First World War one day itineraries through Italy. Suggestion no. 8. Monte Grappa #2: Cima Mandria and Malga Archeset

Monte Grappa #2

With this second suggestion of itineraries on Monte Grappa we invite you to discover the valley and the summit just beside the Meatte road, on the eastern flank of the range. This itinerary is very simple and lasts about 4-5 hours (without counting the lunch-break, but taking time to visit the fortifications along the path), a perfect Sunday excursion, even if during the week-ends there’s always a lot of people, which means you’ll miss probably some unexpected yet welcomed meeting on the descending path, as we’ll reveal in short. It can be undertaken in each season, it is particularly fascinating during the winter time, in a sunny yet frozen morning. However, due to the southern position of the path, you should venture on the snow only if you know its rules and respect them. Please check therefore the weather and temperatures forecasts in case.

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

Take the path n. 153 and climb up to the Meatte Mountain, till you reach the connection with path n.152 on the crest. And this time turn right.
Pay attention for some meters of this first section, because it may be icy; then you can walk freely along a narrow but untroubled, almost flat path which runs high, along a skyline of meadows and rocks. On the left you can see ruins of trenches, galleries and war relicts. On the right side you can enjoy the view on San Liberale Valley and then on the whole Pianura. If you’re lucky, in a sunny and clear day, you can recognize the Venice lagoon and, from “La Vedetta” short farther ahead, even the peaks on the borderline between Slovenia and Italy. If you have time or you simply want to rest few minutes, we suggest to take a sit on one of the rough boards-benches and look all this panorama, trying to perceive in this way, how strategic was the front line on the Monte Grappa, the last bastion to stop an easy and unstoppable run down on the Italian plain.
At some point, you find a sign on the right, indicating a newly reactivate, but still unnumbered path descending to San Liberale. We discourage to take it: it’s very steep  and gets sometimes lost in the wood. Keep on walking instead along the path n.152, till you finally reach Malga la Vedetta, recognizable, as you reach the asphalt, with its old building on your right. From the asphalt, turn first slightly on the left and climb the summit in front of you, Cima della Mandria (1482m), following the indication for Malga Archeset and then, at the first bend, abandoning the vehicular road and walking across the meadow, to reach the small church on the top. From here, if you’re able to stand the usually strongly blowing cold north wind,you can breathe an almost 360° view. With the southern plateau on your back, you can enjoy a glance at the Monte Grappa, then at the Feltrine Alps (the range of mountains from Feltre to Belluno) north, and at the Prealps of Treviso, with the Piave river below. You can also recognize from here the spine of the Italian defensive axis, running from Monte Meatte, to Cima della Mandria and Monte Pallon, till, descending on your right, Monte Tomba and Monfenera.
You may be hungry at this point, so this time you can easily find a warm meal in the near Malga Archeset. Just look north, in front of you, and then follow again the road for few minutes. It is a rustic place, but the Mulled Wine and the home-made cakes are simply perfects to restore from the cold outside.

The descent is very comfortable. Walk back to Malga Vedetta. A unnumbered path starts just in front of the building. Even with the snow you’ll find for sure the tracks of someone else. You can take it after having a look at the rests of a cableway nearby, which were use to supply the front line during the Great War. The descending path presents no difficulties, maybe some beautiful meeting. The meadows besides Malga Vedetta are in fact a place of recover and pasture for wild animals. Especially at the end of the autumn and in the spring you can often see herd of roe deer, so don’t talk aloud or make too many noises. The path will lead you through the wood, turning then in a large pebbly road of woodcutters till Valle San Liberale.

(Discover also the previously suggested itinerary on the Monte Grappa here).

Photo Reportage #7: the British 7th Division Memorial in Maserada sul Piave. A Poppy Wreath along the Piave

The new photo reportage we're sharing today comes from the local World War I Museum of Maserada sul Piave, basically the organization from where this WWI bridge and this web project start. We thank the president, Mr. Giuliano Bottani, for having gathered the photos after long and accurate researches.

If you're travelling in the area surrounding the city of Treviso, you may schedule a quick stop in Salettuol, a former fisher village next to the municipality of Maserada sul Piave. Beside a red concrete square always open to the public (where you can also park) just opposite to the bank of the Piave called "Wall of Salettuol" (a large concrete bank built in recent years to protect the village from the heavy floods occurred during the last seven centuries) you can stop in front of the three monuments representing the final operations of the Great War. The monuments are in good condition, and were repositioned in the same place where they had been uprooted during the floods of November 1966 (see picture). The gem of this "Garden of Remembrance" is for sure the central memorial dedicated to the British 7th Division, the protagonist of the river crossing in October 1918 across the Papadopoli Island, a key-operation that eventually turns into the beginning of the end of the war in the eastern front  (the "Battle of Vittorio Veneto", also remembered as "Third Piave Battle"). As far as we know, this is the only WWI memorial dedicated to the British contingent you can find in Italy. A four-sided stele placed on three rectangular marble blocks rises towards a often cloudless sky with its cut off top to represent the massacre of young men. In the front side they carved the names of the units that were part of the 7th Division and, on the higher level, the names of the European battlefields where they had fought. All these names evoke tragic places and losses of the 20th century. The British monument was designed by the architect Harold Gibbons and erected by the British Government in 1924 (see picture of the inauguration). It was lately surrounded by other two memorials dedicated to Italian soldiers. All the war memorials were rebuilt after the devastating Piave flood of November 1966 and, only a few years ago, in June 2008, they became the background of an unprecedented commemoration with members of the London Scottish Regiment and their Pipes and Drums. The main memorial dedicated to the 7th British Division assembles more than one meaning: the tragedies of war, civil rituals of collective memory, natural disasters. This is an area of ​​outstanding yet ignored natural beauty, close to the protected areas of "Natura 2000" and to the oasis called “Il codibugnolo” with its charming dry lawns and the ever changing river woods. If you pass by in summer and if you keep a bathing suit in your car you might also think of jumping into the river (pay attention to the slippery pebbles). Because of its configuration and location close to the "sacred river", the British 7th Division memorial reflects in its architecture and in the singularity of the place the ancient and timeless connection of men of all countries, nature and historical memory. 

