Italian Great War Museums #6: museum at Forte Badin near Chiusaforte

Connecting Austria with the Friulian plateau and consequently with the sea, Val Fella was since the antiquity a strategic point of the north-eastern Italian Alps and the nearby village of Chiusaforte played a defensive role. Here the Italian Army built up at the beginning of the XX century a fort on the near located Col Badin, a small summit with a great panorama upon the Julian Alps. The fort was then particularly important during the WWI. After the Caporetto rout, the Italian troops quartered here tried to stop the Austrian Feldjäger, were however defeated immediately in October 1917. Forte Badin was used then in the postwar period as barrack and training place, then slowly dismissed. Only about a decade ago, as the Municipality of Chiusaforte became the owner of Forte Badin, local authorities started wondering about reparing these buildings and using them for cultural and educative purpose. That's why a massive restoration project of the original structure of the fort took place under the supervision of a team of venetian architects. Forte Badin was so transformed in an innovative Museum on WWI, providing also accommodation possibilities.

If every new initiative and space devoted to WWI should be welcomed, the Great War Museum of Chiusaforte deserves a special mention, since the restoration intervention show a peculiar awareness of “time feeling”. The buildings intended to the reception of the visitors (mainly the civil parts, such as the dormitories, where info point and cafeteria are placed) were accurately renewed. In the other edifices (namely those used for war necessities) the intervention was instead limited in “stopping” the degradation process. That's why graffiti and traces of soldiers who stayed at the fort from its construction, then during the Great War, up to its abandonment in the late Sixties were preserved together with the calcareous incrustations and the erosion or the water infiltration. 

An important chapter of the story of this fort was the First World War, as mentioned. The Museum is therefore consecrated to this period, yet in a quite unexpected way. We all are accustomed to the “traditional” museums, with their showcases, their artificial light, their informative labels, sometimes some open-air expositions, always accompanied with the warning “Do not touch!” hanging somewhere nearby. Someone may also share our childish attitude of slight intolerance for not being allowed to touch what we see, even if we can perfectly understand and support the “preservative purposes” of such limitations. Now, Forte Badin is the right place where we can discover a new balance among all museum purposes and our curiosity, since it is primarily intended to offer a multisensorial experience of the WWI. Such a goal is pursued starting from the basic concept of light and sound. The space of the Museum is so articulated to combine the artificial with the natural light as primary stage to dispose sounds and images, creating so an emotional involvement of the visitor. A team of specialists have profiled a very interesting thematic itinerary, in order to enables the visitor to discover more about war artillery and battles, especially in the surrounding of Chiusaforte, i.e. Val Roccolana, Dogna and Rio del Lago. Above all, Forte Badin proposes a “hand-on” museum: visitors can touch, smell, listen to the objects and the rests found in the region, such as helmets, bayonets, ragged uniforms or flasks. Besides, you can find photograph and maps concerning the territory, as it represents a central element of this narration of WWI. The interest in the battles and in the material or geographical aspects is also combined with the attention to the human essence of the conflict: in two of the four cannons-dome of the fort, an emotional experience of the Great War is proposed focusing on poetry and on war diaries in different languages and using photographic portraits of many of those who were directly involved in the conflict.

Due to some bureaucratic setbacks, the Museum has still a restricted accessibility. However, you can get further information on the Museum and forthcoming opening time at the municipality of Chiusaforte.