The town of Parre

The Castle (Il Castello) seems to be what ancientsources call “Parra OromobiorumOppidum” (which means Parra fortified center of the Oromobi orOrobi);indeed, itstood on a riverterrace in a naturally defended and strategic position for the control of transit routes and access to resources, especially mining ones particularly abundant in this area of the Seriana Valley. The relevance of the site is confirmed by the toponymCastello (castle) The relevance of the site is confirmed by the toponymCastello (castle) ;indeed, the term often applies to upland protohistoric settlements without necessarily referring to the presence of a medieval castle. The importance of the site was already clear in the 19th century; actually, during agricultural works, several bronze artifacts (mostly fragmentary) of the 5th century BC were found in a well, considered by archeologists as a foundry worker’s storeroom. However, just between 1983 and 1994 , the area was excavated by the SuperintendenceforLombardy ArcheologicalHeritage, in orderto examine the archeological site. What you can see today in the museum and the archeological site is only a portion of the ancient town, even though deemed as the most relevant one to ascertain Parre’s long history.

Traces of the Bronze Age - The metallurgy

Consistent traces of a settlement dating back to the end of the Bronze Age (8th-10th century BC) have been found in Botti (Parre). Artifacts and structures discovered here show that metallurgical activity was carried out, particularly copper extraction from minerals,smelting, and casting in stone matrices. This artisanal activity was subsequently carried out at the Castle site, where copper was combined with tin to produce bronze. Since the second Iron Age, lead was worked probably exploiting the metalliferous deposits on the nearby Mount Trevasco.

The Iron Age - The village

Archaeological data tell us that the village of the Castle of Parre was founded between the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age. The most ancientstructures discovered there were connected to a natural ponor that had a cultural function at that time: in fact, some vessels interpreted as votive depositions have been found in it. Several constructive phases demonstrate that the village remained alive during the entire Iron Age; all the examined houses adhere to the “alpine house” model, quadrangular in shape, lower than the externalfloor, with perimeterwalls consistingof a stone base.The floors were made of rammed earth and could be covered or not by wooden planks, burnt clay or stone slabs. We do not know how the roof looked like. However, on the basis of excavation data, it is assumed that it was made of wooden or straw shingles; constant changes undergone by the site allowed to preserve only stone floors and walls. From some constructive details and the stratigraphic pattern of the deposit, it is assumed that houses had a raised floor. An infant’s grave together with a votive dimple from the end of the Iron Age shows some aspects of ancient rituality. The grave was inside a dwelling, thus following a well-established custom on the Central Eastern Alps; the child was buried with ceramic vessels including a small vase with an inscription on it, perhaps the name of the deceased. The votive dimple , containing traditional alpine tankards of metal and glass paste, is perhaps related to a foundation orrenovationceremony of an adjacent house. Probably thanksto itsmineralresources, in that period, Parre was engaged in trade with neighboring populations, particularly central Alpine and Celtic ones. The tangible existence of these contacts is visible from some objects - including pottery and ornaments with particularshapes - referring to cultures of other places. Parre’s role as an important trading center is also demonstrated by coins - particularly Gallic drachmas and Roman republican coins issued by different mints - that came here from distant places. During excavation work,stone, ceramic and bone items were found carryinginscriptionsin the North Etruscan alphabet. This demonstrates that, during the Iron Age, the writing was widespread in Parre.

The revival of the village - The Roman era

The site of Parre was abandoned at the end of the 1st century BC when the Romans conquered the Alps: probably due to their arrival, the human settlement underwent deep changes, making the Castle site notso efficient. From the end of the 2nd century to the 5th century AD the upland was inhabited again, perhaps for military reasons as the presence of particular coins used for soldiers’ wages could indicate. The dwellings of the Roman period, very similar to the protohistoric ones, differ from the latter for the building technique that foresaw the use of smaller stones, especially river pebbles, and for innovations brought by conquerors, namely bricks and mortar.

Parre and the Von Par family

After thorough historical research, Parre rediscovered the vicissitudes of the noble Belliboni family , originally from Casnigo, who became Barons of Parre; after the Republic of Venice subjugated the Seriana Valley in 1428 , they remained owners of a vast landed estate and continued to be important businessmen. The members of a Belliboni’s branch, that of Mark, preferred to follow Emperor Maximilian I to the Netherlands and then to Austria-Hungary, thus becoming the Paar, masters of the Post Office of the Habsburg empire. With courage, spirit of initiative, and organizational skills , the Paar obtained increasingly important positions by monopolizing the postal organization and extending the service to large portions of the empire. Thus, in the first half of the 18th century, Johan Cristoph Paar was the master of the postal service in Vienna, Austria, and Bohemia. Being in charge of postal activities, the Paar also assumed honorary titles. Even after the postal service was transferred to the state, the Paar retained the title of princes and counts and held prestigious positions in the service of the Austrian emperors with residence in Vienna and Bechygně. The contacts with the Paar, already invoked by Parre’s inhabitants (known as Parresi) during the tumultuous events of 1799, finally came into being in May 2002 when Prince Alfonso,Count Carlo and Countess Eleonora came back to Parre and were awarded Parre’s honorary citizenship. After a decisive meetingin August 2013, the inhabitants and the Paar’sintention to continue to write together an extraordinary history became clear.

