The Stelvio National Park embraces a mountainous territory spangled with majestic peaks and moraine valleys, adorned with extraordinarily ornate ecosystems. The magnificent natural wonders are a backdrop to a landscape of pastures, terraces, farmsteads and fortifications, testimony to an ancient, respectful, human presence.
Certain traces of the first settlements are recognisable in the Solda and Trafoi valleys, major routes of communication from east to west. They began in the Bronze Age, a period in which there is proof of stable settlements on the Caschlin and Weiberbiidle hills, which created two major necropoli north of the park (Corces and Covelano).
With the end of the Bronze Age and in the subsequent Iron Age, the area saw the culture of Luca-Meluno flourish. Evidence can be seen in some groups of dwellings (Caschlinboden, Weiberbödele, Patleiboden) and in some open-air cultural sites connected to sources of water (Valnair, Tramantan and Solda, Tre Fontane, Bagni Vecchi di Bormio).
Throughout the Iron Age, contacts with the surrounding cultures appear to have been limited. The same influence of the Etruscan-Italic culture only appears in a few artefacts (stele of Bormio, depicting a warrior) and in the introduction of the use of the alphabet. Similarly, the great Celtic migrations of the 4th century BC did not permeate the cultural substrate of the so-called Rhaetian populations, which flourished in these areas in the second phase of the Iron Age. At the end of the Rhaetian war in 15 BC, which saw Claudius Drusus occupy Alto Adige and join his brother Tiberius, Augustus conducted a census on the region of Trentino and part of Alto Adige under the Italic Regio X (Venetia et Histria).
After the fall of the Roman Empire, this region saw the dominion of the Ostrogoths and the Franks, who used it as an outpost against the Longobard advance. This was followed by the invasions by the Huns of Attila, who destroyed many towns in the valleys of the Adige. In the 8th and 9th centuries, Charlemagne placed it amongst the territories of his Sacred Roman Empire, as “court”. The emperor founded the convent of the Benedictines of Müstàir (Monastery).
In the Middle Ages, the Lombard area of the Stelvio Park was part of the “Magnificent Land”. The name, reported in mediaeval documents, comes from the considerable richness of the area, both in naturalistic and economic terms, and refers to the countryside around Bormio. At the time, the countryside enjoyed enormous privileges connected to the taxing of goods in transit which crossed this area using the Alpine passes to reach northern Europe. In this period, the County of Bormio was a sort of small, independent, democratic state, governed by its own statutes, with its own army and with a power of “mere and mixed empire”. In the Late Middle Ages, the entire zone was controlled by the bishopric of Coira. In the 14th century, after the plague had decimated the local population, the Bavarians advanced via the Val Venosta and arrived in Silandro, where they began a slow process of Germanisation.
The main ecclesiastical principalities ceased to exist under Napoleon, who suppressed the monasteries and took away all the properties in Venosta from the bishop of Coira. In 1809, the Tyroleans rebelled against the French-Bavarian domination and fell under Austrian control. During the First World War, the area was the stage for continual struggles, ending with the definitive separation of this territory from the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. On 10 September 1919, the Treaty of Saint-Germain decreed the annexation of the Italian-speaking Southern Tyrol and the German-speaking Southern Tyrol (today’s Alto Adige) to the Kingdom of Italy, whereas the Brenner Pass became the new state border.
The twentieth century saw a decline in the population, as in other mountain communities, and seasonal emigration became permanent, especially in the second half of the 20th century. The cultivated spaces, including the woods and Alpine pastures, were gradually abandoned, as they no longer served family economy or trade. Nowadays, the rural landscape still features hay lofts, sawmills, mills, mountain pastures and masi (the term comes from the mediaeval Latin mansum, from the verb manere, to remain), typical examples of farmsteads, made of stone and timber as homes and to protect animals and store forage.