The glacier melts and the border shifts: is this Italian mountain hut actually Swiss? A melting glacier in the Alps has moved the border between Switzerland and Italy, making it questionable in which country exactly an originally Italian mountain hut now stands. The lodge is even deploying diplomatic negotiations.

A little back to the 3480 meter high snowy Testa Grigia peak in 1984. The year in which Rifugio Guide del Cervino was built, with forty beds and long wooden tables, entirely on Italian territory. A nice retreat for skiers, in winter and in summer – there is enough snow all year round.

But since then, quite a lot has changed. The Theodul glacier at the peak lost almost a quarter of its mass between 1973 and 2010. And as a result, two-thirds of the mountain hut, including most of the beds and the restaurant, is now technically on Swiss territory.

How can that be? Where the Italian-Swiss border crosses Alpine glaciers, the border normally follows the watershed. The melting of the Theodul glacier exposed the rock below it to the ice, which changed the watershed and now forces the two neighbors to redraw a hundred-meter stretch of their border. This is the beginning of diplomatic negotiations. Because most mountain peaks do not have such an economic interest, but a mountain peak in tourist area with a lodge on top.

It happens more often that the border is adjusted, explains Alain Wicht to the Guardian. He is the Chief border officer at the Swiss National Mapping Agency Swisstopo and he guards the seven thousand border posts along the 1935-kilometer border with Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Liechtenstein. In general, such cases are resolved by exchanging plots of similar area and value, without involving politicians. ,,But this is the only place where a building is involved.”His Italian colleagues refuse to comment ‘because of the complex international situation’.

As early as 2018, diplomatic negotiations were launched and a compromise would have been reached last year, but the details will not come out until the Swiss government has given its fiat to the agreement and that will not happen before 2023.

Wicht was present at the negotiations and now says that both parties have made concessions to reach a solution. Meanwhile, Rifugio Guide del Cervino cannot be renovated, because villages on either side of the border are not allowed to issue a building permit as long as there is no agreement on the plot of land.

Although the outcome remains secret, the resort’s operator, 51-year-old Lucio Trucco, is sure that it will remain on Italian soil. ,”The lodge remains Italian, because we have always been Italian,” he said. ,,The menu is Italian, the wine is Italian and the taxes are Italian.”


About the author: Damien Karlström

The editor-in-chief worked for many years as a literary editor in Bern's leading publications. Over time, I decided to become the editor-in-chief. The main direction of materials is international relations and society.

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