Valtellina monuments – buildings built throughot history

Sondrio – Photo © Franco Follini
Sondrio e Valmalenco

Valtellina monuments: Sondrio, the administrative center of the province, is located in the heart of Valtellina. The town is rich in interesting aspects, which you find especially in its ancient part ” Scarpatetti” and in the numerous nobler palaces:

“Government” Palace: The plan for its construction won a national competition in 1930 and was designed by Giovanni Muzio (1893-1982), an architect from Milan very popular at the time.

The building, which was soon nicknamed as “Government palace” was located in a large area between the historic center and the rail station. Its construction led to the complete re-design of the area and shaped future urban developments. The palace is built around an inner courtyard and is crossed by a gallery that also functions as a public passage.

The building has two towers, whose heights reflect the hierarchy of the concerned institutions: the prefecture’s tower is, therefore, higher than the province’s one. There are also two main entrances at each end of the gallery, giving out onto two main roads. These were designed at the time the palace was built and connected, at last, the main square outside the station with Piazza Garibaldi and the current Piazza Campello.

Valtellina monuments: How the buildings are made

Finally, there are two gardens; the one on the Southside can be crossed from one side to the other while the one on the Northside is located behind the exhibition hall and the council’s room.

According to Muzio, a building needed to respect the soul of the place. This is why in Sondrio, local materials such as granite, ‘beola’, serpentine stone and wood were used. And this is why graffiti decorations were used in the upper section of the building above the stone plinth. The six, large paintings by Gianfilippo Usellini, dated 1934, exposed on the walls of the Sala consiliare (council room) also provide a link to local identity. They were painted using the ‘encausto’ technique (tempera dissolved in melted wax and applied through heat) and are located above a linear wood panel representing typical activities in Valtellina: harvesting, grave picking, weaving, spinning, granite carving, mountaineering, hunting, wood industry, and mountain pasture.

Sertoli Rajna and Guicciardi Palaces: The two adjacent palaces are located in the Cantone historic quarter in Sondrio, believed to have been built outside the towns’ walls during the period between the 15th and 16th centuries.

The two palaces are very simple buildings. There is uncertainty around the period they were built and, in any case, significant modifications were carried out between the 17th and 18th centuries.

The main facades face North and the first section of the ancient Via Valeriana and each one has its own portal with an entrance hall leading to the gardens at the back.

On the ground floor of the Sertoli Rajna palace, valuable stone pavements and vaulted ceilings have been preserved along with, on the left of the entrance hall, a vaulted, reticular space where once one found he Beata Vergine della Neve chapel which belonged to the Raija family and originally had an altar, now lost. The rooms on the two upper floors do not, on the other hand, provide particularly noteworthy elements except perhaps for a ‘false’ ceiling painted in floral style and with a balustrade decorated with shoots in bloom giving out onto a blue sky.

The Guicciardi palace which borders with the Sertoli Rajna Palace and the Romegially Vicolo, is, on the other hand, distinguished by an L-shaped plan. In this case, as well, decorated and vaulted rooms have been preserved on the ground floor. On the other hand, beyond a few preserved Lombardy ‘Cotto’ floors, it seems that extensive works were carried out in the 19th century in the two upper floors, perhaps when the palace was the headquarters of the Registry Office. In the Eastern wing, however, elegant pictorial decorations frame and connect the windows on the external facades.

Carbonera Palace: With its nice Renaissance facade, the Carbonera Palace is one of the most interesting aristocratic architectural pieces in Sondrio. The district where it is located historically knows as “Cantone”, already existed in the Middle Ages. At that time the main road in the valley, the Via Valeriana, already crossed it. The “Cantone” constituted for centuries the only Western access point to the town as the only bridge over the Mallero was located at the Northern end of this area.

Valtellina monuments: other venues

The Carbonera Palace, in comparison with surrounding houses that have undergone reconstructions and modifications throughout the centuries, has preserved noteworthy 16th-century architectural elements, at least in the North-Eastern part. The latter section has windows mounted by broken tympanums and capitals similar to those of early 16th century buildings, including the Besta Palace and Tirano’s sanctuary, which revealed a more up-to-date style than Bramante-like ones.

