Via del Ferro (Iron Way) is an interesting themed route created and installed by the Comunità Montana Val Brembana (Brembana Valley Mountain Community) in 2004, linking the disused mines and smelting furnaces in the Valtorta valley to Mezzoldo. More specifically, the route runs from Falghera di Valtorta (altitude 1,145 m) to the hamlet of San Giovanni di Mezzoldo (altitude 798 m), covering a distance of about 25 km and a vertical ascent/descent of 870 metres.
The itinerary consists of sections on paths, mule tracks, dirt or asphalted municipal or provincial roads. The aim of this operation was to reveal and highlight a historical theme of notable importance for this western sector of the Brembana valley basin, which has long seen the quarrying of ferrous metals exported both over the Orobic ridge and down to the plains, and in many cases with semi-finished products from the valley’s forges.
The area’s long economic history has had social, political, geographical and even linguistic implications over the centuries (such as the introduction of Nordic terms as a result of the presence of Germanic workers).
The geographical influences are due to the fact that for a long time, Valtorta was part of Milan’s territory, along with the nearby Valsassina valley – another important mining area.
The political repercussions reflected the supremacy of noble families from Milan or Como, such as the Torriani.
The social effects were caused by the involvement of the entire local community in this particular trade, not just the hard work of the miners, but also ancillary professions, ranging from woodcutters to charcoal burners, from muleteers to blacksmiths. In fact, the Iron Way is without doubt one of the four great historical hiking routes in the Val Brembana Valley.
In order to provide hiking routes that have the greatest possible separation and/or protection from vehicular traffic, for the Via del Ferro (Iron Way), we are presenting an alternative route already in existence and named the “VARIANTE ALTA” (upper route) which can be briefly summarised as a path connecting a series of locations, namely Santa Brigida, Cusio, Colle della Maddalena, Ornica, Colle Dudello, Cantello and Valtorta.
From a historical perspective – one of the most important elements in tracing the route – the reference used was a map published in 1963 in a book by economist Armando Frumento, titled “Imprese lombarde nella storia della siderurgia italiana” (Lombard enterprises in the history of the Italian iron and steel industry).
In this work, under the heading “Vie di comunicazione siderurgica della Valsassina nel Settecento” (Routes used in the 18th century for the transport of iron and steel in the Valsassina valley), it can be seen that the two main trading routes for iron ore both into and out of Valsassina, as part of the “Terre di San Marco” (Lands of St. Mark), were:
1) the river Stabina Way at the foot of the valley, from Olmo al Brembo to Valtorta;
2) the “high altitude” Way from Averara/Santa Brigida to Cusio and Ornica. These paths were repeated and confirmed by maps both dating back to those times and later on, right up to the surveys made by the Military Geographical Institute at the end of the 19th century.
The route presented here retains these historical characteristics, which are in part also reflected by the physical structure of the respective paths, further validating its authenticity.