A photo reportage about Monte Totoga and its "Stoli"

As integration and completion of the itinerary we offered a couple of weeks ago, we post now a photo reportage related to Monte Totoga and its "Stoli" composed by ten images taken during the day trip there.


    1 The summit of Monte Totoga from the Gobera Pass

    2 The entrance of the lower gallery

    3 Inside, the Stoli

    4 A room inside the gallery

    5 View of the Gobbera pass from the Stoli

    6 Inside the upper gallery

    7 The information board at the entrance of the upper gallery

    8 Detail of a artillery post

    9 Artillery post with view south

    10 From the summit of Monte Totoga, looking to the Lagorai

Siegfried Sassoon's First World War journals now available online

It’s very common today, in the general excitement for World War One digitization projects springing up like mushrooms, to realize how many diaries were still in chests of drawers or in the attics of Europe. In theory, we should give equal importance and consequently equal attention to the discovery of a new World War One diary belonged to an unknown farmer who lived in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the Dolomites, and to the unlikely discovery of a forgotten diary belonged to the Italian poet Giuseppe Ungaretti. In other words, what diaries and journals can reveal is not depending on the celebrity of the person they belonged to. This is quite obvious, but it makes sense to stress this point once again before going on.

Notwithstanding what we just stated, we cannot but emphasize the news that recently came from the Cambridge University Library, the institution that conserves the richest collection of Sassoon's manuscripts and archival papers, about the digitization now made available online of “23 of Sassoon's journals from the years 1915-1927 and 1931-1932, and two poetry notebooks from 1916-1918 containing rough drafts and fair copies of his war poems”. And if we all know the poet and his popular memoirs (the “trilogy” composed by Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer and Sherston's Progress), it’s meaningful to remember that Siegfried Sassoon kept a diary for the most of his life, so also during peace times. While considering this, the fact of keeping a diary during the war becomes to our eyes a kind of routine activity moved on a new scenario that is not sharing anything with a common "daily routine". Besides this simple realization, we can foresee a mutual exchange between diaries and journals on one side, and poems and autobiographical texts on the other. The benefits of this commendable project and the real pluses of digitization are a new breathing database that allows “the viewer to form a thorough sense of the nature of the physical documents.” For Sassoon the war notebooks are like a comrade and like a friend, where to entrust all aspects of the trench life (drawings, notes, briefs, diagrams, places, poetry, letters). To surf among the pages is really like getting closer and closer to that time; your journey through Siegfried Sassoon’s diaries could start here.

First World War one day itineraries through Italy. Suggestion no. 17: Monte Totoga and its "Stoli"

View on Val Vanoi from the Stoli
The Italian and Austro-Hungarian front line is drawing more and more interest, not only among historians of the First World War, but also among simple visitors and hikers. And yet, some of its sections still remain out of the usual circuits of mass tourism – luckily! – offering so the chance to visit environment in which nature, anthropomorphic interventions and historical memories coexist in a living symbiosis. This is the case of the Primiero and Vanoi Valleys, along which the former front line run (here an overview in Italian and German). As the Great War broke up, being the bulk of the Austrian Army engaged on others fronts and yet mistrusting the Italian ally, the Double Monarchy settled immediately at least a defensive line close to the Lagorai range, up to the Passo Rolle, so to use the natural bastion of mountains between the Fiemme Valley and the Primiero. Especially during the battles in the summer and autumn 1916 the fortifications built on Monte Cauriol, Cima Cece and Colbricon were crucial to stop the adversary and are still today visible. On the other side, the Italian Army, although much more numerous, was forced to build up its assault and defensive lines in a more difficult geographical environment, lacking in natural and solid bastions: a line of advanced posts was formed on Monte Cauriol and on the eastern summit of Monte Colbricon only during the last battles in the 1917; different fortifications, trenches laid instead on the bottom of the Vanoi Valley (Refavaie – Caoria) and then climbed up the opposite range of Mezzogiorno and Valsorda Peaks, reaching then the Calaita pass and the Pale di San Martino. However, the most imposing Italian defensive line was created a little bit behind of this front and included above all the fortifications on Monte Totoga that we suggest to visit with a simple – suitable for all hikers - and short – altogether 4 hours – itinerary.

