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Reconstruction of a kitchen in the Valtellina, based on an inventory from the year 1377 and combined with archaeological data. Rendering by Francesco Sala.

The records from the Lombard Alps gather together and present inventories from the mountainous region of the present-day provinces of Sondrio and Bergamo in Italy. The first inventories were collected in 2019 by colleagues associated with the research project “Loc-Glob: Local Connectivity in an Age of Global Intensification,” which received financial support from the Ministero Italiano dell’Università e della Ricerca and from “Le radici di un’identità,” an initiative of the Fondazione Cariplo.

The Lombard mountains stretch across an extensive Alpine and pre-Alpine area that in the Middle Ages – roughly up until the first decades of the 14th century – was controlled by urban communes (Como, Brescia, Bergamo, and Milan). It then became part of the domains of the Visconti family of Milan. Overall, particularly as regards the pre-Alpine area near the four aforementioned cities, the urban influence was significant. It shaped the local economy in terms of raw material exports and manufacturing, local customs, and material culture.

Previous studies on object-based inventories from the Lombard Alps have been sporadic and chiefly conducted by local historians for ethnographic publications, and were often focused on the modern era. In addition to actual inventories, lists of objects occur in last wills and testaments. Some of these are of historical interest, as in the case of the wills of women from Bergamo (Brolis-Zonca). The corpus of medieval inventories from this area, therefore, has yet to be fully examined.

So far, inventories commissioned by public authorities in the medieval period appears to be an exceptional occurrence: only in Bormio – a large village at the heart of the Alps which in the Middle Ages retained a considerable degree of autonomy from Lombard cities – do we find cartularies issued by the commune to collect inventories pertaining to wards. To these we may add the inventories of documents stored in the local archives from the late thirteenth century onward (Martinelli; Pezzola; Della Misericordia). The vast majority of inventories, however, have been preserved unsystematically in notarial registers, along with deeds of various sorts. Particularly rich are the notarial archives of Sondrio, located in Valtellina, the large valley formed by the River Adda, and in Bergamo, where the records pertain to the rural area under the city’s control. This area included not just the extensive plain to the south, but also the Alpine and pre-Alpine stretch of land between the Adda and Oglio rivers. These two archives are among the best preserved in Lombardy.

The Archivio di Stato di Sondrio preserves nearly 600 notarial registers from the Middle Ages, starting from the year 1254, with some exceptional documents, such as the 168 medieval cartularies from the village of Morbegno, at the mouth of the Valtellina. Genuine inventories and lists of objects (recorded, for instance, within deeds of purchase) are quite common, particularly from the fifteenth century onwards. The Archivio di Stato di Bergamo, in addition, holds 233 cartularies from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and over 1,300 from the fifteenth century, only a portion of which concern the mountain area.

Most inventories from the Lombard Alps presented here have been collected from the Archivio di Stato Sondrio and pertain to the Valtellina. So far, roughly thirty notarial cartularies have been examined, containing some forty documents, including both genuine inventories (such as post-mortem) as well as lists of objects of different types. Another important resource for this area is the municipal archive of Bormio, which preserves inventories drawn up as part of legacies from the early fourteenth century onward. For the most part, these inventories record landed properties, and only list movable assets at the end. Post-mortem inventories and related acts pertaining to the division or merging of estates and churches are the most common among the inventories examined so far.

The team is currently conducting a detailed examination of documents from Valtellina, which focuses on cartularies from the archives of Sondrio and Bormio.

Work will begin shortly on notarial cartularies from the mountainous area to the north of Bergamo. In the future, we hope to broaden the investigation to the mountainous areas of Como, Brescia, and the Canton Ticino, and to include in the Bergamo collection the notarial cartularies preserved at the Angelo Mai Civic Library and the Diocesan Archives. The team is also working on a list of objects featured in customs records from this area.

The collection includes inventories produced in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. These offer privileged insights into the material culture of the Lombard Alps, with an extensive set of references to objects made of metal, soapstone, and wood. Particularly common among the items in soapstone are lebetes, container-pots exported from the Alps to the rest of Italy in the Middle Ages. Most of these objects are associated with the manufacturing industry of Lombard cities, especially Bergamo, which relied upon the natural and labor resources found in the mountainous areas to acquire and process raw materials. The Lombard Alps inventories list objects and artifacts that were, for the most part, locally produced. Frequent mention is made of agricultural implements, and sometimes metalworking tools such as anvils and hammers.

Among the highlights, we mention a 1377 inventory pertaining to the Church of San Bartolomeo in Castionetto di Chiuro, which provides a detailed inventory and room-by-room description of goods from the Castle of Grumello, in the Bergamo area.

The owner of this collection is Riccardo Rao. The majority of the records in the collection were transcribed by Riccardo Rao and Ilyes Piccardo, based on images filmed principally by the latter. Paolo Buffo helped revise the transcribed inventories for publication. Federico Zoni is responsible for comparing the evidence with available archaeological data, and Francesco Sala performed the 3D rendering.