A recent weekend in Val Brembana was the occasion to visit one of the Italian villages high on my wishlist of places to visit: Cornello dei Tasso.
There’s a charming hamlet in Val Brembana, not far from Bergamo, that can be reached only by foot through a lovely stone path of colorful trees and bushes., a stretch of the ancient Via Mercatorum that connected Bergamo with Valtellina until the XVII century. This place is Cornello dei Tasso, a Medieval village in the municipality of Camerata Cornello, perched on a rocky spur on the right bank of the river Brembo.
Cornello dei Tasso’s history is truly fascinating and strictly linked to that of the Tasso family, whose members included Torquato Tasso, one of the greatest Italian poets of the Renaissance and author of the epic poem “Jerusalem Delivered”.
But there’s something more curious about this village, something related to its key role in developing the European communications network. The story goes like this. Back in the XIV century, some members of the Tasso family founded the Serenissima Couriers Company (quite innovative at that time!) and were later called to organize the papal post, as well as the postal communications in Tirol. Their entrepeneurship allowed them to quickly establish an impressive network connecting hundreds of European cities, which is considered the ancestor of the modern postal system.
I’ve extremely summarized the story, but you can retrace th incredible adventures of this family at Museo dei Tasso, a small museum that chronicles the history of the Tasso family and the birth of the postal system. The collection includes old letters and elegant manuscripts, as well as the first postage stamp issued in the world (the famous Penny Black). I strongly suggest to join one of the free guided tours taking place on the first Sunday of most months, when the custodian of the museum walks visitors around the village and shows them the museum.
Another interesting spot is the old Romanesque church dedicated to St. Cornelius and St. Cipriano, located at a higher point in the village. It dates back to the XII century and preserves a series of superb frescoes as well as a beautiful bell tower.
It’s no surprise that Cornello dei Tasso has been declared one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. It’s one of the best preserved Medieval hamlets in the country, with pebbled streets, old houses and a porticoed passage that was once the center of commercial life. The remains of the Tasso’s family residence, that served also as a watchtower thanks to its dominant position, are still visible. What’s more, the setting is really beautiful, with mountains and green fields that offer great hiking trails for a day outdoor.
If you want to stay overnight, I recommend the lovely B&B Adelchè, near San Giovanni Bianco, just ten minute drive from Camerata Cornello. It’s located in a tiny piazza overlooked by a church (the Madonna della Costa Sanctuary), a bar and a grocery shop. The place is really cosy, with beautifully decorated rooms offering amazing views over the valley. Added bonus: cows and donkeys graze in the surrounding fields and the tinkling of their bells will be your lullaby!
You could combine a visit to Cornello dei Tasso with some relaxing downtime in nearby San Pellegrino Terme, home to a first-class thermal center This was a popular resort during the Belle Époque and that fascinating atmosphere still permeates the streets and the buildings of this town. It is also home of the San Pellegrino plant, renowned all over the world for its mineral water and beverages.
After the eyes and the soul, it’s time to satisfy your palate! You can’t leave without tasting a plate of casonséi (homemade ravioli served with a sauce of butter, sage and bacon), or some hearty polenta taragna (a special type of polenta made of buckwheat and corn flour seasoned with cheese). And speaking of cheese, try some formai de mut (literally ‘mountain cheese’) prepared using raw cow’s milk, and the strachitunt, a blue cheese also produced with cow’s row whole milk.
There is only one bar/restaurant in the village, Trattoria Camozzi, and it is strongly recommended to book in advance (especially if you want to go on a weekend) because the place is always packed. Other excellent trattorias in the area are Taverna di Arlecchino in the hamlet of Oneta, and Agriturismo al Maso in Camerata Cornello.
How to reach Camerata Cornello
Camerata Cornello can be easily reached with public transports:
- from Bergamo you can catch one of the buses departing hourly from the train station (timetable and fares are available here)
- from Milan you can catch a train to Bergamo (take a look at the Trenitalia website) and then a bus from Bergamo train station
- from Orio al Serio airport see the ATB website
Alternatively you can drive to Camerata Cornello from Bergamo (about 40 minutes) or Milan (about 1.5 hour). The parking lot at the beginning of the Via Mercatorum footpath has only a handful of parking spaces, but there are a few more a little bit further up, in via Orbrembo.
Until next time,