Testimony of Michela Dell'Andrino

Photo from Cittarini Archive

There used to be a pine forest in Chiesa, with a neat and well-equipped route, a complete gym surrounded by nature, the brain child of the Pro Loco of Chiesa at the beginning of the 20th century after the construction of the Pesenti villas and the Grand Hotel Malenco.

Created by Cav. Sampietro with the collaboration of the owners of Villa Pesenti and Vilal Albonico, and including the Gaggi, Dell’Andrino and Longhini families from the Sasso district, the pine forest wound its way from the centre of Chiesa to the crossroads for Sasso, as far as the Giumellini bridge. From here, a beautiful winding path reached two tiny wooden bridges separated by about twenty stone steps. These crossed the two Giumellini torrents.

The flat path then continued to a clearing on a rocky spur, protected by wooden bars and fitted out with benches, it was an open invitation to sit and admire the view. The torrent gave the air a fresh sparkle as it ran hidden at first beneath the stones (“Acquiquersci”), before bursting into the open in a harmonious concert between enormous boulders as it descended into the breezy valley through luxuriant conifer, larch and Scots pine woods that shaded from the summer heat.

The speckled undergrowth between the paving stones hidden by moss and lichens was alive with heather, clover, ferns, wild strawberry, pulsatilla, dandelions, coltsfoot and campion all in harmony with scattered bushes: dog rose, broom, juniper, rowan, etc.

The path crossed the valley descending from the ""präbascic"", where a little ditch gushed between the debris from the spring in the soapstone quarry, which the experts considered to be sulpherous, digestive and an aperitif.

Once during the 60s, I saw a hermetically sealed bottle containing this water explode after a few hours. The quarrymen themselves said not to drink this water because it made you lose your appetite and, given the scarcity of food at the time, made people weak.

Cav. Sampietro believed this tiny well, into which various springs seeped, had enough effective therapeutic qualities to turn the valley into a curative thermal area.

The flat path continued as far as the garage with the Grand Hotel staff bedrooms above it. Here it divided and branched to the right downhill towards the district of Sasso and Chiesa and to the left it wound its way firmly upwards over ashlar to reach the tarmaced road to Primolo.

In 1926, a dairy was built in the form of a round-roofed bivouac on the edge of the pine forest, just above the tarmaced road between the two bridges over the Giumellini. It was run by Erminia Cirolo and her husband. The paths also led to the Hotel cattle shed. The milk that was not drunk directly by the customers was used to produce craft icecream, which the tourists loved.

When summer was in full swing, the dairy was very busy and even remained open until midnight. Once a week it held dancing balls with musicians, including a certain Pietro Corlatti from Ponchiera, who was also a pupil of the maestro, Erminio Dioli.

During the dance balls, Michela Dell'Andrino would go and help her aunt and uncle. As she was only 10 years old and it was too dangerous to return home alone so late, she would stay and sleep on a couch beneath the eaves.

They also sold souvenir postcards of the valley and today the clearing can still be seen where this "bazaar", known as Fö la laterìa di Giümelìn, was held.

From 1937 to 1940, the dairy was run by Carlo Masa of Montini. As the war approached, tourist numbers decreased and it was finally closed down.