Skip to content

On the traces of history: Pasubio Mountain.

In Italy we have plenty of mountain’s First World War songs. This is because the mountain, with its harshness on one side and war with its cruelty on the other side, inspired the mountain’s soldiers that fought for years in those inhospitable places. So nowadays quite every mountain with a history of terrible fighting has its own song.

This song’s notes are often accompanying me along my mountain trips. They are an extract of lives, memories and respect to an indelible past made of efforts and sacrifices.

It’s dawn. We are in Trento. At six o’clock I’m ready, as agreed, on the house’s door with my mountain troop hat and the backpack on my shoulders. My friend Marco is still filling is backpack with a relative quietness. While waiting for him, he looks puzzled at me telling: “Alessio, waiting like that you’re worrying me”.  Honestly, I think he had not understood yet the length of the path that was ahead of us.

After e rich breakfast in a local bar we reach Colle Xomo (1058 m) and then we park the car a bit after in the so called Bocca di Campiglia (1263 m) paying the parking fee. To arrive there we went across all the Vallarsa Valley. This name is quite scary as it means parched valley.

As I wrote each mountain has its own song. Monte Pasubio, the one we are going to hike has its own one. The notes of it are already into our minds:

*English version later

“Sulla strada del Monte Pasubio,

bom borombom bom bom borombom;

lenta sale una lunga colonna,

bom borombom bom bom borombom.

L’è la marcia de chi non torna,

de chi se ferma a morir lassù.

Ma gli alpini non hanno paura,

bom borombom bom bom borombom.

Sulla cima del Monte Pasubio,

bom borombom bom bom borombom;

soto i denti ghe sè ’na miniera,

bom borombom bom bom borombom.

Sè i alpini che scava e spera,

de ritornare a trovar l’amor.

Ma gli alpini non hanno paura,

bom borombom bom bom borombom.

Sulla strada del Monte Pasubio,

bom borombom bom bom borombom;

sè rimasta soltanto ’na crose,

bom borombom bom bom borombom.

No se sente mai più ’na vose,

ma solo el vento che basa i fior.

Ma gli alpini non tornano indietro,

bom borombom bom bom borombà.”

English version:

On the Monte Pasubio’s road,

bom borombom bom bom borombom

slowly a column is going up,

bom borombom bom bom borombom

it’s the non coming back ones’ march,

the ones that stop dying there.

But the mountain’s troop soldiers has no fear,

bom borombom bom bom borombom.

At the top of Monte Pasubio,

bom borombom bom bom borombom

under the tooths* there is a tunnel,

bom borombom bom bom borombom

Are the mountain soldiers that dig and hope

to go back to their love.

But the mountain’s troop soldiers has no fear,

bom borombom bom bom borombom.

On the road of Monte Pasubio,

bom borombom bom bom borombom

only a cross remained,

bom borombom bom bom borombom

no voices can be heard any more,

but only the wind kissing the flowers.

But the mountain’s troop are not coming back,

bom borombom bom bom borombà.

In a twinkling we are at the beginning of the 52 tunnels’ path. A giant steel slab with a picture of soldiers marching on and a table with all the battalions involved there during the First World War are welcoming the wayfarer at the entrance. This path is part of the open eco museum of the Great War.

Within few steps we are in front of the first tunnel. Fifty-two tunnels mined into the mountain rocks in less than six months. An extreme effort made by Corp of Engineers of the Italian Army in order to allow the troops to reach the top without using the main road that was under the enemy fire. Six months to mine an entire mountain. An arduous path at its beginning with its incessant following of tunnels. One tunnel is climbing the mountain like a long spiral. The dripping and the cold air of the tunnels is relieving from the harsh sun that is outside. With surprise, I see that the path is full of wayfarers, from the accent I understand that they all come from Veneto and Trento Regions.

After few hours walking, we reach the final part of the first path we were going to do that day. We are under Cimon del Soglio Rosso (“Red Trhone Top” – 2040 m) with its precipice. The mountain hut Achille Papa, placed at the Porte del Pasubio (“Doors of Pasubio” – 1928 m) is in front of us.

From the mountain hut a second path begins. The “tricoloured path” is a round circle path that goes around all the superior part of the mountain that at that time was the fighting line between Italy and Austria. If the 52 tunnels’ path was crowded, the tricoloured path has nobody around. Only few wayfarers here and there.

The land around us does not hide the true horror that was there. The scares of war are all around the landscape. The mountain grass is really green and full of edelweiss flowers. Everywhere, between the edelweiss, there are bomb scraps, pieces of nailed shoes and human bones. Marco is honored to be there and to be witness for a moment of a horror made one hundred years ago.

Another mountain song comes across to my mind while we are near the top on Scoglio dell’Incudine (“Anvil Rock” – 2114 m), there between the edelweiss where blood streamed and where bones are still lying here and there. Between the silence and the wind I hear the notes and the words of “Stelutis Alpinis” (Edelweiss).