This wing of the palace looks out into the inner courtyard with a portico whose colonnade is characterized by interesting, fluting capitals. A partially covered staircase enables to reach the first floor and its loggia where the number of arches doubles. The upper loggia can instead be reached through the interior of the building. On the upper section of this very facade, once can observe a lozenge graffiti decoration found in other 16th-century aristocratic residences in Valtellina.

From the first loggia, it is possible to reach, thanks to two small portals, two halls covered by ‘lunette’ barrel vaults. One of the halls is distinguished by wall paintings with peculiar castle architecture and the date 1631 repeated twice. The beautiful ‘stua’ (wooden room) part of the itinerary of Milan’s Bagatti Valsecchi palace comes instead from the second half of the palace.

Valtellina monuments: Sondrio

Sondrio is set at the mouth of Mallero, a stream coming down from Valmalenco and flowing into river Adda.
The surrounding landscape is unique, characterized by the terraced vineyards supported by dried stonewalls, a magnificent work made by man in order to pull the soil to cultivate out off the mountain.

The municipalities in the southern part of the area belong to the Orobie Valtellinesi Park, a protected environment full of itineraries for trekking and mountain bike.

In Caiolo, 5 km from Sondrio, a really beautiful golf green – 18 holes – is available.

A few kilometers far from Sondrio, Valmalenco is located in a landscape dominated by the mountainous groups of Disgrazia, Bernina and Pizzo Scalino. Chiesa in Valmalenco, Caspoggio, and Lanzada constitute a tourist area with a good hotel, leisure, and sports facilities: alpine skiing and cross-country skiing during the winter period, while during summer, trekking, mountaineering from one shelter to the other and ascensions. All this is set in a naturalistic, historical and ethnographic context of excellent worth. Furthermore, an indoor swimming pool, tennis courts, and sports facilities offer you the opportunity to spend an amusing and relaxing holiday.

Valtellina monuments
Morbegno Church – Idéfix~commonswiki / CC BY-SA
Valtellina monuments: Morbegno, Valtellina’s gates

When from the Lake Como you enter the territory of Valtellina, you meet the wide green valley floor which to the north is surrounded by Raetic Alps and to the south by the Orobie Prealps: that is Porte di Valtellina.

The main town you meet while going through the bottom of the valley is Morbegno, a municipality full of evidence of a rich and important past that can satisfy the visitor’s historic-artistic interest.

Morbegno’s historic center: In 1337 Morbegno was born with the laying of the first stone in the Santi Pietro e Paolo parish church, not too far away from the Bitto stream.

During the years in which the village was developing some noble families began to settle there, as the Gaifassi Family and The Castelli Sannazaro Family, the one that would have deeply marked the history of this area throughout the ages.

Under the Visconti, Morbegno dominates on the Terziere Inferiore of Valtellina. From this period to the 15th century the village goes through a period of discreet wealth. According to some visitors of the epoch, Morbegno was: “Defended by walls and boasting Gothic style magnificent buildings”. Among the ancient streets, the Via Ninguarda has maintained throughout the ages of its original medieval planimetry. All along the road, there are many interesting buildings.

The ex Presentazione Convent, for instance, that hosted the enclosed nuns and was also the best girls’ school for the young girls coming from the Valtellinese aristocracy. And Casa Ninguarda, refined by a beautiful portal and wrought iron rococo style balconies, that gave birth to the bishop Feliciano Ninguarda, a Dominican, reforming Catholic and apostolic messenger in southern Germany.

At the end of Via Garibaldi, at last, an interesting 15th-century fresco can be admired: it reproduces the “Madonna col Bambino” and a scene about the life of Saint Giuliano Ospitaliere which both show many reminiscences of the late-Gothic period. Among the numerous buildings the following ones are of particular worth: Palazzo Malacrida, Fulcher, Melzi di Cusano, Malaguccini, Martinelli, Caccia Dominioni, Ciapponi, and Casa Mariani.

