Weekend Travel: "Via Ferrata" in the Dolomites

There are many times when history and tourism make a good parternship. For those so inclined, travelling somewhere to visit important historical sites can be a rewarding experience.

In Europe, for example, people often explore former battle sites from the First and Second World Wars.

One destination that is not talked about often is the summit zone of the Dolomite Mountains on the border between Italy and Austria, the scene of fierce fighting during the First World War. Writer Ernest Hemingway was wounded in this area while serving as an ambulance driver during that period. Erwin Rommel, who later rose to the rank of field marshal with the German army in WWII, was a decorated infantryman in these mountains during the first world conflict.

The Italian army and the Austrian army both built supply lines to the troops holding positions high in the peaks. They created fixed climbing routes with iron cables and ropes to lift gear up the mountains. These routes became known as the "Via Ferrata" or "Iron Way." Today, climbers can use these cables to explore the summits and visit the high-altitude battle sites and fortifications.

Smithsonian Magazine offers an up-close look that will appeal to history buffs. Writer Matt Mossman explored the tunnels and peaks in the mountains above Cortina D'Ampezzo to see what it was like. Joe Wilcox also offers a photographic slide show.

Photo of the Dolomites (above) is courtesy of Klaus Sandrini. Many thanks.

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