No One Knows for Sure What Country This Is

Melting glacier leaves Alps lodge at center of border dispute between Italy and Switzerland
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 28, 2022 11:41 AM CDT
Updated Jul 31, 2022 7:06 AM CDT
No One Knows for Sure What Country This Is
This photo taken Aug. 25 2017, shows the Rifugio Guide del Cervino lodge on the Swiss-Italian border.   (Wikimedia Commons/Rufus46)

In 1984, a lodge was built high up in the Pennine Alps in what was then Italy. Now most of it is technically part of Switzerland, though its manager—at the center of an international border dispute—will refute that. The alpine border between the two countries has been traditionally decided by the point at which meltwater runs down either side of the border-straddling mountain Testa Grigia. But like many other glaciers, the nearby Theodul Glacier has been steadily melting, shifting the watershed further in the direction of Italy. That means two-thirds of the Rifugio Guide del Cervino lodge at 11,417 feet elevation, including its restaurant and most of its 40 beds, now rests on Swiss territory, per AFP.

But "the refuge remains Italian because we have always been Italian," manager Lucio Trucco tells the outlet. "The menu is Italian, the wine is Italian, and the taxes are Italian." After negotiations began in 2018, the two countries decided to redraw a 100-yard stretch of border, with an accord signed in November. But the agreement is being kept under wraps until the Swiss parliament gives its approval, which is expected sometime next year. "We agreed to split the difference," is how Alain Wicht, chief border official at Switzerland's national mapping agency Swisstopo, describes it, noting the presence of the lodge gives the land added "economic value." "Even if neither side came out winners, at least nobody lost," he says.

Italian officials declined to comment "due to the complex international situation." However Trucco says he's been told the lodge, situated between the Swiss ski resort of Zermatt and the Italian town of Valtournenche, will remain part of Italy. The designation is important not only for tax considerations but for building codes, too. Amid the years-long dispute, the lodge has been unable to acquire a building permit for renovations, unsure which country's authorities it should apply to. But Trucco is mostly concerned about the state of the glacier, which lost nearly 25% of its mass from 1973 to 2010. "It has never been so hot as it has been this year," he tells the Telegraph. "It is a huge concern." (More border dispute stories.)

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