Trentino and Vallagarina in the First World War

In 1912, the Austro-Hungarian Empire started planning forts for the mountains of Zugna, Vignola, Altissimo di Nago, the area of Pozzacchio, on Mount Pasubio. Only Fort Pozzacchio (Werk Valmorbia) was ever built. Yet, despite being in an advanced stage of construction, even this remained unfinished. With war against Italy on the horizon, the Austrian commands established a system of trenches and strongholds in Vallagarina between autumn 1914 and the spring of 1915. The line rose through the Valley of Gresta, continued downwards towards the River Adige, went through Rovereto, then climbed Mount Finonchio until reaching the plateau of Folgaria.

55 000 men from Trentino joined the Austro-Hungarian Army, following the mobilisation of August 1914. Almost 12 000 of them died, in particular on the Russian front in the first year of the war. About 700 men from Trentino instead enlisted as volunteers in the Italian Army. In May 1915, Trentino was transformed into a battlefield. Italian troops rapidly occupied Ala, Avio, Vallarsa, Baldo, Zugna and Pasubio, reaching the outskirts of Rovereto.

All the villages that were in the immediate vicinity of the front were evacuated by the Austrian or Italian authorities. The displaced civilians were partly gathered in large huts in Austria, where thousands died from disease and starvation, and partly distributed across cities and towns. Commands, hospitals and depots were established in Ala, Avio, Villalagarina, Volano, Pomarolo, Nomi and Besenello, forcing the population to live among the soldiers of the two armies.

In May 1916, the Austro-Hungarians were able to reoccupy almost all of Pasubio with the offensive known as the Strafexpedition. On Mount Zugna, the offensive was stopped at the “Trincerone” entrenched camp and at the Buole Pass. The fighting continued between 1916 and 1918 on Zugna and particularly on Pasubio, where mine warfare was adopted. On the rest of the Lagarino front, the war was mainly characterised by artillery battles and individual operations, such as the fighting which took place on Doss Alto in the summer of 1918.

On October 29 1918, the Austrians requested an armistice, which was eventually signed at Villa Giusti in Padua on November 3. On their return, the refugees and soldiers found destroyed houses, and devastated fields and woods. Trentino became part of the Kingdom of Italy and the difficult task of reconstruction began. Many emigrated, others returned to the battlefields to “recover” the last remnants of the war.