Church of Santa Perpetua
Up on a mountain not far from the Basilica of Madonna di Tirano, and close to the Swiss border is a very old church called Santa Perpetua.
The view of Tirano and Madonna di Tirano from Santa Perpetua is spectacular.
It is possible to walk up to the church, but make sure to have good walking shoes which are not slippery if the weather is wet.
IL SANTUARIO DELLA MADONNA DI TIRANO
This church, called either IL SANTUARIO DELLA MADONNA DI TIRANO or LA BASILICA DELLA MADONNA DI TIRANO is the landmark of Tirano and Madonna di Tirano. It is important to Catholics for the reason that it is said that on 29 September 1504, La Madonna (Mary) appeared to a man named Mario OMODEI. The church was built on the spot of the apparition. Every 29 September, there is an anniversary mass of the apparition.
Not only is it a place of religious importance, but it is also a beautiful building.
The church is a part of the Diocese of Como.
It is open every day from 7am to 12:15, and from 14:30 to 19:00.
There may be some variations of opening hours during some months.
There are also of course Masses held here.
When you walk down the main street, Viale Italia, towards the Swiss border, you will see the Church/Basilica. It is lit up beautifully at night, too.
The following further information about it is on the official Valtellina website:-
"According to tradition, in the twilight hours of the 29th September 1504 the Virgin Mary appeared to Mario Omodei of Tirano promising an end to the plague upon condition that a shrine would be built in her honour on the exact spot where the Virgin Mary appeared, near the Folla bridge and outside the walls of the city. The people of Tirano, comforted by a series of ‘miraculous’ events, galvanized so much so that during a solemn ceremony on 25 March 1505, the first stone was laid at the bottom of the small medieval church of Santa Perpetua.
The sanctuary with three cross-shaped naves is the most beautiful example of the Renaissance in Valtellina. It is rich with stuccatures and sculptural works, a colossal organ, and its priceless etching, which begun in 1608 by Giuseppe Bulgarini of Brescia and finished in 1638 by G.B Salmoiraghi of Milan. Thanks to its location the sanctuary has always been full of visitors from all across Europe. In 1946 Pope Pio XII described the Virgin Mary of Tirano as the “special patron saint of all of Valtellina”."
- Historical Travel
Annual Chisciöi Festival
Chisciöi is a Valtellinese dialect word, and sounds more Germanic than Italian. It is sort of pronounced like "ki-scherl". It is a dialect Borte's grandparents used to speak.
Chisciöi are delicious rustic "pancakes" (that may not be the best word) made of buckwheat flour (also called black flour by the Italians, or "farina nera" in Italian, or Saracen or "saraceno" flour) and white flour, plus cheese.
Borte's grandmother used to make these.
They are eaten with a salad usually with a bitter leaf, and to the salad, add balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
There is a festival in August every year, in Tirano to celebrate this dish.
But do not wait until August to try these. You can find them year round. Go to one of the restaurants in Tirano (see our tips) or the nearby villages such as Roncaiola, (go to Osteria Roncaiola - see our tip), and look for them usually on the entrée/starter section of the menu. And follow that with a plate of pizzoccheri!
For a recipe of this dish, see our tip or travelogue.
- Food and Dining
Monument to Emigrants
In a small courtyard or piazza in Tirano is a monument to the Valtellinese people who left the Valtellina and migrated to other places, many times far far away to places like Australia and the USA.
Some of those Valtellinese emigrants were Borte's maternal grandparents. Borte's nonna left Roncaiola near Tirano with her mother and younger sister in 1937 to go to Australia where Borte's great grandfather had settled years earlier.
Borte's grandfather left his Valtellinese village Montagna in Valtellina in 1933 to go to Australia where two of his brothers and father had already settled. His father had first arrived in Australia in 1910, and went back to Italy in 1913. Then returned to Australia. Then went back to Italy in 1927, and returned to Australia with one son in 1928. Borte's great grandmother came to Australia with one daughter in 1936 to reunite with her husband who had been away from Italy for years.
One great uncle left Italy in 1928, went to Australia, and applied for naturalisation.
There are many such stories of emigration and immigration. Many Valtellinese and many other Italians left Italy.
Borte's grandparents never went back to Italy after they had left.
They got out of Italy before World War Two.
It was not always easy for Italian migrants in Australia, especially since Italy had initially sided with Germany in both World War I and WWII. Many who were not naturalised were interned in prisoner of war camps, not for any crime. Just for being "Italian". This happened to some of Borte's relatives.
- Historical Travel
Every year, around mid September is the “Pizzocchero d’Oro”, or "Golden Pizzocchero" in Teglio, not far from Tirano, to celebrate this much loved pasta.
