Authion Fortifications, Turini passAuthion Fortifications, Turini pass

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  • Off the path Explo
    96 %
    Off the path Explo rate
    4.8 / 5
    Quite unknown spot, and so singular!! Very cool trip Fritz!
  • Article Quality
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    Article Quality rate
    • Score
      5 / 5
      Very nice description and tips Fritz!!
    • Score
      3 / 5
      Yes, a plan would be useful too!
    • Score
      5 / 5
      Yes, many!
    • Score
      5 / 5
    • Score
      5 / 5
  • Explo Popularity

Magnificent mountain landscapes, military vestiges, the complicated history of a region shared between France and Italy.....

My experience, Explo description: 

The County of Nice was part Savoy-Piedmont kingdom since 1388.
In 1859, the French Napoleon III and the Italian Cavour made a secret agreement : French people will help Piedmont people to release themselves from Austrians, in exchange for whom France will receive Nice city and Savoy county. After Magenta and Solferino battles, peace is signed and the County of Nice becomes French in 1860, despite the opposition of England.

A plebiscite confirms the support of the population by 25,743 "yes" against 260 "no" !!!?? Prime Minister Cavour insists so that king Victor-Emmanuel can preserve his hunting properties of Mercantour for 87 more years. Thus, the border do not pass by the top of the crests and the Authion mountains take a major strategic importance.

From 1870, the relations with Italy degrade and fortifications are built.

At first, access roads and camps (Plan Caval, Cabannes Vieilles) are built, capable of hosting more than 1,000 soldiers. From 1883, these defences are strengthen by 2 forts (typical Séré de Rivières style) located at Forca and at Milles Fourches. Finally, in 1897, the most spectacular work is added : the Pointe des Trois Communes redoubt, which has the mission to control the north side the Ortiguier crest.

This redoubt has a peculiarity : it is the first time in France when is used the construction technique associating the traditional masonry in stones with reinforced concrete. Due to the height of this place (2,080m !) this represented at that period a real technical performance ! From 1930, this system will be completed by several Maginot bunkers.

From a military point of view, the Authion was already a major strategic place during previous wars, such as the French revolution : in 1793 and 1794, weak Austrian and Sardinian forces retrenched there resisted to the French troops, which were obliged to make a big tour by the republic of Genoa to attack their backside.

In June, 1940, the Authion defensive system dissuaded Italians to attack there.

In March 1945, French general De Gaulle wishes that the French army takes back territories still occupied by the Germans. The battle of Authion begins on April 10th and will continue until 24th.

The attack of these fortifications, which approaches are totally not covered, led to heavy French losses (280 killed and 1,000 wounded), against 100 killed on the German side, all this less than a month before the armistice... At least, this dearly acquired victory allowed the French to reach the crest of the Alps and to begin to go down on the Italian side of the mountains.

In 1947, a new vote connected definitely Authion to France.

The site is an extraordinary point of view, more than 2,000m high, dominating all the neighbouring mountains. Valleys and landscapes are grand, with a view from the Mediterranean sea up to the summits of Mercantour exceeding 3,000m high !

Fortifications buildings group together works from several different periods :

  • Classic Séré de Rivières forts (1870) : Forca and Milles Fourches
  • Intervening period announcing the reinforced concrete : 3 Communes redoubt (1897)
  • Maginot Bunkers (1930). At the Saint-Véran pass, the Raus pass, and the Baisse de Ventabren pass.

Ruins of the vast camp buildings are also interesting to visit.

At Cabannes Vieilles, in front of the former barracks, is exposed a tank (Stuart type), as well as a very interesting explanatory panel of the battle (with plans).
Another panel in the entrance of the redoubt shows another aspect of the assault...

From the hut of Tueis (1,889m high, car park), you can enjoy a nice buckle walk (2.5h by feet).
Go east on the trail which rises along the crest. Once you have arrived on the first summit, you can go to visit the fort of Forca (2,078m height). Then, go back (500m) to the trail, and go north-east to the spectacular 3 Communes redoubt (2,080m high), which is very easy to recognize by far, looking like a middle age castle.

Once you have visited the redoubt, you can go down (following a wide Northwest track) to the Saint-Véran pass, defended by a big Maginot bunker.
From the pass (1,836m high), go south on a going down path leading to the Ortiguier farm (1,729m high), where you can buy some cheese ! Then, go up (0.5h) back to the Tueis hut road.

My personal recommendations: 

Visit the close Merveilles valley when you go to the Authion.

How getting there: 

1) By car
An excellent tarred road allows you, from the Turini pass, to make the tour of Authion without any fatigue, and goes up to a 2,000m height. This road is not feasible in winter time because of the snow.

2) By feet
Authion is situated on a GR (Grande Randonnée - Long range trekking trail). The GR (N°52) crosses all the Alps and ends in the the Mediterranean sea, at Menton city. The last stages of the trail take place in Mercantour, which is a biological reserve, where you can observe wild animals like ibexes. The stage which goes from the Vallée des Merveilles hut to Sospel is very long : it is better to cut it in two and, once you have spent a little of time visiting Authion, you can make a slight hook to the Turini pass, and stay at the Baisse du Camp d’Argent pass.

The next day, in order not to take back the same road, from the Camp d’Argent, (100m lower than the Estive hotel), take on the left a good road, at first wide, then narrowing to become a pleasant flat trail, and which allows to join directly Cabannes Vieilles.

A tip to sleep: 

L’Estive : inn located close to the little Camp d’Argent ski station (2km N from Turini path). Nice reception around a campfire and good cooking !

tel : 04 93 91 57 58
38 €/pers half-pension

Useful information: 
Open hours: 

All day long !

Entry fees: 

Free !

Access security: 

In winter, the road is not often cleared from the snow.
By car, the best period is the autumn, and especially October ; the light, the tree colours and the nearby snow covered summits are magnificent.

By feet, this region is feasible from July till the end of September. After, huts are closed, and you might be stopped by snow when you go above 2,000m heights (notably at the Pas du Diable pass, 2,460m high)