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food / travel

Oldest Tunnel Through Alps Reopens, No Cars Allowed

Tourists can take a trip through time—and across the French-Italian border—in the 75-meter Monte Viso Tunnel, a footpath originally built during the Renaissance.

Monte Viso Tunnel entrance
Monte Viso Tunnel entrance
Andrea Garassino

MONVISO — The oldest tunnel ever built through the Alps is set to reopen this week, giving summer tourists a chance to cross the mile-high border between Italy and France—on foot!

The 75-meter Monte Viso Tunnel was originally constructed in 1480 to connect the Marquisate of Saluzzo, now located in Italy's Piedmont region, with the nearby Dauphiné region in France.

The tunnel was designed to increase trade between the two neighbors while bypassing their common enemy of Savoy, which controlled nearby mountain passes and restricted commerce. Dug at a height of 2,880 m (9,449 ft), the tunnel was an engineering feat in its time and took six years to complete.

Workers used iron, fire, boiling water, and vinegar to bore the tunnel, with the costs shared equally by the governments of Saluzzo and Dauphiné. After Saluzzo's annexation to Savoy in 1601 the tunnel lost its strategic importance, and remained closed on and off for centuries.

The first major renovations began in 1907, when the Italian government teamed up with the Italian hiking association to restore access to the tunnel. A joint project two years ago by the Italian region of Piedmont and French authorities extended the tunnel to its original length, repairing erosion that damaged the footpath over the centuries.

Designed with a height of 2-2.5 m to allow the passage of mules carrying goods, the tunnel now only rises to 1.7 m for most of its length, and remains unlit. It stays shut every winter on the French side to block the entry of snow, but reopens in the summer for tourists to cross from Monviso to the French regional park of Queyras on the other side of the tunnel.

Part of a popular regional hiking trail, reaching the Monviso tunnel requires a three-hour hike from the nearest town in Italy, while it's only a two-hour hike from the nearest mountain lodge on the French side. In a time of border walls and Brexit, tourists in the Alps can walk through a Renaissance-era border that remains open almost six centuries later.

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Look At This Crap! The "Enshittification" Theory Of Why The Internet Is Broken

The term was coined by journalist Cory Doctorow to explain the fatal drift of major Internet platforms: if they were ever useful and user-friendly, they will inevitably end up being odious.

A photo of hands holding onto a smartphone

A person holding their smartphone

Gilles Lambert/ZUMA
Manuel Ligero


The universe tends toward chaos. Ultimately, everything degenerates. These immutable laws are even more true of the Internet.

In the case of media platforms, everything you once thought was a good service will, sooner or later, disgust you. This trend has been given a name: enshittification. The term was coined by Canadian blogger and journalist Cory Doctorow to explain the inevitable drift of technological giants toward... well.

The explanation is in line with the most basic tenets of Marxism. All digital companies have investors (essentially the bourgeoisie, people who don't perform any work and take the lion's share of the profits), and these investors want to see the percentage of their gains grow year after year. This pushes companies to make decisions that affect the service they provide to their customers. Although they don't do it unwillingly, quite the opposite.

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Annoying customers is just another part of the business plan. Look at Netflix, for example. The streaming giant has long been riddling how to monetize shared Netflix accounts. Option 1: adding a premium option to its regular price. Next, it asked for verification through text messages. After that, it considered raising the total subscription price. It also mulled adding advertising to the mix, and so on. These endless maneuvers irritated its audience, even as the company has been unable to decide which way it wants to go. So, slowly but surely, we see it drifting toward enshittification.

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