339 The italian village of Fortezza - Franzensfest, Bolzano in Trentino-South Tyrol, Italy - e-borghi
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Fortezza - Franzensfest

Fortezza is a newly founded center; the town dates back to the 19th century, when the construction of the railway and fortifications began, to which the place is also closely linked in name. The original municipality was Mezzaselva (Mittewald), still the cadastral municipality, with the two inhabited areas of Prà di Sopra (Oberau) and Prà di Sotto (Unterau).
  • Village in the mountain
  • Village on a lake
  • Village with castle
Fortezza  | Stefan Schönweger
Stefan Schönweger
Fortezza  |
Fortezza  |
Fortezza  |
Fortezza  |
Fortezza  | Alfred Tschager
Alfred Tschager
Fortezza  |
Fortezza  |
Fortezza  |
Fortezza  |
A look at Fortezza/Franzensfest
A look at Fortezza/Franzensfest

About the village

Fortezza (Franzensfeste in German) takes its name from the fortress built at the time of the Austrian empire by Emperor Francis I: the Fortress, built from 1833 to 1838. The original name of Fortezza is therefore Franzensfeste which means the "Fortress of Francis". The village took its present name in 1942, previously called Mezzaselva to the Isarco/Mittewald Eisack am in 1923 and then only Mezzaselva/Mittewald (from 1923 to 1942), from the name of the town's most ancient of the town, today the hamlet. The name of the hamlet is attested since 1223 as Mittenwalde and means "in the middle of the forest", forest that in 1204 is attested as Wibetwald.

The fortress is a center of recent foundation; the village dates back to the XIX century, when began the construction of the railroad and the fortifications, to which the site is closely linked also in name. The village was originally Mezzaselva (Mittewald), still the cadastral Municipality, with the two inhabited Prà Sopra (Oberau) and Prà Sotto (Unterau). A small settlement was already present in 2500 B.C., as shown by the discovery of tableware home. The place has always had an important role in the transport of goods on the north-south axis; first as a track of amber between Greece, Sicily and North Europe, then in the Roman period, between Aquileia and regions of the Alps; it shows a section of the Roman road found near the village. Where is now located on the station in the seventeenth century stood a couple of masi, one of which, in time, transformed in inn with the name "Post-Reifer" and is still in operation.

The military importance of the place became evident during the Tyrolean rebellion in 1809, when general Lefebvre, under the command of 2500 Saxon troops, was defeated in an ambush by the Tyroleans of Andreas Hofer near the so-called Sachsenklemme (the "close of the Saxons"). Francis I Emperor of Austria at the time of constructing a defensive system, for fear of an invasion from the south, chose for its geographical location and its strategic location where the valley narrows and the rocky ridge that protrudes from the mountain was built a first system of fortifications. Work began on 17 June 1833 and the Habsburg Strong was inaugurated by Ferdinand I of Austria on 18 August 1838. The construction of the Fortezza - which was given the name of Francis I, precisely Franzensfeste - and subsequently of the railroad, contributed thousands of workers who found accommodation in Fortezza contributing to the development and growth of the country.

In 1867, with the opening of the Brennero railroad, Fortezza consolidated its role not only on the north-south axis, but also toward the Val Pusteria to Maribor, involving in the construction of the line in the southern part of the fortification. With the signing of the pact of the Triple Alliance (1882), part of the empires of Germany, Austria-Hungary and of the Kingdom of Italy, the fortress of Fortezza lost its strategic-military importance and was transformed into a ammunition depot role that maintained even when it went to Italy in 1918. In 1939 work began on the construction of the hydroelectric basin for the central Bressanone, needed for the electrification of the railway line; the works were completed the following year and Prà below was submerged by the invaded. In 1940 the fortress was elevated to town, became an important railway articulation and were built and the infrastructure necessary for the maintenance of locomotives is the lodgings for the staff.

Until the middle of the Nineties, Fortezza was an important customs and especially for his scalo livestock; has lost much of its relief after the opening of the borders, following the entry into the European Community of Austria. The coat of arms of the Fortress is constituted by the letter "Ypsilon" white upside down which symbolizes the streets for the village.

Certainly deserve a visit the fortress of Fortezza, the church of Mezzaselva and monuments of the battles that recall the battle of Tyrolean independence.

Already in September of 1943 the governor of the Bank of Italy Vincenzo Azzolini manifested the fear that the Germans wanted to seize the aurifere reserves in Italy. The 16 December of the same year in fact twelve wagons with 127.5 tons of gold in ingots, coins and a small amount of platinum preserved in barrels and sacks, arrive strangely to Fortezza from Milan (actually part of this gold in part had been hidden by the same Azzolini behind a wall in a safe, falsifying documents in order to be able to justify the transport of gold from Rome to power in 1942. In 1943 instead Herbert Kappler, escorted by the greater of SS Karl Hass, did seize the entire gold reserve and made him transfer to Milan on the night between 22 and 23 September. From here, in a second moment, always through the armored trains, gold came then to fortress.

