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The Road of 52 Tunnels

A dive into the First World War, to relive the grandeur of the 52 tunnels created by Italian soldiers on the Italian-Austrian front.

The Road of the 52 galleries (or road of the First Army) is one of our favorite places, because we spend the day trekking healthy and at the same time reliving the Italian history of the Great War with this majestic work from 100 years ago and which still today hides hundreds of bones under the ground, waiting to be found.

This military mule track was built during World War I on the Pasubio massif it is almost 6,555 meters long, of which 2,335 are divided into 52 tunnels dug into the rock. The creator of the road was the captain of the genius Leopoldo Motti, who later fell on 29 September 1917 during the explosion of the first Austrian mine on the Dente Italiano.

Today, this road is a real military engineering masterpiece and a symbol of resistance: let's consider the weather and logistical conditions for the time (early twentieth century) in which it was built, as well as the speed of execution: the works they began on February 6, 1917, and ended definitively in November 1917.

It was built by the 33rd Miners Company of 5th Regiment of the Weapon of Genius of the Italian Army, with the help of six centuries of workers who dug the tunnels with the help of dynamite to allow communication and passage of supplies from the rear to the valley at the sum of Pasubio, where the first line was sheltered from enemy fire.

How to reach the galleries:

You can reach the only two car parks available (at a cost of 6€) located above the Xomo Pass.

The road is narrow and unpaved towards the end; for parking, it is necessary to have the so-called change, since unfortunately, the automatic machine does not accept banknotes.

It starts along the former military road on the slopes of Monte Pasubio and it is curious to read the story in the first color information panels, precisely to understand the meaning of this work. After the first bends we reach the first tunnel, other signs describe the history of the struggles for Pasubio and the construction of the road during the First World War. It is advisable to have at least a flashlight with you, because some of the 52 tunnels we pass through are long and the ground is rocky and partly wet. The first time we came across this place it was winter, we were without torches and without food and water (don't do it, we had stumbled across it by chance and wanted to walk a few hundred meters to promise to return and so it happened).

Initially, the route is a bit steep and thinking of doing all 52 tunnels in this way may make some people give up, but in some sections the road is flat and the view is MAGNIFICENT! It really leaves you speechless to see the Dolomites from this perspective. Here you can take wonderful cover photos.

In all its steps you feel like you are walking through history, at each gallery there is the usual sign indicating the name to which it is dedicated and the progressive number.

Moreover, the beauty is that they are all different from each other, some are open and of course, they served as lighting and as a location for the cannons (one of which is still present today), while the wells for the mines which in the event of an imminent emergency the soldiers could have blown up a section of the route.

Our favorite is the number 20, at the end of which the landscape leaves you amazed!

At the end of this spectacular road, we reach the Achille Papa refuge, the perfect place to catch your breath and refresh yourself. The second time we came here, at the shelter we met and got to know the guy who runs the shelter and he told us that inside there is still a drawing made on a wall by an enemy soldier of the time. Furthermore, being a historian, he dedicates the summer to discovering the area: he has found cutlery and daily consumables always inside shelters, which belonged to soldiers passing through at that time.

Curious is also the photo of how the slum of the time looked in front of the shelter, in a steep escarpment that seems impossible. The manager explained to us that it was called "the Milano" because of how crowded they were and that it is still possible to understand where the latrines were. Here many soldiers were waiting to be sent to the front, many died from the cold and some were saved because they were sent back to the valley when they were sick.

Between 1915 and 1918 13,000 soldiers died on Pasubio under enemy fire, mines and avalanches that they created. He also sadly told us that until after the 2nd World War it was forbidden for people to climb Pasubio and until the '60s-70s, large baskets were placed to collect the bones of dead soldiers who were easily found along the route or in the surrounding area.

Only in 1938 (20 years after the end of the 1st World War) was the Road of Heroes created in honor of the fallen and to allow the wives and relatives of the deceased to pay homage. The Strada degli Eroi (Road of Heroes) is a stretch of driveway, on the opposite side of the Achille Papa refuge, built by Mussolini to provide the area with a safe and easy for motorized vehicles. The name derives from the fact that on the rock face there are plaques in honor of the 12 gold medals for military valor who fought on Pasubio during the Great War.

From the Achille Papa refuge it is possible to continue towards the Austrian front and the manager recommends that we follow the paths and avoid leaving the path because it is still very unexplored territory, full of dangerous cavities and possible old mines.

How to return to the Parking:

From the refuge behind 52 Gallerie Road, there is a driveway that leads back to the parking lot in a safe way. Some people come back by going backward through the tunnels (as we did not know it) but avoid it! because it is easy to pick up speed, slip, and fall.

Useful info:

- The route takes 3-3.5 hours, not very suitable for children

- Intermediate difficulty

- Altitude of the refuge about 1,913 asl

- Recommended period from June to September

- Consult the weather as the road is overhanging and many people died (on the way you see many photos of fallen people)

- However, pay attention to the sudden change in weather that can occur in the mountains

- Plenty of food and water and technical equipment if possible

- Useful flashlight

Useful links:

Itinerary on the map:



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