An ancient village. Bormio is one of the most interesting towns in the Alps, and its old town is a treasure trove of art that you absolutely must visit.
The streets of Bormio are filled with historic churches, buildings, farmhouses, portals, frescos, and other artistic finds that will keep you constantly looking up. The town’s history dates back centuries. In the Middle Ages it was an important commercial hub for trade with northern Europe, and consequently also saw a great deal of artistic and cultural exchange.
It just takes a quick glance at Bormio’s old town to imagine what artistic riches there must have been here in the Middle Ages. Over the centuries many towers and bell towers have collapsed or been incorporated into other buildings but even today the effect is striking.
We strongly recommend a guided tour of the old town. They are organised by local professionals who know every last secret of the town very well - and also know how to tell them.
But if for whatever reason you are unable to take a tour, here are the 5 things absolutely not to miss in Bormio’s old town:
The Church of the Holy Spirit, Bormio’s very own sistine chapel
Predates the XIV century.
A small deconsecrated church with a simple exterior showing some traces of frescos. The interior is filled with beautiful decorations from the 15th and 16th centuries with a recurring theme of the Holy Trinity and the Holy Spirit. In the presbytery there are scenes of the Annunciation.
On the side walls there are images of saints with their classic iconography, commissioned by private citizens according to their devotion. The vault was frescoed in the 16th century and you can admire the Trinity, the Apostles, the Virgin Mary, the Evangelists, the Fathers of the Church and the Prophets.
Piazza del Kuerc, the beating heart of Bormio
The Kuerc (local dialect word for lid) is the symbol of the town.
Constructed in wood in 1387, it was destroyed by fire in 1855 and subsequently rebuilt. Here justice was administered and the town councils were held. It has some unusual gargoyles in the form of dragons.
The clocktower (14th century) features coats of arms, a sundial and a painted clock. It was home to the Bajona, the large bell which in the past called the inhabitants of the area for meetings and festivals or warned them of dangers. When it was melted down, two smaller bells were made, the smaller known as Consiglio, and the larger still known as Bajona.
The Cortivo (piazza Cavour 3) was the seat of the archive, the council, storehouses and cellars. The facade displays historic insignia of the period of domination by the Milanese.
The Palazzo del Podestà (via Roma 1) was the seat of the tribunal and until the 1960s, the prison cells (including the Marza, the hardest of all, accessed by a hatch) as well as the school and the house of the chief magistrate.
Combo bridge, the access point
The arched bridge built directly on the rock assumed its current form in 1591. In the 18th century the two niches that distinguish it were built: the one to the left is dedicated to St. John of Nepomuk, protector from floods and drowning, painted ex-novo in 1996 on the base of a pre-existing drawing. To the right is a scene depicting the transport of the holy cross to Bellpuig in Catalonia. In the Middle Ages it was the only crossing point in the town over the Frodolfo stream. Nearby there was a customs house for those coming from the Gavia or from the south-east.
La chiesa del Crocefisso, the Church of the Holy Cross
The exterior is plain and linear, with a gable roof, a simple rose window and a fresco of Imago Pietatis (Man of Sorrows). The Lombard Romanesque-style steeple dates from the 1700s.
In contrast the interior is filled with colourful frescos dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries that depict scenes from the Passion of Christ, the life of St. Anthony, to whom the church is dedicated, and the Coronation of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Trinity. In the chapel to the right, you can find the wooden crucifix which even today is attributed with miraculous powers, while in the chapel on the left there are a number of ex-votos.
Palazzo de Simoni, seat of the Civic Museum
The palazzo stands on the remains of a medieval castle, of which the tower is still easily visible, and displays features typical of local aristocratic houses. On the facade there is a beautifully carved wooden door with wrought iron door knocker and bolt. The gate to the left leads to the walled garden with fruit trees which slopes gently downwards. The interior, home to the civic museum, is characterised by typical wood-lined rooms known as sc’tue. The small Our Lady of Good Counsel chapel is connected to the building (17th century).