|Nature, landscape and the environment of Bergamo|
|What landscape could be considered to most characterise theprovince of Bergamo? The province of Bergamo is a truly composite mosaic of different environments, where Nature has been painstakingly modified by the presence and activities of man.|
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The Bergamo plain
The Bergamo plain "Strada Francesca" is the name of the main communication route that crosses the province of Bergamo linking Canònica d’Adda to Palazzolo sull’Oglio. The old road, traced by the Romans and reinstated in the 9th century by the Franks - after whom it is named - marks a sort of boundary between the visually differing northern and southern bands of the plain.
Extending to the north is the upper or dry plain, marked by morainic and, therefore, permeable terrain. Here the farming presence is limited to the few sectors, with a predominance of cereal crops (wheat and maize) and small farms, still organised in isolated cascine.
Urban and industrial signs are clearly visible on the landscape, with large numbers of houses and factories concentrated around the more densely populated centres.
South of "Strada Francesca" the scene changes. This is the lower or irrigated plain, featuring clayey, impermeable terrain rich in sources and karst springs. These natural ‘plain springs’ flowing out where the surface of the terrain is so low that it reaches the waterbed are precisely the reason for the good irrigation for the fields, with water at a virtually constant temperature in every season. Agriculture is still widespread in this band of the territory, with a predominance of large farming estates cultivating extensive areas of forage plants for stock rearing. The rivers that cross the Bergamo plain longitudinally make highly unusual environments and landscapes.
The Adda and Oglio rivers trace its western and eastern boundaries respectively, and the River Serio almost draws its median line. In 1985 the Regione Lombardia set up the Parco Naturale del Serio to protect the strips of terrain adjacent to this river; the Park is spread over 7500 hectares of land from Seriate to Montòdine, at the confluence of the River Adda. A separate sector is that traditionally called Isola, a small area, triangular in shape, that is wedged between the Adda and Brembo rivers. Bound to the north by a band of hills that culminates in Mt Canto, the territory owes the survival of its traditional aspects to the fact that it lies in a ‘peripheral’ position with regard to the main axes of communication and trade. The very special charm of the landscape is, on the other hand, due to the presence of rivers - the Adda in particular - that flow low down in sunken beds.
The Bergamo hills
The rolling band of hills that extends northwest of the provincial capital to Mt Canto Alto was included in the Parco Regionale dei Colli di Bergamo in 1977.
The area presents many scenic, environmental and cultural values, but the most striking aspect is the way the landscape changes immediately outside the city walls. Although Bergamo extends to the east with suburbs that conserve strong urban traits, these seem to suddenly vanish here. So, close to the city, you will come across secluded spots, solitary valleys and small quiet villages.
The pre-Alpine valleys
Although industry is the factor that has most transformed the face of the strip of land at the foot of the mountains, in more recent times tourism has brought change to the upper and middle Bergamo valleys. Thus, the territory in the more northern sector of the province is also marked by a prevalence of modern tourist-residential features, favoured by the presence of vast plateaus well suited to skiing. There is, however, no lack of places and villages that conserve the original traits of this system of valleys arranged perpendicularly to the Orobie Alps range.
Upon leaving the well-beaten tracks, you will discover landscapes that are still intact and full of charm, where the rivers form sheer waterfalls and woods of fir trees surround villages of stone and wood houses. An excursion to the old refuge huts offers an opportunity to rediscover the traditional flavours and the most authentic feel of the Bergamo mountains. One must is the spectacular Enna gorge situated at the point where the road from Val Taleggio descends into the verdant San Giovanni Bianco hollow, in Val Brembana. Here the river flows for approximately three kilometres between high narrow rock walls, furrowed by vertical gorges.
The bestknown Alpine panoramas in the whole province are, nonetheless, those of the mighty Presolana range, with crags and harshly beautiful Dolomitic rock faces. Good starting points for hikes and excursions are Castione della Presolana and the Presolana Pass, today these are busy tourist resorts both in summer and winter.