Valtellina monuments: other lateral Valleys

By the orographic left side of river Adda the Orobiche Valleys can be observed: Val Tartano, Val Lesina, and Bitto Valleys- Albaredo and Gerola- with their unique landscapes immersed in green mountain pastures and alpine little lakes. While on the opposite side there are the sunny slopes of the Costiera dei Chuch.

During winter you will find the Val Gerola ski area which has recently restored and updated its ski-lifts.

The “Open Air” sports lovers can breathe, among thick pinewoods, the silence of a really suggestive nature.

On the Raethic slope, the beginning of the terraced vineyards can be observed. They give shape to the Costiera dei Cuch, in perfect harmony with the rural architecture, the nobiliary palaces, and the holy buildings.

High peaks, granite walls, tops, and crests originate the breathtaking panorama of Valmasino, a true paradise for the alpinists. During summer this valley offers the opportunity to have health and wellbeing thanks to Valmasino’s ancient thermal baths.

Palazzo Malacrida Morbegno – © VisitaSondrio.it
Valtellina monuments To see in this southern part of the valley: Palazzo Malacrida

Palazzo Malacrida is a nobiliary eighteenth-century building, work by the architect Pietro Solari di Bolvedro, which, majestic and imponent, dominates the town of Morbegno. It boasts an imposing staircase whose vault is painted with the scene of the “Ratto di Ganimede” by Giovan Pietro Romegialli.

On the main floor, you can visit what follows: the honor hall decorated with architectural perspective drawings and Trompe-l’oeil by Giuseppe Coduri, a painter of quadrature from Como, with 6 beautiful stucco balconies and a fresco ceiling realized by Cesare Ligari in 1761; the adjacent room hosting the “Tre Grazie” medallion still by Ligari; the alcove decorated by Coduri with floral designs and false architectural elements, that gives onto a loggia offering a stunning panorama on Bassa Valtellina; the gallery and a room hosting some paintings by Romegialli. A walkway allows going from the second floor to the garden at the back of the building which is placed on 3 gradually descending terraces, from where the view stretches on the village of Morbegno and the valley as far as the Costiera dei Cuch. The ancient wine cellars, open to the public during the event “Morbegno in Cantina” usually taking place on the first two weekends in October, are worth a visit, too.

It is possible to visit the building by contacting in advance the town council of Morbegno or the Tourist Consortium Porte di Valtellina for guided visits.

Valtellina monuments To see in this southern part of the valley: Palazzo Pregalli

Peregalli Nobiliary Building: In Delebio the Peregalli’s history began in 1577 when Antonio Pregalli (Pelegalus) came downhill from the small mountain hamlet of Gerola to take up his residence here for good.

In this village of the Bassa Valle, thanks to modern entrepreneurship, its family quickly reached the power up to come to play a leading role in the economic, cultural and artistic life of the village. The family’s golden period can be set between the end of the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century. The building’s restoration dates back to this period: it was erected on the ruins of a Cistercian grange and made comfortable and refined at the beginning of 1687, according to the will of Giovanni Pietro, a notary, and good jurisconsult.

Yet it is from another wedding, the one between Captain Giovanni Pietro II and his cousin Elisabetta Malacrida, that the international rococo jewel – San Gerolamo Oratory- was born. The Peregalli Family’s name is strictly linked to Valtellina’s pre-industrial history: in fact, they were the first ones to build up the very first factory in the province for silk working, a factory that lasted even more than the alienation of their goods (1857) till the beginning of the twentieth century and that offered work to many families in the Bassa Valle.

Valtellina monuments
Presidio Slow Food “Storico Ribelle” – Morbegno
Valtellina monuments To see in this southern part of the valley: Palazzo Folcher and Melzi

Palazzo Folcher and Palazzo Melzi: Some buildings raise to the nobility Piazza Tre Novembre: Casa Gusmeroli, which presents interesting graffiti decorations and a neogothic portal, and Palazzo Folcher. The last one shows off the most elegant facade of the historic center, characterized by beautiful stone balconies dating to the Baroque period and by refined nineteenth-century stucco decorations. In this building now there is the historic cafè that between the nineteenth century and the twentieth century represented an important meeting point for the Morbegnese èlite. Its renowned cellar is usually open on the occasion of the event “Morbegno in Cantina”.

