Guide to the Alps in Italy



The Italian Alps are divided into three main groups. The first group, the Western Alps run north to south from Aosta to the Cadibona Pass, with the highest peaks of Mount Viso 3,841 metres and Gran Paradiso 4,061 metres. This group is regarded as the highest mountain completely within Italy. The second group, the Central Alps run west to east from the Western Alps to the Brenner Pass, leading into Austria and the Trentino Alto Adige valley. This group also has high peaks, such as Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc) with a summit of 4,807 metres just over the border in France, Monte Cervino (Matterhorn) 4,478 metres, Monte Rosa with a summit of 4,634 metres just over the border in Switzerland, and Mount Ortles3,905 metres. The last group, the Eastern Alps run west to east from the Brenner Pass to Trieste and include the Dolomites and Monte Marmolada 3,343 metres. The Italian foothills of the Alps, which reach no higher than 2,500 metres, lie between these great ranges and the Po valley.




International Mountain Rescue Signals


International mountain rescue signals are still the same today as they were in the past, and often the only means possible in the immensity of the mountains is sending an visual or acoustic signal 6 times per minute, at regular intervals, i.e. every 10 seconds. Pause for a minute and repeat the same signal until you receive a response. This is done three times in a minute, every 20 seconds, in a visual or audible way.

By acoustic signals, we mean shouting or whistling or any other perceptible noises; by visual signals we mean waving handkerchiefs, items of clothing or mirror signals; at night you can use a torch or, if possible, a fire (obviously with caution, especially if you are in a wooded area or a wooden shelter).

The ever more frequent use of helicopters by Mountain Rescue has rendered new signaling methods necessary. Coloroful sleeping bags or anoraks spread out on the ground, smoke signals or marks in the snow can aid location from above. The SOS rescue sign can be made with letters of about 2m long, using contrasting stones placed on the ground, or footprints in the snow. In order to be seen from above, i.e. by helicopter, you need to make the following signals with your arms or with lights at night:

mountain rescue signals

When giving the helicopter instructions to land, keep the following in mind: with arms outspread, remain still at the edge of the landing place; where possible the area surrounding the landing place should be clear of obstacles up to a space of 20x20 meters.

SPECIAL NOTE! Don’t move away until the rotor blades have stopped: you are an important fixing point for the pilot. Any items of clothing laid on the floor to help the pilot should be held down with stones to protect against the strong airflow given off by the helicopter’s blades!

Ortler Mountain Group, Alps of Italy


ortles mountains alps

Ortler Mountain Group is at above sea level, the highest mountain in the Eastern Alps outside the Bernina Range. It is the main peak of the Ortler Range. It is the highest point of the Southern Limestone Alps, of the Italian province of Bolzano (South Tyrol), and, until 1919, of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. In German the mountain is commonly referred to as "König Ortler" (King Ortler), like in the unofficial hymn of South Tyrol, the Bozner Bergsteigerlied.

The massive mountain is capped by a glacier on the northwest flank and has a long north ridge that ends at the village of Gomagoi and separates the valleys of Trafoi and Sulden. The South ridge leads to the Hochjoch (3527 m) on the main ridge of the Ortler Alps that forms the border of the Province of Sondrio and South Tyrol. Going west on this main ridge are the Thurwieserspitze (3652) and Trafoier Wall (3565 m), while to the Southeast are the Monte Zebrù (3740 m) and the majestic Königspitze (3859 m). From nearby mountains in the northeast the impressive lineup of Königspitze, Zebru and Ortler is known as “das Dreigestirn” (the three heavenly bodies).


