Valle Camonica – the northern area ofBresciadistrict – stretches for about80 km, from theTonalePassto Pisogne onLakeIseo.
The mountain chain crowning the valley, separate it from Valtellina (North), from Trentino (East), from Valtrompia (South) and from Val di Scalve (West).
The Oglio river runs through the whole valley: it flows from Ponte di Legno, as a confluence of the Frigidolfo and the Narcanello.
Valle Camonica is divided into three basins, different in morphological and climatic features.
The highest basin is typically alpine and starts at the Corno dei Tre Signori (3359 ma.s.l.) and at the Castellaccio (3028 ma.s.l.). It reaches an altitude of700 min Edolo, after about22 km. The high Valley is a long, almost straight, but not uniform creek. Every little side-valley, green and harmonious, can offer visions of glaciers and peaks.
The most famous place in the HighValleyis Ponte di Legno, with its 100 km of ski-slopes. In Temù, the “Museum of the White War on Adamello” gathers documents, pictures, weapons, equipments and other objects belonged to men, Italian and Austrian soldiers, who lived and fought at high-altitude fronts.
The second basin is narrower and develops over about35 kmfrom Edolo to Malegno (320 ma.s.l.), where the waters of the Lanico flow into the Oglio river from the right side. TheMiddleValleyis varied and sports none of the monotonous features of all glacial valleys. The tortuousness of the river and the narrowings divide it in different hollows, narrow, like that of Forno d’Allione or wide, like that of Capo di Ponte. What really surprises is the variety of its slopes, in some parts terraced by the thousand-year-old work of men, in some others sporting plateaus where little villages can be found.
In the MiddleValley, we can find Breno, with its Castle built on top of a hill in the middle of the village. The Sanctuary of Minerva, a Roman temple, is situated in the area of Spinera. It was built leaning on a rocky spur on the bank of the Oglio river, in front of a natural cave, in which there was a water source. In Cerveno, the Via Crucis Sanctuary is a building placed next to the Church, containing a wooden via crucis. The sanctuary is organised along a corridor with steps which reaches the Chapel of Deposition. On the two sides, placed in niches, you can find the 14 stations, containing 198 full-scale wooden and chalk statues by the Camunian sculptor Beniamino Simoni. Capo di Ponte, particularly famous for the pre-historical rock engravings, also boasts two beautiful Romanic buildings, the San Siro Church and the Monastery of San Salvatore, and two medieval suburbs, Cemmo and Pescarzo.
The third basin goes from Malegno to theIseoLake(23 km) and it’s the widest and the flattest. The valley bottom also sports morainic formations, sometimes isolated, like the rocks barring the valley in Breno. In its last part, the valley is flat and has a wider bottom, coasted by steep and rough rocks. The Oglio river flows placidly between meadows and big boulders, welcoming the waters of the Grigna stream (from the left side) in Esine and eventually reachingLakeIseo, in the middle of the only low bank, between Lovere and Pisogne.
Speaking about the LowerValley, we can’t forget to mention Mount Isola, which is the biggest inhabited lake-island in Europe. In Pisogne, the Curch of Santa Maria della Neve contains frescoes by Romanino; while the old Church of Santa Maria in Silvis, built around the IX century on ancient Roman remnants, contains frescoes attributed to Giovan Pietro from Cemmo. Going North along the Valley, you can find Bienno, also called the “Mallet valley”, for the traditional activities of iron-working through big mallets activated by watermill. In fact, part of the water from the Grigna Stream was deflected in an artificial duct (which still runs all through the village of Bienno) moving the mills of the smithies. Cividate Camuno, the ancient Roman city of “Civitas Camunnorum” boasts many Roman remains (such as the theatre and the amphitheatre) and, in the Archaeological Museum of Valle Camonica, you can also see the statue of Minerva and many remnants of the Roman conquest in 16 BC.
Text taken from: “STORIA ILLUSTRATA DELLA VALCAMONICA” by Luciano Viazzi
Map taken from: “NAQUANE PARCO NAZIONALE DELLE INCISIONI RUPESTRI GUIDA” by Alberto Galbiati