• The Great War

The Dolomites, mountains on war

The Great War has changed the history of Europe and stained with blood our mountains. Today, the Dolomites peaks are a huge ‘outdoor museum’, to discover by Mtb, on walk or with skis

Pamela Pucci

The Dolomites, mountains on war

From the 1915 to the 1918, the Dolomites became one of the bloodiest frontlines of the Great War. Here, Italians and Austrians faced on the rock walls, transformed into a huge stone fortress creating hundreds of tunnels, defense lines, communication trenches and embrasures.

Austrians understood first that mountains could become stone towers, changing the attack's dimensions. The war's tactic became vertical: a battle faced by ‘moles’, one level below another one, with the aim to fight those who stay above and control the area. The most effective way was to dig a tunnel under the enemy and blew it up with a mine. And so forth, in the cold and in the dark, into the bowels of the earth.

The World War I on the Dolomites has required a colossal work of construction and strategy: engineers, topographers and miners have been engaged, have been built roads and kilometers of telephone cables have been connected to communicate with chiefs. All together with shacks made with wood, bridges, paths, emplacements and trenches. 


Today, this area has become a huge outdoor museum. Here, several paths bring visitors inside the mountain: living again the insanity of this war, but showing an extraordinary work of technique and ability, in addition to the memory of thousand men that fought inside a stone tomb.

Since 2008, the ‘Lagazuoi’ mount is the heart of this unusual museum that includes also the Five Towers, the Austrian “Tre Sassi” fort in Valparola and the ‘Sassp di Stria’.

If you want to go through the paths of the trenches (www.lagazuoi5torri.dolomiti.org), which are suggested from May to October, you will need helmets and torches that you can rent there. During the Summer, guided excursions are also organized with starting point at the ‘La Villa Tourist Association’.

Moreover, if you are a ski enthusiast, you can visit the trenches with the ‘Great War skiing Tour’. It goes along the base of famous mountains (Civetta, Pelmo, Tofane, Lagazuoi, Conturines, Settsass, Sassongher, Sella and Marmolada) and around the most distinctive mountain of the World War First, the Col di Lana, also called “Blood Mountain”. The reason of this name comes from the scenes of heavy fighting between Austrians and Italy that took place here.

The ski slopes of this itinerary are gorgeous, suitable to all and surrounded by a wonderful landscape. The ‘Great War ski Tour’ goes through three provinces (Bolzano, Trento and Belluno) and you can start it from Alta Badia, Arabba and ‘Malga Ciapela’. It is necessary to buy a Dolomiti Superski skipass (www.dolomitisuperki.com) that allow you to have a free skibus service, in addition to the access into 12 valleys of Dolomites, along 1.200 kilometers of ski slopes and 450 ski lifts. 

The trail of the Great War is about 100 kilometers to do half with skis, along breathtaking descents, and half with skibuses and ski lifts. You will need 7 or 8 hours to complete it (the lunch break is included) and it is worth it for the historical interest but also for the great beauty of the landscape.


Not only skiing, this Dolomites area is also open to the Mountain Bike with one of the most fascinating itineraries for this sport. It goes along paths and military streets, which are easily accessible and suitable to every biker quite trained.

The tour to the trenches, forts and museums (enclosed into an area of 5 kilometers) is not to be missed. They are immersed into forests and rock walls, in a perfect mix of history and nature.

One of the most interesting and exciting tours of the Dolomites.