Below is the sequence of images: the inauguration of 1924, the aspect of the "Garden of Remembrance" before the 1966 Piave flood, the aspect immediately after the flood, and the final images represent the present aspect.

This is also the best place to show a twin of this memorial located in the Flanders battlefields, architecture wise. In this case you find a couple of images, the first as you could see it in the past and the second showing the present situation (for the recent picture courtesy of

The poets and the World War: "Sick Leave" by Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Sassoon
Few days ago an article in The Guardian announced that drafts of poems by Siegfried Sassoon, among them also that of Atrocities, one of his most famous anti-war poems, then collected in Counter-Attack, have surfaced during two manuscript auctions. Great interest rose around this discovery that seems to disclose new critical approaches on the genesis of Sassoon’s poems (and as a consequence on his complex attitude towards war) and, at the same time, seems to offer even new unpublished materials. As soon as these fragments will be available, we should be able to evaluate their importance and also to take position pro or contra the different critical analyses. At the moment, we see in this discovery the “occasion” to re-read Sassoon, one of the leading poets of the First World War, who needs therefore no presentation.

We choose Sick Leave, among the ones of Counter Attack (1918). The poem was written in October 1917, during Sassoon’s stay at Craiglockhart War Hospital, where he was trying to recover from a supposed shell-shock. Originally entitled Death’s Brotherhood and sent by letter to Lady Morrell, Sick Leave gives a proof of the personal method enacted by Sassoon to conciliate the protest waged against the war and the sense of personal responsibility. And it was indeed a hard conciliation that described in this poem, which places its impossibility between the initial image of comfort sleep and the “unfriended” awake of the last verses. In the middle, the perceiving of “the noiseless dead”, of the ghosts of the dead men from the battlefield “from Ypres to Frise”, the battlefield where Sassoon also fought and saw them dying. In the “bitter safety”, those ghosts mirror the conflict within the author’s consciousness: he cannot bring those who he saw fallen back to life, he can maybe accept once again command over those still living, whom he had left behind through his gesture of protest after the death of his friend David Cuthbert Thomas, namely his renowned Soldier’s Declaration. We know that Sassoon returned short after to his soldiers in France and fought the last months of WWI. But maybe – almost for sure – his decision doesn’t mean an untroubled answer to the last verse of this poem; and could the blood of dead and living men ever find peaceful conciliation? On the contrary, the final question reveals how painful and complex was the struggle he was fighting to really put an end to his interior “sick leave”, which has to last till long after the end of the Great War.


When I’m asleep, dreaming and lulled and warm,
They come, the homeless ones, the noiseless dead.
While the dim charging breakers of the storm
Bellow and drone and rumble overhead,
Out of the gloom they gather about my bed.
         They whisper to my heart; their thoughts are mine.
        “Why are you here with all your watches ended?
          From Ypres to Frise we sought you in the line.”
In bitter safety I awake, unfriended;
And while the dawn begins with slashing rain
I think of the Battalion in the mud.
“When are you going out to them again?
Are they not still your brothers through our blood?”

Photos of animals in World War One: Mercy Dogs

Maj. Richardson & British Red Cross dogs

That the WWI was a largely static war it is a commonplace definition, which may not be so stimulating to approach new insights in its history but is in many regards correct, at least if we keep the common anthropocentric point of view. Nevertheless, animals counterbalanced someway the motionless of the human beings: While soldiers were lying in the trenches, pets were often employed to move constantly between the front line and the HQ. Dogs for example.
A conservative estimate places the number of dogs employed at nearly 50.000, most of them enrolled in the German and French Army (Americans troops borrowed dogs from their allies, since they had no organized dog units). A variety of breeds (above all German Sherperd and Labrador Retriever) were used during the Great War for different purposes. As pigeons, dogs were employed to deliver messages, but – different from the birds – they were also able to transport others materials, carrying food and ammunition for troops. They were also used for sentry and scout, even to haul machine guns on wheeled carts.  We’ll try to consider each of these dogs units in the future posts, we'd like to focus for the moment on a special one used during the WWI, i.e. the Red Cross dogs, also called "mercy dogs". These animals were trained to provide wounded men with two essential service. Firstly, they carried medical supplies and small canteens of water or spirit, so that wounded soldiers, if conscious, could avail themselves of these supplies. Secondly, the mission of Red Cross dogs was mainly to search and rescue soldiers, who were not able to move. If the wounded man was behind his own battle line, the mercy dog had simply to call for his handler. If they had to work in no man's land, the dogs were trained, once a wounded man was located, to return to their handler carrying the helmet or a piece of his uniform in order to inform the medical unit this way, someone who needed urgent help had to be rescued. To accomplish their mission mercy dogs had to deal with deadly gases, slit trenches and artillery. Sometimes dogs were able to drag men into protective places and trenches before alerting their master.
Thousands of soldiers owed their lives to these mercy dogs during the Great War and it is therefore not astonishing that a special cemetery was dedicated to this animals. If you are in New York, we recommend to visit, just outside the city, the Hartsdale Canine Cemetery and have a look to the monument of a German shepherd, dedicated to all dogs, as we can read, “for the valiant services rendered in the World War, 1914-1918.”