The Ortler was first climbed by ("Pseirer-Josele"), a chamois hunter from St. Leonhard in Passeier, and his companions Johann Leitner and Johann Klausner from Zell am Ziller on 27 September 1804. The ascent had been a request of Archduke Johann of Austria, who felt strongly that after the first ascent of the Großglockner (3,798 m) in 1800, the highest mountain in his brother's empire ought to be climbed. The archduke ordered Johannes Nepomuk Gebhard, a "mountain official" and topographer from Salzburg, to climb the mountain with locals. The first five attempts failed and Gebhard was ready to give up, when Pichler responded to the prize money offered for reaching the peak. Pichler and his friends took a difficult, and because of avalanche danger until recently disused, route over the northwest face from Trafoi. (The route was re-opened in 2004.) Upon their return, the men were not believed on their words alone. Gebhard sent Pichler onto the mountain twice more, first in August 1805 with a flag that could be observed with a telescope from the valley, and again in September 1805 with a huge torch. Only after the torch had been seen burning at night was the accomplishment acknowledged. The route Pichler and his men (two brothers named Hell and an unnamed hunter from Langtaufers) took in 1805 was the currently still popular East ridge ("Hintergrat", literally "back-ridge") route. In 1834, at the age of 70, Pichler would make his fifth and final ascent, guiding professor to the top.

The first time the Ortler was climbed along the easiest and currently normal route, the North ("Tabaretta") ridge, was more recently, in July 1865, as the approach is rather lengthy. In 1875 a hut was erected 3,029m high on the North ridge, to break up the climb in two steps. It was named the Payer house, after Julius von Payer, who had mapped the Ortler Alps between 1865–1868 and had climbed 50 of its peaks with as his guide. The first ascent of the South ridge from the Hochjoch followed in 1875, two couloirs on the East face (the Minnigerode and Schück couloir) were opened in 1878/79 and the two steep Northeast ridges (Marlet and Rothböck ridge) were conquered in 1889 and 1909, respectively. Members of the Pinggera family were involved in most of these ascents. The 1,200 m high ice route on the Ortler north face, longest in the Eastern Alps, was first climbed in June 1931 by Hans Ertl and and the remote Southwest face in 1934. The North face was soloed first in 1963 by Dieter Drescher who had also added some first winter ascents to his name, including a traverse of Königspitze, Monte Zebrù, and Ortler in February 1975. On August 31, 1981, achieved the amazing feat of climbing the north faces of Königspitze, Zebrù and Ortler all in one day. Extreme skiing started early in the Ortler mountains, with descending the Schück couloir in 1971 and the Minnigerode couloir in 1975. On June 24, 1983, skied down the North face.

The Ortler Alps were one of the main battlegrounds between Austrian and Italian troops in the First World War, being on the border of Italy and the Austrian Empire. The advantage of owning the highest point was very important. The Austrian troops had quickly occupied the highest peaks, and the Italian troops’ main goal for four years was to dislodge them from these positions. In the mid 1990s, a mountain guide discovered two guns that had been stationed very near the top of the Ortler that had been hidden by snow ever since. The discovery was kept secret until the 200 year anniversary of the first ascent in 2004. The cannons are now on display in a museum in Trafoi.

Piccolo Dolomites Mountains


Piccolo Dolomites, Italy

A small group of Peaks that sit above the town of Schio in the Vicenza Province. The group is made up of Pasubio, Craega, Cornetto and Cinque Croce. The peaks are just over 200 meters and have the same rugged shape, with individual towers, like the Dolomites. Thus, they get their name as a smaller version of the Dolomiti. The area was part of the Italian Front during WWI with some intense fighting occurring. Ernest Hemingway was sent to the Red Cross section in Schio when he first arrived in Italy to support the Army Group making attacks on this front.

The Piccolo Dolomiti and Recoaro Mille act as a crown to Recoaro Terme and include the groups of Carega, Sengio Alto, and Pasubio. The tourist attractions in this zone are also outstanding (climbing, excursions, summer and winter vacations, snow sports). The plateau of Tonezza del Cimone and the Fiorentini, which is still in the Vicentine area, is crossed by easy new roads; a new residential zone is being built on the Fiorentini; the beautiful snowfields of the zone of Toraro, Campomolon, and Melegnon are being equipped with modern tow equipment.



