The evolution of tradition since 1851
We took over 170 years to make La Brace what it is today. Nevertheless, some things never change.
Back in the old days, in the heart of Valtellina, the noble Gucciardi family commissioned the construction of both the “pink house” and the farmhouse. Over the years, these buildings were transformed into a way station first, then into a tavern, and finally into today’s complex, which includes a restaurant, a hotel and a bar.
After one century and a half, the style of these two facilities and the quality of food have remained unchanged. Generation after generation, the Cattaneo family has passed them on until today. The story that we are going to tell you is all about this property.
In the early 1800s, Counts Guicciardi, owners of the Lower Valtellina area between Ardenno and Berbenno since 1600, decide to build the “pink house" and the farmhouse in the heart of this land near the road that leads to Milan.
These buildings are the most ancient part of what we know today as La Brace.
Counts Guicciardi appoint Angelo Cattaneo (1811-1889) as their trustee and silkworm breeding expert to teach the farmers of that area how to breed silkworms, which were used to pay the rent balance of the land in their concession.
Before he arrived at the pink house, farmers used to sell their wine on tap. Seeing an opportunity there, Angelo decides to buy this wine and appoint his wife as the manager of a 30 sq.m tavern. That’s how the tavern with lodging and stabling point began.
In those years, the government establishes a postal and passenger transport service carried out by a horse-drawn stagecoach.
It doesn’t take much time for "La Brace" to become an intermediate stop during the journey across Valtellina. The place where passengers could rest and horses could be changed, located between today’s Hotel Trieste di Morbegno and Hotel della Posta di Sondrio.
Counts Gucciardi decide to sell all their properties to the farmers. On 11 November of the same year, Virginio Cattaneo (1865-1927), Angelo’s son, buys the La Brace property, as it is today. He also resigns from his trustee role to start a carrier business with wagons and 16 horses.
During the trade fairs in Valtellina, his wife Leopoldina Galli (1873-1922), organises events at the facility to make the farmers and cattle traders from Lodi, Crema and Cremona (Lower Valtellina) meet. The farmers use the courtyard, porticos and stables to showcase their animals and close excellent deals while eating and drinking in good company.
Both the tavern and accommodation businesses are a great success, as traders and wayfarers attending the trade fairs in the area choose it to eat there and stop for the night.
When Virginio dies, his son Aristide Camillo Cattaneo (1903-1978), a well-known land-surveyor with a passion for farming, take over the business with his wife.
Due to the severe crises resulting from the 1929 recession and the two world wars, Aristide could renovate the stable, portico and interiors of the pink house only in the 1950s, when he expanded it by 20 sq.m to make room for the bar.
His wife, Gianna Stella (1911-1985), who is an excellent cook and a professional seamstress, is in charge of both the tavern and the bar, whose business boosted immediately after the war. This flourishing period is due to Italy’s economic development and the increase in popularity of motor vehicles. As a result, the number of travellers and tourists in Valtellina increased significantly.
The fourth generation of this family, includes Virginio Cattaneo, the current owner of this property, also known as "il Gino della Brace“ (Gino, the king of barbecue). Virginio is a land-surveyor, like his father, with a passion for cooking. For the first time in the history of this family, there’s a man and not a woman behind the stoves.
In the same year, inspired by a customer, Virginio specialises in grilled meat. A successful idea that will define the restaurant’s identity, starting from the name: La Brace (Barbecue).
Gino Cattaneo starts the renovation of the property, recovering the old portico and the stables and transforming them into a restaurant, maintaining the rustic 1800s style.
The small 50 sq.m business is now a modern restaurant that has made La Brace one of the best businesses in the Sondrio province.
The terrible flooding in Valtellina in July 1987 forces La Brace to shut down for the first time in its history. The flooding of the Adda river causes severe disruption in the entire area. The business is forced to close for 55 days. This is a whole new experience for the family, who has always run the business without ever skipping a day of work.
La Brace has been a great successes thanks to its good food, setting, strategic location and the excellent service that Gino, his family and collaborators provide. But now it’s time to revamp and expand it.
The new facility now includes 9 additional hotel rooms, a new 540 sq.m kitchen and 3 new halls. La Brace becomes a benchmark for wedding banquets and receptions in Valtellina.
The Cattaneo family starts the new millennium with a new expansion project. With the construction of two new banquet and conference rooms, the restaurant’s capacity increases by 1000 people over a 2700 sq.m surface.
Hotel La Brace, with 32 new rooms (bringing the total from 9 to 41 rooms), including 3 luxury suites, is built above the new halls. The facility, provided with all the amenities, keeps the Nineteenth-century charm with a touch of modernity.
On 11 November, the Cattaneo family celebrates its 160th anniversary since the beginning of the business at the noble farmhouse of Counts Gucciardi. In just over half a century, 5 generations of Cattaneos have transformed a small Nineteenth-century tavern into a modern and complex facility in the new millennium. Today, La Brace keeps on with the family tradition and the original style that have made this facility so characteristic.
The relations built over the years and the deep-rooted presence in the area make La Brace a benchmark for the local entrepreneurial world. Galbusera, the long-standing brand from Valtellina, known and appreciated across Italy, opens an outlet at La Brace. The second largest one after the outlet in Cosio Valtellino. Here you can buy Galbusera and Tre Marie biscuits and other baked products.
Gino Cattaneo writes a new chapter of La Brace’s story, by completing the expansion of the bar entrance. This way, the facility can welcome the increasing number of tourists coming for the ski resorts and cultural attractions of Upper Valtellina, such as the Bernina red train, and all the people who will come to see the Winter Olympic Games in 2026.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, La Brace experiences its second shutdown. After the lockdown, the facility reopens, ready to welcome its guests again. But there’s another project ready to spark things up: a new website.
Lombardy Region acknowledges La Brace as a “historical business”
The facility that houses La Brace bar, restaurant and hotel is the result of the gradual recovery and addition of small stables around the original core. This venue has kept and even enhanced the value of the Nineteenth-century architecture and style. The stables, barns and cellars have been transformed into cosy and characteristic settings, combining our ancestors’ items and fireplaces with modern amenities.
The Lombardy Region has acknowledged the value of this property, assigning to La Brace the title of Historic Business, whereas the Chamber of Commerce has awarded this business with the local social responsibility certification.