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Translated Jeff Matthews

A fort is a permanent structure used in the surveillance and defence of a location or an obligatory passage. It may be isolated or also be part of a trenched field or a fortified region. Once its defensive function is over, the work is often used for other purposes, such as a depot, gunpowder magazine or detention centre. In Italy, 20th century forts are known as armoured batteries, armoured forts or simply works.

The Fuentes fort is the largest hill-top bastioned fortification of those built in Lombardy. It was built at the beginning of the 17th century to defend the northern territories of the Duchy of Milan and was destined to block the incursions of the “Greys” from Valtellina, not to mention possible French and Venetian attacks. It was built of local stone; the defensive perimeter can still be seen and it retains the supports that framed one of the gates.

Between 1932 and 1935 the Enen-Emael fort was built in Belgium, north of Liege and near the Dutch border. The fort controlled the Albert Canal, the Mosa river, the roads the lead west from Maastricht and the bridges that cross the canal, itself. It was considered impregnable due, in part, to the Albert Canal, which functioned as a gigantic moat, as well as to its own casemate defensive batteries and steel gun turrets (two of which were retractable), anti-aircraft defenses, a defensive ring of smaller emplacements and casemates, and dummy turrets in place to confuse the enemy. It was also equipped with an anti-gas system. It was taken in a few hours by German paratroopers from assault group Granit, who landed within the fortress in DFS 230.47 assault gliders.

Fortress: a fortification with additional structures, both internal and external works; the term is sometimes synonymous with 'stronghold'. One example is the city-fortress of Palma, modern-day Palmanova (Udine). Construction began on 5 October 1593 under La Serenissima Republic of Venice. Completed in 1623, its nonagon structure corresponds to a bastioned star work with nine ramparts in the first enceinte. A second enceinte was built by La Serenissima from 1658 and 1690 and a third was built during the Napoleonic period, from 1806 to 1809. (Visintini C., “Analisi del sistema fortificato della città di Palmanova”, in Cevese R., Marini P., Pellizzari M. V., L’architettura militare veneta del Cinquecento, Electa, Milano 1988, pp. 146-150).

Fortification: this term refers to defensive works, including the pentagonal, walled bastioned-front fortification with ditch, scarp and counterscarp. These may be subdivided as follows: permanent fortification, semi-permanent fortification and field fortification.

Fortlet (fortino): a small defensive structure usually armed with light weapons and small caliber artillery. One example is the Fortino d’Adda from 1600s, which controlled the last stretch of the Adda river (Lombardy) before it flows into lake Como. It was one of the secondary structures of the fortified system of which Forte di Fuentes was the pivot and was equipped with a long underground tunnel.

Stronghold: this is a fortified structure that more or less surrounds a village or town; the types of defensive systems vary, depending on when it was built, generally beginning in the late Renaissance. This work was used to shelter garrisons defending an area and as a logistics base.

Blockade or road block: a control point or check point (possibly fortified) that serves to interdict and control road traffic, generally located on level ground, but in any event along an obligatory passage.


Padovan Gianluca (ed. ), Archaeology of the Subsoil. Lectures and studies of artificial cavities. British Archaeological Reports, International Series 1416, Oxford 2005.

Basilico Roberto et alii, Italian Cadastre of Artificial Cavities. Part 1. (Including introductory comments and a classification), B.A.R. International Series 1599, Oxford 2007.

Gianluca Padovan (Associazione S.C.A.M. – Federazione Nazionale Cavità Artificiali)

Click on images to enlarge

Carro G. et alii, 1943 Fortini a Porto Conte

Fort (Borgatti M., La fortificazione permanente)

Fort Azzano (Borgatti M., La fortificazione permanente)

Fortino (Borgatti M., La fortificazione permanente)

Inside Fort Mondascia, Swiss blockade structure (photo, G. Padovan)

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