Il Monte Brione dall'alto, ph. Pierluigi Faggion
The fortification line of the Upper Garda area
The fortification buildings around Riva del Garda include the Tagliata del Ponale, Bellavista Fort, the battery on the shore, the San Nicolò Fort, the Garda Fort, the Midway Battery, the Sant’Alessandro Fort, two mortar batteries on Mount Brione, the Tombio Fort and the two Forts at Nago.
On the Italian side, there is no permanent fortification edifice along the border, given that the front was rather far from the starting point, and thus is was believed sufficient to exercise direct control of Mount Baldo, along with the support of two large naval cannons installed at Malcesine and Limone to keep the Austrian line under pressure.
The barrier formed by the Upper Garda Austrian forts straddled a somewhat articulated front, which from the Doss of Torta-Gavardina went down to Rocchetta before crossing the plain of the Lower Sarca area and then climbing up the Stivo and Creino, also including the stronghold of Malga Zures, in the Baldo sector: a major barrier against the advance of Italian troops coming down from the peaks of the Altissimo, from Doss Casina and Doss Alto.
Outline of the Itinerary
From the San Nicolò Fort, we make our way up along the Sentiero della Pace (the ‘Path of Peace’) which, following the ridge of Mount Brione, first leads us to Fort Garda and then to the Midway Battery.
On reaching the Midway Battery, we take the path through the forest which, at the first bend we encounter as we go downhill, brings us to a track which leading to the asphalted road of Mount Brione (no car access). Carrying on along this road, we come to a footpath on the right which leads slightly uphill to the Fort of Sant’Alessandro. Keeping to the Path of Peace, we come to the esplanade that housed the gunpowder kegs. From here, we take the asphalted road once more right down to the starting point near the port of San Nicolò.
Given the relative ease with which in the Spring of 1848 the columns of the Franco-Lombard corps managed to penetrate Western Trentino, during the First War of Independence the issue of the control of the valleys leading down towards the Po Plain arose once again. From the second half of the 19th century up to the First World War, when Trentino became a borderland, five generations of forts were built, changing to reflect the ways in which wars were fought.
The Path of Peace
The Path of Peace is a track which links the places and memories of the Great War on the Trentino front, from the Tonale Pass to Marmolada, along more than 350 kilometres. This extraordinary itinerary was created by uniting paths and ex-military roads in the years between 1986 and 1990. the path was created by the men of the Consorzio Lavoro Ambiente and the Servizio Ripristino e Valorizzazione Ambientale of the Trento Provincial Council. It is a path marked by signposts with a yellow dove, crossing the various settings of the conflict, giving visitors a chance to reflect and meditate.
The San Nicolò Fort
Located at the foot of Mount Brione, near the port of the same name in Riva del Garda. Built between 1860 and 1862, it was enlarged and renovated in 1911-1912. A fort of the first generation, classed as a valley block: a non-armoured pillbox in fine stonework and lime; during the renovation process, reinforced concrete was used. Its function was to control the lake and the traffic between Riva and Torbole: indeed, it was also a genuine roadblock, insofar as it even had an iron gate which closed the road completely.
The Garda Fort
Situated along the Path of Peace on Mount Brione near to the San Nicolò Fort, it was built between 1904 and 1907. An armoured fort (fourth generation), it was erected in reinforced concrete, set out very rationally inside so as to host 150-200 men, camouflaged and close to the ground. From the trench around the fort, a long tunnel (approx. 300 metres) leads into the mountainside, with stairways and lookout posts on the rock face of the Brione. Its function was both defensive and offensive, given its highly strategic position right on Lake Garda.
The Midway Battery
Located on the Path of Peace on Mount Brione near the transmission antennas, it was built between 1898 and 1900. A mountain fort or Gebirgsforts (third generation): a fort built on the hills when the roadblock forts became no longer sufficient to control the territory.
Part of the building is in squared stone, including a number of large pieces of granite, while the covering is in concrete. It could host around 100-150 men.
In 1915 it was endowed with a long and very spacious tunnel which led to lookout posts along the sheer rock face of Mount Brione. The fort was used to control the area of Nago and the mouth of the river Sarca.
The North Batteries or Campedell
Positioned on the Path of Peace along the northern edge of Mount Brione. It was built between 1880 and 1881, partially modernised in 1908 and then again in 1911, when a radio-telegraph station was included along with a gunpowder store. A fort in the Trentino style or ‘light’ (second generation), this kind of fort may only be found in this region; these are forts built on grounds with few natural obstacles, adopting a generally simple layout: the building is in fact wider than it is high. The artillery was all on the outside (protected by ‘barbettes’) and the fort could house up to 50 men. Its purpose was to control the area towards Arco, and as support for communicating sightings to the other forts.