  • Schio
  • Folgaria
  • Rovereto
  • Recoaro Terme
  • Lavarone



  • Passo Campogrosso
  • Pian d. Fuguzze
  • Passo Bocolo
  • Passo Coe


  • Sentiero alpinistico Cesare Battisti
  • vie ferrata Carlo Campaiani
  • vie ferrata Gaetano Falcipieri



Rifugi and Bivacchi in the Brenta Group

Rifugi (Mountain Huts) located in the Brenta Mountain Group

rifugio huts

Italy Travel Guide - Italian Dolomites

In summer, in the central area around the main Brenta Mountain Group's, mountain huts is one of the busiest regions in the Alps; nevertheless, the Brenta Dolomites are still wild enough to accommodate bears roaming the area. Many of the Brenta Rifugio also have intresting stories to tell,  and sometimes historical value as well; such is the case of Rifugio Tuckett-Sella, for instance, which owes its due name to the political situation when the two buildings composing it were erected.

The Tuckett-Sella Rifugio -  the central position of this hut, makes it an ideal starting point for many excursions and ascents, especially for those accessing the Dolomites from Madonna di Campiglio.

The Brentei  Rifugio isalso located in an ideal position at the centre of several paths and trails, not very distant from the vertical walls of the Punte di Campiglio. The hut is encircled by the Val Brentei, closed to the east by a rock boulder and overshadowed by the massive Crozzon di Brenta; it is also flanked by the northern side of Cima Tosa – the two peaks separated only by the so-called Canalone Neri (a sort of canyon), usually filled with ice even during the summer.

From there, one can continue on to Rifugio Tosa, beyond Bocca di Brenta; the path is long and presents a couple of exposed sections equipped with metallic steps and ropes. Closer by is Rifugio Alimonta; the path that climbs to this latter hut – immersed in a splendid Dolomitic amphitheatre and crowned by the peaks of the Sfulmini – is demanding but short.

The ascent to the head of the Val di Brenta is less frequented and decidedly harder: following an initial flat stretch on a forestry road a steep section follows, which climbs up to the hut. The last part is the most strenuous of all, and very exposed to the sun too.

The central ridge in the Brenta Dolomites is lower than that of the Adamello, running at about 2,400 metres – even though it peaks at the respectable height of 3,173 m at Cima Tosa.

Mostly, the isolated turrets that form the summits of the Brenta Dolomites are inaccessible for all but the most experienced climber; so, to the average trekker, they will 'just' be a scenic backdrop – albeit a magical one. As such, they offer many highlights, including the Crozzòn di Brenta – a vast wall of grey rock – and the already mentioned Campanile Basso: aperfect square tower of 400 metres that is one of the grandest rock formations featured in the whole Dolomites.


The Julian Alps in Italy


julian alps italy

The Julian Alps are a mountain range of the Southern Limestone Alps that stretch from northeastern Italy to Slovenia, where they rise to 2,864 m at Mount Triglav, the highest peak in Slovenia and of the former Yugoslavia. They are named after Julius Caesar, who founded the municipal of Cividale del Friuli at the foot of the mountains. A large part of the Julian Alps is included in Triglav National Park. The second highest peak of the range, the 2,775m high Jôf di Montasio, lies in Friuli Venezia Region of Italy. The Julian Alps cover an estimated 4,400 km² (of which 1,542 km² lies in Slovenia). They are located between Sava valley and Kanalska Dolina. They are divided into the Eastern and Western Julian Alps.

Eastern Julian Alps

The Eastern Julian Alps are located in Slovenia. There are many peaks in the Eastern Julian Alps over 2,000m high, and they are mainly parts of ridges. The most important peaks are visible by height and massiveness. There are high plains on the eastern border like Pokljuka, Mežakla and Jelovic.

Western Julian Alps

The Western Julian Alps cover a much smaller area, and are located mainly in Italy. Only the Kanin group lies in Slovenia. The main peaks by height are:

  • Jôf di Montasio
  • Jof Fuart
  • Kanin

Important passes of the Julian Alps are:

  • The Vršič Pass, 1,611 m (5,826 feet), links the Sava and Soča valleys. It is the highest mountain road pass in Slovenia.
  • The Predil Pass (links Villach via Tarvisio and Bovec to Gorizia), paved road 1,156 m (3,792 feet)
  • The Hrušica Plateau at the Postojna Gate: (links Ljubljana to Gorizia), paved road 883 m (2,897 feet)
  • The Pontebba Pass (links Villach via Tarvisio and Pontebba to Udine), railway, paved road, 797 m (2,615 feet)

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