• Foto © Giuliano 57

The Castle of Somasca

Today La Rocca is under the municipality ofLecco, as part of the suburb of Chiuso. This castle is located on a hill, 185 meters above the sea level, above the village of Vercurago and the Lake of Garlate and is universally known as the so-called Castle of Somasca of the Innominato.


During the early Iron Age, the territory of Lombardy in the west, Piedmont in the East and the Canton of Ticino was one large cultural area, in which Celtic tribes established their villages as part of the Celtic Golasecca culture. In particular, the Lecco area was occupied by the tribes of the Orobi founders, who, according to some ancient sources, came from Como and Bergamo and lived in the area between Lugano and the river Serio. The Golasecca tribes became trading partners with the Etruscans in the trading affairs with the transalpine Celts, but the invasion of the Gallic tribes in 388 BC. interrupted the exchanges and doomed the Golasecca culture to its end.

In 1988, some excavations carried out near the Rocca led to the identification of a village of the Golasecca culture dating back to the period between the XI century BC. and the V century BC. The work, the erosion and the systematic spoliation of the land to find building materials for the nearby Rocca from the XVI century did not allow the identification of well-defined structures and the remains that were found appear to be related only to later developments of the settlement.

The importance of the site lies in its strategic location that allowed the control of all communication routes towards the valleys in the Alps, the upper lake and the area between lake and river. In addition, in the V century BC, this hill was a perfect outpost to watch over the piedmont road that connected Bergamo to Como and the ford of the river Adda near the Lake of Garlate, which was the main link between the Etruscan settlements in the Po valley and the princely residences of the Celts from beyond the Alps.


The castle used to be a very ancient settlement, as the remains of some settlements of the Golasecca culture and of a military outpost built by the Romans or in the early Middle Ages seem to suggest.

In 1286, the hill was defended by a little citadel by the Benaglio family, a feudal family allied of the Della Torre family against the Visconti family. From the 1253 on, the citadel was connected to a defensive fortification located near the shores of the Lake of Garlate, which was called Chiusa and represented the western boundary of the district of Bergamo.

In the Municipal Statutes of the city of Lecco, written in the second half of the XIV century, the cluxa and the rocha were both owned by the Visconti family, together with the castle of Lecco and its fortified bridge which represented the commercial customs as well as the southern-oriental border of the municipality of Lecco.

Starting from the third decade of the XV century, the Rocca, that at the time had become an outpost of the Republic of Venice as part of the plan to expand to the Lecco area, became the protagonist of bitter disputes with the Duchy of Milan. After the Treaty of Lodi was signed in 1454 establishing permanent boundaries between Milanese and Venetian territories along the banks of the Adda, near the Chiusa, a “no man’s land” was created, some hundreds of meters long and even the area of the Rocca was left without a definitive allocation, pending further agreements between the parties.

The French destroyed la Rocca in 1509. Its remains were later occupied by Milanese and Venetian soldiers who managed to build some lodgings in order to control the people passing through to go and pray in the hermitage of San Girolamo and the peasants who had to cross the border to reach their farms.

Diplomatic incidents were not so rare at the time with plenty of pretexts: poaching, unauthorized works on the banks of the Adda, someone moving the boundary stones, the arbitrary arrests of inhabitants, the disputes for the management of land and forests between the valley communities, the smuggling and raids of criminal gangs who did not fail to take refuge across the border, often with the connivance or complicity of the authorities. Those raids, carried out by military like groups under the control of local lordlings who had it their ways taking advantage of the uncertainty in the frontier areas, were a particularly serious and oppressive problem for the population.

Not even the new Austrian rulers in the XVIII century were able to eradicate this plague. The boundaries were precisely established only in 1756, along the old walls of the castle that were still visible, attributing the entire castle to the Milanese administration. During the series of battles in April 1799 against the Napoleonic troops, the Chiusa and the Rocca represented an obstacle to the Austro-Russian coalition and appear to be in fact hit by some Cossack cannon-shots.


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