The vision of Lovere as borgo overlooking the Lake with its famous Palazzata is fruit of the 19th Century transformation of the village. The viewpoint has to be flipped and the village viewed from the hill in order to understand the complex millennial sequence of events.
The village of Lovere originates from an initial settlement that stood in Dos del Castello (also known as Colle del Lazzaretto), a chalky relief that has now disappeared following its exploitation as a quarry during the 19th and 20th Centuries, occupying the area of the current Piazzale Bonomelli. This site was first occupied in the early Neolithic period (6th millennium BC), but became established between the late Neolithic period and early Copper age (mid 4th Millennium) developing up until the mid 3rd millennium. Lovere was an important centre dedicated to metalworking and trade, as easily accessible from the lake. The area at the foot of the hill, to the east, was occupied by a necropolis that then developed up until the 1st Century BC, proving continuity of frequentation. Archaeological remains of other ancient villages can be found on Dos Pitigla towards Castro and Dos del Ranzinel in the territory of Costa Volpino on the border with Lovere, whilst recent investigations have excluded pre-Roman origins for the so-called Castelliere (Hillfort).
The village of Dos del Castello probably moved or expanded on the plateau between the Dos and Lake at the beginning of the 1st Century AD, with the Roman occupation of the Valle Camonica (Camonica Valley). Lovere was part of the Res Publica Camunnorum and included in the pagus dependent on Rogno in Roman times. Today, only a few traces of the Roman settlement remain. Two are on the hill of San Maurizio, possibly relating to a place of worship dedicated to Minerva (now in the Archaeological Museum of Bergamo) and the Necropolis. Evidence of these have emerged along the Via Valeriana linking Bergamo with Cividate Camuno, in particular in the district of Bottazzuolo (now Via Bertolotti) and in Via Filippo Martinoli (area of the current Hospital and Oratory). The necropolis – that expanded significantly – remained in use at least until the 5th – 6th Centuries AD.
During the Late Antique period Lovere, squeezed between the lake and mountains and without many agricultural resources, suffered a period of decline with a fall in trade and increased self-sufficient subsistence economy. The main administrative centre remained Rogno where the Church of Santo Stefano was founded.
The Val Camonica was given to the monks of Tours during the Carolingian period. They built several chapels to serve the residents. Two chapels dependent on the parish church of Rogno were probably founded in Lovere. That of San Martino, that still exists, on the southern edge of the necropolis in Via Martinoli, and that of San Maurizio, near the border between the Val Camonica and the Bergamo area, on the site of the current Capuchin monastery.
The Bishop of Brescia received the parish church of Rogno in the 10th Century. During the 11th and 12th Centuries he probably awarded Lovere and Corti to a branch of the Mozzo family, already feudatories of the Bishop of Bergamo in Sovere. They then took on the name of Celeri. During the 12th Century their rights on some villages on the coast (Ceratello and Qualino) and in Volpino were the subject of a dispute with the Brusati family, their relatives and feudatories of the Bishop of Brescia in Volpino. This dispute degenerated into a conflict, involving the municipalities of Brescia and Bergamo, over supremacy in the area. Lovere was definitely involved, so much so that in the 12th Century it was politically annexed to the territory of Bergamo while remaining in the Diocese of Brescia. Meanwhile the village had evolved and a castle was probably built to the South of the current Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, that is a part of the village was fortified with moats and palisades of which traces still remain in the names of the districts of Castello Vecchio and Tornella (“tonimen”). The municipality of Bergamo requested the rights over this fortification be transferred in 1222 in order to establish its control over the village.
The strategic location of Lovere, controlling militarily and commercially three valleys and the Lake, resulted in strong economic and demographic growth, forcing it in the 13th Century to build new more extensive defences that included, among other things, the new parish church. Having demolished the castle, walls and gateways, nowadays you can only observe the so-called Alghisi tower that defended access to the village from the west.
The development of metallurgic and woollen activities and trade led to the construction of new borgos, outside the fortifications, that in the second half of the 14th Century, were also defended. These defensive structures are still visible and well preserved today including the fortress in the district of Reme called Dargone and now Torricella, with a round central tower, and the base of the port tower visible in Vicolo del Porto.
The new circle included the districts of Porto, with the Celeri family’s representative building called torre Soca, Bottazzuolo and the handcrafted wool district of Moline. During this period there were also production activities outside the fortified area, in the district of Foxio, near Castro, where the Tinazzo torrent flowed into the lake.
Further growth in woollen cloth production related commercial and artisan activities led to the village expanding further to the east during the 15th and 16th Centuries. A new borgo sprang up here and in 1473 they started to build a magnificent church dedicated to Santa Maria in Valvendra, with the adjoining convent entrusted to the Franciscan monks. The resources accumulated in economic activities, despite a growing crisis in the 17th Century, allowed wealthy families to build beautiful buildings such as Palazzo Bazzini.
The population fell and many factories and homes were abandoned in the first half of the 18th Century as a result of a definitive crisis in the woollen sector. However, by the middle of the century a cannon foundry had been set up in the district of Foxio, on the border between Lovere and Castro, becoming a scythe factory by the end of the century. New industrial metallurgic activities grew significantly, attracting craftsmen and workers to Lovere, followed by new businesses. There was no stopping the growth in metallurgic activities thanks to the efforts of Giovanni Andrea Gregorini. Buildings and villages were adapted to the new residential needs of workers and employees. However, the village only began to grow again at the beginning of the 20th Century, expanding significantly after World War II.
The radical change in the road linking Bergamo and the Val Camonica in the first quarter of the 19th Century led to a new road being mapped out, passing along the shore of the lake instead of crossing the historical centre. This intervention mainly resulted in a new urban plan spanning three squares. The square of the Port, home of the market (now Piazza XIII Martiri) was added to the old administrative centre (now Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II) and Moline square (Piazza Garibaldi). Monuments to the protagonists of the Italian unification – Vittorio Emanuele II, Garibaldi and the Fallen of all the wars – work by Daniele Capitanio e Giacomo Sozzi, were created in the last quarter of the century.
The Accademia Tadini was built to the south west, on the edge of the new road, between 1821 and 1826. A series of impressive eclectic style private residences were added along the same road, in the late 19th Century and beginning of the 20th Century. These still characterize the views of the lake.
The historical centre was involved in intense restoration activities during this period including paving the roads, aligning facades and restoring frontages, adorned with wrought iron, awarding Lovere its beautiful 19th-century appearance that still characterizes it and coexists with the oldest existing structures.
For more information:
BIANCHI, MACARIO F., L’occhio della storia. Il territorio di Lovere nel racconto dell’immagine, Lovere 2016.