Mountain towns of Northern Italy — Isola di Fondra

Violet and the Flintstones in Isola di Fondra park — Isola di Fondra, Italy. Image by : me

Italy is a magical country — a country that inspires you to explore and create enduring memories. My treasured memories are full of family adventures, light backpacks and snacks, tears of gratitude, and breathtaking views.

The views often render me speechless, and always humble me. I’m blessed with a family that entertains my wanderlust. You see, I enjoy going on family adventures. When in the planning stages of a trip (“una gita” in Italian), I search for areas with parks, waterfalls, castles, mildly challenging hiking trails with gentle climbs in elevation, and places of historical interest.

Isola di Fondra, Italy in the Brembana Valley. Image by : me

We focus our experiences on nature and encouraging our daughter’s appreciation for and connection to Italy, specifically our region Lombardy. Lombardy region offers an infinite source of adventures combining our family passions. We pursue experiential learning (being a tactile learner myself), or “learning by doing”.

A few weeks ago, as I was virtually cruising around the Brembana valley (north of the city of Bergamo) on Google Maps, I noticed a town nestled at the base of Mount Torcola, called “Isola di Fondra” (or “Fondra” as the locals call it). As the weather was agreeable, we decided to begin our hike in the valley, then make our way slowly up to the villages above Fondra.

Gazing into the Brembo river. Bridge in background from 1805. Isola di Fondra, Italy. Image by : me

In approaching Fondra, the flow of the Brembo river beckoned us to park. The Brembo starts in Bergamo’s Alps and flows south for 46 miles until it reaches the mighty Adda river (which runs by our village, further south, east of Milan). We gazed in wonder at how the mountains and river embraced each other, and cradled the town itself.

Violet, our 12 year old, is learning about the rivers and mountains of Italy in her Geography class. As we stood by the Brembo river, she sensed the strength and power of its force and understood how water could carve out valleys in the mountains. Isola di Fondra is situated in one such valley.

Family crest of the Paganoni Family of Isola di Fondra, Italy. Image by : me

As we absorbed nature’s beauty, we strolled over to the town bakery to pick up a snack. The Paganoni family, whose family name is concentrated in Lombardy region and which is imprinted on the building above, runs the town bakery. They make delicious cheese and butter from their own cows.

The family name possibly issues from the Latin (as many Italian words do) of “pagus” meaning a villager, someone who lives outside of the city, which would lend to an agricultural-based life and mastery of agricultural-based products such as cheese and butter.

This is a plausible theory, as the Paganoni family also has ties to the villages Cornelli and Pusdosso, nestled above on Mount Torcola (which I will introduce in future writings) and which provide ample grazing opportunities for their cows.

The Brembo river — Isola di Fondra, Italy. Image by : me

Fondra is also known for its sources of copper, iron, silver and other metals quarried from the nearby mountains. It’s believed this is where the town received its name — stemming from the Italian word, “fonderia” meaning “foundry”, or a place where metal is heated, liquified, then poured into molds to form objects (in Fondra’s case, nails).

At 2600 ft elevation, Fondra hosts only about 180 residents. Many towns situated at the base of mountains struggle with dwindling populations, as residents move to nearby cities for work and the solicitations of convenient city life. This leaves towns such as Fondra to their quiet, tranquil existences. It’s an area that attracts seekers of slower living and connection to nature.

The Brembo river in Isola di Fondra, Italy. Image by : me

Strolling through Fondra, the congestion and blaring sounds of the city disappear. Industry is replaced by the whistling of the mountain breeze and the trickling of the Brembo river. The water here is clean, crisp, and refreshingly chilled. One of the pearls of Italian culture, the water fountains (marked with signs “acqua potabile” — drinkable water) dispersed throughout Italy, offer clean water access to all.

Isola di Fondra, in the Brembana valley of Lombardy region, is a treasure of peace in a world that seems to be ever increasingly surging towards chaos. With the Brembo river providing a meditative backdrop, and surrounded by the lush regenerative greenery of the Bergamo Alps, Fondra is an oasis of healing. A town that few know of, even fewer will experience, and for this I share our adventures with you in the hopes that some of the peace that we felt here will wash over you.

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Extroverted Introvert fumbling my way through northern Italy, exploring mountain villages, waterfalls, castles, and family adventures.

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Denise M. Day

Denise M. Day

Extroverted Introvert fumbling my way through northern Italy, exploring mountain villages, waterfalls, castles, and family adventures.

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