Prague, Czech Republic
A hot-pink confection of Bohemian Neo-Renaissance style, the Hotel Opera stands in the less touristy Nové Město, or “New Town,” quarter of storied Prague.
Perched high atop a rock spur, the Cazzaniga-Merlini Refuge keeps watch over the Orobie Alps and offers respite to mountaineers and hikers passing through. Originally built in 1927, the Refuge shares the names of two veterans of the Italian Army: Giuseppi Cazzaniga and Ugo Merlini.
Cazzaniga, an Alpine Officer, spent his service with the Alpini – the oldest active mountain infantry in the world, established in 1872 to protect Italy’s border. They faced many challenges over the centuries, including the brutal three-year campaign against Austria-Hungary & Germany during WW1 which became known as the “War in Snow & Ice”.
Merlini was a veteran of Italy’s campaign in Russia during WW2. Known as the Barbarossa operation, the campaign was launched by Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union in 1941. Then led by dictator Benito Mussolini, Italy joined the campaign which ultimately resulted in a retreat by the Italian and German forces, including a two-week, treacherous trek by the Alpini through the Eurasian steppe. This ultimately ended Italian military operations in the Soviet Union.
The Refuge first took Cazzaniga’s name upon its opening in 1931 but after being destroyed during WW2, it was rebuilt nearly a decade later and dedicated in memory of Merlini. Prominently painted on the side of the Refuge is the Alpini’s cap insignia known as the Fregio, a coat of arms bearing an eagle with spread wings, two blowing horns, and crossed rifles.
A destination among Alpine travelers, the Cazzaniga-Merlini Refuge is both a haven for hikers and a remembrance to the men who dedicated their lives protecting the mountains in which it stands. Along with the breathtaking views of the Alps, adventurers can enjoy a home-cooked meal, a warm bed, and in the summer, milk & cheese produced on site.
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