Historical notes about a Regal Refuge …… the Vittorio Emanuele II in the Gran Paradiso.

This unique mountain lodge, certainly the most original of the alpine circle Piemontese, but also one of the busiest and most comfortable of all the Italian Alps, had been started in the thirties under the chairmanship of Senator G. Brezzi, prominent personalities from Turin of those times. Senator Brezzi, in addition to the presidency of the eldest section of CAI, clothed than the real mutual insurance – one of the oldest and respected Italian insurance companies – and ultimately that of Cogne of Aosta, steel industry prominent in the national .

And from this third assignment of Sen. Brezzi born the original structural and architectural appearance of the new refuge Vittorio Emanuele. Indeed Sen. Brezzi entrusted to a member and director of the Turin section, Eng. Dumontel – professional well known and appreciated in the field of construction – the project of construction of the building again provided that the internal structure was entirely made of iron, of course, production Cogne. Being Eng. Dumontel also member of CAAI (Academic Alpine Club) was very simple thing for the designer to transfer the pattern of the classic small “bivouac academic” in one of the new Vittorio Emanuele, of course with the proper proportions established by the Board of Directors sectional of those times (minimum 120 comfortable places other less comfortable if possible). Were transferred by mule two electric welders with related groups generators, obviously disassembled pieces of weight suitable for transportation with the mule, which were then reassembled on site, all profiled in iron and still the remaining material necessary for the need, and they started work.

In the summer of 1933 the Prince of Piedmont Umberto of Savoy was also transported by mule from Pont Valsavarenche at the shelter, and with solemn ceremony Alpine inaugurated an empty box. In fact were made only two facades of masonry stones and the internal metal structure, all covered by a roof in thin sheet which in a few years denoted their insecurity, obvious consequence of the chronic lack of scarcity of our association and also the mundane habits of those times!

Then came the war in Abyssinia, the well-known sanctions against Italy, and most recently the terrible second world war that finally stopped the continuation and completion of the work, which in the meantime (year 1936-37), the new President of the Chamber, Count G. Passerin D’Entreves, had a contract with bold and original, taken by a construction company from Turin-Milan (Black and Tanci) in exchange earnings that the shelter would have finished product in the next 15 years.
And we come to the post-war period: the direction of the section shelters in 1951 had taken over all ‘ing. John Bertoglio- eminent engineer in the field of mountain huts – myself, who tried to complete the most of the patch of the damages suffered by war 37 shelters sectional, already undertaken by Ing. Bertoglio. Were excluded Gastaldi, the New Turin and finally just the Vittorio Emanuele. To sum our luck the United States Of America had developed and then decided a plan of practical help to the reconstruction of poor Europe reduced to pieces by the Second World War: the plan ERP also known as the Marshall Plan after its inventor. They were impressive figures that were virtually given away by the American people to Europe and that allowed in a few years to realize the European reconstruction, suffering from drooping from lack of oxygen. I remember passing that the acronym ERP means “Europe reconstruction plan.”

Even the mountain huts were admitted to the division of the pie and the section of Turin decided to concentrate the funds attributable to his own (about 20 million of those times) the completion of the royal Vittorio Emanuele II, with the Turin – then entrusted to the care of ‘ing. Locchi after realizing the company with the section of Aosta for financing the expenditure by the Regione Autonoma Valle d’Aosta – represented the two most pressing problems. In a third time was then tackled the reconstruction of Gastaldi under the direction of ‘ing. Alvigini, some years later elected president of the section.

Taken the first step you began work with a visit to the shelter by the vice president Ernesto Lavini and signed on 2 June 1953. On the spot we were in for a good boy Valentino Dayne, manager for many years for the old family tradition of refuge; already the father Celestino and the family had operated for over 30 years with love and devotion rather than interest and profit (this philosophy reminds me of a similar case occurred in the Susa Valley: Alessandro Sibille, said Sandrin, driving emerita of CAI and rider mountain, loyalty bonus mountain in the province of Turin for the refuge Vaccarone, maintained and guarded them like a second home to him and his wife).
In order to make the visit in Valsavarenche in one day, minimizing expenses, Lavini had decided, with due consent of the Governing Council, to hire a Fiat 500, mouse was called then, the cost of which, including gasoline, was been agreed with the charterer in pounds 40,000. Departed at 3 in the morning from Turin, and at 7 or beyond were already in Pont, whence walk we reached the shelter greeted by Valentino good and diligent Mrs. Palmira. Were examined with Dayne quality work could be done in that year, evaluating the real cost in order to be compatible with the figure of 4 million pounds of which the section had, as a contribution ERP.

