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© via-ferrata.de

The Martini Ledge 1915-17

During the First World War, the front line of the mountain warfare between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Kingdom of Italy ran between the Sasso di Stria and the Piccolo Lagazuoi and crossed the area at the Falzarego Pass. 
Here the two armies faced each other at a short distance. 

The Martini Ledge was the most important emplacement in this sector of the front. 

While the Austro-Hungarian soldiers were entrenched on the summit of Mount Lagazuoi, between 18th and 19th October 1915 two Alpini troop units occupied the ledge halfway up the rock face of the Piccolo Lagazuoi.  

The occupation was preceded by various night reconnaissances on a very rough and difficult mountainous terrain, in the immediate vicinity of the Austrian emplacements. 

Under the command of Major Ettore Martini the Alpini succeeded in occupying Punta Berrino, the rocky edge that stretches eastwards beside the Anticima along with a narrow ledge that cuts Mt. Lagazuoi horizontally from west to east. 

This ledge turned out to be a privileged position to hit the Austro-Hungarian Vonbank emplacement, which was intended to defend the Valparola pass. A real thorn in the side of the Austrians because from there the Italians were able to shoot downward into the trenches of the pass. 

The eastern part of the ledge was named after Captain Martini and with this name passed into history.

The Austrians tried in vain to drive the Italians out from the Martini Ledge, which in the meantime had been fortified. 

The troop was sheltered in small huts attached to the rock, which in total housed 140 men.

Gradually, the Martini Ledge was equipped with trenches, kitchens, canteen, warehouse, telephone, telepher station, medical post, forge, joinery, orderly room.

In addition, a tunnel was dug in order to allow the soldiers to reach the ledge from Berrino Point and to protect the porters and suppliers from the artillery fire coming from the Sasso di Stria. 

Thanks to another tunnel (called Amphitheatre) with an exit on the western side of the ledge, over the Austrian trenches, the Italians intended to attack the enemy from above. But this tunnel remained unfinished. 

The war raged around the Martini Ledge for three years. Most of the efforts of the Austro-Hungarians on this front were focused on trying to dislodge the Italians from the Martini Ledge. 4 mines were blown up, creating the large scree which since then extends at the foot of Mt. Lagazuoi. 

Only the Italian retreat in November 1917 put an end to the fightings.

For his commitment on the Piccolo Lagazuoi, Major Martini was awarded with a Bronze and a Silver Medal of Military Valor, a War Merit Cross and the Knight's Cross of the Crown of Italy. 

Thanks to a great restoration work, today people can also see and visit the historical testimonies of the Martini Ledge, part of the huge Open Air Museum of WW1 on Mt. Lagazuoi. 

At the lower entrance of the fore-summit “Anticima”-tunnel begins a path that leads to the ledge as the then connecting tunnel has partially collapsed. 

On the ledge you can see the remains of shelters, huts, trenches, steps, the concrete foundations of the kitchens and the Amphitheater tunnel.

The path leading to the Martini Ledge is exposed and suitable only for experienced hikers with adequate equipment

Going up by cable car, to the right the Martini ledge with the rebuilt officer's hut is clearly visible. 


The Martini Ledge as it is today

© Stefano Zardini