Bienno, Stream of the Mines

 

Considered as one of the most beautiful villages of Italy, the medieval village of Bienno is located in Val Grigna, on the northern side of the river Grigna.  

The original meaning of the name Buennum is “Stream of the Mines”. Bienno is well-known for the traditional processing of iron hit by means of hammers activated by water mills; in fact, the valley where the village rises is also known as “Valley of Hammers”. Mills represent the most important riches of the village; their use was introducted by the Benedictines in the 10th century. However, the height of Bienno’s splendor was during the Venetian domination. In the year 1000 it was built the “Vaso Re”, an artificial canal that that brought water for providing energy to the waterwheels that moved both the heavy hammers used for forging iron as well as flour mills and sawmills.

A tour of the village involves two basic itineraries. The first, “In discovery of the Vaso Re, along the path formed by the water” allows to trace the industrial history of the ancient village of hammers through the old forges, along with the Scuola di Fucinatura (“Forging School”), the Iron Toy Library, and the Forge Museum (in a seventeenth-century factory building). The second itinerary meanders through the historic center of Bienno. We remember Palazzo of Simoni Fè, the Torre Avanzini and the Church of Santa Maria Annunciata.

To see

Church of Santa Maria Annunciata – A small Gothic church with a single nave; it contains frescoes of the artists Giovanni Pietro da Cemmo and Romanino.

Church of St. Faustino and Giovita – It has a single nave with six lateral altars. Of most importance are the frescoes of Giovanni Mauro della Rovere, the wrought iron railings enclosing, the sixteenth-century organ and the seventeenth-century altarpiece by the Venetian Giovan Battista Pittoni.

Hill of Christ the King – There stands a monument to Christ the King, a golden statue by Timo Bortolotti, erected in 1931.

Church of San Defendente – It rises on a hill at the north entrance of Bienno dating back to the fifteenth century.

Church of St Peter ad Vincula – It is built onto a Roman altar of Bacchus of which you can see the remains in the back of the building.

Chapel of the pools – Reworked in the seventeenth century, it dates back to the fifteenth century.

Ethnographic Museum of Iron, Arts and Popular Traditions - In via Artigiani, it is possible to visit the Forge Museum, with hammers and furnaces still active during the tours.

Museum Mill

 

To taste

Casoncelli – A type of ravioli filled and seasoned with melted butter, sage and cheese.

Polenta – Polenta made with the flour produced from the millstones of the sixteenth-century mill, is very tasty.

Spongada – It is the traditional local sweet, a light cake made from flour, eggs, butter, sugar, salt, milk and leaven.

To enjoy

Trade Show Market of Antiques and Crafts – It takes place during the last week of August.