Strada delle 52 Gallerie: A Historic Hike Through The Dolomites.
We’ve been longing to visit Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Drei Zinnen) for years and actually thought that we could finally put an end to our Dolomites-starvation. But this part of Italy is packed during summer season, so we had to postpone yet again. Thousands of tourists in a serene area is definitely not what we were after. So, after browsing through several mountain-hike websites, we came across the historic Strada delle 52 Gallerie, or as it’s known in English: The road of 52 tunnels.
From Vienna To Passo di Xomo.
From Vienna it’s an 800 km drive until you reach Passo di Xomo, which is the starting off point. The drive itself is a pleasure, because the scenery makes up for the hours of driving. Still, it’s a long way to go with a camper van and we only arrived far after lunch. Therefore we decided to spend the night at Rifugio Passo Xomo (approx. 50 € per room). Early the next morning we drove up the remaining 4 km to Bocchetta Campiglia from where the hike begins. You can park your car here for 6 € per day.
Tunnels 1 to 52.
The road of 52 tunnels is not just any hike; it’s a hike through history. This military mountain road was built during World War I. It was (and still is) a real masterpiece of military engineering and boldness, considering the conditions back then. It was constructed in just 10 months (!) from February to November 1917 under the guidance of Lieutenant Joseph Zappa. It’s hard to imagine how soldiers carried up supplies and minors built these mountain tunnels in the middle of winter.
The hike itself is rather easy, though enduring due to its length of 6.5 kilometres and the elevation gain (with an average 12% grade). There are plenty of rocks to rest and soak up the stunning views.
Every tunnel is special in a way, but one of the most well known and impressive ones is Nr. 20. This tunnel is carved out of a rock tower and is spiralling upwards for 87 meters! Nr. 47 is also amazing, because it’s the highest point from where you have an amazing view of the area.
What Do Bring:
- A (head)torch is essential, because some tunnels are quite long and pitch dark.
- And good hiking boots are recommended, because it can get quite slippery.
Finally: Pasta, Pasta!
It took us about three hours to reach the end of the trail, where you’ll immediately see Rifugio Achille Papa. We spoiled ourselves and ordered a well deserved Italian pasta. As already said, the hike itself is not too difficult, but we were pretty exhausted anyway. Oh and the Rigugio even has a few rooms, so if you feel too tired to walk back the same day, just spend the night. Be sure to make a reservation though (especially on weekends).
From up here, there are two ways back to the car park: you can either turn around and head right back down on the Strada delle 52 Gallerie or you can take the gently winding road. We went for the dirt road, which is used to transport supplies up to the Rifugio. After 17.5 kilometres, we finally reached the parking lot. Exhausted but also exited to have just walked in the footsteps of history.