The history of CAI (Italian Alpine Club)

The Italian Alpine Club, known to all as CAI, was officially founded on 23 October 1863 in Turin.
However, its unofficial foundation dates back to a few months before: 12 August of the same year. On that date in fact those who are the founders of the CAI – Quintino Sella, Giovanni Baracco, Paolo and Giacinto di Saint Robert, decided to give life to the Italian Alpine Club. This association, almost as old as our country, “aims at mountaineering in all its manifestations, the knowledge and study of the mountains, especially the Italian ones, and the defense of their natural environment” – as the first article of the Statute.
Today it is an association of enormous dimensions, which counts over 320 thousand members divided into 510 sections and 310 subsections.
But let’s try to understand how the association founded in 1863 has come to count such a large number of members in a century and a half of history. One of the reasons is its widespread distribution throughout the national territory: the foundation of the CAI section of Naples is dated 1871, a few years after the foundation of the first section at national level. At that time it was not easy to have a spread at such great distances. This propagation throughout Italy was possible through the spread of mountaineering among the bourgeoisie thanks to a specialized bulletin and a magazine. Another cultural initiative that expresses the importance for our country of CAI is the Guide of the Italian Mountains, begun in 1908, and which, with the current 63 volumes, is the most complete cognitive resource on our mountains from a geographic and geological point of view. But the contribution of the CAI also concerns more concrete aspects. Do you think that before 1900 in Italy there were 57 alpine shelters, today there are 750.
The history of CAI is naturally intertwined with that of our country. 1915, Italy goes to war against Austria and the president of the CAI invites all members to the “fierce trial”. Over two thousand members respond to the president’s call and will find death on the beloved Alps, which in those years became the scene of atrocious suffering, ceasing, at least temporarily, to be that magical and enchanted place that is for all mountain lovers.

During the darkest period in the history of our country, the Fascist period, the CAI became part of CONI, losing part of its autonomy. In the years of the Second World War the activities of the CAI are very reduced for obvious reasons; but since 1944 the activities of the CAI resume with new impetus both on the Resistance front and on that of the reconstruction. The war conflicts in fact did not spare the alpine shelters, often transformed into headquarters of the partisan armies, sometimes destroyed or damaged by the Nazi-fascist militias.
The years following the Second World War are also those of the boom of adhesions to the Cai which pass from about 30 thousand to almost 100 thousand in the blink of an eye. This success is also due to a mountaineering expedition organized by the CAI which had a worldwide media hype: the conquest of K2, the second highest peak in the world.
In the same year another important event distinguishes the history of the CAI: the foundation of the Alpine Rescue, today called “National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps” with the aim of “supervising and preventing accidents in the exercise of mountaineering, hiking and caving activities , to the rescue of the injured or the unsafe, and to the recovery of the fallen “. This important activity is nowadays of radical importance for anyone who loves the mountains: think that every year 5-6 thousand relief operations are carried out, and that a minimum part of them are to CAI members. The CAI is today a fundamental structure for the public utility that counts 269 emergency stations, hundreds of doctors and thousands of volunteers throughout the Peninsula.
Other important organizations are the CAI schools, for the training of those who want to try their hand at mountaineering as a young person, which has over 2000 instructors. In addition to this, we remember the 1450 professional guides and the technicians qualified in avalanche prevention.

For some months now, a collaboration has continued that sees the CAI and us at Bivo as protagonists. For all the members of the CAI, in fact, by inserting the “CAI” discount code in the notes of the order, we have reserved a fantastic gift: by purchasing Bivo they will receive 4 packets (one for each Bivo flavor).

For more information on the CAI Promo: