• Tovo Testata

The small village of Tovo

The small village of Tovo stretches along the Gallavesa stream and was once home to productive settlements that exploited the flowing water of the stream through water wheels. Proof of this activity lies in the toponymy of the road network (Via Maglio, Via Torchio, Via Folla - Trim hammer, Press and Fulling mill street) and in some buildings now used for housing purposes.

Tovo is a very common toponym in the area and, from an etymological point of view, it should refer to the presence of water and tufa, two elements never lacking in this territory.


The Gallavesa is the longest stream of the upper Valle San Martino and its valley stretches down from Erve to the river Adda, dividing Calolziocorte from Vercurago. Over the centuries, the water of the stream flowing down the valley has carved a canyon of rare beauty that attracts geologists and nature lovers who often discover ammonites and fossil shells.

The name Gallavesa does not find its origin in the local dialect. In the area, the stream is actually called “lavall”. Someone suggests that the name of the stream would derive from a border represented by a floodgate, some kind of barrier or by the river itself (from the Venetian dialect Gala-Vesa, which means “old floodgate”). This hypothesis is confirmed by the presence of the remains of a sort of wall discovered along the stream.


The human presence around the Gallavesa stream dates back to very ancient times, but it is hard to say exactly when the industrial exploitation of its waters started. The earliest evidence of such an activity dates back to the late 15th century with a mill and a so-called “fóla”, a hydraulic machine for washing and fulling cloths (that is why the nearby town of Vercurago is also called “Folla”). During the second half of the 16th century, according to the report of a Venetian captain, in the area there were five mills located in what is now Via Tovo number 9 and 11, Vicolo Tovo number 3, Vicolo al Maglio and Vicolo alla “Fola”.

In 1850, the banks of the Gallavesa stream were exploited to the utmost with an intense presence of activities that helped create new jobs and boosted the economy of the area, making Tovo one of the driving forces in the economy of Val San Martino. At the time, along the river in Calolziocorte, mills, silk spinning houses, fulling mills and a press, all activated several flour through water wheels of different sizes. Later on, at the beginning of the 20th century, also the forge of a blacksmith, some wood lathes, and some workshops for the production of bone buttons, spindles and small objects for silk spinning made their appearance.

With the introduction of local plants, engines easily replaced the unwieldy water wheels, always in need of maintenance and repair. The first engine was assembled by the Panzeri family in their turner’s workshop in Tovo (in Via Tovo 14), during the first decades of the 20th century. The water mills fell gradually in a state of neglect. They were eventually dismantled in the Sixties, depriving Tovo of a peculiarity that today could have been exploited, even from a touristic point of view, as part of the industrial archaeology of the area. Nevertheless, the Gallavesa stream refused to give up its central role in the industrial activity for a long time: along the stream, three local plants continued producing energy until 1980 in order to provide important factories of the area such as the Factory of Barium Salts with electricity.


Going up along the stream, we arrive in the area of the trim hammer, where in 1850 Giacomo Bolis, father of Don Achille Bolis, owned a flour watermill and the attached house. Later on, Don Achille himself sold the whole complex to Pietro and Paolo Offredi. The two brothers transformed it in a trim hammer that was initially activated by two wheels that later, around 1930, were replaced by a single wheel made of iron, that was previously used in a flourmill in Erve, at the time disused. The trim hammer of the Offredi brothers is what is left of all the industrial activities of the area. It is still fully functioning with its belt drive system and until 1981, it was still used in the production of billhooks and scythes


Everybody knows that the famous work by Alessandro Manzoni, the Betrothed, was set in this area. When reality and fiction merge, it is never easy to identify the exact spots described by the author in real life. The line between what is real and what is fiction in very thin and always open to debate. For this reason, nobody can say for sure, but it is believed that the small village of Tovo is where the famous Malanotte, the tavern described by Manzoni, was located. There, the villain Don Rodrigo and his “bravi” would plan their mischief to the detriment of Don Abbondio, Renzo and Lucia.

According to the local tradition, having identified Tovo as the Malanotte tavern makes the Castle of Rossino the home of the Innominato. Although it would be impossible to find out for sure, there are still traces in the local tradition and in the toponymy of Tovo that corroborate such assumptions. One of its alley is in fact named after Malanotte.



La ruota idraulica che attivava il maglio degli Offredi
La ruota idraulica che attivava il maglio degli Offredi
Il maglio degli Ofreddi



  • DELL'ORO D., Conoscere la Valle. Atti dei seminari condotti in collaborazione con il comune di Calolziocorte: Il paesaggio, Comunità Montana Valle San Martino 1994.
  • NERI I., La valle del Galavesa, «L’Eco di Bergamo», 15 luglio 1957; Calolziocorte manzoniana. Dov’era la Malanotte?, «L’Eco di Bergamo», 2 marzo 1937 e Il castello dell’Innominato, «Giornale di Lecco», 19 aprile 1971 in Minuzzoli di storia e di vita di Calolziocorte, Calolziocorte 1978.