The Club Alpino Italiano: an association with 150 years of history

Founded on 23rd of October 1863 in Torino – even if the ideal foundation already took place on 12th of August during the famous ascent to the Monviso by Quintino Sella, Giovanni Barracco, Paolo and Giacinto di Saint Robert - , the Club Alpino Italiano is a free national association, which, corresponding to art. 1 of its Statute, “its purpose is the mountaineering in all its manifestations, the knowledge and the study of the mountains, especially the Italian ones, and the protection of their natural environment.”

The association is made up of members who are freely assembled in sections, organized in regional groups: as of December 31st 2018, it has over 322,000 members - the highest number ever recorded in our association history - participating in activities of 509 sections and 313 subsections belonging to 21 regional groups, which of them are 2 provincial groups (Trentino and Alto Adige).

Within the Italian legal system, the central structure of the Italian Alpine Club is configured as a non-economic public authority, while all its territorial structures (sections, regional and provincial groups) which are subject to private law.

In application of law n.776 published on December 24th 1985, related to new dispositions about CAI, the association provides the following activities for its members and others in the framework of its statutory tasks:

  • Diffusion of mountain frequentation and organisation of alpinistic, excursionistic and speleological initiatives diffused over the whole national territory.
  • Organisation and management of courses of alpinism, ski mountaineering, excursions, speleology, nature for the support of a secure frequentation of the mountains. 
  • Formation of 21 different kinds of guides (trainer, companions, operators), necessary for the complete range of offers
  • Routing, realisation and maintenance of trails and alpine and alpinistic equipment
  • Realisation, maintenance and management of huts and bivouacs in highly alpine areas in the ownership of the CAI and its sections, currently 749 structures with altogether 21.426 sleeping places, fixing the criteria and means
  • Organisation, through the national corps for alpine rescue and speleolgy (CNSAS), a national section of the CAI, of adapted initiatives for the vigilance and prevention of accidents during the activities of mountaineering, excursions, speleology ,the rescue of injured people and the recovering of crashed people.
  • Promotion of scientific and didactic activities about the knowledge of every aspect of the alpine environment as well as every initiative adapted for the protection and valorisation of the national alpine environment, also through the work of the national and regional technical organs. 
  • Promotion of education and ethical-cultural initiatives, of studies for the broadening the knowledge about the alpine environment and its population in its various aspects, of photography and mountain cinematography and the conservation of alpine culture

The great enthusiasm of the voluntary commitment which distinguishes CAI in the panorama of Italian associations has allowed concretizing a wide range of offers in favour of the mountains and their visitors, as refuges, bivouacs, trails, reforestations, and social works.

The national character of the Cai, one of the qualities that allowed the association to overcome the historical events that changed the world in the second half of the 800 and in the so-called "short century", is already present in the founding idea.  Not by chance, Quintino Sella wanted beside him on Monviso Giovanni Barracco "in order to come to represent the extreme Calabria, of which he was a native and member of the parliament". It is therefore in that period of history and politics in rapid evolution, in which the tensions and aspirations of the Risorgimento are embodied in the unity of the nation, which Cai is formed and spreads according to the typical forms of bourgeois associations.

Created, by statute, with the aim "to make the mountains known, more especially the Italian ones and to ease climbs and scientific explorations", Cai immediately carries on that catalyzing function of the unitary spirit around an ideal that still constitutes one of the essential values ??of the associative motivation.

In 1954 the Alpine Rescue was established, which later took on the name of National Mountain and Speleological Rescue Corps, with the aim of providing for the "supervision and prevention of accidents in the exercise of mountaineering, hiking and speleology activities, to help the injured or the unsafe, and the recovery of the fallen ".

Today the Alpine Rescue is made of 47 local delegations and 269 emergency stations, it has 7280 volunteers, which 335 are doctors, and it is recognized as a public service by Law of March 21, 2001, n. 74.

In this field as well, Cai has never failed in its mission through a strong and constant presence of its sections and alpine rescue both in the great catastrophes, from Vajont to the earthquakes of Friuli, Irpinia and Abruzzo and, more recently in the regions of central Italy, and in individual rescue operations.

In recent decades, with the evolution of the consumer society also in the field of alpine tourism, other original statutory purposes are added with the aim of increasing awareness in the national community of the natural and cultural heritage represented by the mountain territory and the economic importance for resident populations coming from environmental integrity in the face of aggressive and often devastating tourism.

The Italian Alpine Club, the first Italian national association able to maintain the original statutory and structure while adapting it to the evolution of the society in which it has its roots, celebrated its founding one hundred and fifty-year anniversary in 2013, a story that touched, directly or indirectly, the life of millions of Italians, a story starring, always and in any case, those mountains that characterize the soil of our “Patria”, our Homeland, from the Monviso "father of the largest river in Italy" to Etna.


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Text about CAI in Italian/Testo sul CAI in Italiano

Club Alpino Italiano
Alpenverein Südtirol
Deutscher Alpenverein
Liechtensteiner Alpenverein
Österreichischer Alpenverein
Schweizer Alpen-Club SAC
Fédération française des clubs alpins et de montagne