First World War one day itineraries through Italy. Suggestion no. 5: Monte Pasubio and the "52 Galleries” Road

Fortifications. Austrian Tooth
Among the excursions, which combine historical importance and landscape interest, the Monte Pasubioand its “52 Galleries” Road may be noticed by all those who are fascinated by WWI history as one of the most interesting high level paths in the Dolomites. 

As Monte Grappa, Monte Pasubio held a high strategic role during the Great War, since both of them represented the last defensive position of the Venetian Plain. Occupied by the Italians short after the start of the war, Monte Pasubio became a strategic point of the trench line on south eastern borders of Trentino and Veneto region. In 1916, after the Austrian Strafexpedition, an Italian contingent was urgently transferred from the Isonzo Front and under the command of General Papa stopped the Austrian Army at Cima Palon, occupying the southern peak, known as the Italian Tooth (Dente Italiano), separated to the Austrian Tooth only by a small saddle (Selletta dei Denti). This was the background of bloody battles till the end of the conflict.

Originally the Italian front line was supplied trough the Scarubbi Road; this 8 Km long and easy military road was located on the northern side of the limestone ridge of the mountain and exposed to the enemies’ fire, so that Italian vehicles could not drive during the day and at winter time. That’s why in March 1917 the Italian 5th Engineering Regiment built in only 11 months on the southern side of the ridge a new safer trail: the "Strada delle Gallerie" included fifty-two tunnels and ran for more than 2 km in length.

This masterpiece of war and mountain engineering offers nowadays a wonderful chance to walk through history and rocks. The itinerary offers no difficulties and requires only proper trekking equipment and a torch (some of the tunnels are dark and even 300m long).
Drive to Passo Xomo, walk to Malga Campiglia (you can also drive to Malga Campiglia, there’s a payment parking, 5 Euros, but it may be full) and then to Bocchetta Campiglia. From here starts a large path (n.366); it runs through the 52 galleries road. Take time to read the informative boards, which illustrate the history of the road and of the battles of the region and to watch the fortifications. In about 3 hours you can easily reach the Rifugio Papa (1929m) and take a rest (note, please, that the refuge in summer time and especially at weekends is quite crowed; Plan-B: you may have a chilled pic-nic on the near meadows!). The way back runs along path n.370, mostly on the former Strada degli Scarubbi and leads with a 2.30 hours walk to Passo Xomo.

The following itinerary extension could be undertaken only if you have a good training and endure the longer tour and if you start walking quite early in the morning, reaching so Rifugio Papa before midday. From Rifugio Papa starts the path n. 105, which leads to Cima Palon in about an hour. Fortifications are everywhere and the ascent to this summit offers a unique view over part of the Venetian Plain, and north on Dolomites of Brenta, Lagorai and – on the horizon line – the Pale di San Martino and the Marmolada. From Cima Palon you can walk to the Italian and Austrian Tooth, and then back to Rifugio Papa; it takes about 2 hours in total. From Rifugio Papa, the way back always through path n. 370.

If you want to discover more about Monte Pasubio and the 52 galleries road, you may visit the exposition at Museo Storico Italiano della Guerra in Rovereto, Trento. Here a short presentation (only in Italian) of the exposition, opened till December 2013.