I challenge you to find an Italian that never said or have heard at least once “ah, it was just a Caporetto”. That battle is in our history books, and that phrase entered the Italian lexicon as a synonym for ‘defeat’, this town is both known and unknown at the same time.
Surrounded by clichés, hidden in the story there lies a drama. Where is Caporetto? In Italy? No, it’s not in Italy but in Slovenia. Did we lose it? Yeah. Has it always been Italian before? No. Its real name is not even Caporetto but Kobarid, and is in the beautiful valleys of the river Soča, the same river that after crossing the Slovenian border to enter Italy takes the name of Isonzo.
The first time I went was in winter. The snow covering the mountains and valleys behind the Triglav Natural Park created an enchanting scenery along with emerald waters of the Soča River.
It is incredible to think that in such beautiful places there has been fought so hard and for so long. Caporetto was along the front between the Kingdom of Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Not a single day of the Great War there past in tranquility. Just around Caporetto there are key battlefields such as the Black Mountain (Mount ‘Krn’ in Slovenian) and Mount Canino (Mount Kanin in Slovenian) where bold and desperate battles were fought in the snowstorms.
Who enjoys today Caporetto associates it with adrenaline sports such as rafting, canyoning, paragliding, mountaineering or with simply walking and relaxing in nature. The town centre is incredibly similar to vintage photos. Perhaps only a few windows have changed its position by a few feet.
History is all around you. The War Museum will provide you with a precise jump back in time to understand the battles that took place in the area, and the Pot Miru foundation can even accompany you for the visit of the old first lines showing you trenches and bunkers.
The Caporetto battle began on 24th October 1917, in the middle of the night. A weird and foggy night. The same mist prevented the Italian soldiers from seeing the cloud of gas released into the air that destroyed the first Italian line. The high officers in command thought the area was so well defended that the enemy could not possibly break through, yet an endless series of coincidences allowed the Austro-Hungarians to penetrate beyond the mountains and invade the Italian plain. Amongst those who resisted strenuously, the assault reinforcements that came to the rescue, the deserters and those who fell in captivity there was a big chaos. The bad weather, which initially favored the Austrians, in the end slowed them down.
If Caporetto was a tremendous defeat for the Italians, it could be equally true that that battle was the beginning of a fierce Italian resistance.
Nowadays you can still see the signs of that battle, you would just need to reach that amazing valleys and visit Kobarid with your own eyes. Thanks to the European Union you can cross that border without even noticing it. In Caporetto and around it you will find several hotels, farmhouses, campgrounds and restaurants ready to welcome you and many naturalistic trails to explore.
I will be back writing you about Slovenia in the spring.
Do not miss the previous posts:
Do you want to climb Mount Krn (Mt. Nero)? I recommend you read this post where I talk about this experience. Obviously, my experience is not yours, therefore, depart for this adventure only if you are physically, mentally and technically prepared.
For a complete guide, full of photographs, curiosities and travel tips, you can browse my travel guide Slovenia edited with Morellini Editore and available both online and in bookshops but only in Italian.
Are you passionate about Great War and would you like to see its places? Do not miss out on my book ‘Here they fought! On the Great War trails’, coming out at the end of the month thanks to the Hoepli publishing house. The book is available only in Italian.
Info and Link:
In Kobarid, do not miss out a visit to the Museum of War and the Pot Miru Foundation. If you are looking for adrenaline, do take a tour to the X-Hostel where you will find guides ready to accompany you through the Canyons of the Soča River. For safety reasons, water access the gorges of the Soča River is regulated, do not venture without being adequately informed on the spot.
Numerous brochures are available at the tourist information centre TIC Kobarid and the staff will be ready to suggest you the most diverse activities. The info point is in the central square Trg svobode 16, to have updated opening times please visit their website.
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