Leffe is the front gate to Val Gandino. Amply documented geological history indicates a pre-historic lake lay in most of the basin below today’s town center of Leffe. An abundance of fossil evidence from the lignite mines collected during the 1950s attests to the ancient, pre-human presence of this lake. Bones of Elephas Meridionalis, Rhinoceros Lephthorinus, and Bos Etruscus from this lake are displayed in the Bergamo City Museum of Natural Sciences and the Milan Museum of Natural History. Leffe today features long-established manufacturing and commercial activity in textiles, the production of fabrics and textiles of all kinds being the economic, and in many ways the cultural, foundation of the town’s development. As testimony to this reality of industry and the passion of the people for it, an association of local folks have given life to the “Textile Museum in which is kept and displayed a cultural treasure of no-longer-used machinery.
Each year Leffe celebrates various festivals linked to religious rituals, such as her patron “St. Michael the Archangel’s Day”, on the 29th of September, “co-patron San Martino Day”, November 11th, and, 15 days before Easter, “Our Lady of Sorrow Day”. In the San Rocco neighbourhood above central Leffe, “San Rocco Day”, August 16th, is an enthusiastically observed and deeply felt local historical event re-invoking the past activities of the “Coertì”, or fabric merchants, stopping in town to purchase supplies for the year to come. Traditional plaids and other blanket and rug weavings add to the “trèp” (charm) of this summer festival celebrating commerce in the specialty of the valley, as does the procession with the statue of the saint and the evening fireworks display to which people from around the province and beyond are attracted.
Numerous historical buildings in town testify to the centuries-old wealth of the residents, deriving also from fine woollen and silk manufacturing. The most notable of these are the 16th-century “Palazzo Pezzoli”, the late-Renaissance “Palazzo Galizzi”, and the “Palazzo Mosconi”, from the time of the dominion of the the Venetian republic. The “Prepositurale” Church of Saint Michael, built in the 18th century to a design by the renowned architect Francesco Muttoni, is of remarkable sculptural and pictorial, as well as architectural, interest, such as the wooden image or simulacrum of the venerated “Our Lady of Sorrow”, by Andrea Fantoni. Other churches include that of the “co-patron San Martino”, in recent years functioning as the official parish church, where one finds such fine works as the large altarpiece by the famous Cremona painter Tommaso Pombioli depicting the glorification of the Madonna, and the precious bronze sculptures by A. Carra and the wooden statue of San Martino by the Brescian sculptor Fiorini, as well as the intriguing church of San Rocco. Smaller churches include the “St Elizabeth Chapel”, the “Church of Santa Croce” on the mountain of the same name, that of “St. Anthony from Padua” near the nursery school, the “Bozzola Chapel”, in that neighbourhood, with more than 5,000 relics of the saints, the “Alpini” (Alpine Veterans’) Chapel at the summit of Mt. Beio, the St. Mary Magdelene Chapel beneath the “Prepositurale” sacristy, and the church dedicated to the “Blessed Pope John the 23rd (the beloved Pope from the province of Bergamo) near the senior citizens’ residence “Casa Serena”.
Leffe is situated at the foot of a semicircular chain of low mountains, and is distinguished by the intense green of its crown of surrounding woods. For nature lovers and walking enthusiasts, there are some fairly demanding hikes, such as that leading to the top of Monte Croce along the old mule tracks through Manvit and Costa that are rewarded by a panoramic view of the Val Cavallina and its lake Endine Gaiano. “Nature walks”, with commentaries on environmental issues, are also available, starting at “via Stelvio”, following Brugali creek through the San Rocco locality and lower Ceride to “via Bozzola”, near the “da Berto” restaurant, featuring Bergamo specialties. A few steps up from the main church a narrow passageway leads into the little “Piazzetta Francesco Servalli, today the town hall around three quarters of its perimeter, and an ideal spot for open-air concerts and gatherings. Exiting this little square on “via Papa Giovanni” takes the visitor in a few steps to the south, to the front of the Church of San Martino on the hill. One can then walk up the monumental 40-step, vari-colored cobblestone stairway. Returning on “via Papa Giovanni”, and continuing a few steps further south into “via San Rocco”, and one is suddenly in front of the ancient chapel of “Saint Elisabeth” (Santa Elisabetta), built over the still more ancient structures of the Brugali pass.