an attack, the enemies had to breach these obstacles with special pincers or break through with artillery. After the consolidation of the front line, the trenches were covered with armour, wooden, tin and earth structures to increase protection against cannon splinters and protect soldiers in the event of snowfall.

From the trenches of the 5 Torri and  the observation post on Mount Averau, the officers and soldiers could just stand by and watch the mine explosions on the Lagazuoi and Col di Lana mountains.

Thanks to the work of numerous volunteers, almost all the tunnels and trenches were cleaned and restored. The downhill sections of the tunnels were made accessible by restoring the steps and equipping them with cables. Various routes have been laid out, some longer and more challenging, others shorter and easier.

The visit of the 5 Torri-Museum


The mountain war was also an artillery war

From June 1915, enemy artillery activity increased steadily. Not even those with war experience, such as the Italian soldiers in Libya and the Austro-Hungarian troops on the Russian front, had ever seen such technologically advanced warfare.

Due to their shape and location, the 5 Torri were perfect for placing and hiding the artillery emplacements with 210 mm cannons.

The artillery command was situated here, guarding the bottom of the valley and controlling the procedure for trapping, hitting and destroying the enemy’s emplacements, possible partly thanks to the telephone lines leading down from the observation post on Mount Averau.

The photo shows re-enactors wearing faithfully reproduced Italian uniforms at the 5 Torri on the occasion of the event "Experience history hands-on". It is a historical re-enactment held every year in August. It recreates Mountain Warfare for educational purposes.

Reenactment at the 5 Torri - Ed. 2021


Barracks, depots and communication

In the 5 Torri area, protected from Austrian artillery fire, were built barracks, depots, medical posts, transport and communication services - telegraph lines and telphers.

The barracks were more comfortable than the trenches because they were heated with wood stoves. During the day, they were made recognizable with a flag and a sign, at night with a coloured glass lantern.

Inside there were always tools for snow shovelling and provisions for four days.

Other barracks housed the mules and animal feed.

The Open Air Museum of the First World War

Today an open-air museum commemorates the events of the war. It is immersed in breathtaking nature and surrounded by refuges, hiking trails, via ferratas and crags that allow for a 360° exploration of the area and all its attractions.