I hate being underground. Technically the Lagazuoi Tunnels are not underground, but under mountain. Regardless I was not stoked to explore trails not under the light of day. But I had to do it for history’s sake!
Lagzuoi is a peak in the Dolomites with an altitude of 9,201 feet (2,835 meters) well known for its wartime tunnels. During WW1, a lengthy system of tunnels was dug out to shelter the Italians as they battled the Austrians who were based close by. Today the tunnels are open to the public and free to enjoy at your own risk. A helmet and bright headlamp are required and boots are recommended although I managed just fine in a good pair of trail shoes specifically my Salomon Speedcrosses which are just as good as boots!
Exploring these tunnels on your own would totally not fly in the U.S. They’re wet and slippery and dark and gross (people poop in them – for reals!). There is no entrance fee or staff on duty nor any clear signage. Just pick a direction and hope for the best! And please go to the bathroom BEFORE entering the tunnels.
You can access the Lagazuoi Tunnels from Passo Falzarego, where I also began the best beginner trek in the Dolomites yesterday! Most visitors take the cable car (pictured below) up to the top of Lagazuoi and then hike the 1km down through the tunnels. I like to earn my peaks so I hiked up to the top of Lagazuoi via the tunnels only running into two men towards the top who were on their way down.
There are thankfully several windows throughout the tunnels to help lessen the claustrophobia, but there are long stretches of tunnel leading straight up stairs and ladders that would be pitch black if not for a head torch. Thank goodness for the helmet too since I clocked my head in short passageways no less than a half dozen times.
There are several rooms and levels and passageways to explore and many of the rooms still have artifacts from WW1 like beds, old muskets, tin cans, and kitchen utensils. Maps are posted on the walls, but I found them difficult to follow and wound up stuck in many dead ends and cliffed out on ledges. After a good 2 hours of wandering, I made it to the sub-summit of the Lagazuoi mountain literally exiting a door onto the sub-peak pictured below.
From there I followed the trail to the top of Lagazuoi mountain and enjoyed a coffee at the Rifugio Lagazuoi, which advertises the highest sauna in the Dolomites. The Rifugio Lagazuoi has a fantastic deck with sweeping panoramas of the entire Dolomites. I could have easily spent the whole day sunning and drinking Proseco on that deck, but I ventured down and into the Val Travenanzes, which is a gorgeous valley with streams and wildflowers and views of peak after jagged peak. I then looped back around the Col dei Bois past many more WW1 sites like old trenches and the remnants of wartime buildings and then back to Passo Falzarego and my tiny car.
All in all the hike covered 10 miles and a whopping 4,751 feet of elevation gain (there are very few switchbacks in the Dolomites!). Alternatively you could follow the Val Travenanzes all the way down to Cortina and then take the Dolomite bus back to Passo Falzarego. The extensive trail network in the Dolomites and the potential routes and loops you could do is downright overwhelming. Tabacco maps are great and can be found at nearly every trail head shop or you can buy Tabacco maps on Amazon for pre-trip planning.