We started by skirting around Monte Cornetto, the traverse of which would have needed Via Ferrata kit. Our mesmerisingly beautiful path led through meadows of orchids and dragonmouth into lovely beech woods and more meadows before cutting up over a shoulder and descending an amiably winding path through sunlit woods to Pian delle Fugazze.
Stage 25 in reverse, in Gillian's book, would end here. But it was only 10.30 so we considered a pause for some caffe latte to be sufficient, before proceeding to stage 24 in reverse.
A military road built by Italian General Achille Papa runs from here all the way to the high summits and passes of the Pasubio area. Built in 1916 to help counter the attempts of the Austrians to occupy this area before moving south to the Po plain, the road was never properly navigable until Mussolini came along. In the 1930's his fascist regime finished off this and other roads and, declaring the area 'sacred to the fatherland' he had a mock Roman arch built in an area where many Austrian and Italian forces had perished in the conflict.
The E5 route climbs steeply out of Fugazze, ignoring the long loops of the military road and climbing for about 550 metres before rising above the tree line. We were going well. It was only around 20C, a much more acceptable temperature. Poor visibility and swirling cloud above about 2000 metres failed to dent our enjoyment. The final 250 metres of ascent to Rifugio Papa (pictured) was along the road, which sweeps around and through the mountainside in spectacular fashion.
This is superb mountain biking country - a couple rushed past - and we saw a few walkers taking advantage of the impressive footpath and Via Ferrata network around here.
By 1pm we had reached the rifugio and were tucking into our usual bowls of pasta, washed down with coke. It was a bit too cool to sit outside in a t-shirt so we stayed inside for lunch for the second day.
It's actually anything but cold - we've now spent five days walking in t-shirts and shorts.
Near the rifugio some large groups of children sat in circles receiving what may have been history lessons. They looked as if they may be equipped to venture into the nearby tunnels. These were built by the Italians during WW1 and include the impressive 'Strada delle Gallerie' - 6.5 km of roadway crafted through the mountain via 51 tunnels. We inspected the narrow entrance (it's where the picture of the rifugio was taken) but didn't explore any further.
[We've been in lots of these tunnels before, notably at Passo Falzarego.]
Alpine Choughs, noted by Gillian as 'the only form of life in the area', gave a notable aerobatic display here.
The old road then rose as gently as the lifting cloud, past Mussolini's arch (pictured) and a chapel of remembrance. E5 is well marked here and avoids a visit to Selletta Comando, which is signed as 20 minutes from the point at which path 142 turns to take the E5 walker over Selletta Domaggio. Here there are lots of WW1 tunnels, trenches and other artifacts. We explored them for a while before moving to the Austrian side of the conflict. They were within shouting distance of the Italians. Here the trenches have not been cleared of rubble and the whole mountain is disfigured by the consequences of high explosive. On one day in WW1, some 50,000kg of explosive was detonated from 200 ignition points - resulting in the largest explosion on the entire Italian front.
The Austrian flag flew forlornly over the debris of war, in remembrance of those lost in this deadlocked conflict.
Once Sella del Piccolo Roite was reached, we could divert our eyes from a huge Austrian encampment with numerous 'windows' in the rock, and enjoy the wonderful path that leads all the way to Rifugio Lancia. It's a belvedere of pure delight at around 2000 metres. Brilliant - reminiscent of the western section of the Ivano Dibona Via Ferrata near Cortina, one of my favourite walks.
Here we met two men with a nice looking border collie. Unfortunately the dog was frightened of us and refused to pass until we had scrambled some way up the steep hillside!
Later, a distant 'baa' revealed a river of sheep being herded down a distant pasture.
The rifugio has a familiar name. It was built in 1938/39 under the patronage of one Vincenzo Lancia, who also put his name to a marque of motor car.
It's a very tidy, clean place. We are installed in a large dormitory. There appear to be two other couples staying. We hope they don't snore...
The rifugio apparently has a high standard of culinary excellence to maintain, and it has done just that tonight - gnocchi with bacon and cheese, then veal cutlets with a lemon sauce, rosemary fried egg, a selection of onion and peppers, and polenta, followed by an almond slice.
Jules - you do have a vivid imagination!
Jacqueline - I'm afraid this site doesn't support advertising of the nature you suggest.
4 July 2012
20km in 7.75 hours with 1300m ascent
Other E5 walkers - hard to identify, we think none, and certainly there are none going in our direction other than Adam and Jane, who passed through Rif Lancia on 28 June
Flower of the Day - Bluish Paederota, which dripped copiously from the limestone walls of today's military roads
Itinerary - http://www.topwalks.com/E5%20Route.html
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