Bergamo’s beautiful upper town, the Città Alta (pictured above), is a magical place well worth visiting. Use this website to help you plan your trip to Bergamo in Northern Italy and find your way to some of the other lovely towns and villages in Lombardia that are perhaps less well known to tourists.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Antonio Moscheni – Bergamo painter

Antonio Moscheni made his own paints
 using vegetable dye
The painter Antonio Moscheni was born on this day in 1854 in the town of Stezzano, near Bergamo in Lombardy.

Educated at the prestigious Accademia Carrara in Bergamo, where he studied with accomplished masters, he learned the most advanced techniques. He also spent a year in Rome studying the masterpieces of the Vatican. 

When he returned to Bergamo his ability was in great demand. He was commissioned by many churches in the city and the surrounding area and his work at the Sanctuary of Madonna del Campo in his home town of Stezzano was particularly admired.

He exhibited his work in Milan and Turin and had the prospect of a brilliant career ahead of him. 

However in 1889, at the age of 35, Moscheni turned his back on fame to enter the Society of Jesus, enrolling himself as a lay brother.

But it was not the end of his career as an artist.  Aware of his talents, his superiors wasted no time, once his novitiate was completed, in despatching him to Croatia and Albania to work on Jesuit churches, and on his return sending him to Piacenza and Modena .

Moscheni is perhaps best known for the extraordinary frescoes he created in the chapel of St Aloysius College in Mangalore , India .

St Aloysius, situated in the state of Karnataka in south-west India, was built by Italian Jesuit Missionaries in 1880 and the chapel was added four years later.  A beautiful building, it would not look out of place in Rome and the Baroque extravagance of Moscheni's work, which adorns almost every available wall space and ceiling, makes it unique in India .

The chapel welcomes thousands of visitors each year simply to marvel at Moscheni's art for the vibrance of his colours and the intricacy of the detail.

Scenes depicted include the life of St. Aloysius, who as the Italian aristocrat Aloysius Gonzaga became a Jesuit and was studying in Rome when he died at the age of just 23, having devoted himself to caring for the victims of an outbreak of plague.

Also painted are the Apostles, the lives of the Saints and the life of Jesus. The picture of Jesus with a group of children on the rear wall, opposite the main altar, is considered the best of Moscheni’s work. 

The artist's skill enabled him to create the illusion of three dimensions, so that figures painted on flat walls, for example, appear at first glance to be statues.

Another interesting feature is the chapel floor, all of which is paved with stones brought from Bergamo which again creates the perception of three dimensions. Visitors at first can mistake the tiles for steps. 

Moscheni went to India in 1898 and remarkably, often hanging precariously from scaffolding, he painted the entire 829 square metres of surface area single-handed, using paints he made using vegetable dyes. The whole project took two and a half years.

Moscheni was also asked to decorate the Hospital Chapel at Kankanady, a local church and the Seminary of Mangalore before being invited to paint frescoes at the Holy Name Cathedral in Mumbai.

Moscheni moved from there to the Basilica of Santa Cruz at Fort Kochi, in the state of Kerala, at the personal invitation of the Bishop in 1905.  Sadly, Moscheni fell ill with dysentery while he was working there, although he battled against the illness and finished the job.

He died in November 1905, four days before the consecration of the church, and is said to have been buried at the Carmelite Monastery in Manjummel. 

Villa Moscheni is still a private home
Stezzano, situated just outside Bergamo, not far from the airport at Orio al Serio, marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Moscheni in 2005 when a bust created by a local sculptor, Learco Campana, was unveiled in the Biblioteca Comunale. 

Moscheni's home in Stezzano, the Villa Moscheni, in Via Carrara Beroa, is still in private ownership and includes some frescoes by Moscheni.

The historic centre of Stezzano is of medieval origin and has changed little in appearance. It is mainly characterised by former farmhouses and four substantial 17th century villas - the Villa Zanchi, Villa Morlani, Villa Maffeis and Villa Moroni, which dominates the picturesque Piazza Libertà.  

The grand parish church of San Giovanni Battista is a short distance away in Piazza Dante. The Sanctuary of Madonna dei Campi, which has works by Moscheni, can be found a little out of the centre, on the road towards Grumello del Piano. 

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

NH Bergamo – a Best of Bergamo recommended hotel

The smart and modern NH Bergamo hotel
The smart and modern NH Bergamo hotel
The immaculate and comfortable NH Bergamo is in a great location right in the centre of Bergamo’s lower town, the Città Bassa.

