In 2016, once the “Balkan route” is closed, migrants will land on Italian coasts. And come summer, many will try to cross the Alps. But at the Brenner Pass, the main gateway to Northern Europe, Austria has sealed the borders for them, and many believe the risk is that sooner or later this will create a bottleneck effect. With the front door locked, however, many more will open: through secondary passes, along the tracks of transhumance, bicycle trails or the old schmugglerweg, the paths of smugglers. “It’s impossible to patrol 400 kilometers of frontiers”, confesses a border policeman, “and sooner or later these desperate people will start trying to negotiate the mountains on foot. After all, they have smartphones and gps”.
In the Northern Italian regions of Friuli and Alto Adige, along the minor crossings, some of the refugees have already been spotted while hiking, disguised as tourists. Under the gaze of the many St. Christophers painted on churches, the protector saint of the pilgrims and travelers that for centuries have been crossing borders on foot.