Aerial photography of World War I: a conference in Treviso

"Alisto" is the name of a Slovenian and Italian project about aerial photography. The acronym stands for "ALI sulla STOria" which means "wings on history". If we look at the collective imagination, the First World War was a kind of battle of solitary heroes with their warplanes (think about the Italian "ace" Francesco Baracca). And there is also a definite contrast between the motionless war of the trenches and the new war that saw its debut in the sky (and that was going to refine until the extreme consequences of the air raids of Second World War). This contrast shouldn't lead us to undervalue the importance of the sky in the Great War (three-engined aircrafts, zeppelins, bizarre hot air ballons used to scan the enemy lines, etc.).

An international conference about all these aspects will held in the venue of the Treviso Province next Monday, the 5th of November. The panel is rich and international, and will focus on the state of the art of Italian and Austro-Hungarian aviations during the conflict. We have today a huge legacy coming from that first development of aviation (landmarks, diaries, itineraries, small flying camps and thousands of aerial photos that can be used to study that landscape and to compare it with the one we find today in the same places). This relevant heritage could be today the starting point to pick over those Italian-Slovenian war places approximately between the rivers Soča and Piave.

Unità Operativa Relazioni Internazionali
Tel: +39 0422 656891
(Here is the link to download the *.pdf of the leaflet.)

(For us, this is also the opportunity to remember the important book by Fabio Caffarena about Italian aviation during the Great War: Dal fango al vento, Einaudi, 2010. The translation of the title is "From the Mud to the Wind", but we guess it hasn't been translated into any language so far. It's really a compelling study and already a reference book for the enthusiasts).

First World War one day itineraries through Italy. Suggestion no. 7: "Hemingway's War Circuit" in Fossalta di Piave (Venice)

This 11km round trip in the area of Fossalta di Piave will be launched next Sunday, the 28th of October in a tribute to the author of A Farewell to Arms. The new achievement was possible thanks to the common efforts of Regione Veneto, Provincia di Venezia, Comune di Fossalta di Piave and, as it often happens in Italy, to the enthusiasm of a group of close friends working on a voluntary basis. Everything comes with a audioguide system that people can hire in the bars of the area or grab via QR code. At regular intervals the visitors will find the blue signals showing "La guerra di Hemingway" (Hemingway's war) and on those spots they can play the audioguide and listen to the corresponding passage. As anticipated, this 90 minute multilanguage audioguide and the related map will be available as download to your smartphones and tablets thanks to the QR codes you will find at each milestone of the path. The historical and literary circuit is perfect also for bicycles (you can take into consideration of renting a bike at the local bike shop) and develops both on public and dirt roads. This is the reason why it is subjected to the traffic laws now in force. The concept of this start-up project is simple and great at the same time: forget about the possibility of reconstructing the dreadful tragedy of the First World War as a whole and let's go back to the words that still today enchant millions of readers. Then go back also to the places of the Great War. Walk them or ride a bike and discover how those words resonate when you walk that way.

Google Maps starting point: Fossalta di Piave.

(A dedicated website is coming soon and will be hosted in the list of links here beside.)

The river Piave in Fossalta and the stone 
dedicated to Hemingway

Photo reportage #4: Monte Meatte and Monte Boccaor

Professional and amateur photographers that are willing to share their images in a 100% First World War dedicated platform can write to this email address giving a small abstract of their work (place, country, main features, reasons of interest) and a zipped folder with the images in *.jpeg format in video resolution 72dpi (please in your email consent to World War I Bridges publishing your photos). It goes without saying that the  long term purpose of this little digitale initiative is to crowd-source digital stuff to preserve the memory of the Great War and to channel the energies of professional or amateur photographers on this.

The reportage we share today is the logical consequence of the last itinerary (the sixth) we suggested a few days ago. Once again we bring you to Monte Meatte and Monte Boccaor. The sequence of eight pictures show the Path 153 to Meatte, the g
allery path climbing to Meatte Road, the starting point of trenches of Monte Boccaor, the trenches, a curious pool to collect rainwater, the trenches leading to fire position, the Meatte road and the Path 152. The trench path of Monte Boccaor has been re-established in 2010 by the volunteers of "Alpini" (the Italian Alpine troops) belonging to the local group of Paderno del Grappa. Their highly commendable intervention will go on until 2015.

