Swept up at the confluence of the Adda and Mallero rivers,
everything in Valtellina hinges around the province’s capital, Sondrio. Sitting
at the gateway to Valmalenco, Sondrio is a goldmine when it comes to history
and culture, with a programme of events that give even more reason to visit.
Going by its ancient Lombard name of Sundrium, the city
first fell under the municipality of Como before going into the hands of the
Capitanei family in 1040, who built the castles of San Giorgio (which later
become the Monastery of San Lorenzo) and Masegra. Built in 1048, Castel
Masegra is perched proudly above the town, and now houses CAST, the
‘storytelling museum’ dedicated to promoting alpine mountain culture, with
climbing, alpinism and the environment at its core. Enjoy the atmospheric
stroll up to the museum through the old district of Scarpatetti. Out for a
longer walk in the terraces, the Convent of San Lorenzo, converted from a
strategic outpost to a place of worship at the end of the 11th century, most
likely by the same Capitanei family, gives a commanding view over the city.
Back in the city, don’t miss the Collegiata of Saints Gervasio and Protasio (18th century but with 14th-century foundations), the Church of San Rocco (16th century), the Casa Carbonera (15th–16th century), the Palazzo Pretorio (16th century), the Palazzo Sassi De Lavizzari (17th century, home to the Valtellina History and Art Museum), the baroque Palazzo Sertoli (18th century), the renaissance Palazzo Carbonera (17th century), the Palazzo della Provincia (1932/35) designed by architect Giovanni Muzio with encaustic paintings by Gianfilippo Usellini, and finally, the Santuario della Madonna della Sassella at the entrance to Sondrio and dating back to the 15th century.
Recently reconstructed, the spectacular Teatro Sociale was built between 1820 and 1824 based on a design by star architect Luigi Canonica who studied under Piermarini. The theatre is now the nerve-centre of Sondrio’s cultural scene, hosting standout events like the Sondrio Festival and the International Documentary Film Festival on Parks each autumn.
Sondrio is on the map as a world-class cycling destination,
with a number of marked routes setting off straight from the town including the
riverside Sentiero Valtellina, the Sentiero Rusca that escorts you into
Valmalenco, the undulating Via dei Terrazzamenti, leading you to Tirano
through terraced vineyards and picturesque villages including Montagna in
Valtellina, which is home to Castel Grumello, a treasured Fondo Ambiente
Italiano property. If uniting the valley’s two best features – sport and wine –
sounds appealing, Sondrio is the ideal starting ground for a Wine Bike Tour,
featuring wineries, vineyards and glorious views.
It’s an area well suited to both city walks and scenic hikes – for these, you’re spoiled for choice with both the Orobie Alps and the Rhaetian Alps at your disposal.
In the valley around Sondrio you’ll come across many
historic villages, including Albosaggia, which is set on the slopes on the
Orobie Alps and hosts the province’s most important Christmas Market each
December with two days of spectacular illuminations, performances, and more
than 100 stalls lining the old town all the way to the picturesque Castello
Medieval streets and ancient wine cellars meet in Ponte in Valtellina and Chiuro, which runs the carefully curated Grappolo d’Oro event dedicated to the historic viticulture of Valtellina’s steep terraces. In Castione, the same wine-making heritage is celebrated annually with the hotly anticipated Ciapél d’Oro competition to give just value to wines produced in Valtellina. Nature lovers should make a beeline for two nearby nature reserves: the Pyramids in Postalesio and the Forest of Bordighi. The 18-hole Valtellina Golf Club has made a home for itself in Caiolo, representing the province’s biggest and more notable golf course. Finally, head to Indomita River in Castione for a spot of rafting on the River Adda, giving you a hit of adrenaline and a new perspective on the valley.
Info: www.sondrioevalmalenco.it / www.visitasondrio.it