The municipality of Sale Marasino has a population of around 3,300 inhabitants, distributed among historic districts that surround the natural amphitheatre facing Iseo lake and widespread construction activity that asserted these districts over time, consisting of numerous villas, town houses, gardens, fields and olive groves, all of a certain natural beauty. The panorama is well visible along the banks, climbing up the peaks and Passes that separate the inhabited centre and hilly side of the Val Trompia (Trompia valley), like Punta Almana (1390 m) or Forcella di Sale (1018 m).
The path of the ancient via Valeriana (Valeriana street) can be taken as reference to understand the territory and landscape. Built in the early Middle Ages, it represented the road infrastructure serving the hillside settlements. It intersects the main districts of the current village and connects the other small villages via secondary streets, from which paths, mule tracks, trails and alleys branch out towards the upper and lower moraine amphitheatre.
Travelling in a South to North direction, crossing over the Mesagolo stream which defines the boundary with the municipality of Sulzano, you finally reach the village of Maspiano built on a sort of small gently sloping area of land, in a panoramic position of extraordinary beauty dominating the entire lake from Iseo to Orobie, thus representing an excellent surveillance point of the territory.
Today, as in the Napoleonic Map of 1811, Maspiano is clearly divided in two separate sections from an open space featuring the square and the 18th Century church of San Giacomo (St. James) at the centre. The prominent role of the main road connection, now via Maspiano (most likely Via Valeriana in the past), and the intersection with the road linking Gandizzano (Strada de Chepi) and Marasino clearly emerge; the sharp turn of the main road towards via Tesolo (Strada delle Scape) is clear from the other side of the town. The importance of the two small “drainage ditches” intended to collect mountain waters, today no longer visible, also stands out; one was located at the boundary towards Sulzano (Quatera drainage ditch) and the other was located along the north side of the church of St. James (St. James drainage ditch). Most likely, they represented a sort of rudimentary defence structure together with the perimeter walls of the most outward facing buildings.
The two inhabited centres consist of construction types including a building with a main façade featuring porticos, sometimes colonnades and wood loggias, facing south or south-west, annex buildings and high stone fence walls that mark internal open spaces consisting of a series of subsequent courtyards. The buildings are at the end of cul-de-sac alleys, featuring arches and doors (sometimes concealed) or vaulted structures. It is a rural building fabric but with a strong defensive character – enhanced in the parts on the perimeter of the settlement – as witnessed by the presence of embrasures near some wood entrance doors housing arquebuses intended for unwelcome guests. Some high stone walls partially covered by vegetation are particularly prestigious, as well as the high portals and building sections that retained their historic features and were not affected by recent restorations. Maspiano features a building style which has almost disappeared, or has been hidden elsewhere: some buildings arranged in series were erected side by side along exterior walls but separated by a narrow gap, an ambitus, intended to collect and drain rain water.
Marasino is reached after passing through the valley of the Portazzolo stream. From an aerial view, the small village is defined by a particular star shape that branches out from the intersection between via Sant’Antonio (St. Anthony street), via Ronco, via Campicelli and via Boschetti; they are the main connection routes between the small village and its surroundings, however the historic “matrix” on which it is erected on the hillside, consists of the ancient via Valeriana. The open structure of the inhabited centre excludes the potential presence of Medieval walls. In the map of the Napoleonic cadastre, the current via Sant’Antonio, which can also be identified due to the presence of the church, rises along Valeriana connection road. From that point, the built-up area extends towards piazza Maggiore (Maggiore square) and Distone. Other roads connect to the mills located along the Portazzolo valley; the old road connecting to Forcella di Sale leads uphill towards Portole. Another path gently descends to the valley towards the small village of Conche; the initial section corresponds to via Ronco. By comparing the current layout with the Napoleonic cadastre, it is possible to notice that the layout of the village of Marasino has been modified.
