The Italians on the Isonzo, 1915–17
The mountainous nature of the Austro-Italian frontier determined the course of the war on the Italian front. Except for a short 32-kilometre (20-mile) section of front by the Adriatic coast, the 600-kilometre (380-mile) front line stretched across mountainous or very mountainous terrain. Looking down on the north Italian plain, the Austro-Hungarian army dominated the Italian front, but with the exception of a May–June 1916 Strafexpedition (‘punishment expedition’) offensive from the Trentino (South Tyrol/Alto Adige) salient towards Padua (Padova), Austro-Hungarian forces remained on the defensive from May 1915 to September 1917, taking advantage of their fixed positions on the higher ground. Thus, when Italy took the offensive she would have to fight her way forwards through Austro-Hungarian defences and, for most of the front, extensive mountain ranges. Moreover, Austro-Hungarian troops in the Trentino salient were a permanent threat to the Italian rear.