Walking along the paths in the Pisogne woods, one can encounter semi-finished and abandoned millstones, covered with moss. They are the demonstrative evidence of an activity involving a significant part of the municipal territory, also seen in the documents attesting the practice from the 15th Century onwards. The excellent quality of the products meant that the millstone market managed to cross regional and, at times, even national borders.
The millstones, or grinders, were used in the mills to grind corn and chestnuts and in oil mills to crush olives. In the past they were also used as tombstones, as demonstrated by findings from the Roman era in Darfo and from the Middle Ages in Pontenove di Bedizzole. In Pisogne the millstones were used as base for the columns of the square and via San Marco, as the threshold of houses in the historic centre and as the first step of stairs. During the renovation of the main square, for instance, they found the old lake pier which had been supported by a number of millstones. The excavation work at the Baptismal Church of Santa Maria in Silvis (St. Mary in Silvis) also showed that the outer walls rest on circular stones.
The production activities flourished thanks to the type of rocks that are available in the area east of Pisogne. There are settlements in the woods related to the excavation of the rock, with workshops for the repair of the tools used by stonemasons. On the trail that leads from Gratacasolo to Fraine (CAI path no. 203), making a slight deviation, one would encounters quarries, forges, open air workshops. Here it is possible to reconstruct the entire map of a proto-industrial site that still performs the various stages of stone working. Alongside the numerous quarries, the waste material was used to construct small buildings, warehouses, fires, shelters and anything else that could contribute to the organisation of an artisan community that spent most of the time dedicated to working activities. The area is dotted with semi-finished millstones because sometimes, during production, the artefact would break or a defect would be noted in the rock manifested that had not been noticed at the beginning.
The recurring name is medol, which in Valle Camonica (Camonica valley) is always tied to the presence of quarries or mines, in this case followed by the likely name of the quarry dealer.
For those wishing to venture into this wood, a network of paths, not yet marked, wander from site to site. If you park near Fraine and walk through the village, take the path that leads to Corno Palazzo (ask the inhabitants for directions). Along the way you will encounter semi-finished millstones. The rocks in this area bear carvings of historical eras. Continuing along this path bearing south (towards Grignaghe) you will meet CAI path no. 204, which has more millstones to see. The two main production sites are unfortunately found in areas which are far from the main paths: if you continue along this slope, you will abandon path no. 204 and bear left along the path following the indications for Morina; you will then reach the small village of Digone the foot of Dosso Camussone. If you ask for directions you will find the path that leads uphill to the site called Plagna dei Sofrà: a natural plateau surrounded by pine trees, dotted with semi-finished and abandoned millstones. This site can also be reached from the village of Croce Marino along an easy and flat path, although its entrance is hard to find. On the opposite side, along the slopes of the Cima di Tet, just above the village of Zanolina, there is a site called Rangù. Both these places, apparently wild but of a rare natural beauty, have hidden an intense human activity under the cover of time.
Rosanna Romele, Federico Troletti
The journey in search of Gratacasolo’s millstones quarries is fairly long and involves a walk of a couple of hours, wandering among the ruins. Before the visit, it is highly recommended to get the map called “I Sentieri del Comune di Pisogne”, issued by the CAI of Pisogne, and the book “Dalla Pietra al Mulino – economia e cultura popolare a Pisogne”.
Photo taken from Bresciaoggi