The story of the stones
Bienno is a real museum, where centuries of history have left architectural solutions and forms that you can still distinguish. In fact, the old town centre is the result of a continuous typological and building renewal: antiquity, medieval, Renaissance and modern era have been integrated and overlapped without necessarily being cancelled, so that their processing and conversion have made the partial preservation possible.
There also surprises the frequency and the quality of old tracks, as well as the extent of their distribution, evidencing not only the richness and vitality of the centre, but also its urban dimension: not the dimension of a village but the one of a small town.
Later there is proposed the route of how to visit the Village, which has been selected from the researches that have been done by the architects Giorgio Azzoni and Virtus Zallot.
The stones that have been used for the construction of the old centre of Bienno are fragments of history that shown the past; in fact, they tell us about the context from which they have been selected, processed, assembled, decorated, as an answer to specific needs and requirements.
Each stone that has been processed, presupposes a technique and a constructive usual procedure, a need and a function, a social and economic condition, a relationship with the place and its traditions. The relationship between the stones of a building or the ones of several buildings allows us to reconstruct the phases, steps, stratifications and the changes of use of a certain place.
The route within the village is a tour through space and time. It consists in a series of stops in front of architectural and urban elements, which are considered particularly interesting. Each stop is identified by a card that contains images and useful information on how to analyze, understand, decode the specific situations and relate them to different or similar solutions: for example, comparing solutions related to different periods or solutions of the same period.
The stops have been selected in order to make a path thematically and historically significant: each of them provides different information and both reconstruct a complete picture. In order to discover the village, you can start your path from Via Contrizio (Contrizio’s Street) (1), the main road that allows you to access to it, where you can distinguish urban marks and architectural evidence related to each of the stages of growth and transformation of the country. Along this route you can find the Avanzini Tower (7), that preserves untouched the original volume and conserves, at its top, the typical medieval structure, which is frequently found in the country but not so clearly visible. Coming through Via Contrizio (Contrizio’s Street) you immediately come across the Bettoni House (8), one of the most striking examples of
Renaissance architecture in the country. Shortly after, when you have passed Piazza Roma (Roma’s Square), you come across the Valiga House (11), which still preserves the traits of Renaissance in its arcade that is dated 1500. On the side of this house, through a narrow alley and a staircase you can arrive in Via Carotti (Carotti’s Street) (12), an alley with typical medieval features. Once you have reached Via Castello (Castello’s Street), you can climb again and, firstly, you come across the Bontempi Tower (15) and then, at the top of the village, you find the Parish Church (17), richly ornamented, that is consecrated to Saints Faustino and Giovita, who are the patrons of Bienno.
The path to the discovery of the village goes now downhill, along Via Re (Re’s Street), Piazza Roma (Roma’s Square) and Via Ripa (Ripa’s Street), where starts at the intersection with Via di Mezzo (di Mezzo’s Street), the interesting Vicolo Ripa (Ripa Alley) (20), which is rich in beautiful stone portals. Lower down, next the intersection with Via Fantoni (Fantoni’s Street), you can see another fine example of the Medieval Tower House (20).
Then turning Via Fantoni (Fantoni’s Street), you come across the monumental Fantoni Palace (23), which is Renaissance for its actual look, but it presents traces of a more ancient past. The route may continue in Via di Mezzo (di Mezzo’s Street) that at number 17 introduced the Panteghini House (22) and, further on, across a barrel vault it leads to Via Santa Maria (Saint Mary’s Street). Here, something of an absolute value is the Tower House (6) and further on the Church of Saint Mary (5), that preserves in its internal the works of the great master Romanino.
The Renaissance small palace (4), that you find in Via Romanino (Romanino’s Street) and lies in a place where narrow streets get interlaced and show the earliest history of the country, is still of a great interest.