The entrance to the upper gallery
Starting point is the small hamlet
Gobbera, on the homonymous pass. If you come from Imer you find on your right a small car park, just before entering the hamlet. Park the car there and have a look to the near informative totems. Then walk on and if you need to buy something to eat or drink do it in the local shop in front of the church, since there’s no refreshment on the way. However the itinerary is not so overwhelming, so, if you have water with you, you can also take immediately the path n. 345 just behind the church, walk among the few houses and after running along a small pine grove, take the mule track, which still corresponds to trail n.345. The path is really easy, even if it becomes more and more narrow and stony. During the summer it may be very hot, that’s way we suggest to undertake this itinerary in spring or autumn (in this last case, pay attention to the leaves, they’re very slippery especially on the way down), but the panorama on the Pale di San Martino is really beautiful. At a certain point you find a crossroads: if you walk on the “normal” path, slightly on the left, the excursion would be easier but also longer, that’s why we suggest to take first the small trail on your right, which steeply climbs the slope, reaches the path n.345 again and leads you in short to a small unattended refuge San Gualberto, where you can rest and eat, but only if you’ve taken something with you. Otherwise walk few steps on and visit the near Italian fortifications, whose entrance is on your right. The so called Stoli are wide galleries dug on the limestone of Monte Totoga, as usual with huge openings, meant to enable the positioning of heavy artillery. The galleries are two, placed on different levels (one above the other) to strengthen the fire attacks against the Austrian line, and dominate the Val Vanoi. You can walk in the humid corridors and visit the dark shelters (take a torch with you!) and above all look at the valley below and the small village of Canal San Bovo. After visiting the Stoli, take a short walk on the top of Monte Totoga: near the entrance of the upper gallery, on the right, a really tiny and almost invisible red mark signals the path which runs among the wood and is sometimes very difficult to follow (so, pay attention especially to the red marks on the bark of the trees!). From the summit you can contemplate the Lagorai range and especially the couple Cima d’Asta – Cauriol, looking at each other. The way back follows the ascending path, but you can eventually avoid the steep trail, remain on the path n. 345, walk through the Prà di Totoga – a pasture – and then reach again the Gobbera pass. You can eat and rest here, in the small and nice restaurant of the hamlet, or drive to Canal San Bovo and stop for a rest along the road.

Novels of the Great War: "Drei Kameraden" by Erich Maria Remarque

While examining the First World War literature there are some titles and authors that always emerge, no matter which country you’re from. Remarque’s Im Westen nichts Neues is what we mean by this simple introduction. But one should never forget that the result of the conflict had great echoes on literature also long after the end of the war and relevant impact in the so called Entre-deux-guerres period. And the name of Erich Maria Remarque was not mentioned by chance since today reading suggestion is his novel Drei Kameraden first published in 1936 and written during the exile in Switzerland. This is not a book about the Great War but it’s a novel about what came after it and it’s generated from a kind of ghost image, from a perennial trauma shaping the minds of those who spent the youth buried in the European trenches. This is the reason why we consider for all purposes “Three Comrades” still a World War One novel. On the contrary, we do not consider for instance the recent 14 by Jean Echenoz a World War One novel. The novel by Echenoz represents simply the use of a war subject in today literature and we are able to collect similar examples in comics, arts, films while in Remarque’s case we’re still, with both feet, in the climate originating from the conflict.

We all know about the dreadful economic situation that Germany had to face after the Treaty of Versailles. And the story that Remarque outlines in this book is about three comrades that try to survive among the shocking unemployment, the plague of alcoholism and the rising of new extremisms by opening a garage for car repair in a German city. Robert, the protagonist, falls in love with Patrice, a beautiful and mysterious woman that eventually will fall ill with tuberculosis. This sentiment becomes a kind of handhold in order not to plummet like all the world around him and his two friends, an entire world that is rapidly collapsing into another dark tunnel. Patrice will try uselessly some cures in Switzerland and the three friends will sell their garage and will go to Switzerland in a last desperate attempt to help her to survive. This popular novel still works as a kind of warning for us. What we understand is that a second parallel tragedy flows beside the one occurred in the European trenches between 1914 and 1918: it is the tragedy of the survivors and of their lives fed by internal and continuous flash-backs of death, getting bigger and bigger inside. We can read Drei Kameraden as a cruel persistent image of death (the one of Patrice) after the mass death (in the battlefields), in the scenario of the rising Nazism.