Ponna is a municipality in the Intelvi Valley and is one of the smallest municipalities in the area, both as an extension and as fractions.
Ponna was inhabited in Roman times as revealed by a tomb discovered in lower Ponna. It contained a large earthenware alum and a hydria which are now found in the civic Archaeological Museum of Como. Early Christian times we have a sepulchral stone in the foundations of a house that stands in the center of the lower Ponna. A Byzantine cross is sculpted on this stone. The main activities carried out by the population are agricultural and artisan. Here live just over 300 people in a setting that looks like a postcard of other times with narrow streets, stone houses and old wash houses. On the houses there are often stuccos, signs of the passage of the Intelvi Valley artists. In the mountain pastures, goat tomini, cheese and sausages such as artisanal bacon are skillfully made.
In the times of the Middle Ages, Ponna was under the jurisdiction of Como and subsequently of the Visconti who ceded it to the Rusconi with the whole Intelvi valley in 1416. In 1583 the Marliani had it and in 1713 it passed to the Conti Riva Andreotti. In 1917 the awakening of Ponna began with the construction of the Laino – Ponna – Boffalora – Pigra carriage road. This is an area that is still untapped, which, with Tellero and Boffalora, reveals views and alpine areas of high tourist interest.
The inhabited areas of Ponna still preserve the ancient narrow and steep cobbled streets, terraces in the position most exposed to the sun, because the edge of the steps and the temperature favor the melting of the snows. The lack of building space has meant that in the three centers the original nucleus has been preserved with low buildings, leaned against each other and with very small windows, richly frescoed and decorated with graffito. The Ponnese dialect, like the rest of the entire intelvese, comes close to Ticino. Almost all the religious buildings in the valley have gone through a Romanesque phase, even if they have undergone alterations due to the successive art schools.
The church of San Bartolomeo
Clear Romanesque traces are found in middle Ponna, in the apse of the oratory of S. Bartolomeo. The small church of San Bartolomeo was built by the monks of S. Benedetto in the Perlana valley, who had numerous possessions in the Ponnese territory. The oratory of San Bartolomeo is particularly interesting for its Romanesque features preserved both in the apse and in the nave and façade. With the advent of the Baroque, in the ‘500, the first restructurings of the churches were had, between which S. Giacomo to Ponna above. Also from that period is the fresco by Ambrogio di Valsolda in the church of S. Gallo. At this point it is appropriate to recall that like the magistri comacini, the intelvesi gave birth to a category of artists apart, that of the magelis antelami. Some magisters came from Ponna, in particular Ottone and Buono della Pila.
Church of St. Gall
In the eighteenth century, the Barellis were born in Ponna, a family of talented artists among whom there were painters, sculptors and scagliolists. Especially important is Gallo Barelli who decorated the facade of the church of S. Gallo. Still in the 18th century we have other valid artistic testimonies. The Parish Church of San Giacomo, upper Ponna, is of Romanesque origin. The primitive façade was incorporated into the current one. It features frescoes and stuccoes from the 18th and 19th centuries. The altar is in polychrome marble with a small temple.
The Church of San Gallo and Desiderio, lower Ponna, is preceded by a Via Crucis with chapels built in 1756 and frescoed by C. Scotti in 1771. It offers us a unique spectacle of village architectural scenography. It was conceived by Carlo Barelli in 1766, evoking a little the prealpine Sacred Mountains. It is of Romanesque origin and, like many other churches in the valley, it was restored and enlarged in the ‘600 and in the’ 700. Inside there are 18th century stuccos and frescoes by Barelli di Ponna and the Quaglio school.
The already mentioned road that climbs from the Lirone valley, coming from Claino, deserves a special mention: the road that bears the name of via 12 January, a date that has a very precise meaning. Until 1958 there was still no communication route to the valley and the country suffered from isolation. So on January 12th 1958 the people of Ponnese decided to go it alone and every Sunday, gathered by the bells and with the money from their pockets, they built the road. What they did can be seen today because little or nothing has changed. Certainly the road is not very easy, but still bears witness to a considerable commitment and a spirit of initiative.
Also noteworthy is a private museum, The Doll’s House. It is run by a passionate collector of the small town of Ponna, Emma Bolla. She proposes her permanent collection to the public at the site in Vittorio Veneto 21 Street. In this museum there is almost the whole world represented in the form of a doll. Yes, because Emma Bolla is hosting dolls lovingly collected from all continents. In the museum there are dolls from Canada, Peru, Romania, and also from the Far East. In all, there are over three hundred and made of the most varied materials. The doll museum is in the same ancient building as Ponna which houses another private collection, the Museum of the peasant house.