Photos of animals in World War One: the pigeon with the camera

Pigeons were widely used since the antiquity to carry messages and for the same purpose they served all Armies – not only the British Intelligence Service – during the WWI, and even later, during WWII. Faster than dogs, these birds were trained to fly, even for a long period and through the bombardments. Each time a telephone line or a radio connection was not available, pigeons were able to keep important dispatches from the front to a settled position – generally the headquarters –, no matter where they were released. Besides, they were sometimes fitted with cameras in order to take pictures of the enemy position, so important was the aerial photography in the strategic conflict (this is the case of the picture we post today). It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to say that pigeons have to be regarded as soldiers at all intents and purposes. Stories such that of Cher Ami confirm this statement: probably the most famous carrier pigeon, Cher Ami served on the French front in 1918, during the last stage of the Great War; it helped to save 200 Americans soldiers surrounded by the enemy, because it succeeded in delivering the message to the headquarter, although it was badly wounded – renowned is in fact its picture without the left leg. Harry Webb Farrington devoted even a poem to this war bird. Pigeons were decorated during the Great War as human beings were and memorials devoted to war pigeons can be found in many countries, such as at Worthing, England or in Brussels, Belgium.

(If you wish to contribute with a picture, feel free to write an email to the beside address. We will mention your name in the recommendation's credits. Thank you!)

First World War one day itineraries through Italy. Suggestion no. 6: Monte Meatte, Monte Boccaor Trenches,Val delle Mure

Monte Grappa #1
(This aims at being the first of a series of itineraries dedicated to Monte Grappa)

Monte Grappa needs no presentations: as a crucial and strategic point during the whole conflict, it hosts on its summit one of the most representative monuments of WWI in Italy. It has however much more to offer, such as the innumerable itineraries in its surrounding, that run through old military roads and trenches and allow to discover and admire many concealed “botanic garden” amidst the war ruins. Moreover, you can find the right itinerary in every season of the year, even in winter (obviously, only if you have the required training and a good experience to manage with the – sometimes sudden – weather changes). The first suggestion concerns Monte Meatte and the newly restored trenches of Monte Boccaor. The hike is not so overwhelming, it only requires an appropriate mountain equipment. The whole tour lasts about 5 hours (take something to eat with you, for a short break on the summit, in the case) and it is fascinating especially in autumn.

Google maps starting point: Valle San Liberale, Rifugio Bellavista. (Via San Liberale, 5, Paderno del Grappa Treviso, Italia)

From Paderno del Grappa, locality Fietta, drive up to the Valle San Liberale, till the end of the road, where you can easily park. Before start walking, you may have a look to the informative labels which describes the trenches and the military buildings still partially present in the San Liberale Valley, which was in fact the starting points of many paths used to bring supplies to the troops at the front line. Take then the path n. 153, to hike up to Meatte Mountain. It is a large military road, which preserves in the first section the original stony pavement, turns then into a smaller path. Everywhere you can discover caves, used as shelters and bivouacs. During the ascent in the wood, pay attention to the signals and the labels, since there are some interconnections with other paths, such as the n. 151 (that will be the one of descent) and the Via Ferrata Sass Brusal, a short, yet wonderful climbing, which has to be undertaken only by very experienced hikers. The path n. 153 on the contrary leads easily out of the wood, runs in its final section through small galleries (torch is in this case not required) and small saddlebackes, and reaches the path n. 152 on the crest. 

From this intersection, if you take on the right, you can easily reach Cima della Mandria and Malga Archeson. But we suggest you to take on the left, following the path n. 152, to the “Meatte Path”, a road made by the military Engineer Corps in 1918 on the southern slopes of mount in order to assure supplies to the troops and enable their movement. You can follows this panoramic road between the rocks, with a spectacular view on Valle San Liberale and – if the day is bright – on the venetian plateau.