Sport and health
The first tourist resorts
Tourism is a consolidated tradition in the Bergamo valleys, as is confirmed by the presence of hotel and reception structures that date from the first decades of the 20th century. Those very years saw the birth of the spa and holiday resorts that transformed the economy of many villages, and led to the most recent success of tourism. Certainly, in the beginning, it was mainly the spas that were visited for regenerating holidays. At Sant’Ombono Imagna you can still admire the elegant design of hotels built in the 1920s and 1930s for a refined clientele, drawn here by the presence of a curative water spring. San Pellegrino Terme is, however, the true queen of the ‘fin de siècle’ tourist resorts, lying in a verdant hollow on both sides of the River Brembo.
This town conserves the Art Nouveau imprint of a refined ‘ville d’eau’ and its fame is bound to mineral water springs already known in the 13th century but not exploited until the 1700s. Trescore Balneario, the main town in Val Cavallina, is also known for its old springs of cold sodium-chloride and sulphurous water, which supply the local spas.
Skiing resorts in the Brembo valleys
The high peaks of the Pizzo dei Tre Signori, Corno Stella and Pizzo Arera tower majestically over the mountain landscape of the upper Val Brembana. Furrowed by two main branches of the River Brembo which flow together at Lenna, this opens like a fan into a number of picturesque valleys that descend from the Orobie Alps. One of the most popular winter resorts is Fòppolo, lying in a hollow in Val Brembana, between the Orobie ridge and the spurs of Pizzo del Vescovo.
Ski lifts, hotels and a proliferation of holiday homes have radically changed the original face of this town, which has now forgotten its traditional farming and craft vocations.
From here, a detour off the road that rises from Branzi leads quickly to the small skiing resort of San Simone. The road that climbs up the Mezzoldo valley, formed by the western branch of the upper River Brembo, will take you to Piazzatorre, another bustling summer and winter holiday resort. Cusio, in Val Bindo, is also popular for winter sports, although the recent tourist development has not totally erased its traditional woodcarving craft. Among the old buildings is the former Venetian Dogana (customs), a building of 15thcentury origin that bears witness to the role played by this valley as a place of commercial transit.
Holidays in Val Seriana and Val di Scalve
A road branches off from Nembro, a large industrial town in the lower part of the valley, to Selvino, lying on the spur that divides the Serio river valley from that formed by the River Brembo. Gromo is a pole of summer and winter tourism in Val Seriana and, in its upper part, conserves the appearance of a medieval village.
A scenic road climbs to the Piano degli Spiazzi, popular among skiers and hikers. The road along the upper Val Seriana ends at Lizzola, seat of the scattered commune of Valbondione, the most widespread in the Province.
A summer and winter holiday destination, this resort has not lost its traditional appearance and indeed modern buildings stand alongside old houses with slate roofs. From Clusone, ‘capital’ of upper and middle Val Seriana, the road leads to the Presolana Pass, a winter sports resort but also the base for hikes and climbs in the Presolana range. Once past Rovetta, lying on a gently undulating plain, you will come to Castione della Presolana, which together with the nearby towns of Bratto and Dorga and the Monte Pora ski slopes, forms one of the best known and most popular skiing districts in the province. A road descends steeply from the Pass through beautiful scenery into Val di Scalve, a sort of ‘corridor’ between Valle Seriana and Valcamònica. Once known for its iron deposits and woods, it has gradually been converted to tourism, as is shown by the houses, hotels and sports facilities of Schilpario, the largest centre in the valley.
Lakes Endine and Iseo
A natural and in many ways still unaltered landscape surrounds Lake Èndine, a small sheet of water (km2 2.3) formed by the River Cherio in the flat open Val Cavallina. Monasterolo del Castello, on the south shore of the lake, is named after the nearby manor, which dates from the year One Thousand but was rebuilt several times. The delightful lake village features an interesting 18thcentury construction that joins the two squares in the medieval old centre.
Also on Bergamo territory is the west shore of Lake Iseo - or Sebino - formed by the River Oglio in the terminal section of Valcamònica. Two interesting towns stand at the end of the lake. To the north is Lóvere, still with medieval areas and an important picture gallery, founded in 1828 by the benefactor Luigi Tadini from Cremona; to the south is Sàrnico, the compact old centre with lovely narrow streets, covered passages, loggias and porticoed houses.
TEXTS AND PHOTOS COURTESY OF PROVINCIA DI BERGAMO, SETTORE CULTURA, SPORT E TURISMO - CIRCOLO FOTOGRAFICO MARIANESE
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