In the afternoon a visit is completed shooting the way of the valley floor and then by easy stages the return in Turin. The last stop was made in Ivrea, where casually in a downtown bar he was encountered by a small group of friends who were part of the mountain from a trip in Val St. Barthelemy. At exit Chivasso entry into highway and road to Torino, who were now coming down the first evening shadows. And here came the tragedy. The friend Ernesto, driving the little mouse, dazzled by a big car that was spinning at full speed towards Milan, pensò² – for some reason – to go down the slope that led to the bridge Orco, which is obviously unwise to a 4-wheel vehicle. As luck would have to keep the plants coppice at the foot of the escarpment did from the mattress to the poor fellas, greatly softening the consequences of non-scheduled flight. Friends in tow we picked thoughtfully – without teaspoon thankfully! – And transported us to spur beaten to astanteria Martini though the handling of the case. But the most painful consequences were economic ones, as the sectional withal niggardly Council, following the strict rules of the Founding Father Quintino, not dropped a pound more than those at the time authorized for the trip to Valsavarenche.La deserving companies Lavini-Rosazza therefore had to take on the difference, sacrificing an entire month of their salaries to close the unfortunate game. things that happened 40 years ago!

However despite the disastrous start, the work proceeded, mainly thanks to the manager Valentino Dayne, regularly from year to year and the building was even again, albeit partially, opened in the spring of 1954 on the occasion of the 1st Rally alpine ski Lafuma – Le Trappeur held in Italian territory, of which the promoters French had entrusted the organization to managers of the Ski Club Torino, on the condition that made in the Gran Paradiso, based in regal Refuge .The ground floor kitchen, bar, 2 residence halls and dining and services – now completed ensures comfortable hospitality to hundreds of people, competitors – among them also the writer – and employees in the event, which ended successfully after three wonderful days in Cogne, after the long crossing Grand Sertz.

In the following years were completed the two-storey bed and the hydroelectric plant, operated by the water of the pond below after a distance of 250 m. downstream.

Even the concluding part of the operation completion of the new shelter is unfortunately tinged with black. In fact, in June of 1961, by which time the Executive Council had fixed the date of the official inauguration of the new shelter, a long-standing angina pectoris prematurely affection of his loved ones and friends of all the worthy Turin Valentino Dayne, who was really the heart and the motor arm of the operation. Sin had therefore to postpone the ceremony and move it to the end of the season. But the opening party was veiled by a sense of sorrow and sadness, even if it was the culmination of a realization that had begun 30 years before and more hampered by adversity of all kinds.

The writer has been for many years a faithful vestal the fate of Victor Emmanuel, as an inspector and advocate for improvement. Suffice it to mention the use of a few years ago the big attic, once a repository of flammable materials and dirt, which represented to me a thorn in the heart for a long time. Finally after many unsuccessful attempts, the Executive Council transposition need to exploitation of this room, realizing at once two valuable results: the elimination of fire danger, and the recovery of a vital space for other 40/50 beds at a cost , moreover, very modest, that to date has already been largely recovered.

The refuge Vittorio Emanuele in a few years it has become well known throughout the world for its stunning location in which it stands, for the service it provides to both mountaineers, both to fans of ski touring, both ordinary tourists and hikers attracted by the beauty of the National Park in where it is located. The surrounding hills are of great satisfaction for all, without too problematical, and the 4061 summit of Gran Paradiso are a terrific reminder also internationally.

However the problem serious and difficult to solve, is to be able to hold back the tide of visitors that in the spring and summer move to the assault of these beautiful mountains. Was game- strength determine the number closed for safety reasons, with reservations required at the expense of course many other aspirants. Moreover, in spite of myself, you had to realize that horrifying escape the outer scale, something abhorrent and shocking. I’m almost done, but I still want to tell you an anecdote lived by myself and President E. Andreis once we climbed together from Pont at the shelter during the work.

Along the trail hunting were received near the end of the countless twists of the lower, when Andreis me: Rosazza hide behind this rock, as he was doing. Reason: two hundred meters from the boulder, just beyond the gorgia that breaks down the steep valley and embedded in the side of the trail, Andreis had seen a large herd of ibex intent to graze peacefully their favorite jelly .the scene took place on a grassy plain below a zone placconi smoothed by the old glacier high no less than 25-30 meters and culminating with a subsequent grassy plain. Stayed crouched behind the boulder for a few minutes, surreptitiously eyeing the herd to not disturb him. At one point, the pack leader – a magnificent beast of 70-80 kg. began to climb along the small fessurine slab from a distance that we could hardly find. After traveling across the slab, the head came above the shelf and stood like a ruler on the edge of the same, as still as the sphinx, facing the underlying herd that kept quietly to graze grass. after a few minutes of this show, I started another even more unique. In fact all the components of the pack in turn began climbing area slab passing the same spot where it was first climbed the big boss. The novice, inexperienced sometimes slipped and then let themselves slide belly to the ground on the legs up to the starting point accodandosi to those waiting their turn.
A real school of rock climbing! The scene lasted until even the smallest of brats had not passed the arduous climb, managing to set foot on the terrace above. Only then the chief resumed his meek appearance of good family, putting him well to graze grass.
Dear Andreis told me that such a spectacle had already happened to see many years before in Orco Valley, when represented. Renato Chabod regularly attended the Gran Paradiso area, both being intent to the compilation of well-known guide TCI-CAI of which were authors with Ettore Santi, famous skier. I really finished: I wish readers to have the good fortune to attend at least once a similar show, truly unforgettable and extraordinary even in its naturalness and simplicity.