Montello, Piave and Ciano’s gravels
The Montello, the Piave and the Villages in memory.
The Montello ('el Montel' or 'el Montelo' in the local Veneto dialect) is a mountainous relief (maximum elevation of 371m) in the province of Treviso, ranging from the town of Nervesa della Battaglia in the east to Montebelluna and Crocetta del Montello in the west. At its southern foothills are the municipal towns of Giavera del Montello and Volpago del Montello, while its northern side is flanked by the Piave.
The Montello used to be an isolated area. In the early 19th century, only a few rough roads connected it to the rest of Veneto. Thanks to subsequent roadworks commissioned by French, Austrian and Italian authorities, it was gradually equipped with an infrastructural network which still characterises the north-western side of the Treviso province. This also responded to the strategic needs of the Piave area, a location of choice for the Italian resistance movement during the war against the Austro-Hungarians, requiring the road network behind the front line to be reinforced.
Nevertheless, the transformation of the region was not only a consequence of the Great War, but a deliberate choice made by the territory for the territory itself. Not only had the Montello been heavily bombed during World War I, it had also been stripped of its most precious resource: timber.
Indeed, with the so-called 'Legge Bertolini' (Bertolini Decree), the State had reorganised the whole area in 1893 converting it into farmland and authorising its deforestation. The decree was one of the attempts to counter the extreme poverty of Veneto and other regions, whose populations continued to migrate elsewhere, as the deprivation of the rural populations highlighted by the Jacini Enquiry (1884) had not minimally improved.
This was the logic that inspired Pietro Bertolini from Montebelluna to take action in the Montello area, making him well-known in Parliament for this initiative soon to be completed, as well as for its battle in favour of administrative decentralisation in Italy. In fact, deforestation was not a decision of the central authority against rural areas, but a welcome proposal by an official with a deep knowledge of the land.
This deprived area, marked by poor agricultural resources, occupied a strategic military position.
Indeed, as a low hill (maximum elevation 371m) surrounded by the Piave and residential settlements, the Montello and Mount Grappa represent the link between the Alps and the sea.
Already in the 18th century it had been foreseen that the final battle between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy would take place here. The fight, which eventually took place, severely disrupted the populations and their living conditions, at a time still marked by the passing of the seasons.
Only memory could bring some order to an event such as World War I, too upsetting to be understood.