Fenestrelle Fort

Fenestrelle, Italy

The Fenestrelle Fortress is the biggest alpine fortification in Europe, having a surface area of 1,300,000 m². The history of modern fortifications in the Fenestrelle area, began in 1690, when the King of France Louis XIV appointed Nicolas Catinat as commander of the French Army against the Duke of Savoy’s Army during the Nine Years' War. He understood the danger posed by the Chisone Valley for the French Army and decided to build 3 small redoubts and a fort in the Fenestrelle area. More specifically, in 1694 Nicolas Catinat obtained the approval of Louis XIV to build Fort Mutin. During the War of the Spanish Succession, this imposing fortification was besieged in August 1708 by Victor Amadeus II’s troops and conquered in 15 days.

At the end of the War of the Spanish Succession, France officially ceded Fenestrelle and the upper Val Chisone to the Duchy of Savoy as required by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. The treaty gave the Kingdom of Sicily to the Duchy of Savoy, making Victor Amadeus II the first king of the House of Savoy. For political reasons the Kingdom of Sicily was then exchanged with the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1720.

Fort Mutin was restored, but Victor Amadeus II found it insufficient for the protection of the Val Chisone. So he instructed military architect Ignazio Bertola to design and build a complex of forts in Fenestrelle. They were connected by a 3 km long wall, an indoor staircase of 3,996 steps unique in Europe and an outside staircase of 2,500 steps. The construction began in the summer of 1728 and ended in 1793; then it started again in 1836, ending definitively in 1850.

During the Napoleonic Era when Fenestrelle was again under the French influence, it was used as a prison by the French Empire: notable prisoners were Joseph de Maistre and Bartolomeo Pacca. The prison also held Pierre Picaud, whose story was the inspiration for Edmond Dantès, the main character in Dumas’s Count of Monte Cristo. The Kingdom of Sardinia locked political prisoners, Mazzini's supporters and common criminals in the fort, including the Archbishop Luigi Fransoni.

After the unification of Italy, around a thousand of Kingdom of the Two Sicilies soldiers were put into the fort. Several Garibaldi's and Papal States supporters were also locked up.

After the Kingdom of Italy joined the Triple Alliance in 1882, the fort was upgraded. After 1887, it became the headquarters of the Fenestrelle battalion of the 3rd Alpini Regiment.

After World War II, the fort was abandoned and left to decay, most of the available material being plundered. In 1990 a redevelopment action, guided by a group of volunteers, known as Progetto San Carlo (ONLUS) was started.



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Founded: 1690-1793
Category: Castles and fortifications in Italy


4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

michał Mazurek (2 years ago)
Absolutely fantastic place. Fortress is really magnificent. After seeing it, probably any castle in the world will be able to impress me so much. Fortress is around 80km from turin and trust me it is really worth to rent the car and drive there. The only thing worth noting is that to truly see the fortress it is necessarry to participate in guided tour which starts around 9 a.m. or 3 p.m. Guided tour lasts 3 hours or 7 hours (only starting on the morning) and trust me it is worth every $ (especially when it is so cheap compared to much inferior and more popular places) Fortress was so fantastic that we joined guided tour in italian language (we don't speak nor understand italian :) ) just to explore it. Through 3 hours with our guide Gian (i hope i remembered correctly :D ) we were able to explore around the 30-40% of whole fortress. Even though tour was in italian Gian did great job in explaining and describing some things in english and thanks to him it was really fascinating experience :) I recommend visiting the fortress very much. Only thing that I regret is that I did not know about the tours before coming there and I have missed the opportunity of seeing the top fort of the fortress, However thanks to that I have a reason to come back there in future which i ceirtanly will :) Also restaurant in the fortress have nice selection of very tasty piemont most traditional dishes. And all of this.... without enormous crowds of tourists from all over europe like in most popular italian cities. During our visit through whole day maybe we seen 50 people max....all of them from Italy :) lier I have been in Italy before and to this time it is the best thing i have seen there :)
Kabogera Pilipi (2 years ago)
Woooooow the highest peak is the best view to see overlooking and amazing ? I love it also its my first time to see 3rd level underground museum
Stephen Scicluna (2 years ago)
Historical fort. Uphill walks up the stairs if one decides to make the full tour.
Edwin Jo (2 years ago)
An amazing and most see old castle with loads of historic events....and our tour guide was really patient and lively, i can't remember his name but he is young and slender and very amazing i recommend using him...sorry again that i can't remember his name but i hope the description helps
Matteo Danelli (5 years ago)
Amazing! Fantastic! Take either the shortest or the full path up to the top and you'll enjoy a great piece of history. Even guides are cool and very handsome. The forte itself is easy to reach and there's just a park in front of it. Book the tour in advance, especially during summer. Wear comfortable shoes and a camera, then relax and enjoy!
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