Costa Volpino consists of the territories of Volpino east of the Supine valley and the Costa valley (the old “Lovere Coast”) to the west: the latter includes the inhabited districts of Piano, Corti, Branico, Qualino, Flaccanico and Ceratello.
Some sporadic discoveries in mountain districts bear witness to populations in the area dating back to the Copper or Bronze ages. Artifacts were found, on several occasions, in the district of Dos del Ranzinel towards Lovere. They may be referred to remains of a settlement similar to those found in Lovere on the Dos del Castello and the Dos Pitigla.
Ceratello, in a panoramic position at over 800 m above sea level, is the highest village of the Costa area. It was built near some springs and takes its name from a small cerri (Turkey oak) forest, a tree similar to oak. Stone slab tombs were discovered in the Vièr district.
According to local traditions, there was a castle where the church of San Giorgio (St. George) stands. After a period in which Ceratello was served by the chaplain of Flaccanico, in 1738 the parish church of San Giorgio was erected, separating it from the church in Qualino.
The small village of Flaccanico is found at a slightly lower level (630m), near it are rocks with cup marks, evidence of very ancient populations; through the centuries it followed in the path of Qualino on which it depended at both a civil and parish level.
From 1571 the church of San Matteo (St. Matthew) was the seat of a chaplain who served the Flaccanico and Ceratello population.
Qualino was once the largest of the Costa districts; the name probably derives from “Aqualinus” a place rich in water. In 1880 Roman tombs, with burial equipment, and medieval tombs, in rectangular coffins formed by stone slabs were discovered among the castle ruins. Between 1972 and 1974 during some construction works, 8/9 graves were discovered, referring generically to the medieval age.
The historic nucleus which was rather compact, developed next to the hill on which stood a castle, flattened along with the high ground a few decades ago to built a sports field.
The church of Sant’ Ambrogio (St. Ambrose) was the first parish church in the whole Costa area, breaking away in 1450/60 from the Rogno baptismal church; the subsequent separation led to the constitution of the parish churches of Corti Sant’Antonio (St. Anthony), Ceratello and Branico.
Branico is the most central district in the Costa area in relation to the territory and some characteristic houses have survived. In 1972 a dozen graves were discovered in the Somgrom district and others emerged in front of the village.
The parish of San Bartolomeo (St. Bartholomew) was formed in 1951 detaching it from Qualino, but the church building already existed. In fact, in 1580 there was mention of a clergy house which was to be sold to build a new one in Qualino and, in 1975, during the restoration works, some 14th Century frescoes emerged. The presence of this ancient chapel can, perhaps, be explained by the fact that the administrative seat was located in the village until 1925-1926.
The name Corti comes from the medieval term “curtis“, which identified a place in the middle of an agricultural holding. It may have been founded by the Tours monks in the centre of their holdings in the area to exploit the swampy areas of the mouth of the River Oglio. In the 10th Century it was taken over by the bishop of Brescia who probably between the 11th and 12th Centuries granted the fief, together with Lovere, to a branch of the Mozzo family, already feudal lords of the bishop of Bergamo Sovere. They then took on the name of Celeri, but in the 12th Century a conflict broke out involving the boroughs of Brescia and Bergamo over the rights to some of the Costa villages (Ceratello and Qualino) where they came into conflict with the Brusati family, their relatives and the lords of Volpino.
In the Middle Ages a defense circuit had to be built around the small village of Corti Sant’Antonio and the Celeri family had some fortified residences, still partly visible. The historic village is located on the final spur of the Coast, where via Valeriana (Valeriana street) crosses the Supine stream and developed straddling the waterway. The parish church of Sant’Antonio was founded in 1507 detaching it from that of Qualino. The eastern small village, called San Rocco, is located in the territory of the parish church of Volpino. In today’s era it has extended considerably on the plains and has had the function of Town Hall since 1925/6.
Piano di Costa Volpino is a modern settlement but in ancient times there were several groups scattered over the area: among others Pizzo, already mentioned at the beginning of the 13th Century, and Torrione, which boasted a tower that controlled the swamp zones of Oglio, Santa Martina, Colombera, Ca ‘Ronchi, Ca’ Bettoni, Pitinghello and Casino Baglioni. Piano hosts a large industrial area which opened in the 1950s where there were the remains of a shed that had served as a warehouse for gun powders and war materials during the First World War .
To the east of the Supine valley stands Volpino, which has uncovered some interesting archaeological sites. To the east of the village, some Roman tombs dating back to between the 4th and 5th A.D. were discovered in 1892; other tombs in the Santi grounds were investigated in 1898-1899. In 1927 new late-Roman tombs came to light in the church of Santo Stefano (St. Stephen), currently demolished, in the highest part of the castle. In 1930 another grave was discovered in the chalk quarry below the village. In 1950 excavations in the district of Durno uncovered a Roman altar dating back to the 1st – 2nd Century A.D. with an inscription dedicated to two local deities, now displayed at the Tadini Academy Gallery.
The village is well served by a spring called “Fontana” (Fountain) located in the saddle between the mountains and the former site of the ancient castle of Volpino.
In the 11th Century conflict broke out concerning the feudal rights of Ceratello and Qualino between the Bergamo branch of the Mozzo family and the Brescia branch who had assumed the name of Brusati. In Volpino they had a castle, surrounded by a moat, a wall and was equipped with “turris and dugnonis“. The situation in 1123 generated a conflict which soon involved the boroughs of Brescia and Bergamo, and with alternating dramatic events only ended in 1198, when the two contenders decided to divide Volpino and demolish the “dugnone” of the castle. The demolitions led to Volpino falling to the advantage of Lovere for the people of Bergamo and the new centre founded in 1255 by the people of Brescia in Rogno: Castelfranco.
In 1219 and in 1255 Volpino was divided into two parts, one to the west under Bergamo rule and the other to the east under Brescia rule; this entity, however unitary, was called the Comunello. It was only in 1809, during the Napoleonic era, that Volpino and Costa, which for centuries had remained linked to Lovere, would become a single administrative entity, under Bergamo politically, but under Brescia religiously.
Another outcome of the 1219-1255 divisions, was the disappearance of the village of Varadega, located east of Volpino. In the 13th Century, when he disappeared, it was a small village, probably dependent on Volpino, and its population probably moved to Castelfranco.
Volpino castle returned to the scene in 1413-1414 during the rebellion of Valcamonica against Pandolfo III Malatesta. To strengthen its position in the area, Pandolfo conceded the Volpino castle to his supporters, the Camuni (the ancient population located in the Camonica valley), and in 1416/1417, he appointed one of his own keepers; after 1428, with the arrival of Venice, there was no further mention of the small fortress.
The current parish church, dedicated to Santo Stefano, was rebuilt in the middle of the 18th Century in the centre of the new settlement.
The old parish church stood on the hill of the castle; It was demolished in 1938/40 and the area on which the castle and the church stood were ceded so as to expand the gypsum quarries. These were used for centuries for both the gypsum and the volpinite (or “bardiglio of Bergamo”), a delicate stone similar to marble used for decorative purposes in architecture.
For more information:
CAMPAGNONI M.A., Terra di confine: Costa Volpino, Bergamo 2011.
Cover photo credits: A. Bonadei