The Valmalenca farmhouse "cà malenca"

Farmhouse in Ciappanico.

In Valmalenco, rural spaces were organised according to an agricultural-pastoral system at three different altitudes: the plain, the hills and the Alp. It was run by the people living in the five municipalities in the valley and in the numerous districts.

The farmhouses at the bottom of the valley were originally built of bricks without any internal staircase. The kitchen was on the ground floor and the bedrooms were upstairs. The fireplace was in the centre of the house, in the middle of the room. It was made of four square stones without a flue. The smoke left by the door and the windows. Some homes had a cattle shed on the ground floor with the kitchen, bedrooms and hay barn above. Grain was kept to ripen beneath the roof. Each floor, or at least the top floor, had a narrow wooden balcony. The main structure was built using exposed stone, the roofs were covered in split tiles and the doors generally had a single panel and were made using dovetailed planks in the side jamb.

Farmhouse on Ponte di Lanzada.

Individual families in the mountains used single buildings with the farmhouse built over the cellar and incorporated into the cattle shed and barn. Sometimes the houses were separated by the cattle sheds.

In some cases, the people of Valmalengo would group several homes together to form proper rural communities.

A feature of these buildings was the use of irregular timber trunks to infill the walls.

There were three types of rural buildings up on the alpine pasture: the farmhouse, the stopover and the milk dairy, the oldest of which were made of wood. However, from the beginning of the nineteenth century, the structures of trunks and beams were replaced by dry stone buildings.


  • Dario Benetti, A confine tra diverse culture: le tipologie delle dimore rurali in Valtellina e Valchiavenna, in La dimora alpina, Atti del convegno di Varenna, Villa Monastero - 3/4 giugno 1995, Sondrio, Cooperativa Editoriale Quaderni Valtellinesi, 1996, pp. 307-332
  • Dario Benetti, Abitare la montagna. Tipologie abitative ed esempi di industria rurale, in Mondo Popolare in Lombardia. Sondrio e il suo territorio, n. 15, Milan 1995, pp. 41-92
  • Diego Giovanoli, Facevano case: 1450-1950, saper vedere le dimore e i rustici nel Grigione italiano e nella limitrofa Lombardia, Melans 2009, pp. 153-171