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Translated Jeff Matthews

These are defensive systems excavated into the flanks of rocky walls, sometimes to compliment surface structures. They were widely used in the first half of the 20th century to host both light and heavy weapons, observations posts, and logistic services.

An outstanding example of such system was the so-called “Cave Fortress of Cima Grappa” (Veneto), completed during the First World War by the Italians. It consisted of a 1500-meter-long main tunnel with branches that lead to emplacements for 23 artillery pieces, machine guns and observation posts. It had electrical generators, storage magazines, munitions deposits, a cistern for drinking water, and a ventilation system with anti-gas filters; internally it was compartmentalized and had anti-gas closures to seal off the entrance. (Giardino G., Rievocazioni e riflessioni di guerra. II. L’armata del Grappa. La battaglia difensiva del 1918, Mondadori, Milano 1929, pp. 124-129).

Cave works were widely used in the later construction of the defensive network known as the Alpine Wall.


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)

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Aredena, cave work for light weapons. (photo, G. Padovan)

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