Labyrinths, secret passages, narrow connecting tracks, impenetrable tunnels hiding secret treasures and trunks full of golden coins… Here is a little hint of what you might find in the plains near Bergamo, right under castles and fortresses. Tales, legends and maybe a bit of truth weave intriguing and captivating folklore stories.
In Malpaga, during the Second World War, a commando of German and Slavic soldiers settled down. The soldiers raided the castle looking for a hiding place for ammunition and food. In the process, they found a secret passage: a 10-metre-deep tunnel going from the North side of the castle to the fortress of Cavernago, about a kilometre away. The gallery is now blocked in several points and cannot be explored due to the collapse of walls and debris.
Treviglio was said to be connected to the castle of the “Innominato” (“The Nameless”, a character in Alessandro Manzoni’s “I Promessi Sposi”, one of the most prominent Italian literary works of the 17th century) in Brignano by three long subterranean ways. Via Carcano, via Roma and via Cesare Battisti were the starting points of these culverts which are said to guard amazing treasures. A fourth tunnel, according to the story, would lead to Caravaggio.
A gallery, never mentioned in historical memoires or legends, was found a few years ago in Soncino, in via San Pio V, during maintenance works on the hydraulic system. The track had been built over half a century before by some unknown explorers chasing wine flasks. The tunnel, in fact, led to the parish of San Giacomo in Soncino, and was probably quite crowded, so much that the priest don Angelo Deste, irritated by the continuous burglaries, decided to wall it up. The fortress of Pagazzano, too, would also hide a secret passage to the castle of Brignano. The mystery is celebrated in the stories that grandparents still nowadays tell the children. The castle was the stage for bloodstained challenges, and amongst its residents we can count the most illustrious poet Francesco Petrarca and the fearsome Bernabò Visconti.
Ghastly legends flourish around the cryptic basements of the Torre Pallavicina castle. Their exact mapping remains unknown. Enemies trying to find the landlords hiding under the castle usually fell trapped in a pit and sliced down to pieces. Only trusted person knew the correct way to access the building without getting caught in the blades.
But the underground of our territory doesn’t enshrine only inaccessible and sinister places. Castles and fortresses also guard treasures and trunks full of jewels. In Romano di Lombardia, a subterranean room of the Rocca allegedly contains Barbarossa’s imperial chariot, although nobody would ever venture down there to find it. In Martinengo, under the fortress there would be a small part of the Colleoni’s treasure, precisely a chest with 70,000 golden ducats. When Bartolomeo Colleoni died in 1475, before his heirs could take over his patrimony and 150,000 golden ducats, a group of messengers came from Venice and sealed the door of Captain Colleoni’s house, taking away 80,000 coins.