La Sagra dei Pizzoccheri, or The Festival of the Pizzoccheri is celebrated in July, also in Teglio.
In plural, "pizzocchero" is "pizzoccheri".
Pizzoccheri are a type of pasta - a flat ribbon pasta, made with a combination of buckwheat flour (also called black flour or "farina nera" in Italian, or Saracen or "saraceno" flour) and white flour.
The buckwheat flour is predominant, and so the colour of pizzoccheri or any pasta made with buckwheat is a greyish-brown colour.
There is however another type of pizzoccheri, "white pizzoccheri", or "pizzoccheri bianchi" of the area around Chiavenna. They look different from the other pizzoccheri which use the buckwheat, and a form of gnocchetti, usually made from white wheat flour and dry bread.
Pizzoccheri (the buckwheat ones) are usually cooked with vegetable such as Swiss Chard or Savoy Cabbage, and potatoes (usually cut into small cubes). And there is plenty of cheese added. The cheese used in the region is usually Casera, a Valtellinese cheese, as well as ground Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano. There is also garlic and sage.
Pizzoccheri in the packet can also be found in the supermarket, ready to boil up at home.
Pizzoccheri can be found on the menu all over Tirano and other places in the Valtellina, all year round. You do not need to wait for a festival, or go to Teglio to try this superb tasty rustic dish.
- Food and Dining
War Memorial Obelisk
In Tirano there is an Obelisk which has the names of those men from Tirano and nearby villages who died in World War One.
Considering it is a place with a small population, there are quite a lot of names on the memorial. Many if not all Tiranese families were affected by the war, with many losing a son, a husband, a brother.
On the obelisk, we looked for the family surnames of Borte's relatives, and yes, there were some with the surname.
And in the left of the photo, there is a village on the mountain. That village is Roncaiola, the village where Borte's grandmother was born.
- Historical Travel
Annual Apple and Grape Festival
In early October every year in the Valtellina, there is an Apple and Grape Festival to celebrate the autumn/fall harvest of apples and grapes in the area. In Italian, the festival is called "Sagra della Mela e dell’Uva”, (The Apple and Grape Festival).
The festival is held Villa di Tirano, and people from other towns and villages in the Valtellina will come to celebrate in honour of the "brugnola" grape and the "melavì" apple, which are the main products of Villa di Tirano.
During the event, everythig is dedicated to these two products, and many of the local restaurants will offer a menu based only on the two fruits.
There are vineyards all over the Valtellina, and wines are produced in the area.
- Arts and Culture
- Wine Tasting
The Annual Bitto Cheese Festivals
Every year in mid-late middle October, not far from Tirano, in Morbegno is the annual Bitto cheese festival called "Mostra del Bitto" in Italian, and the Regional Festival of Products of the Lombard Mountain called "Fiera Regionale dei Prodotti della Montagna Lombarda", where products of the region including cheese and wines are showcased.
In the middle of September every year is the “Sagra del Bitto”, in Gerola Alta, a part of the Valtellina, that promotes "Bitto" cheese. How to get to Gerola? From Milan or St. Moritz you need to head toward the Valtellina and follow the State Highway 38 in the direction of Sondrio. Once you reach the first traffic light in Morbegno, take the first right to Valgerola. Proceed for about 15 kilometres until you reach the village of Gerola.
Bitto is a major cheese variety of the Valtellina. There is even a website for Bitto cheese: http://www.bittocheese.com/
The word Bitto is said to derive from the Celtic word "bitu" which means "eternal". Bitto cheese is nicknamed the Eternal Cheese.
It is said that the Celtics introduced cattle to the Alpine valleys after the Romans drove them out of Pianura Padana. The Celts began cattle breeding, and from the milk production came the cheese making.
Some herdsmen took their cattle to higher altitudes but faced the problem of how to preserve the milk their cows produced, and carry it down to the valley? They transformed the milk into cheese, a long-life cheese. It is claimed that Bitto "Valli del Bitto" is the only cheese in the world which can ripen for more than 10 years. The tradition was passed down through the generations, and Bitto cheese is still produced, and greatly celebrated every year through the festivals.
- Food and Dining
- Arts and Culture
The Tourist Office
The Tourist Office, where I was given a map of Tirano, is located just in front of the railways station.
There was a lady an dwas very nice. She informed me about an Internet cafe, where I could have lunch with good local wine and the prices of the train to Milano.
- Budget Travel
From the mountains around Tirano you can see a wonderful landscape over Valtellina. It's great. I suggest to see it on sunset or dawn.
- Hiking and Walking
Basilica della Madonna di Tirano
The most important monument of Tirano is the Basilca della Madonna di Tirano. It was build on 25 of March 1505 by Rodari brother. Inside you can see fantastic decorations.
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