In the following article the Irish journalist Catherine Murphy tell us about a 2-3 hours snow shoe hike.
This tour brings you right into the heart of the Cinque Torri. In terms of scenery, the Dolomites have an embarrassment of riches and this area is one of the most beautiful. More importantly, the tour walks you right through WWI history, through trenches and past caves and huts that Italian troops slept in and fought from.
Cinque Torri: snow shoe hike above Cortina d’Ampezzo
Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy is one of Europe’s glitziest resorts but it has far more to offer outdoor enthusiasts than you might think.
Cortina d’Ampezzo, so-called ‘Queen of the Dolomites’, has a long-held reputation as one of Europe’s glitziest resorts, popular with fur-clad Italians who like nothing more than to promenade on the resort’s main shopping street, the Corso Italia, each evening.
But this jewel in the crown of the Italian Dolomites, former holiday hideaway for Francis Bacon and 1956 Winter Olympics host, has far more to offer outdoor enthusiasts.
If you love combining winter activities with history and culture during winter or summer holidays, Cortina should be on your must-visit list for 2014, the centenary of the beginning of World War I.
Enrico was born and bred in Cortina and speaks Ladino, a local language, which is spoken in a number of valleys in the Dolomites and continues to be taught in schools and spoken alongside Italian and German.
We ascended almost 400 metres through forest on snow shoes to reach the Cinque Torri, the famous rock towers that are clearly visible from the resort. snow shoe hike
This area was chosen as the front line for Italian troops because it offered commanding views of nearby mountain ranges and valleys. The top command of the Italian artillery was positioned here, along a large ridge of rocks below the mountain peak, for two years during the war.
Cortina, which originally became famous for climbing and had welcomed its first skiers in 1894, already had a burgeoning tourism industry which was interrupted by the onset of war. Before WWI, it was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It’s said that neither side bombed the village because both sides wanted to win it. The battles fought in this area were hard and bloody.
As you snow shoe through this special place, it’s incredible to imagine what troops went through.
Most recently seen being attempted by actor Stephen Fry in the ‘Bear Grylls Wild Weekend’ TV programme, they are now massively popular with holidaymakers looking for an introduction to climbing.
The troops’ other legacy is a system of tunnels through the mountains, some of which were restored in the 1990s and can be entered during summer months. Both sides dug tunnels through the mountains with a view to overtaking enemy battle positions. The largest is over a kilometer long with a main tunnel and side tunnels.
Italian troops worked around the clock for six months to construct a tunnel and on June 20, 1917, detonated 33 tonnes of dynamite in a bid to blast the Austrians out of it. In fact, Austrian troops had already retreated.
As you climb towards the Cinque Torri lift station, areas of interest in the open air museum are marked. Stop for a moment and pay tribute in this silent, awe-inspring place.
At the end of your snow shoe hike, stop for lunch at the Refugio de Scoiattoli which faces the Cinque Torri and therefore boasts one of the best views in Europe. Tuck into a plate of Casunziei, a dish of beetroot filled ravioli that is unique to Cortina, safe in the knowledge that you have earned it on what was a memorable morning in the mountains.
By Catherine Murphy
This article was published on “Outsider – Ireland’s Adventure Magazine”
What about Cinque Torri in summer? Read more here: Cinque Torri, the “Scoiattoli’s crag”.