The history of Valtrompia
According to historical records, the Celts invaded the flat areas around the River Po around 400 b.C.. However, they were unable to conquer the northern valleys of the Brescia region due to the locals’ strong opposition and resistance. Later on when parts of Northern Italy – known as “Gallia Cisalpina” (picture 1) became part of the Roman Empire, the valleys represented a big headache for the Romans as their people would not stop fighting. The Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus had to send his stepson Druso on a mission of war to subjugate the tribes who lived in these pre-alpine valleys. The “Valle Trompia” valley - located to the North of Brescia - was certainly one of them. The native fought long and hard, but eventually surrendered to the Roman domination that started in 15 a.C.
At the beginning the Roman ruled with an iron fist, but in time they became more tolerant and adopted smart policies, which allowed the people to take advantage of all local natural resources. The foundations of a very strong economy were laid – the presence of iron ores made it possible to manufacture many items of general use with big emphasis on weapons (picture 2) and accessories (picture 3 ).
Once the Roman Empire fell apart, the Lombards – a people of Germanic origins led by Alboino - moved from Northern Europe all the way down to Italy. They arrived and settled in Northern Italy in 568 and from there extended their domain to pretty much the entire Italian region.
In 774 the Lombards lost all their territories to Carlo Magno and the Franks.
The history of Valle Trompia is the history of Northern Italy and of all the people who dominated it. Such a rich history is very difficult to summarize in just a few lines. But, no matter who was ruling at any given time, they all heavily relied on the work of local artisans from Gardone Val Trompia to build their weaponry.
During the last millennium, many different people and families ruled the country. It was from 1404 to 1420, under the Visconti and Malatesta Families that the firearm industry grew exponentially. In 1406 craftsmen who built weapons were first allowed to trade every weapon and tool (pictures 4-5-6-7) they made employing the iron coming from the local ores. That was in full swing in 1426 when the Visconti lost their control of the region to the “Serenissima” Republic of Venice (picture 8) The Serenissima were in favor of all trades, regarded gun makers from Gardone very highly and helped them become respected for the quality of their work and expand their markets. (pictures 9-10-11).
On 17th October 1797 the Treaty of Campoformio ended the Republic of Venice and created The Cisalpina Republic. From 1805 to 1815 the entire Brescia region was part of the “Regno italico” (Kingdom of Italy”). The huge need for weaponry during Napoleon times gave new life to the gun making industry in the Valley in general and in Gardone in particular. (pictures 12-13-14)
The Napoleon Era also came to an inevitable decline and an end. In 1813 Austrian troops came down through the Trentino region and entered Gardone first and then Brescia: the army of the “Regno Italico” kept things under control for a short while, but in 1814 the Austrian army defeated them and conquered the area. After the Congress of Vienna (1815), Lombardy and Veneto were annex to Austria and formed the “Regno Lombardo Veneto” (Kingdom of Lombardy and Veneto) as an Austrian province. The production of barrels in Gardone increased significantly during these years to feed the Army.
But the strong-willed natives did not like to be under foreign rulers and hundreds of them fought revolutionary battles in 1848-1849. The Austrians remained in power until 1859, but then they saw defeat in the battles of Magenta, Solferino and S. Martino. Lombardy stopped being part of Austria and became part of the “Regno D’Italia”. It was the patriotism of the local people that convinced the government to open an arsenal for the production of military weapon right in Gardone thus further promoting the local industrial economy (picture 15).
It was during WWI that the increased demand for arms caused an unsurpassed expansion of the local firearm industry. Gardone and other parts of Italy played a very important role in the events that unfolded between the two World Wars, during WWII and afterwards until modern times.