The rural type construction develops around a courtyard or semi-courtyard. The building of the current Trattoria Orazio and semi-courtyard layout erected along via Ronco stand out for their extended shape. Most likely, it was built in the recurrent style of the rural homes which were widespread in the lake area, featuring large wood loggias facing the sides with more sunlight, and closed walls, with small openings on the opposite sides. An example of small rural building still preserved in its original features can be seen today not too far from the church. The central part of the village, in addition to featuring some courtyard buildings, most likely consisted of “tower” houses, closed and divided by narrow walls. This building type is typical of the Middle Ages and was characterised by two or more stories on top of each other, connected by internal wood stairways. Storerooms or farming areas were present on the ground floor. An important example can be found in Conche. A low density building fabric developed during the 1960s along vie Boschetti, Ronzone, Ronco, consisting of “small houses” went on to saturate almost the entire pre-existing agricultural area between the main historic districts of Sale Marasino in just a few years. Nonetheless, it has retained a discreet quality level in terms of construction and private gardens, still preserving a mixed fabric of olive groves that makes the urban environment particularly interesting from a quality viewpoint.
A local road used to connect Marasino directly to Gandizzano, on the peak, with Martinengo palace in Portazzolo, a building dating back to the late Renaissance, on the lake shore. This direct connection poses questions that are still unanswered with regards to the relation between the palace and the village, and a possible hypothesis is that the former was linked to the shrine of Santa Maria della Neve (St. Mary of the Snows) in Gandizzano, most likely a noble chapel containing the “de Martinenghis” sepulchre.
The village of Riva is located at a lower level, on the hillside, and is a small rural district of probable Medieval origin, surrounded by terraced olive groves. No church is present, but only a large chapel opening out onto the road, featuring fragments of average quality fresco works.
Another path used to lead from Marasino down towards the small centre of Conche, but today it is mainly covered by private properties. The village was the barycentre for the inhabitants of Sale and Marasino. The origins are certainly Medieval, even if Roman settlements are hypothesised; two barbarian tombs without burial equipments were found during the excavations for the construction of the churchyard of San Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist) in 1959. The inhabited centre is characterised by a circular structure with narrow alleys that intersect to create a branched road network. Some dwellings still feature Medieval wall sections, while other wall ruins infer the presence of a fortified wall. The building fabric consists of small and medium size rural-residential courtyard houses. The Antonioli (17th Century) and Faccoli houses are particularly important. The former, described in the Survey of 1706, shows an internal elevation with portico on the south side consisting of five pointed arches lying on Sarnico stone, Doric columns. The Faccoli home, near the church, also features a portico with five lowered arches lying on Sarnico stone, Doric columns with rib vaults; a small niche was present on the south wall, depicting the Virgin in glory. The same Survey mentions a port in Conche, most likely in the area between Martinengo Palace and the church of the Disciplini (Penitents) in Curetto.
From Marasino, following the level road, the Valeriana reaches the bridge over the Vigolo stream and the small village of Distone on the hillside, still characterised by historic rural buildings. From this point, the road continues amongst a marvellous landscape in terms of size and quality, to the centre of Massenzano, the last village prior to the boundary with Marone, crossing the districts of Dosso and Valle. The former consists of a series of houses built on a ridge, near the ancient tuff quarry (Tufo district). The water stream called Valle and the district bearing the same name branch out from here. Valle used to provide power to numerous water mills until the second half of the 19th Century, which were in turn supplying energy to wool working machinery, particularly dedicated to the production of blankets.
Carebbio is a crossroad that features a settlement structure of Medieval character. In the 16th Century it was home to many smithies, powered by the Tufo water spring. Some of the beautiful portals dating back to the 13th-14th Century are still preserved today. Sale can be reached travelling downhill through the narrow and winding via Balzerina, where urban development took place in the 15th and 17th Century with the construction of noble palaces. Among these, the 15th Century Averoldi-Dossi palace, now Giugni (15th-16th Century), the Dossi-Mazzucchelli home (1560), the Fenaroli home (16th Century) and the Turla-Tacchini home still stand out today in terms of architectural and decorative importance. The complex consisting of the parish church of Assunta e San Zenone (Virgin Mary and St. Zeno), the Baptismal church and rectory, is historically relevant and connected to the churchyard, the result of a millenary historic layering originating from the baptismal church of Vallis Renovata, of considerable importance for the entire Sebino-Brescia area.
Fabrizio Zanni, Antonio Burlotti