Strada delle 52 gallerie (Road of 52 galleries) is a military trail built during World War I on the massif of Pasubio (Vicenza, Italy). This extremely dangerous track winds between nozzle Campiglia (1,219 m) and the gates of Pasubio (1,934 m) crossing the southern side of the mountain. The track was built in this position to be away from the Austro-Hungarian artillery fire, with its pinnacles, deep canyons and sheer rock faces.
This trail crossed the area of Pasubio and was the theatre of a series of bloody battles, for which reason it was christened the "Sacred Area of Italy", in remembrance of the many soldiers who died there. Along the trail are preserved many memories of these tragic wartime events: in particular, the Road of Heroes (Strada degli Eroi) which was almost entirely excavated in the rock, to allow supplies to be brought to the Pasubio front from behind the lines, safely protected from the fire of the Austrian artillery. Troup movements and protection plus dominance of the strategically important valley below were the reasons for such a challenging undertaking. What makes it famous are the stunning views and the legend says that you can’t just go there only once. The true surprise that people most often don’t expect when coming to this place is the huge difference of temperature from the bottom to the top, and even from halfway to top.
The road was a masterpiece of military engineering and bold (33 th Company was built by the Italian Army with the help of six centuries of workers), considering the conditions and the times in which it was constructed, and the rapidity of performance: Work began on February 6, 1917 and was concluded in November 1917. It was considered a military engineering marvel and was constructed in just 10 months under the guidance of Lieutenant Joseph Zappa. Its implementation was of great strategic importance because it allowed communication and transfer of supplies from the base to the summit area of Mt.Pasubio. It is one of the best high level paths in the Dolomites and walking it is a memorable experience.
During the First World War the front line between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces ran through the Dolomites. Monte Pasubio was a crucial stronghold for the Italians. They had to hold the mountain, but their supply lines to the mountain were being shelled and were subject to avalanches [on one day, the 13th December 1916, known as 'White Friday', 10,000 soldiers were killed by avalanches in the Dolomites]. The answer to the Italian Army's problems was the Strada delle 52 Gallerie. Never underestimate this track! Strada delle 52 gallerie is also the starting point of 2 very challenging old military roads of the zone: Strada degli Scarubbi and Strada degli Eroi.
Its implementation had strategic importance because it allowed communication and supply from the back to the summit area of the Italian Pasubio where ran the first line of enemy fire and the shelter throughout the year, unlike the stock of Scarubbi, access by motorized vehicles, but in conditions far more hazardous under the blows of the Austrian guns, and only during the summer. It shouldn’t be attempted in the winter because of dangerous conditions and the possibility of snow blocking the tunnels. A headlamp or a flashlight is a necessity. The starting point is at the Ossuary Monument of Pian delle Fugazze, with the monument dedicated to the soldiers who died on the Pasubio Plateau. From here, descend 3 kilometres to the Ponte Verde junction and take the unsurfaced road to Colle Xomo. There is an information board at the start of the walk, with a small section in English. Each tunnel is numbered and at intervals there are more boards giving information on the next few tunnels.
Going on an uphill stretch you reach Bocchetta Campiglia (signposted), from where begins the suggestive Strada delle Gallerie - the underground road up to the Porte del Pasubio. Then continue downhill towards Malga Campiglia, where the demanding climb on the Strada degli Scarubbi begins, which climbs steeply up a narrow valley. Skirting the ridge of Caneve di Campiglia, a last uphill stretch leads to 1.928 m above the sea level to the so-called Porte del Pasubio - the Gateway of Pasubio - from where you eventually come to the amphitheatre of the "Sacred Area of Pasubio". Here you can see a number of emplacements, observation points, military tunnels, or climb up to the Cima Palon peak, on foot, from where you can view, down below, the rugged and rocky plateau on which the two armies clashed.
It’s definitely not for anyone suffering from vertigo or a fear of landslides. About 2.5 kilometers of the 6.5 kilometer (just over 4 miles) trail is tunnels, each individually numbered and named and ranging from the shortest at 10 meters long to the longest, number 19, at 318 meters long. The tunnels are at least 2 meters (6 feet) wide and all are at least as tall to accommodate a mule, so they are relatively comfortable to walk through unless you have severe claustrophobia.
The tunnels vary considerably in length. The longest one is over 300m long. There are a few short ones but many in the 40-90m range. A good torch [plus a spare and batteries is essential]. There are long stretches of tunnel where it is pitch black. You will not need a helmet. You will be ascending [sometimes steeply] pretty much all the time. Only the last two tunnels slope down. In some of the tunnels the path is smooth. In others it is very uneven. Water drips down from some tunnel roofs and makes the path slippery. At the end of the Strada you arrive at Refuge Achille Papa where you can eat and drink.
The road is 6,555 meters long, of which 2,280 are classified into 52 rock galleries. Each gallery is numbered and marked by its own name. The minimum width of 2.20 m was originally intended to allow the transit of contemporary two mules with their baggage. Characteristic of the many galleries, is the 19-th, because besides being the longest (320 m), has a helical path to 4 turns, within a giant tower of rock. The next N. 20 is excavated in a rock tower, and to overcome the significant difference is screwed on itself like a corkscrew. The stretch from the 41-th to the 45-th runs in the Fountain Golden Pass (1,875 m). Upon exiting the 47-th to reach the highest point of the road (2,000 m), where you can enjoy a magnificent panorama.
Nowadays the road, also known as Strada della Prima Armata, has scary tunnels, hair-raising cliff and splendid scenic views. If you are too much into speed craze and even take your eye out of the road, bear in mind your life is at maximum risk. The road is closed to vehicles nowadays and is dangerously narrow and slippery, spanning many cliff faces and tunnels with stunning scenery, making this a popular destination for adventurous travellers. The cars were prohibited some years ago due the number of fatal accidents. The authorities have erected barriers at either end to stop bikers but it would be possible to pass bikes over the barriers. However, someone would have to be very silly to do the Strada as a mountain bike ride. It would be too dangerous and too much hard work for little benefit.
Key aspects of the road include year round access, located outside of enemy artillery range and accessible by mule. The road, now converted to a hiking trail, is a hit with trekkers and mountain bikers admiring the stunning views cliff drops and mountain tunnels. The most dangerous section of road is now closed for vehicle access, but some of the locals still flaunt the rules and use it to access the guesthouses in the area. There are some parts of the trail that drop off on the side but the trail is wide so it's not scary at all. Going back down can be tricky because the tunnels can get slippery.
Each tunnel is numbered and characterized by a particular name. The elevation gain of the road is 750 m (2,460 ft), with a gradient up to 22%. The highest point of the road is at the end of 47th tunnel, called Pallanza, at 2.000 m (6.562 ft) above the sea level, and the lowest point is at Bocchetta Campiglia, at1.216 m (3.99 ft).
|Order||Name of tunnel||Length (meters)|
|45||Plotone 25ª minatori||83|
|50||Cav. Vittorio Veneto||27|
|51||Plotone minatori sardo||66|