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The Giro dei Forti Hike

A hike through historical World War I battlefields

Departure: Ospizio San Bartolomeo at the Tonale Pass (1971 m asl)
Arrival: Forte Zacarana (2096 m asl)
Difference in height: 125 mt
Difficulty: T = Tourist
The itinerary leads to the discovery of Forte Mero and Forte Zaccarana, which with the opposing Forte Pozzi Alti, were built in the early years of the twentieth century as a barrier to the Passo del Tonale. The route crosses the first Austro-Hungarian line and the "no man's land". This wonderful excursion will tell you of ancient stories that resurface to memory from ruins and silent landscapes. It is simple, suitable for everyone and offers a splendid view of the peaks of the Alta Val di Sole.

Starting from our Hotel or after parking at the Hospice of San Bartolomeo (1971 m), just above Passo Tonale, we walk along the old Tonale road heading east. Along the path you can see numerous craters caused by bombs and trench remains of the first Austro-Hungarian line; behind us, towards the Tonale, there was the "no man's land".
In about 30 minutes you can reach the ruins of Forte Mero (1840 m), built between 1911 and 1913. It was intended to block the old Tonale road by strengthening Forte Zacarana (placed a little higher) and to keep under control the opposite side of Val di Vermiglio. To realize its strategic position, just go up to the roof and observe (thanks to the telescopes in the equipped point) the strong Pozzi Alti, Passo Paradiso and the basin of the Presena. Forte Mero was designed for close defense and was armed only with seven Schwarzlose machine guns (specimens are kept at the Museo di Vermiglio and at the Museo di Pejo). At the time the fort was presented as a building of armored concrete covered with a layer of earth that was used to dampen the effects of the explosions. Today there remains only a pile of rubble, a result of the work of the recoverers; the recovery works carried out in 2010 freed the structure from the vegetation and made it recognizable. A curious aspect: on some walls of the part located further down the valley are still visible stains of color with which the Austro-Hungarian army had tried to camouflage the fort.
Those who want to take a break and enjoy the view can take advantage of the nearby equipped rest area.
Continuing along the road you reach the military village called Caserme di Strino. At this point, sheltered by Italian artillery, the Austro-Hungarian army built barracks, warehouses and a field hospital. Today remains the remains of three large buildings, some bases for barracks and remains of watchtowers, latrines, wells.
Along the road leading to Forte Zacarana there are numerous guard posts: tunnels made of concrete or carved into the rock to protect men and light artillery pieces. Approaching the fort we recognize traces of the trenches that represented the last defense.
Built between 1907 and 1913, at an altitude of 2096 m, Forte Zacarana was the most modern and efficient of the Tonale Forts. From here you control the wide saddle of the pass, the chain of Monticelli and the majestic scenery formed by Presanella, Busazza and the crown of peaks that surrounds the glaciers of the Presena. It was made of concrete; on the summit, four rotating steel domes contained obiices and cannons. It could accommodate 163 soldiers and 4 officers. An armored concrete tunnel connected the fort to an advanced location; the side towards Tonale (exposed to possible Italian attacks) was protected by a moat reinforced by a retaining wall.
Even this fort appears today as a ruin: the recoverers, to extract the steel armor, demolished the roof with the explosive. The recovery interventions carried out in 2010 made the interior partially open: the visit (guided only!) Is very interesting to understand how soldiers lived inside the Forts of the First World War.
The return to the San Bartolomeo Hospice takes place along the SAT path n. 160 (about 45 min); along the way you meet some trench almost unrecognizable.
The Giro dei Forti Hike
The Giro dei Forti Hike
The Giro dei Forti Hike
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