The special position of the Spluga Valley has favored its use as a thoroughfare for travelers ever since prehistoric times. Back then, natural access existed since the rising temperatures of the planet had calmed the insistence of the last glacial freezes thus permitting passage from one slope to another within the Alpine chain. Subsequently, the people living on opposite sides of this Alpine divide had an increasing need for cultural and economic exchange and were therefore driven to utilize alpine pathways with greater frequency. Commercial, economic and military factors favored certain routes over others, and these passages gradually became larger and more fixed as time went by. Thus ancient Roman and medieval routes were established in the Spluga Valley connecting Italy to important centers in the upper-Rhine and Danube territory. However, when the technological advances of the 19th century allowed for the building of heavy-transport roads, the majority of these ancient trails were abandoned. Traces of routes established in different epochs are still visible today, most of them formed and revised no later than the 16th or 17th centuries. The present road that leads to the Chiavenna Pass was built between 1818 and 1822 by the Austrian authorities of the Lombard Venetian Reign who, following the Ulenna Congress, assumed control over the area in 1815. Since its construction, the road has undergone certain modifications due to serious flooding that has rendered its efficient maintenance a constant challenge. During the construction of the Montespluga artificial basin, filled in 1931, a long alternative road was built running around the Eastern side of this new lake. The road maintained its international importance until the end of the nineteen forties when it was still being used as a postal route, traversed by horse-drawn sleds in the winter season. However subsequently, when the San Gottardo tunnel was created, Spluga Pass gradually began to lose its strategic importance in terms of international and economic relations and was transformed into a mainly touristic and mountaineering means of access.

The plain where the village of Montespluga is situated became known as the "Plain of the House" because on its Northern edge a building called, "Ca' (dialect form of the word house) de la Montagna (mountain)" existed in ancient times; this edifice served as a shelter for travelers and beasts of burden and is the present-day site of the Vittoria Hotel. As an anonymous 16th century traveler noted, "If not for the refuge offered by this shelter, many men and mules might have perished in these mountains". He also describes how, as in many alpine shelters, when fierce winter snowstorms raged "a bell was rung to orient lost travelers and call them to merciful safety during violent storms". The shelter also functioned as an inn where merchants from the Rhine and Spluga Valleys could exchange goods, as well as a stopover point for the Lindau Coach, which from 1823 linked Constance Lake to Milan.



Val di Ciavenna. Su per lago di Como di ver Lamagnia è valle di Ciavenna dove la Mera fiume mette in essa lago. Qui si truova montagnj sterili e altissime chon grandi scogli. In queste montagnie li uccielli d'acqua dette maragonj. Qui nasscie abeti larice appinj, dainj stambuche, chamoze e teribili orsi. Non ci si po' montare se none a 4 piedi. Vannoci i villanj a tempi delle nevi chon grande ingiegnj per fare trabochare gli orsi giù per esse ripe. Queste montagnj strette metano i mezo il fiume. Sono a desstra e assinistra per isspatio di miglia 20 tutte a deto modo. Truovasi di miglio i miglio bone osterie. Su per detto fiume si truova chadute di acqua di 400 braccia le quale fanno belvedere. Ecci bon vivere a 4 soldi per ischiotto. Per esso fiume si chonduce assai legniame"

(Leonardo da Vinci)






History