The Mussolini Trail
Geography defines the frontiers in the Alps. Since pre-history individual tribes dominated the lush alpine valleys raising taxes by controlling the mountain passes and river crossings. When gunpowder was introduced to Europe the surrounding mountain, previous of interest to hunters - both of animals and minerals, became important. He who controlled the skies controlled the valleys. In the 16th century François de Bonne, duc de Lesdiguières, fortified may of the mountain towns of the Dauphiné against incursions from the Duchy of the Savoy and this work was continued by Sébastien Le Prestre, the Marquis de Vauban with his characteristic pentagonal fortresses. It was in the 19th and 20th centuries with the development of long range artillery that the mountain tops were colonized by a series of stone, then concrete forts. The eight large calibre Italian guns on the 3000 meter Chaberton could hit the Vauban's forts in Briancon 17 km away.
To supply these mountain redoutes mule tracks then roads had to be built. In order to haul the large guns and munitions capable of targetting opposing summits the gradients had to be gentle, 1 in 10 max and smooth. The longest of these military trails runs run from Pigna in the Ligurian Alps to the Col de Tende then down to Tende in the valley. It supplies a multitude of barracks, blockhouses and forts along the way and climbs to 2000 meters.
This trip can be done in either direction. However the difficult Mont Grai to Refuge de Muraton should be tacked north to south (clockwise). Numbers in square brackets e.g. , correspond to points on the French IGN topomap.
- l'Authion (day 1)
Page last modified on June 30, 2007, at 04:19 PM