The Mines

Even if it is still possible to find traces on Mount Alino, talking about minesin Parre means first and foremost referring to zinc deposits on Mount Trevasco, which attracted the attention of Italian and foreign entrepreneurs at the end of the 19th century Mount Trevasco is part of a mining district already known in the Middle Ages and perhaps since Roman times; indeed, handcrafted tunnels and ancient constructions are still visible there. The last decades of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century saw the most intense activity; however, aftermultiple recovery attempts, production was definitively interrupted in 1981. Alongthe 5 flanks of the mount, different gallery entrances together with dumps for unusable material are still visible: the levels are known as Val Galena, Alfa, Torino, Sèrèt, Zan, Benedecc’, and Santa Barbara. Together with the facilities at the bottom of the Dossana Valley - in Piazza Rossa - and the bridge connecting Parre’s slope with that of Premolo, the above-mentioned sites are at the center of several projects - partly already carried out and partly still to be implemented - dedicated to the safety and enhancement of this historical heritage.

Ol Costöm

It is difficult to precisely identify the origin of Parre’s folk costume , already in use at the end of the 17th century. Its original devotional meaning seems to be confirmed. In 1864, the historian Antonio Tiraboschi from Bergamo defined Parre’s clothing with these words: “The clothing is made of canvas, mixed wool, ribbons, and lace; these are all common things but worn by an inhabitant of Parre carry a meaning that they would not have otherwise.” Nowadays, the folk costume tradition is kept alive by the cultural association Costöm de Par and the folk group Lampiusa that since 1968 has been performing traditional dances in Italy and abroad as well as organizing folk gigs and festivals including the famous “Sagra del Capù” (Capù Festival) in the first week of August.

Ol Gaì

Gaì is a dialectspoken by shepherds from Bergamo and Brescia and mainly used in the Seriana and Camonica valleys.It is a peculiar language, similar to a code and now almost disappeared, which was common among all those moving frequently, as it was the case of those shepherds practicing transhumance. Gaì differs from Bergamo’s common dialect for its slowness, voice tone, the continuous use of allusions, periphrasis , and double meanings which, by compensating for its lexical poverty , makes it incomprehensible to those who do not know it. A cryptic language where facial expressions integrate and explain speakers’ pauses and silences: Gaì is not spoken, it is performed. The historian Antonio Tiraboschi defined Gaì as “a conventional language thatParre’s shepherds use when they do notwantto be understood;Gaìis even characterized by German expressions like Sdèghen , Jo , and Sméssen . Currently, Gaì has almost completely disappeared, but many words are still preserved in the normal “Parlata Parresca” (Parre’s parlance).

Parre’s shepherds

Who has never heard of it before? In Parre the vocation to sheep farming dates back to at least the 16th century and, according to some documents, at the beginning of the 18th century there were as many as 30,000 sheep owned by Parre’s shepherds. Every year, all the herds made a remarkable journey, the so-called “transhumance” , to Swiss pastures through the famous  "Sènter di Castrù". (Castrù trail). “Funtanì di gran mercàcc” ( lit. Fountain of big markets ) was the traditional departure point located in the Dossana Valley, basically a narrow gorge where sheep had to pass one by one.

Casa Della Pierina (Pierina's house)

Casa della Pierina: a house where time seems to have stopped at the beginning of the 20th century. Its owner, known in town as “La Pierina”, has always lived there with her father (a carpenter) until 2010 when she died at the age of 90. Her belongings show the typical lifestyle of the beginning of the last century, when people lived without gas and light, with an external latrine instead of modern sanitary facilities, and sleeping on a straw mattress of dry leaves. All the objects and utensils used daily by Ms. Pierina are still in the same place; among them,fashion notes and magazines, drawings, lace and ribbons used for tailoring, school notebooks, the books she loved to read together with opera librettos, all demonstrating her wide-ranging interests. This is how Ms. Pierina Bossetti lived until the new century began. Not only letters and notes are still on her desk recalling yesteryears, but also clothes, embroidered bedspreads, crockery of the 1920s, and rural tools of everyday life.This is a real house-museum where visitors can feel the atmosphere of the last century.

The house can be visited only during special events: at the end of June on the occasion of “Sapori e Tradizioni” (Flavours and Traditions Festival) and in mid-August for the “Sagra degli Scarpinòcc” (Scarpinòcc Festival); or by appointment, call +39 3317740890

Via Quintavalle 8c - 24020, Parre (BG) Italia.    info@prolocoparre.com  +39 331 7740890



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