Strolling up the thoroughfare into the old town center of Bienno, Italy my eye was caught by a stately house whose gate was slightly ajar and I could glimpse the garden that lay beyond. My curiosity got the best of me and I just had to have a peek. Inside revealed a lovely courtyard with manicured lawn and hedges. As I admired the setting an older gentlemen greeted me and I excused myself for being a “looky loo” explaining that I had been enticed by the beauty of his home. He was gracious and invited me in and gave me a tour of his garden and patio. Workers were busy readying the premises for a family party the next day. And what event it was going to be. Inside the patio he had an automated spit to roast an entire pig with enough seating and settings for a small army. He told me the following day his large family was coming to visit for the beginning of the arts and culture festival the Mostra Mercado that is held every August and is the highlight of their summer season.
The friendly conversation with the local gentleman was our introduction to Bienno and this hospitality continued as Franz and I wandered the ancient walkways of what has been voted “One of Italy’s most beautiful cities.” We took in the fine ironwork and colorful facades and found the shop owners welcoming and their products were not of the typical variety found in many tourist towns. One such establishment was a traditional leather maker who not only fashioned custom shoes but created scabbard sheaths for swords. Another fascinating building was the Forge Workshop whose facade displayed the artistic work that this “iron born” town had been known for in supplying tools and weaponry. Overlooking the village is a fifteenth century water mill that is still in use and was manned by an elderly couple that sell the freshly ground products. Bienno brought back to life its proud past and is a testament to its amiable people and their creative craftwork all nestled into the fairytale mountain valley.