Sondrio e Valmalenco
Sondrio, the administrative center of the province, is located in the hearth 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 which also functions as 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.
Finally, there are two gardens; the one on the South side can be crossed from one side to the other while the one on the North side 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 building. There is uncertainty around the period they were built and, in any case, significant modifications were carried out between the 17th and 18th century.
The main facades face North and the first section of the ancient Via Valeriana and each one has its own portale 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 balaustrade 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.
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 characterised 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 hall of the palace.
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 good hotel, leisure ans sport 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, indoor swimming-pool, tennis courts and sports facilities offer you the opportunity to spend an amusing and relaxing holiday.
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 evidences 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 soem 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 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, Folcher, Melzi di Cusano, Malaguccini, Martinelli, Caccia Dominioni, Ciapponi and Casa Mariani.
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 nobiliar 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.
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 honour 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 to go from the second floor to the garden at the back of the building which are 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.
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 a 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 the Captain Giovanni Pietro II and his cousin Elisabetta Malacrida, that the international rococo jewel – San Gerolamo Oratory- was born. The Peregali 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.
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.
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, prominent exponent of Valtellina’s nineteenth century. The fresco is surprising because of the domestic atmosphere confered 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