The Province of Sondrio is a fascinating mix of different styles and eras.
It is known as a place where man demonstrated his ingenuity by terracing the rugged lands that host its renowned vines.
Enclosed within the heart of the Alpines, the Province occupies the northernmost part of the Lombardy Region. Lying at opening of Valmalenco, Sondrio is in the Valtellina's center. Typical are the vineyards sprawling over the foothills below the Rhaetian Alps. For centuries, the valley's northern slopes have been cleared of woods and rocks to terrace and cultivate these vines (both an economic and cultural asset of the Valtellina). They are an extraordinary testimony to man's ability to transform nature and terrain, despite unfavorable local and climatic conditions.
Sondrio is replete with artistic treasures. The city center includes Piazza Garibaldi with its elegant, neoclassical buildings, and the Cinema-Teatro Pedretti, built in 1820 according to architect Canonica's design.
Narrow streets lead from the new to the old city center, elaborate in its styles from different eras - Renaissance, Baroque, neoclassical, modern and contemporary. Also from here, we can see the Medieval Castello Masegra, with a panorama of the vineyards.
Numerous castles and towers stand in evocative locations of great strategic importance. See de li beli miri Tower in Teglio, Castel Grumello north of Sondia, Bellaguarda in Tovo di Sant’Agata or the castles in Grosio, to name just a few.
Sanctuaries abound here, particularly the Blessed Virgin of Tirano, the Madonna della Sassarella standing on a promontory among the vines at the gates of Sondrio. Many are the churches as well, everywhere serving as spiritual repositories housing astounding treasures, precious expressions make for an interesting artistic route along the Valley.
An important addition to the territory are the ski resorts of the “Skiarea Valtellina”: Alta Valtellina, Aprica, Valmalenco and Valchiavenna. The district boasts 249 miles of slope for Alpine skiing, and more than 124 mi for Nordic skiing. All of this resides within famous international resorts such as Livigno, Bormio, Santa Caterina Valfurva, Valdidentro/Valdisotto, Aprica, Chiesa in Valmalenco and Caspoggio, Madesimo/Campodolcino and Valgerola, a network to which the summer ski resort of Passo dello Stelvio has been added.
Valtellina is also a summer destination, and in the warmer months shows off an explosion of color in its numerous nature parks and reserves, that include the likes of Stelvio National Park, the largest nature park in Italy; the park in Orobie Valtellinesi, with the Alpine ecological and wildlife observatory at Aprica; and the Nature Reserve of Val di Mello, an ideal oasis for nature lovers.
Valmalenco is easy to reach from Sondrio, and is ideal for excursions and mountain climbing. Its high peaks and imposing glaciers make it ideal for various excursion types.
The valley is of glacial origins; very narrow at its lower section, it is divided into two parts: one side of the valley enters the Disgrazia massif, while the other is part of the Bernina Mountain Range. The heart of the valley is the town of Chiesa in Valmalenco, also a major ski hub in the Region.
The Valtellina path is a long, relaxing route - open to cyclists and walkers - of almost 93 mi; it crosses a large part of the lower valley, and runs along the River Adda. This path is part-asphalt, part-earth, and flanked by lush vegetation that grows along the river, an area of great environmental value.
Around Sondrio, visitors can practice as many sports as come to mind, from trekking to golf, skiing to mountain climbing. The territory to the south of Sondrio belongs to the Orobie Valtellinesi Park, and is ideal for trekking and mountain biking, while a scenic golf course lies just 5 km from Sondrio, in Caiolo.
Major ski resorts include the Chiesa in Valmalenco, Caspoggio and Lanzada. They make up a touristic zone that offers excellent accommodation facilities, along with adequate infrastructure for vacation and athletic activities. The covered swimming pool, tennis courts and other sports facilities offer further opportunities for recreation and relaxation.
The Sondrio Festival is not to be missed; it is an international documentary fest pertaining to natural parks and reserves, and is held every October.
Finally, the Province also boasts thermal spas dating from ancient Roman times; the therapeutic waters in these terme can be enjoyed whilst admiring the splendid scenery of the surrounding mountains. These spas include the Bormio Spa, Bagni Vecchi, Bagni Nuovi in Valdidentro, and the Bagni of Masino.
Typical products of the local gastronomy are Bresaola PGI, the P.D.O.-certified cheeses Bitto and Valtellina Casera, the PGI-labeled apples of Valtellina, honey and mushrooms. The Bresaola, low in fat, is highly-recommended for the health-conscious and gourmands alike. Also worth tasting are the sausages, salame, bondiola and liver mortadella. Mushrooms, then, are widespread in the Valtellina and its environs, including the prized porcini, gathered in the dense woods of the valley. Finally, the most renowned dish here is the pizzoccheri, buckwheat pasta, topped with plenty of Alpine butter and Valtellina Casera cheese.
Let's move on to everybody's favorites, dessert and wine: the typical cake is Bisciola, also known as pan de fich, a type of sweet bread made with figs, nuts, raisins and dried fruits, often eaten at Christmas.
Viticulture plays a fundamental role in Valtellina's agriculture, remarkable given its difficult topographical and climatic conditions; the highly-adapted approach to cultivation here is the outcome of generations of labor and ingenuity in transforming arid rock into terraced vineyards, resulting in the famous DOCG (Denomination of Protected and Guaranteed Provenance) red wines: Sassella, Grumello, Inferno, Valgella, Maroggia and, above all, the Sforzato.