WIESBADEN, Germany - It's been nearly a century since the War to End All Wars raged in Europe, but visitors can still marvel at one of its unique engineering achievements in the mountains north of the U.S. Army's Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy.
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High over the Pasubio Valley lies the Strada delle Gallerie, a narrow mountain trail that winds its way up Mount Pasubio passing through 52 tunnels along the way.
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Hikers, bikers and history buffs will appreciate the monumental achievement of the Italian mountain men and miners assigned to Italy's 5th Engineering Regiment who blasted through solid rock to create the unique supply line. The cliffside path, used by Italian Alpini units and their mules to supply troops defending the high country against Austrian and Hungarian soldiers during World War I, was built in less than a year.
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Slightly more than six kilometers long, nearly 2,300 meters of the trail pass through the tunnels. Members of the Italian Alpini units, originally formed in the late nineteenth century and made up of Soldiers born and bred in Italy's rugged northern mountain regions, used the tunnels for cover from the opposing forces' artillery and rifles, to gain access to the high mountain roads and to fire upon the enemy through openings in the rockface.
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Constructed during the ebb and flow of the war years, the path offers spectacular views of the surrounding Dolomites and the valley far below Mount Pasubio.

Visitors are sure to be impressed by the endurance, fortitude and resilience of these long-ago warriors who stood watch and battled all along the 600-kilometer battlefront which ran along some of Europe's highest peaks and glaciers.
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Taking a flashlight is recommended as one is apt to stumble on the rocky trail as it weaves its way from bright sunshine to the non-illuminated caves. While some are short, others stretch for hundreds of meters around bends and rising swiftly in elevation.
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Mountain lodge
After leaving the last tunnel one continues hiking for another four kilometers before reaching a mountain lodge called the Refuge A Papa where visitors can relax over a typical Italian menu.
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If driving from the north on Autostrada A22, leave the highway at Rovereto (northeast of the tip of Lake Garda) and travel on the SS46 toward Matassone and Pezzatti. The road eventually becomes SP46.
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If coming from Vicenza and points south head first for the town of Schio and then the Pasubio Valley before driving up the twisting mountain road and eventually turning off on a one-lane, paved road toward Bocchetta Campiglia.
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Parking is available just below the start of the trail where several signs are posted indicating trail routes and describing some of the history of the Strada delle Gallerie's construction and use during World War I. Signs along the route - in Italian, German and English - offer details about many of the tunnels -which are numbered.
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Biking up to the trail's start is recommended, but not through the tunnel route - an alternative is available - or one could lock the bike in the parking lot and then hike up through the tunnels. Consider renting a bike from Vicenza's Outdoor Recreation center.
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The Strada delle Gallerie is one of many unique sightseeing opportunities in the Veneto Region of Italy. Nearby Bassano del Grappa, Verona and Venice are other highlights.
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Information, accommodations, outdoor equipment rental, tours and more are available at the Army's Caserma Ederle in Vicenza. Visit www.vicenzamwr.com/visitors.html for links and assistance.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16