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Botticino

I don’t know if children in primary school learn that the Vittoriano, or Altar of the Fatherland, was built with our marble. This is true. It was extracted in Botticino, in the first years of the twentieth century, from important companies of Rezzato, also thanks to the involvement of Zanardelli.

The marble of the buildings in Brescia is botticino, it comes from the territory that is east of the hill Cidneo: the communes of  Rezzato, Botticino, Virle, Mazzano and Nuvolera. The Capitolium, the Roman Theatre, the Pallata, the Old Cathedral, the Broletto, the St. Francesco Church; the St. Maria dei Miracoli Church, the Loggia Palace, the Clock Tower, the defensive wall and the Castle; the New Cathedral…this is just a short list of the most important monuments, but it can give the idea of the economic greatness and importance of our limestone sediments, and the benefits that our cities derived from them.

Mining has really ancient origins in Botticino Mattina; in Brixia, during the imperial period, the Romans built their most important public buildings with the botticino. But, with the coming of architectural techniques and inferior-quality materials, mining decreased and the pits became place for lime furnaces. When better days came, Venice used our local marble and Querini gave to the Factory of the New Cathedral a push, and the noble families built their luxurious country houses. Economic crisis alternated with times of prosperity, during which the pits worked. The lives of the quarrymen, the medolér, depended on the continual ups and downs of the economy. The municipalities have recently cast light on the human problems of mining: exhausting efforts and a heavy toll in human lives.

Botticino was not just tied to marble. Its land is variegated, and it has been used for many activities. In the sixteenth century, the great woods, the vine on the hills and the fertile plains at the foot of the hills attracted many families who lived in the city. In Botticino Mattina there was a family, the Cazzago, who owned most of the land (about 2 million square yards), while in Botticino Sera the land, which was very wide, was divided amongst the Magini, Castelli, Arzignano and Trussi. The farmers and the patronizing noble families living together caused many contrasts and frequent fights. And when the rows turned into legal proceedings, the Venetian magistracy always favoured the city-dwellers’ proprietary rights. These measures led the people to take the law into their own hands, and in this cases the strongest one was always in the right. The misunderstandings lasted until XVIII century, with a furious quarrel due to the unfair behaviour of Giovanni Negroboni, a noble of the times, who helped his favourite men in the competition for the pieces of land, and hid the papers that proved the property of the natives.

This wariness towards foreigners was part of our culture…

The production of wood, wine, oil (there was also a wide cultivation of olives) and wheat from the plain area gave the city a sense of independence and economic comfort, also due to the activities in the lime furnaces and with the medolo (a sedimentary rock). The lime furnaces, rent to private companies or citizens, were the most profitable work for both Botticino Sera and Mattina. Also local people could make a living out of this job. The “Catastico” (1609-1610) by Da Lezze tells that in Botticino Sera “…more than 200 people worked every day…” The same number worked in Botticino Mattina.

Economic, religious and public events went on together.