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Translated Jeff Matthews

A tunnel is a communication passage, built either underground or within curtain walls, allowing passage from one sector of the defence perimeter to another, out of enemy sight and out of the line of fire (whether conventional or chemical). More recently, you may have tunnels dug into the rock to reach other cave emplacements or simply to communicate with the outside world.

During the First World War, primarily on the Italian-Austrian front, there were tunnels dug into glaciers. In Marmolada (Veneto) the Austrians outfitted the “City of Ice” with shelters, munitions and wood deposits, observers and further connections to cave emplacements. (Bartoli M., Fornaro M., Rotasso G., La città di ghiaccio, Publilux, Trento 1993).

Rifleman's tunnel: a connecting structure within the tunnel equipped with loopholes for small-arms fire, possibly in combination with an embrasure.

In the stronghold of Fenestrelle (Piedmont), there is an impressive blockade structure, built and upgraded various times (17th to 19th cent.). There is a covered stairway dug within a tunnel built in masonry and equipped with loopholes for small arms. The function was to provide the two main forts with a 1500-meter connection between them.


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

Connecting tunnel at Fort Verrua Savoia (Photo. G. Padovan)

Italian tunnel on the Pasubio

Roccoli Lorla tunnel VII (photo, G. Padovan)

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18 January 2019

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