A recent weekend in Val Brembana was the occasion to visit the Medieval hamlet of Cornello dei Tasso, the birthplace of the modern postal system.
There’s a charming hamlet in Val Brembana, not far from Bergamo, that can be reached only by foot through a lovely stone path lined with colorful trees and bushes called Via Mercatorum the ancient road that connected Bergamo with Valtellina until the XVII century. This place is Cornello dei Tasso, a Medieval hamlet perched on a rocky spur on the right bank of the river Brembo.
The history of Cornello dei Tasso is truly fascinating and is 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 manage the papal post, as well as the postal communications in Tirol. Their entrepreneurial spirit allowed them to quickly establish an impressive network that connected hundreds of European cities, which is now considered to be the ancestor of the modern postal system.
This is an extreme summary of the story, but you can retrace the incredible adventures of the Tasso family at Museo dei Tasso, an interesting exhibition 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 keeper of the museum takes 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 on the highest point of the village. It dates back to the XII century and preserves a series of superb frescoes as well as a pretty 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. What’s more, the setting is really beautiful, with mountains and green fields that offer great hiking trails for a day outdoor.
If you plan to stay overnight, I recommend the lovely B&B Adelchè near San Giovanni Bianco, only a 10-minute drive from Cornello dei Tasso. It’s located in a tiny piazza with only a church (the Madonna della Costa Sanctuary), a bar and a little grocery shop. This B&B is really cosy and the lovely owner Maria Grazia prepares scrumptious breakfasts. Bonus point: 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 a relaxing break at San Pellegrino Terme, home to a first-class thermal center. San Pellegrino was a popular resort during the Belle Époque and you still feel that fascinating atmosphere when walking through its town centre. It is also home of the San Pellegrino plant, renowned all over the world for its mineral water and beverages.
Don’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’), which is 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 Cornello dei Tasso, Trattoria Camozzi, and I strongly suggest to book in advance because it fills up quickly (especially on a weekend). 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 Cornello dei Tasso
It is easy to reach Cornello dei Tasso with public transports. You can catch a bus from Bergamo central station (timetable and fares are available here). From Milan you can catch a train to Bergamo (timetable on the Trenitalia website) and then a bus from Bergamo central station.
Alternatively you can drive to Cornello dei Tasso from Bergamo (about 40 minutes) or Milan (about 1.5 hour). Spaces are limited in the parking lot at the beginning of the Via Mercatorum footpath, but there are a few more a little bit further up, in via Orbrembo.
Until next time,