One day in Valvestino


While staying in the hotel on a rainy day, I read an interview in a local newspaper called ‘Enpiasa’ that Milena had with an old shepherd still living in the Valvestino mountains. I asked her for instructions on how to get there or if it was possible at all. She suggested to drive to Gargnano and follow the road towards Navazzo, after the traffic light on the right, until  Lake Valvestino, a wild mountain dam. Before reaching  a bridge on the right there is a path no. 51 that takes you along a stony road. At the level of a small river you will find the sign for  path no. 51 again, at this point you have to park and go onon foot, a 1 hour walk to reach Droane. Cross the little river from the bridge and climb the mountain until you will see, in the distance, the Silvio house, the old Shepherd with the long beard. One could tell that this is his house from the wild apple trees still hanging there for birds. If Silvio is at home, it is possible that he would eventually come out as his dogs would bark to let him know that in this lost place finally someone has come for a visit. Be friendly and exchange some words,  he would love to show you his goats, chickens and animals, as all alone in this place there is never someone to talk to.  Silvio became 80 on the 12th of march  2012 and in 2014 his sister died. Well, who knows, by the time you read this story whether Silvio might still be there. However when I came here he invited me inside, offered me a coffee  and told me a lot about his long life as a shepherd. The interesting thing about this place called Droane is the fact that there are three houses very distant from one another each belonging to three people that are related as cousins. If one walks past Silvio’s one sees the house of his cousin Tiene, he is a nice person too, his best friends are 100 white pigeons that live on his roof. Tiene might invite you inside. If you are lucky and Tiene is at home you might ask him to visit the little church of Saint Vigilio. This church is emblematic to understand the history of this peculiar place.
It was in the years between 1500-1530 when in this place, that used to be a village, the pest or the black death came and killed almost all in town. At that time there were almost 150 inhabitants and only 2 survived. These were two old ladies, two sisters who survived the pestilence as they had hidden in a goat barn and the terrible smell of the male goat protected them from the illness. When the illness was over they found themselves alone in a village full of dead people. So they decided to move away and reached the village of Magasa. But here people chased them away as they feared the infection. So they had to turn back and moved towards Tignale, but on their way one of the ladies died of weakness and hunger. The remaining sister managed to reach the village of Aer where people welcomed here.  When the woman died she left as a testament not only the land but also the will that on the 26th of June the people who lived on that land had to erect a church and organise a feast dedicated to Saint Vigilio and distribute to everybody a ton of bread. Still nowadays the village of Droane celebrate this day, and from all the towns around people arrive here as in a pilgrimage to celebrate the feast of bread in her honour. All around the church and Tiene’s home there are tables and benches that host all the people gathering here. Behind the little church there is a white cross and it is said that on that spot all the bones of the pest’s dead are buried. If one walks up towards the Pavarì mountain it is still possible to see the ruins of the ancient village under the thorny growth.
However, at this point I decided to close the circle by visiting the third cousin, Gianni at almost 500 meters distance. His house is the biggest of all. He also lives in simple conditions on only one side of the house which used to be the original birth place of their ancestors. Apparently the three cousins never talk to one another because of ancient quarrels which have been passed from one generation to the other. From Gianni’s house the path goes down the hill and is linked to the path that brings one back to the beginning where my car was parked. I walked back not only from the village but almost as though awoken from a journey back in time. I was wondering how the life of these three people might be. I promised myself to come back on the  26th of june for the bread feast. It might be an occasion to learn more about this peculiar place.


Tales of a guest