My wife and I currently live in Italy (hence all of the Italy themed posts) and are lovers of the great outdoors. We are constantly looking for new places to explore and become familiar with. When we learned of a hike just an hour north of where we live that has tunnels, caves, and stunning views, we knew that we must find it and conquer it! We eventually found this magical place and have been in love with it ever since.
Strada delle 52 Gallerie is a hidden gem in Northeastern Italy. It is located in the Southern Alps near Posina in the Veneto region/ Vicenza province.
Prior to WW1, this trail did not exist. It was simply an unnavigable mountainous area that was, for the most part, unused for anything. During WW1, the Italian army carved a path through these mountains to move supplies. Strada delle 52 Gallerie translates as “road of 52 tunnels.” The path is a series of tunnels (52 to be exact) that leads to a “refugia”, which is basically a restaurant and picnic area at the end of a long and exhausting hike where hikers buy food and drinks and talk about how awesome the hike that they just completed was. To reach the starting point of this hike, you must drive up a narrow and winding mountain road until it dead ends into a parking lot. You must pay to park, so keep that in mind because it is not well advertised and the parking meter is not in a clearly marked location. (Almost) every tunnel is marked at the entrance with a number from 1-52 so that you know which tunnel you have reached. You will need a headlamp or a flashlight for many of the tunnels because it is dark and you will have a hard time walking because the ground may be uneven and in many places very slippery due to the water that drips from the tunnel’s perimeters. At 86 m (282 ft) in length, the tunnel named Gen. Cadorna (tunnel 20) is my favorite tunnel. It was carved into a rock tower and, in order to overcome the elevation difference, it winds around itself in the shape of a corkscrew.
Parts of this hike are very steep and some parts of the path are uncomfortably close to the edge of a sheer drop off with no fence for protection, so pay attention. Mountain biking this path is actually prohibited due to a number of fatal accidents that have happened in the past. The distance from the starting point to the refugia is 6.6 km (4.1 miles) with 2.3 km (1.4 miles) of that distance being within tunnels. The elevation starts at 1216 m (3990 ft) and increases to 2000 m (6562 ft) along the way (elevation change of 784 m (2572 ft)). Once you reach the refuge and reward yourself with some meat and polenta, then you must take the shortcut back to the parking lot where you left your vehicle. The shortcut to the parking lot is a wide road that they use to bring supplies to the refuge. It is also very scenic and pleasant to walk on, so I highly recommend going on a clear and fogless day because the views all along the trail are absolutely breathtaking. The first time I hiked this trail it was very foggy and actually started to rain. I thought it was beautiful then… but the next I went was a crystal clear day and I was blown away by the scenery. Overall, the hike can be fairly strenuous and taxing. We do not recommend this trail to inexperienced hikers because; although it is rewarding, it can be quite tough. If you have mischievous children that like to get close to edges of cliffs and run around without looking where they are going, do not bring them (seriously). I have always liked caves, tunnels, and mountains, therefore this hike is right up my alley and is actually my all-time favorite (I have been on a lot of hikes), so I highly recommend it!
Address: Strada della Prima Armata, 36030 Valli del Pasubio VI
Coordinates: 45.779°N 11.228°E