Riva di Solto, along the western shore of Lake Iseo, is one of the medieval villages that has best retained its ancient urban organisation within its historic centre.
The name and the story of the village are connected to Solto Collina, which stands a few kilometres away on the hill behind the village: from its very origin, Riva was a fortified port for Solto, where the family of the same name settled in the 11th Century. In that same period the bishop of Bergamo acquired several feudal properties in the Bergamo valleys, creating trade links with the lowlands: Lake Iseo also became involved in this system and so the Sarnico-Riva di Solto route was created, taking advantage of the commercial power of the two ports. This favoured the transfer of certain gentry to the port of Riva, promoting the fortification of a village first occupied by fishermen.
With the establishment of the Town Hall of Bergamo, Episcopal investiture families were ousted from control (including the Solto family) and instead these entitlements were assigned to urban families like Foresti who settled in Castro, Solto and Riva di Solto.
The first mention of the village dates back to 1258, when the land was tied to the Codeferri family, a branch of the Solto family who in 1222 together with Colombini and Oldrati families surrendered part of the Castle of Solto; subsequently the Codeferri family, of Ghibelline religion, settled in Riva. In 1310 sources, reference is made to Vila Ripe Solti, attributable to an organised centre and in the statutes of Bergamo (1331 and 1353) Riva was part of the municipality of Solto Collina.
At the beginning of the 15th Century Pandolfo Malatesta granted privileges which favoured members of the Guelph from Castro, Solto, Riva, Predore, Tavernola, Vigolo, Cambianica and Parzanica, and in 1410 he fiscally and administratively separated Solto and Riva from Lovere, which passed under the control of the vicar of Gandino. With the occupation of the Venetians in 1428, the fortified structures were demolished as described in sources as: “In Riperia lacus Isei sunt aliqua fortilicia modici valoris in terra de Soldo et de Ripa dicte Riperie”.
In 1449 Solto and Riva returned under the control of Bergamo, along with Castro which was still tied to the Foresti family; a few years later the three villages were given over to the Community of Solto e Uniti, with freedom of navigation on Lake Iseo granted by the Venetians.
The historic centre of Riva has been preserved with the same structures since the Middle Ages: apart from a few houses built in the space formerly occupied by fields, the modern village developed almost entirely on the hill behind the original centre. From the beginning the construction of the village made use of the natural features of the area: the inhabited area, in fact, developed along a strip of land bounded on the north by the hill, south the lake and at the ends by two streams, Val Terlera (Terlera valley) to the east and San Rocco (St. Roch) to the west. The village is crossed by seven alleys perpendicular to the lake: these paths are sloping because they follow ancient stream beds, eventually channelled, which allowed the water from the mountains to flow down to the lake basin. Starting in the 12th Century stone houses were built alongside the beds of the streams; they are still in excellent condition and used for residential and commercial activities. At the eastern edge of the village is the parish church of San Nicola (St. Nicholas), probably founded in the 11th Century, while at the beginning of 1500s the votive oratory of San Rocco (St. Roch) was built over the western boundary.
For more information:
MATTEONI F., Riva di Solto, borgo medievale. Itinerario storico culturale, Ponteranica (Bg) 2010 (http://www.rivadisolto.org/ita/rds/rivamedievale_01.asp).
PASINELLI B., Riva di Solto, Zorzino e Gargarino, Riva di Solto (Bg) 2013.
Cover photo credits: Linoolmostudio