We propose, however, a small variation to the common tour, in order to visit the newly restored trenches of the Monte Boccaor, beside Monte Meatte. On the path n. 152, as you reach three small fountains on the right (no potable water available), few meters ahead, again on the right, starts a small tracks. If you walk few steps along it, you can immediately recognize on the left, climbing the crest, the starting point of the trenches. We highly recommend this particular itinerary (even if it means, you won't walk the whole “Meatte path”, except in the case you have some extra time to visit both) because you'll have so the chance to walk inside the trenches, feel the tiny space between the stones where the soldiers spent their nights and days, visit the shelters , try to lie in the fire position or have a look to the pool used to collect rainwater. In short, we highly recommends this track because it enables you to understand bodily what spending time in a trench meant. In autumn, the fog may increase the feeling, so as in winter the snow and the frozen temperature do. You can walk the entire trenches line till Val delle Mure, a docile, green, glacial valley. Val delle Mure became from 1917 a sort of “no mans land”: the Italian troops fighting on the summit had to pass through this valley, under the fire of Austrians-Hungarians, in order to transport supplies and wounded down to San Liberale. From here, do not walk on the provincial road, take instead short on the left, walk through the meadows and reach again path n.152, which it's easy to recognize on the crest, with its stony pavement. Follow for some meters the path n. 152 again, till you reach the intersection with path n. 151, a easy track which leads down back to San Liberale. If you want to rest and eat something, two restaurants are placed beside the parking.

The poets and the World War: "MCMXIV" by Philip Larkin

Philip Larkin (1922-1985)
If we read the biography of Philip Larkin, we will probably concede that this man who spent the biggest part of his life in Hull, North Humberside, was not the nicest guy in the world. Some spoke also about his misanthropy. But this librarian and poet, known also as the "master of the ordinary" (the definition belongs to Derek Walcott) wrote wonderful poems. Recently Farrar Straus & Giroux published The Complete Poems edited by Archie Burnet, a heavy book that becomes the opportunity to discover the author of High Windows and to detect the meeting point between his poetry and the Great War (he was born four years after the end of World War One). We will so enter a remarkable point of view on the First World War, with particular reference to England, by reading the verses of MCMXIV, always sheding a new light on those years and closing with that famous "Never such innocence again". The poem is included in The Whitsun Weddings, his 1964 book.


Those long uneven lines
Standing as patiently
As if they were stretched outside
The Oval or Villa Park,
The crowns of hats, the sun
On moustached archaic faces
Grinning as if it were all
An August Bank Holiday lark;

And the shut shops, the bleached
Established names on the sunblinds,
The farthings and sovereigns,
And dark-clothed children at play
Called after kings and queens,
The tin advertisements
For cocoa and twist, and the pubs
Wide open all day;

And the countryside not caring
The place-names all hazed over
With flowering grasses, and fields
Shadowing Domesday lines
Under wheats' restless silence;
The differently-dressed servants
With tiny rooms in huge houses,
The dust behind limousines;

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word--the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of marriages
Lasting a little while longer:
Never such innocence again.

“La bellezza e l’orrore”. The artists and the Great War in Florence

The Italian painter
Ottone Rosai in 1918
Here is a quick recommendation regarding a short exhibition curated by Soprintendenza Archivistica per la Toscana, that opened at Società delle Belle Arti-Circolo degli Artisti “Casa di Dante” (address: Via Santa Margherita, 2, Florence) on September 29th and will end on October 25th, 2012. 

People know Italy entered the World War in May, 1915, after a long, painful and sometimes still obscure debate around interventionism. An interesting and partially decisive contribution to this debate came from artists. The views of the war among worldwide appreciated men of art like Ottone Rosai, Giovanni Mestica, Anselmo Bucci or the pacifist efforts of a novelist and poet like Aldo Palazzeschi are the starting point of the present exhibition that is helding in the city of art par excellence: Florence. 

Here is the website of board of administration of cultural heritage in Tuscany, just in case you are travelling in Florence in the above mentioned period or if you need to get further information about the documents and the catalogue of the exhibition.

Photos of animals in World War One: dogs with gas masks

This new section of World War I Bridges indexed as "Animals" tries to get a glimpse of animal life during the Great War starting from a briefly commented image. We may find animals at the front, behind the lines or even flying over the no man's land. This is a painful side story of the Great War. The World War I bridge we could build again is thus the one between men and animals during the war time.

In the above picture you recognize a German soldier equipped with a gas mask. Beside him, you see two dogs wearing probably the same type of mask he wears. Men and animals in the trenches share the same destiny and the same dangers.
Here we are probably at a first stage of the development of these masks.
During the Second World War we may discover dogs equipped with gas masks likewise. It is interesting to know that, due to the increasing importance of dogs in war operations, the belligerent countries developed customized masks for them.

(If you wish to contribute with a picture, feel free to write an email to the beside address. We will mention your name in the recommendation's credits. Thank you!)