The Alpini (Alpines in English) were an elite group of Italian soldiers, formed in 1872 and to date are the oldest active mountain infantry in the world. Their mission was to protect Italy’s northern mountain border with Austria and France.
The first mission abroad for the Alpini was to Africa, but it was during WWI that they became more widely known when they fought against the Austro-Hungarian Kaiserjäger and the German Alpenkorps for three long years (the “War of ice and snow”). During WWII, the Alpini fought alongside *Axis forces on the Eastern front and in the Balkans Campaign.
However during the 1990’s the re-organization of the Italian Army meant that many brigades were disbanded. The Alpini are known world-wide for having the best trained well equipped mountain troops and are presently active in Afghanistan.
*Axis forces – countries that were opposed to the Allies during WWII – such as Germany and Japan, although some nations entered and later left the Axis during the course of the war.