Of Roman origin and highly active in the times of the Longobards, in the XIV century the city was dominated by the Viscontis and, later on, by the Sforzas. In 1336 it became a part of the Dominions of the dukedom of Milan, and included the entire Valtellina until 1512, in which year it came under the power of the Grigionis and was the seat of the governor and the administrative centre of the entire valley. During this very period, the town enjoyed one of its most significant economic and commercial developments, and knew how to take advantage also of its geographic position, in the middle of one of the busiest roads of that epoch. From 1797, with the advent of Napoleon, Sondrio was part of the Cisalpine Republic and, in 1805, it became the capital of the Adda and Oglio department. From 1815 it was the capital of the province of the Lombard-Venetian Kingdom and, in 1859, after being freed by Garibaldi, it entered the Kingdom of Italy.
The town and its monuments
Sondrio is crossed by the Mallero stream and has considerably developed in recent years. However, side by side with some large modern buildings, it has kept intact the characteristics of an alpine village. It is, above all, a transit town for tourism heading toward Switzerland and the main holiday locations. Furthermore, it has a clearly defined identity, which is reflected in the monuments in its territory. The town centre is characterised by the palazzos Sertoli and Sassi, situated near Piazza Quadrivio, by Castello Masegra which can be seen from Piazza Garibaldi, by the Collegiate Church of Saints Gervasio and Protasio and by the municipal town hall of Palazzo Pretorio. The town offers some interesting exhibitions, including the Valtellina Museum of History and Art, which contains frescoes, wooden statues, jewellery and holy art. The outlying wards are situated on the slopes around the town. Until the second post-war period, they were used for agriculture, but are today true residential suburbs, characterised by monuments such as the church and Convent of San Lorenzo (formerly the San Giorgio Castle) in SantAnna, the church of San Bartolomeo Mossini and, lastly, the Church of the Madonna della Sassella.
The geographical area
The town is part of the territory which is commonly known as "the other Lombardy", the mountainous part, with generous water resources, but for many years a poor area due to its mountainous fabric which considerably influences its daily activities and life. In the course of time, the towns developed mainly in the valley bottoms and along the path of the river Add, where agriculture is more intense. The province of Sondrio extends to include the Retiche Alps, with the perennially snow-capped peaks of Stelvio and Spluga, Valtellina and finally Valchiavenna, which finishes at Lake Como. The most important centres of the province are: Bormio, a summer and winter holiday location situated at the outlet of the Valfurva; Livigno, a town spread out on the valley bottom of a glacial hollow, with modern skiing equipment, and appreciated also as a non-custom centre, where some products can be bought tax-free; Tegno, the ancient capital, which has given its name to the valley.