The village of Solto (from the Latin term saltus, meaning wood, forest) is located on a plateau connecting Val Cavallina (Cavallina valley) and the Bergamo shore of Lake Sebino; the first human traces date back to the pre-historic age and were found in the nearby district of Esmate, where also the ruins of medieval dwellings are preserved (between Via Monte Clemo (Monte Clemo street) and Via Garibaldi (Garibaldi street)).
Since the Middle Ages, the village of Solto had a scattered layout, which is not organised around a well-defined centre: the polycentric layout was characterised by the division of the hilly territory into various districts (Canzanico, Castello, Sconico and Dosso): thus numerous settlements were present, built around fortified buildings where the typical fortified (towers and castle) and civil (dwellings and entrance portals) stone architecture is still visible.
The Castello district, located on the eastern side of the village, preserves some structures of Solto Castle (today a private home) that was granted as a fief in the 11th Century to the Sumate family of Solto for seven generations; the latter, supported by Bishop Arnolfo (1077-1098), attempted to fight the expansion of other local families in the territory, however this attempt was unsuccessful after the bishop ceased office. In the 12th Century, the lords of Solto were forced to return their assets to the bishop, among which the fortress that was ruled by four consuls until 1154, two of which still belonging to the Solto family.
In 1221, the castle was in the hands of three political associations of aristocratic families founded from different branches of the Solto family (the Codeferri, Colombini and Oldrati families) who put the fortress at the disposal of the City Council of Bergamo. The following year, Solto fell under Bergamo jurisdiction and local families lost their feudal rights and were forced to leave the fortresses; the Foresti family took over who, as inferred by the name, was not local and came from the city to monitor the suburban areas faraway from Bergamo: the Foresti’s coat of arms, adorned with oblique stripes and a crowned eagle, can be found in different corners of the village.
Among the most prominent family members, Matteo Foresti deserves a mention as he joined the army of Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian, marching towards Milan from Valle Camonica (Camonica valley) in 1327: as sign of gratitude, the emperor founded the County of Solto in 1331, conferring the title of Count palatine to Matteo, guaranteeing protection and privileges to him and his descendants.
The Bergamo statute of 1353 mentions the municipality of Solto cum unione and in 1391, Ripe Solti and Castro cum unione were added; Solto was part of the facta of St. Andrew de foris gateway and in 1376, belonged to the combined districts of Calepio, Solto and Lovere, including all the western side of the Bergamo shore of Lake Sebino. With the assertion of the territorial lordships, the Visconti family conquered the northern part of Lake Sebino imposing strict rules on the other lords in the area, among whom the Foresti family from Solto who were controlling the goods arriving from the lake. The Ghibelline domain lasted a few years before falling under Venetian ruling (1428) which welcomed the guelphs, refugees in Sebino valleys, under its domain.
In the 12th Century, the plebeian church of Solto – of which no traces are preserved-, boasting the right to baptise, was located in the Castello district, where the parish church of Santa Maria Assunta (St. Mary of the Assumption) stands today. Before 1260, this church was included within the new plebeian district of San Lorenzo (St. Lawrence) in Cavellas (Casazza, Val Cavallina (Cavallina valley)); the church features some medieval structures of the archpriest’s home. Other fortified and civil structures can be seen in the Canzanico district (Foresti tower and home), in the Sconico district (Sconico tower) and the Dosso district (dwellings and towers).
For more information:
BELLINI B., La collina di Solto, Cisano Bergamasco (Bg) 1961.
SALVINI F., Solto Collina tra storia e natura, Gianico (Bs) 2003.
Cover photo credits: Linoolmostudio