From the village we managed to find the small road which leads to this shack, which we assumed to be for bird watching. It was very hot when we visited the site, and we sat inside drinking wine and eating our picnic lunch as I read Jan accounts of both battles. Finding this spot was the highlight of our day, as it provides the most magnificent views of both battlefields.
Thanks to “Castiglione 1796” we knew that there was no point in visiting the town itself, but that here was a nearby hill called Monte Corna at Grole, which provided the best views of the battlefield. We drove around for half an hour looking for a road leading to the hill, and eventually spotted a small road leading to a communications mast which stood the end of the steep approach road.
This map shows the locations where the following photos were taken, and the direction of the shot. It also shows the locations of both armies during the opening stages of the main battle on 5 August 1796. If you refer back to this map as you view the photographs they should make more sense.
Map arrow 1. Castiglione is just behind the wooded hills on the right, which were held by the Austrians on 3 August. The French advanced from Lonato, which is shrouded in mist in the centre of the photo. The Austrians then retreated through Grole to Solfernio. The buildings on the left are Grole.
Map arrow 2. Paul is pointing at the forming up position of the French army prior to the main battle on 5 August. The French line was along the line of trees centre left.
Map arrow 3. The view towards the Austrian position at Solfernio. La Rocca is the tower on the hill centre left. The French attack the Austrian right wing would have been over this ground.
Map arrow 4. This photo is taken from the Austrian side of the field. Solfernio and La Rocca are on the Austrian right. This is the view looking towards Grole (note the mast on the left of the hill). Solfernio castle is on the right and the Austrian position was directly in front and spread to the left. The French advance was from the wooded hills in the distance.
Map arrow 5. This photo continues the panorama to the right of the one above. The buildings on the right are Solfernio. The Austrian position extends to the left towards Monte Medolano, which is out of sight to the left.
Map arrow 6. The town of Solfernio is in the foreground and beyond lies Cavriana. It is clear that the French flank attack from Guidizzolo was well behind the Austrian left flank (see map above)
The best view by far from the Austrian side is from the top of La Rocca. Set on a wooded hill between the town and castle of Solfernio this tower dominates the entire area. The Red Cross was founded in Solfernio and there is a monument in the woods nearby.
Map arrow 7. By far the most difficult position to find was the redoubt of Monte Medolano, which formed the extreme left of the Austrian line. The small hill is now covered with trees and can only be recognized from the main road by the two cypress trees.
Map arrow 8. This is the view the French grenadiers would have had as they approached the redoubt. Its capture forced the Austrians to retreat.
We climbed the hill where the redoubt was sited but there was nothing to see due to the thick undergrowth and trees. Not the first time that a location which seemed to promise excellent views proved to be a disappointment.
Looking more like a deserted village than a castle, there were only a couple of cars parked when we arrived on a very hot afternoon.
Then we noticed a group of old women sitting outside one of the houses, and realised that they were occupied. This somehow made the square seem even more deserted and abandoned.
We followed the path uphill through the woods to La Rocca. This was the purpose of our visit and we spent an hour or so enjoying the views and reading sections of the battle report.