Italian Great War Museums #7: Great War Museum of Forte Tre Sassi in Cortina d'Ampezzo

Old postcard showing the ruins of Forte Tre Sassi
The city of Cortina d’Ampezzo, the well-known touristic centre in the Dolomites, is the ideal starting point for many tours and excursions in the surrounding area. It is also the place to reach if one wants to figure out what happened in that peculiar absurd war inside the war that was fought with the mines in the Lagazuoi. At the outbreak of the First World War the city was soon abandoned by the Austro-Hungarian army, persuaded to put all the efforts on the defense of Badia and Pusteria valleys, and consequently entrenched in the Forte Tre Sassi (Tre Sassi Fortress) in Valparola pass. This fortification was erected by the Austrians between 1897 and 1901 and later modernized in 1911. Right after the beginning of hostilities (we have to remember that Italy enters the war against the Austro-Hungarians on May the 24th), already on the 5th of July, the fort became useless because of the perforation of Italian 210 and 260 shells. The building was illuminated even after this date, turning into a kind of “ghost fortress” and in a false target for the Italian artillery.

Today the fortress represents the richest museum of the area with its 10,000 war relics. Unlikely many other Italian war museums, regardless if they are WW1 or WW2 museums, Forte Tre Sassi stands out thanks to his tidy and clear layout. If you chance to visit it, you will immediately dive into a clear itinerary through the different aspects of war. Fundamentally, what we want to point out is that the weakest point of the Italian World War One museum attitude is often a general propensity to pile things and relics without a clear idea of what to do with them. This fact has of course bad consequences on the museums' layouts and sometimes even on the internal signage. It's not always a matter of dimensions: you can detect this problem in big museums while you can find interesting paths and smart solutions going on the lower scale of a very small museum or viceversa. This is something related with the Italian history, the way of organizing the cultural heritage and offer and not rarely connected with a short-sighted political intrusion. Luckily this is not the case of Forte Tre Sassi, a unique place also for another reason: after spending some time inside the fortress, you can easily walk outside and reach the close trenches, see the restored Austrian barracks in the Edelweiss village also known with the name of Edelweiss Stellung.

Forte Tre Sassi
Museo della Prima guerra mondiale
Passo di Valparola, Passo Falzarego
Cortina d’Ampezzo (Belluno)