The Act of Recosmizing

Terziere di Morbegno


Alice Pontiggia

Adda is the river that sprouts in Val Alpisella, in the central Italian Alps, flows into Lake Como, crosses the Pianura Padana and joins the river Po until it reaches the Adriatic Sea. Adda crosses Valtellina for 122 of its 313 km, collecting waters from lateral valleys and glaciers. The western, lower part of Valtellina runs perfectly from east to west, and its floor, defined by the slopes of the Rhaetian and Orobic Alps, has a width between 700 m and 3 km. This part of Valtellina is geographically delimited from the east by the earlier hill Còlmen and the conoid of the Masino torrent, and from the west by the mouth of the Adda plunging into Lake Como. Here, Valtellina connects with the Larian branch of Lecco running all the way to Milan, the side of Como bridging to the helvetic Canton Ticino, and Valchiavenna, the Mera river valley that connects to the swiss Canton Grigioni.

The area circumscribed above has been recognized as “the lower Terziere” since 1512, when the Grigioni occupied what is now the Province of Sondrio, dividing it in five jurisdictions and marking the end of the Middle Age for the area. The word terziere came from the number three and defines each of the three parts into which a territory is divided. We can therefore deduct that the east-west floor valley of the three Terzieri of Morbegno, Sondrio and Tirano was usually read as a whole. Nowadays, the Terziere di Morbegno bureaucratically outlines the land belonging to twenty-five municipalities, that are in turn divided into centers, fractions, localities, pastures, alps, humps, mounts, and other toponyms. The human occupation is currently concentrated in the floor valley, as a result of the promotion of a series of land reclamations and a gradual migration from higher shelves of the main slopes and side valleys.

Since the thaw era, around 15 to 10 thousand years ago, this area has been land of slow exploration for humans, and later a real melting pot of roads and people. Despite the late opening of archeological studies in the area, we know that here Celts, Romans, Swiss and many others were trying to impose their power to gain sovereignty over the vital alpine passes. Within this context, my research will highlight sites occupied by the earliest prehistoric communities. The recollection of information about previous land use and structure, the existing material about local prehistoric populations, and recurring field visits, will guide me in understanding the construction of their cosmotechnics, mediances, and logics of habitation.

Palafittes remains were discovered in the Careciasca locality, at the foot of the mountain slopes, at a sight distance from the Forte di Fuentes hill, where various relics where found. Two castellieri, fortified villages built in an easily defensible elevated position, were thought to have been located on the utterly exposed north-west side of the Còlmen and in the Scheneno fraction of Ardenno, located at the bottom of a deep creek, hidden and protected by multiple hillsides. A third castelliere might be located in the shady woods of Morbegno, intersecting the engraved crosses, cupels and canals discovered in the Tempietto locality, on the way to the Valli del Bitto, where a constellation of iron mines and ovens are still recognizable.

How can the information recollected through the study of local prehistoric narratives be useful for the present of the Terziere di Morbegno? Will these analyses help us in building new local mediances and change the current perception and approach to land, landscape and architectural heritage?