The Great Wall of the Alps
In Piedmont you can have a tour of the Fenestrelle Fortress, in Val Chisone: it is considered the Great Wall of the Alps or the Great Italian Wall because of its size and extension.
It is 1.350.000 sq long.
You can visit it by open air routes mostly so I advise you to go there in a sunny day to enjoy at the best the wonderful view of the surrounding mountains.
All over the year inside the St. Charles Fort, the main central compound, it’s possible to visit museums and temporary exhibitions: for example, the Vintage Dolls, the embalmed animals or the Historical Dresses.
Above all in Summer there are several events for adults and children.
Always keep in mind that here temperature is very low: we are at the mountains so you have to equip accordingly.
Visiting the Fenestrelle Fortress
Some parts of the Fortress can be visited for free, other ones by tickets with very low prices. But if you want to have a longer and interesting tour and arriving as far as up there, where the Fortress extends as far as the sky, you have to be followed by a guide.
The Story of the Ancient Walls
Once a month (or some more times during summertime) at the Fenestrelle Fortress the Story of the Ancient Walls is re-enacted.
It’s a travelling historical theatre re-enactment which allows to visit the areas of the fortress that usually you cannot visit.
At some nights the characters who lived in the fortress go out and come alive: the fortress is one of the worst prisons of the French Army. You think it was conquered without shooting any shot, thanks to a treat. Anyone never fought on these walls.
It really seems to go back in history and be a part of it: lights, actors, the very charming framework, how people lived and worked up there…
You come here not to listening to the Great History, that one passed over the Fortress. No, you come here to listen to the many little stories which make great the history of Fenestrelle throughout three centuries of history.
Is it all real? Who knows! For this night you have only to let guide by your emotions.
So you can understand how years were an eternity and days were all similar.
Days were cold, long and boring and hours never passed in those frozen cells.
The guards accompany us in this sensorial route and make us meet the famous prisoners of the fortress and the people of the village who worked at the Fortress.
The most part of the prisoners were politics, well dressed dissidents but in chains. It’s a punishing fortress.
During the night, chains were took off some of the character because they were considered recoverable but the other ones not because they were considered irrecoverable.
Before the re-enactment, don’t miss the soldier’s mess. A very good dinner (15 Euros): polenta concia, sausages and stew.
The night re-enactment starts when the general gives order to soldiers to take around the fortress the visitors.
The meetings are particular and very touching. The first prisoner: a crazy man digging galleries searching for a way to escape from the fortress and going to an island to find a treasure.
The tour keeps going on and we meet a few free women of Pinerolo who wash and sew for people of the fortress. They tell us about the hard work and rumours about the new prisoners arrived at the fortress and about the soldiers arrived from the South.
The meeting with the Abbot is very particular. It was imprisoned because he signed an edict preventing Napoleon from taking away the works of arts from Rome: so he was caught at St. Angel Castle and took to the fortress through an endless journey by coach.
Add insult to injury with the readings allowed to him, a cardinal of the Holy Roman Church: Voltaire.
Then we meet a poet telling us other stories and then it’s the soldiers’ turn.
They complain: it’s one hundred year since there’s no enemy at the Fortress. The mess is a dishwater and the wine is rough-hewn to be heated. They envy their colleagues in the high Fortress, that one up there touching the sky: they are lucky because they have the mules and fixing the mess-tin in the manure they are able to have a hot meal.
Then there are a few aristocratic ladies of Turin: it’s so cold in the Fortress that even the candles’ flames freeze. They tell about the oppressions, the injustices suffered, their thirst for justice and their not willing to ask for grace.
To these stories, among battlefields on the mountains where courage and cowardliness mix up, anecdotes of little plants grow intertwined: they grew among the rocks and were saved by Giuseppina herself, Napoleon’s wife.
The re-enactment ends with the bombing of the fortress among fireworks, lights and effective sceneries. We are in the Second World War.
A way to make live the history and discovering the Fenestrelle Fortress in a charming framework.
My tip. Living the Story of the Ancient Walls in the depths of Winter, when the Fortress is soaked by snow to understand completely the mean of the order given to the soldiers: Bùgia nèn! (Don’t move!).
If you arrive from far, you can book an overnight stay in Roure, among the wonderful mountains of Piedmont.
It’s a perfect experience for the whole family. Both children and teenagers will enjoy themselves and adults will discover the History of the Fenestrelle Fortress!