A spectacular passage of the "via ferrata" Bocchette Centrali, on the Dolomiti del Brenta, Italy.
A via ferrata (Italian for "iron road", plural vie ferrate or in English via ferratas ) is a protected climbing route that is equipped with fixed cables, stemples, ladders, and bridges. The use of these allows otherwise dangerous routes to be accessible to people with a wide range of climbing abilities. Walkers and climbers can follow via ferrata without needing to use their own ropes and belays, and without the risks associated with unprotected scrambling and climbing. Over 1000 via ferratas now exist. The majority are found in the Alps: Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Switzerland, others are found in a number of European countries, including United Kingdom, Slovenia, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Norway and a few places elsewhere: in the United States, Canada, Iran, Malaysia and Singapore. The origins of via ferrata date back to the nineteenth century, but via ferratas are strongly associated with the First World War, when several were built in the Dolomite mountain region of Italy to aid the movement of troops. However, many more have been developed in recent years, as their popularity has grown and the tourism benefits have become recognised.