Just before the municipality of Rabbi, along the Rabbies stream, you’ll find two hamlets called Magras and Arnago that are both part of the municipality of Malé. These hamlets are ancient settlements (their place names derive from pre-Roman personal names) in which fruit harvesting and livestock breeding are still practiced.
Several 14th century documents quote the names of Magras (pre-Latin place name) and of Dernach-Arnago (Roman place name). During the first half of the 15th century, Arnago was an independent estate with its own statute, but in the 16th century it became a single community with the town of Magras according to the “Carta di Regola” dated 1653. Under the Italian Kingdom, the two hamlets became part of the municipality of Malé, officially in 1928. Initially it was part of the ecclesiastical organization of Malé, and then, in 1748, Magras became a curacy and the chapel in Arnago which was built in 1628 was under the curacy of Magras.
The current church of Magras, dedicated to Saints Mark and Aegidius, was rebuilt by the Lombard craftsmen working for Adamo da Laino d’Intelvi between 1495 and 1498. Architectural and pictorial traces of the ancient Romanesque building can still be seen along the walls of the church. The magnificent bell tower has two rows of mullioned windows and some signs of the old openings as well as a pyramidal stone pinnacle. The façade has a late Renaissance portal and pieces of various frescoes, including an image of Saint Christopher. The church’s only nave is covered by a ribbed vault ceiling. The two carved wooden side altars are worth seeing as well as the two 17th century altarpieces over them; the one on the left has been attributed to Francesco Frigimelica il Vecchio. The chapel dedicated to Saint Romedius in Arnago is also worth mentioning for its unique wood carved altar dating back to the 17th century.
Not far from the village, along the road to Malé, you will reach an area called Pondasio, where you will find several homes built around a stone bridge that crosses over the Rabbies stream, believed to date back to Roman times. Numerous mills and forges were once located here; the following description can be found in a document dating back 1387 “tre molendini in ponte asi” (three mills in ponte asi). A beautiful painting by Gio Batta Ferrari (1829-1906) depicts the Pondasio area around the 1880s, before new roads and bridges were built. In April 1848, Pondasio became a battlefield when the volunteer corps coming from the Lombardy area fought against the Austrian troops.
During the summer, it’s definitely worth stopping in Pondasio to visit the “Fucina Marinelli” forge, one of the last and rare examples of a functioning hydraulic forge in the Alps. The Marinelli family bought the forge in 1880, but it was built at least two centuries before.