Next to Palazzo Folcher, there is the beautiful blue painted facade of Palazzo Melzi di Cusano (Delfino), which hosts the San Giuseppe Chapel- open to the public on the occasion of the Sacra Processione of Corpus Domini- and numerous rooms with decorations belonging to a period comprised between the eighteenth century and the early twentieth century. Even the young Angelika Kaufmann – who was destined to become the greatest European painter in the Neoclassical period – entered this building in order to paint some portraits.

Valtellina monuments To see in this southern part of the valley: Ciapponi Family House

Ciapponi Family House: Located in the middle of Piazza Tre Novembre and famous for the traditional grocer’s shop specialized in the Bitto cheese storing, Casa Ciapponi probably has sixteenth-century origins.

Besides the beautiful and ancient signs of the shop, the house preserves a reproduction of an ancient clock that had been in there ( this square was called Piazza dell’ Orologio ) and has been replaced at the end of the twentieth century. A fresco placed on the house corner that reproduces the Sacra Famiglia is of great importance: that is a work realized by the painter Giovanni Gavazzeni, a prominent exponent of Valtellina’s nineteenth century. The fresco is surprising because of the domestic atmosphere conferred with masterly skill by the painter and it conceals in the face of the beautiful Lady the features of Gavazzeni’s wife, Rosa Pirola.

The wine cellars that develop on different floors of F.lli Ciapponi’s shop- where it is possible to taste the local products- are very characteristic and unique.

Text in part courtesy of Provincia di Sondrio Ufficio Turismo

Valtellina: A world to be discovered among the Alps

William Dellorusso
Lombardia in Cucina: The Flavours of Lombardy

Milan-style risotto, pizzoccheri Valtellinesi, and pumpkin tortelli to start; casoeula, Milan-style cutlets, frogs stewed in tomato to follow, and to send, a slice of sbrisolona cake or panettone.
Lombardy surprises with the richness of its culinary traditions and natural ingredients, which modernity has barely affected.
"Milano in Cucina" captures this kaleidoscope of flavours, with contributions from some of the most celebrated chefs on the culinary scene, who pay homage to their territory, and whose skill is able to present a modern vision in keeping with the region's progressive spirit.

The Italian Academy of Cuisine
La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy

Fifty years ago, a group of Italian scholars gathered to discuss a problem: how to preserve traditional Italian cooking. They formed the Italian Academy of Cuisine to document classic recipes from every region. The academy’s more than seven thousand associates spread out to villages everywhere, interviewing grandmothers and farmers at their stoves, transcribing their recipes—many of which had never been documented before. This is the culmination of that research, an astounding feat—2,000 recipes that represent the patrimony of Italian country cooking. Each recipe is labeled with its region of origin, and it’s not just the ingredients but also the techniques that change with the geography. Sprinkled throughout are historical recipes that provide fascinating views into the folk culture of the past. There are no fancy flourishes here, and no shortcuts; this is true salt-of-the-earth cooking. The book is an excellent everyday source for easily achievable recipes, with such simple dishes as White Bean and Escarole Soup, Polenta with Tomato Sauce, and Chicken with Lemon and Capers. For ease of use there are four different indexes. La Cucina is an essential reference for every cook’s library.

Milano in Cucina: The Flavours of Milan
The famous Risotto Alla Milanese gets its golden hue from the precious spice saffron. Legend has it that the dish came about when a Milanese painter decided to gild the risotto served at his wedding banquet with a harmless gold-colored dye. In Milan, they traditionally serve Risotto Alla Milanese with ossobuco (braised veal shank).
Traditionally made with raisins and candied citron, or with a creamy cream filling, the light, fluffy brioche-like bread called panettone may be tall or short, covered with chocolate or flavored with various liquors, but it’s always a symbol of the Christmas season.
With its hallmark domed shape, panettone graced Christmas tables in Milan since at least the 15th-century. Common knowledge claims its invention is from Milan. It is the most famous Christmas Lombardia food.

The Pax side of the Moon featuring Cesareo
Lombardia (Dicon tutti che sei mia) Quarantine Version - feat. Cesareo (Quarantine Version)

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