*English version later

“Se tu vens cassù ta’ cretis

à che lôr mi àn soterât,

al è un splaz plen di stelutis;

dal miò sanc l’è stât bagnât.

Par segnâl, une crosute

je scolpide lì tal cret,

fra chês stelis nas l’arbute,

sot di lôr, jo duâr cujet.

Cjôl sù, cjôl une stelute:

jê ‘a ricuarde il nestri ben.

Tu j darâs ‘ne bussadute

e po’ plàtile tal sen.

Quant che a cjase tu sês sole

e di cûr tu préis par me,

il miò spirt atôr ti svole:

jo e la stele sin cun te.”

This song was written not in Italian but in a local dialact from the region Friuli Venezia Giulia. It has been adapted to Italian in a more modern version by the Italian singer Francesco De Gregori.

English version:

If you come here to the top,

here where they buried me,

there is a meadow full of edelweiss;

with my blood was wetted.

As a signal there is a cross,

carved into the rock,

bewteen the edelweiss grows the grass,

beneath them I’m sleeping quietly.

Pick up, pick an edelweiss,

to remember our love,

you’ll kiss her,

and hide her under your breast.

When you’re alone at home,

and with your heart you pray for me,

my spirit flyes around you,

me and the edelweiss are with you.

Touching words that, listened in those places, between the edelweiss, between the bomb scraps and the bones cannot do anything more than giving you the creeps. The hike goes on until the top. Under an Italian flag there are some iron shelves called the “memory shelves”. On those shelves there are war relics and white bones.

At the top there are the ruins of the Pasubio’s keeper hut. Few meters ahead begins a tunnel that goes straight under what was the old enemy line. On Monte Pasubio there was the so called “war of mines”. Each array mined the mountain in order to pass below the enemy line and, than, filling the tunnel of explosive making it blow up from the bowel of the earth under the enemy’s trenches.  In the meantime each one tried to understand where the enemy was mining in order to arrive close with a counter tunnel being able to make it blow before the other. Dreadful stories.

Precisely at this refers the song of Monte Pasubio when it says “under the teeth there is a tunnel, bom borombom bom bom borombom, are the mountain soldiers that dig and hope to go back to their love”. The teeth are two rocks at the top of the mountain. One is called Italian Tooth and the other Austrian Tooth. This was the fighting line.

Few meters into the tunnel and you are under Cima Palon (2232 m), between the crushed stones appears a finger bone marked by the signs of humidity. The tunnel have many exits on what were advanced outposts. Going straight away, only with the light of our torches, into the bowels of the earth the tunnel descent silently and steeply. A sign advise that to keep walking is dangerous.

That means we are really close to the Italian Tooth. Here on March 13th 1918 the Austrians blew up 50 thousands kilograms of explosive. Reports of that times tell of infernal flames coming out from the mountains while rocks where crashing down. Coming out of the tunnel you can see what remains of the Italian tooth. Giant broken rocks all around the crater. It’s quite hard to believe at what you can see. Under that rocks are still lying the eighty Italian soldiers died in that moment. The crater breaks the shape of the mountain.

By now nobody is around. Only two wayfarers can be seen. A father with his son. Nobody else. Late afternoon is coming. The Austrian teeth is above us. Everywhere we can see tranches as silent scars in a land marked by uncountable bombs. We are now headed to the Seven Crosses (1991 m).

We begin the descent. A surreal quietness is surrounding us with a sky covered by unfriendly clouds. The seven crosses stood in front of us. I climb a slope. I find another trench and other edelweiss, barbed wire and bomb splinters. A sign tells that I’m on a former Austrian nest of submachine guns. The soft snow that remain in the summer and the gravestones leave us without words.

It’s time to go. A bit after Selletta del Comando (Saddle of Command – 2070 m) we run into a Military Cemetery of the Ligurian Brigade and its Roman Arch (2035 m). Many gravestones have written a sad “Italian died for his Country” without any name. An iron sign warns “DI QUI NON SI PASSA” (here you won’t pass). The Ligurian Brigade with an extreme effort in terms of human lives did not let the enemy pass holding the front line.

Within few minutes we are again at the mountain hut Achille Papa. The second path of the day is concluded. After a short stop, only the second one in an entire day, we are ready to descend more than one thousand meters. The descent, after an all-day walking, is not a proper joy. We descend trough the dirt Road of Scarrubbi. We cut the hairpin bend with another mountain path. We nick name this path as “broken legs”. Pasubio is now behind our shoulders. Our car, is one of the last still in the parking. Time to leave.

© All rights Reserved
[flexislideshow pageid=”” lightbox=false lboxtitle=false slideshowtitle=false]