Jon Scanlon is yet another one to succumb to the charms of the Dolomite Mountains. After holidaying in the area for many years, and with a strong passion and hobby for history, John has now joined Collett’s to deliver presentations and organised walks based around World War One. With a total of four weeks at Chalet Angelo, a daily programme has been put together to ensure all of the local areas of interest have been included. A weekly repeat of walks and presentations guarantees new guests do not miss out on any of the history filled events.
I had met John during his presentation on the “Origin of the War”, completely engaged in his every word (his enthusiasm and excitement on the subject was infectious). It was his story about Col di Lana, one of the mountains heavily disturbed during the war, which caught my attention the most and so I jumped at the chance to join him on a walk to investigate it firsthand. Together with guest Betty from Haus Valentin, we headed out in the glorious sunshine.
Parking up next to the Tre Sassi Forte, John already had plenty to tell us about what had happened here. He explained that we were standing on what was once the front line, pointing out the mountain peaks, telling us their names and who would have been defending them during the war. As we began our walk, there were plenty of trench remains in every direction; something me and Betty agreed would never have been noticed without John’s keen eye.
The route itself continuously offered stunning views across the land and Col di Lana could be seen in the distance. Even the Marmolada poked its head out, reminding me of said tunnels that were dug into the glacier by the Austrians – conditions we today could not imagine living in. Along the rocky path we spotted some great wildlife; a sly Marmot scurried across the grass, Ravens soured above us and Betty stopped in her tracks to let a large grass snake slither across our path. I was also amazed by the amount of flowers still standing tall at this time of the season.
Upon reaching the mountain, John answered all of our questions with sincerity and detail. He explained about the large, prominent crater and how it represents an explosion from the war; an Italian attempt to gain possession of the peak from the Austrians. The events that happened here were brought to life by John’s description and knowledge of the subject. Although on this particular occasion we did not venture to the top, trenches can be explored on route and a chapel and many crosses can we found at the top, dedications to the countless fallen soldiers.
After a leisurely lunch overlooking the Sella Massif and Pralongia Plateau, we strolled back the way we came enjoying a different perspective of the mountains. The World War was of great discussion during the day but this didn’t prevent us from getting to know one another as we walked – something I will always appreciate about small groups such as this.