Fogliano Redipuglia

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    • Day 5

      Crossing the Isonzo

      September 15 in Italy ⋅ ☁️ 26 °C

      On our last day, we had quite some distance ahead of us (more than 110 km), so we were glad that we could quickly pass through Udine - the path was now very familiar to us! - and not have to spend time on sightseeing.
      We were now leaving the well-signposted Alpe Adria Cycle Path (CAAR) and switching to the AIDA Cycle Path, as we had exchanged Grado (the final destination of the CAAR) for Trieste, as the train connections home were better suited for us. Unfortunately, on the change-over we got a bit lost, but that's also part of the journey.

      The open country was now completely flat and monotonous, which on the one hand enabled us to ride faster as there were no climbs, but on the other hand didn't offer much variety in view. Additionally, the heat was now getting much more uncomfortable, as there was no shade whatsoever. We stopped in a park for lunch and to fill our water bottles, before crossing the Isonzo River. Shortly after, we visited the War Memorial in Redipuglia, which is the biggest war memorial in Italy and the final resting place for more than 100,000 Italian soldiers who fought and died in World War I, more than half of them unidentified.
      This is truly a somber place, built in the 1930s, the sheer dimension makes one despair and feel very small and vulnerable. As there are no descriptions or explanations whatsoever, it enhanced my feeling of being lost and out of place. The memorial is structured like a gigantic flight of stairs, leading up to three simple crosses and the graves holding the unidentified remains of over 60,000 soldiers. On each step the names of the dead are engraved, and above, one word, repeated again and again: "Presente (Present)", a roll-call of the dead, led by Prince Emanuele Filiberto, the Commander of the Third Army, who wanted to be buried with his men after his death in 1931. The memorial offers no hope or solace, but an affirmation: "We are here". And maybe that is the only comfort of the dead: that they - and their suffering - will not be forgotten, a reminder of the cost of war.
      It made me think that if Giacomo and I had lived a hundred years earlier, we might have still met - not to do a bike trip together, but on a battlefield trying to kill each other, to shift an arbitrary line in a map some meters.
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