WWI and reconstructions: Monte Zugna

During the Easter break, I visited again the WWI trenches and fortifications on Monte Zugna: these were the first Italian war against the Austrian Punitive expedition in Spring 1916. In this post, I want to discuss the case of the so-called “trincerone” (big trench) which has been restored, as part of the centenary commemoration initiatives.

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There was an intense debate on the local press, with few associations criticising the new concrete structure which aimed to show the aspect of the original trench, but by making clear what had been restored and what was original. Surely, similar discussions have affected many restorations and reconstruction works, so you can easily image the situation.

It should be highlighted that this restored trench is indeed part of a route, where panels and labels point out the main features of the WWI landscape. Austrian and Italian positions are close to each other on this side of the mountain, and the presence of a dark metal structure, where more photos and information are displayed further emphasise the tragedy that happened in this area.

I found this type of conservation work fascinating, the striking contrast between the concrete imposing wall and the ‘original’ stones and metal pieces pointing out the alienating and desolating landscape of the war. It is somehow surprising that these remains had actually been forgot until few years ago, caught up by the vegetation and disappeared into the local wood. Therefore, the rediscovery of this sector of the two trenches and its restoration is a good memento, and probably the debate on the use of concrete in the reconstruction reveals also a contrast between a more romantic view of the mountain landscape and the war deeds that happened there with a more modern idea of the war as a laceration of this same landscape, whose terrible impact we can only try to imagine – in this sense, the concrete wall with its shocking effect seems quite an appropriate solution.

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