This precious cargo was part of the gold reserves of the Bank of Italy and was downloaded from Russian prisoners of the fort in an underground bunker, closed by three different keys guarded by the commander of the fort, from official of the Bank of Italy and the then Burgomaster of country Josef Wild. At the same time the Wehrmacht had placed all around the fortress some contraeree batteries. A few months later by strong shared out three convoys. On 29 February 1944 a convoy toward the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Reich in Berlin, containing 55 tonnes. On 19 April a convoy toward the Swiss banks of Bern, containing 23.5 tons, and finally the 21 October another convoy toward Berlin, containing 24 tonnes. Then for a total of 102.5 tons of gold.

When the 5a American army comes to Fortress on 17 May 1945, conquistandola without firing a shot, found in armored room still 25 tons of gold (approximately 7 billion dollars), the remains of the Italian gold (which the allies have yielded but only three years later). The gold remained was placed in 153 barrels and 55 cassettes. Already then the accounts not returned. In fact the documents of 79 tonnes which were supposed to reach Berlin, in the confusion of the last days of the war, were lost. You sospettò moreover that some documents that pointed out the departure of the loads of gold had been tampered with. As proof of this, the burgomaster (one of three holders of one of the keys) was arrested and its lands were inspected with the metal detector. In the years to follow there were several shipments (even a journal of the Bank of Italy) for probing the ground surrounding the strong and to explore the walled tunnels, but without any success.

In the legend of the gold of Fortress, mingle several stories, related also to other loads d'oro vanished in history, to whom you also intersects the history of the Yugoslav gold (for example a train coming from Kotor, in the current Montenegro, passed on a train for the strong before the end of the war) found a house of Licio Gelli, which went to the Fortress at least three times before the seventies.

In the years 1980 The legend of the gold underwent a new turning point: the engineer Luigi Cavalloni affirmed with its absolute certainty that a fortress there was still of gold. He himself had already started to search for it in 1977, but it took several years to obtain the necessary licenses and permits to access the strong which at that time was under the control of the Ministry of Defense and used by the Italian Army as a powder keg.

The coincidence wanted that always during the same year, Colonel Herbert Kappler (sadly known for the massacre of the Fosse Ardeatine, but also executor of the transport of the gold), escaped from the military hospital of Celio. Then the examining magistrate of Trento, Carlo Palermo, in 1983 opened a judicial inquiry, where it is envisaged that the engineer Cavalloni had bartered evasion of Kappler with the secrets of the gold of the Fortress. But everything ended with a nothing. To validation of thesis on the disappearance of the gold, was found on 15 November 2005 in the bunker which guarded the gold, a mold for ingots without the mark for punching the Lingotto, beyond which the presence of sediments of coal (testimony that inside the bunker, has certainly melted material) and lead.

Another version sees different figures: we are talking about 117 tons of gold in ingots and coins. In this version it says that of three keys were entrusted 2 officials of the branch office in Bolzano of the Bank of Italy and the third to the German command.

In April 1943, 23 tonnes were shipped in Switzerland. Ten served to pay debts incurred before the war by the industry of Italian state while other 12 ended in Basel on account of international regulations. The Italian Social Republic had granted to the Reich to transfer in Berlin a part of the gold reserve national, and then other 50 tonnes and they journeyed from fortress. A second expedition was scheduled in October '44, but saputolo, official of the Bank of Italy, Mr Bombasaro, went to Trento and sent to Bari an encrypted message to the Allied Command, which responded immediately by bombarding fortress at the station of which looked as if it had already gold loaded on armoured wagons. A few days later, a self-styled International Committee of the Red Cross took over the gold to bring it in Switzerland where apparently it would never arrive.

By pulling the sums between reality and legend, a fortress were to remain approximately 24 tons of gold. From a secret report of August 1946 It seems that the Allied Command, which had reached the fortress the first of May of '45, in the presence of officials of the Bank of Italy that had 2 of three keys, went to the withdrawal of the gold. It convened 22 tonnes and 941 kilos of initial 117 parties from Rome.

Therefore also in this second version the tornerebbero accounts. But witnesses in the course of the years claimed to have seen gold in hidden passages and then walled and that in addition to gold of Rome were part of the Treasury also the precious stolen with Jews.

Municipality of Fortezza/Franzensfeste
Province of Bolzano/Bozen
Trentino Alto Adige Region

Population: 1.009
Altitude centre: 749 m s.l.m.

the Municipality is part of:
Comunità Montana Wipptal - Alta Val d'Isarco

Piazza Municipio 2 - Tel. +39 0472 458631

= distances as the crow flies


  • Traveling on the highway, the closest exits to the center of Fortezza are:
    - Exit Bressanone - Val Pusteria (A22 Brennero-Modena)
    - Exit Bressanone Zona Ind. (A22 Brennero-Modena)

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= distances as the crow flies


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