The Act of Recosmizing

Lower Terziere


Alice Pontiggia

“Il punto di partenza è necessariamente la storia locale; la storia universale è fatta di tutte le storie locali.”

“The starting point is necessarily local history; universal history is made up of all local histories.”

Emmanuel Anati
Le prime comunità umane in Valtellina, 1989

Adda is the name of a river. The etymology of this name might come from the latin term “duo”, due to the belief that the river was born from two springs, or might have a celtic origin from the term “abda” / “abdua”, that is “water impetuously flowing”. The river Adda sprouts in Val Alpisella, in the heart of central southern Alps, in a territory currently under the domain of the Italian nation state, on the border with Switzerland. It then flows down into Lake Como, crosses the Pianura Padana skimming Milan and joins the river Po until it reaches the Adriatic Sea. Of its 313 km length, 122 of them belong to its first section in Valtellina, where it recollects waters from lateral valleys and glaciers.

Where the mouth of Adda plunges into Lake Como, it creates the delta of Pian di Spagna. In the middle of this plain, the rocking hills of Forte di Fuentes and Forte Montecchio North and South sprout. This area is the way in and the way out of the valley. Here, Valtellina connects with the Larian branch of Lecco running all the way to Milan, the lake side of Como bridging to Lugano and the Helvetic Canton Ticino, and Valchiavenna, the Mera river valley, that runs on the north-south axe connecting to the Swiss Canton Grigioni. Twenty kilometers east, we bump into the lower and older hill Còlmen, which marks a twist in the course of the valley and deviates the Masino torrent and its conoid.

In this lower segment, the westernmost, the valley floor is defined by the slopes of the Rhaetian Alps on the North and the Orobie Alps on the South, and has a width between 700 m and 3 km. Here, these two mountain chains run perfectly parallel from east to west. A particular condition that translates into a perennial status a solatio – exposed to the sun – of the Rhaetian side, and ad umbria – hidden to the sun – of the Orobie one. These two faces, with a similar morphology grooved by deep canyons eroded by streams, brooks, and creeks, can in turn accommodate very different environments.

The area circumscribed above has been recognized as “the lower Terziere”, or “Terziere di Morbegno” since the XIV century, the period of transition from the dominion of Como to the Visconti, the Lords of Milan. Since that moment, the territory of Valtellina has been divided in five jurisdictions: the County of Bormio and the County of Chiavenna, and the three Terzieri of Tirano, Sondrio and Morbegno. The word terziere came from the number three and recalls each of the three parts into which the actual geographical line of the valley, perceived as a whole entity, is divided. This nomenclature has then been inherited by all the institutional structures since today, including the Helvetic Republic of the Three Leagues, which in 1512 occupied what is today the Province of Sondrio, marking the end of the Middle Age for the area. Nowadays the lower Terziere is bureaucratically part of the nation state Italy, and outlines the land belonging to twenty-five municipalities, that are in turn divided into centers, fractions, pastures, alps, humps, mounts, and other localities.


 Picture by Saverio Monti

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