Tavernola stands in the centre of the western shore of Sebino: the historic centre unfolds along the lakeside, even if the current municipality also includes the hilly districts of Cambianica and Bianica, and the district of Gallinarga by the lake. Until the first half of the 19th Century, the village was isolated and could be reached only via lake, as the coastal road as far as Predore was built between 1832 and 1848.
The village of Tavernola was severely hit by a serious geological instability event in 1906 that caused part of the village to collapse and sink into the lake. Part of the historic centre was lost during the disaster (perhaps two blocks) since medieval dwellings were built on the plain area facing the lake, where they were easy to reach and the merchant activities at the port took place.
Tavernola takes its name after the Latin taberna (workshop), even if traces dating back to the Roman times were not found. Various buildings, mainly of a fortified nature, and the urban planning characterised by a layout common to many villages of the Sebino area, bear witness to the medieval development: a main road parallel to the lake shore from which other narrow parallel roads branched off providing connections to the hilly areas.
In the Middle Ages, the port of Tavernola became an important trading point for products coming from Vigolo and Parzanica, villages lacking direct outlets onto the lake and under the domain of the Fenaroli family, a family established in the territory since the 11th Century and ruling this area of Sebino in an undisputed manner. The Fenaroli family (the name derives from the hay harvested from the mountain meadows behind the village, to supply the city of Bergamo and Brescia) belonged to the Guelphs and chose Tavernola as place of residence to control the trade routes between Sarnico and Lovere.
The statutes of the city council of Bergamo of 1331 confirmed the existence of vallis Tavernolae which included Vigolo and Parzanica in addition to Tavernola, defining the Fenaroli’s domain over this territory until the arrival of the Venetians (1428). The Fenaroli family was the only one over the years to achieve a sort of territorial independence, exploiting the geographic isolation of the surrounding mountain areas and easy docking to the Sebino lake.
At an ecclesiastic level, Tavernola depended on the ecclesiastical circumscription of Calepio, located in the low Sebino area and fairly distant in geographical terms: the ecclesiastical circumscription was not therefore able to exercise actual control and Tavernola achieved an almost independent management. In fact, numerous medieval churches can be found in this small municipality – San Pietro (St. Peter) in Tavernola, San Giorgio (St. George) in Gallinarga, San Michele (St. Michael) in Cambianica, San Bernardo (St. Bernard) in Bianica – that were representing the gathering points for local communities. At least since the 12th Century, St. Peter’s was the centre for the curing of souls and only in 1570, the parish church was transferred to Santa Maria Maddalena (St. Mary Magdalene). The demographic development and devotional needs led to the reconstruction of the parish church in the 18th Century, the erection of a new church of San Michele (St. Michael) in Cambianica, besides the Romanesque chapel and also the construction of the shrine of Santa Maria (St. Mary) in Cortinica.
Some houses south of the centre currently bear witness to the development of the village of Tavernola between the 15th and 18th Century, while ancient photographs show the lake side destroyed by the instability event of 1906, dominated by the marvellous loggia added by the architect Giovanni Donegani to the Fenaroli’s houses.
The first decades of the 20th Century were characterised by the development of the Liberty architecture with magnificent Capuani houses (to the north) and industrial settlements (the Sina and Capuani spinning mills, near the Rino and further north the cement factory built in 1902).
For more information:
PASINELLI B., Tavernola e contrade, Tavernola Bergamasca (Bg) 2007.
ARENA R., Tavernola nel presente e nella storia, Tavernola Bergamasca (Bg) 1994.