This modern hotel in Via Paleocapa is close to the railway station and the stops for buses going to the upper town, the Città Alta, or to Bergamo Caravaggio airport.

It is handy for the best shops and restaurants in the lower town, but within walking distance of the funicular railway that ferries passengers up to the historic Città Alta.

The smart, well-designed hotel has 88 comfortable guest rooms, all with TV, mini bar and free Wi-Fi.

An excellent buffet breakfast is served daily on the ground floor of the hotel and there is a 24-hour bar service.

The Best of Bergamo Editor says: 'I have really enjoyed both my stays at the NH Bergamo. The room was quiet and I was able to sleep soundly, even though I was in the centre of the lower town and close to the main street. But it was great to be able to leave the hotel and be so close to all the delights of the Città Bassa and the transport links.'

From the airport, you can either take a reasonably priced taxi, or buy a ticket for the No 1 bus that passes the railway station before turning along Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII in the direction of the Città Alta. 

The hotel is in Via Palocapa, which goes off the main street on the left. The street is across the road and a short distance from the bus stop outside the beautiful church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The church is a good landmark, on the corner of Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII and Porta Nuova, with its 19th century green cupola topped with a golden statue.

Book a room at the NH Bergamo with Expedia or Hotels.com

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Giacomo Manzù and his famous gift to Bergamo

The Monument to the Partisan by Giacomo Manzù can be found in Piazza Matteotti
The Monument to the Partisan by Giacomo
Manzù can be found in Piazza Matteotti
The acclaimed Bergamo sculptor Giacomo Manzù was born Giacomo Manzoni on this day in 1908. 

One of Manzù's most notable works, his Monument to the Partisan, can be found in Piazza Matteotti in the Città Bassa, a short distance from Porta Nuova.

The 3.2m (10ft 6ins) bronze sculpture shows a young anti-Fascist partisan fighter hanging upside down by his feet, having supposedly been tortured to death by Italian Fascists or Nazi soldiers.  Alongside him stands a young woman looking on in sadness.

On the reverse is a poem written by Manzù, dedicated to the partisan.

Manzù presented the work to his home city on its completion and it was unveiled on April 25, 1977.

The son of a shoemaker, Angelo Manzoni, who was also sacristan of the parish church of Sant’Alessandro in Colonna, Manzù taught himself to be a sculptor, helped only by a few evening classes in art, and went on to achieve international recognition.

He changed his name to Manzù and started working in wood while he was doing his military service in the Veneto in 1928.

After moving to Milan, he was commissioned by the architect, Giovanni Muzio, to decorate the Chapel of the Sacred Heart Catholic University.

But he achieved national recognition after he exhibited a series of busts at the Triennale di Milano.  The following year he held a personal exhibition with the painter, Aligi Sassu, with whom he shared a studio.

Sculptor Giacomo Manzù was the son of a Bergamo shoemaker
Sculptor Giacomo Manzù was the son
of a Bergamo shoemaker
His 1939 series of bronze bas reliefs about the death of Christ were criticised by the Fascist government when they were exhibited in Rome in 1942.  They were interpreted by some as a symbolisation of violence committed by the Fascist regime against their opponents and Manzù, who was a communist, went into hiding for a while for fear of being arrested.

Manzù had started teaching at the Accademia di Brera in Milan, but during the war he went back north to live in Clusone, to the north of Bergamo, in Val Seriana. He returned to teach in Milan at the end of the war.

Manzù then moved to Salzburg, where he met his wife, Inge Schabel, who became the model for several of his sculptures.

He built an 11-foot high sculpture, Passo di Danza, in Detroit and his last great work was a six-metre tall sculpture of a woman with a child outside the United Nations headquarters in New York in 1989.

During his long career he also built stage sets for the composer Igor Stravinsky and he eventually designed his tomb in Venice.

A devout Catholic, Manzù was a personal friend of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who would go on to be Pope John XXIII and who was also from Bergamo, and he completed some important commissions for the Vatican and St Peter’s Basilica.

Pio Manzù, Giacomo's son, who died tragically young in 1969
More examples of his work in the Città Bassa in Bergamo can be found inside the entrance portico of the Palazzo della Provincia in Via Torquato Tasso, and at the Museum of Contemporary and Modern Art (GAMeC) in Via SanTomaso, opposite the Accademia Carrara museum.

While in Rome he lived in Ardea, south of the capital and close to the sea, in a locality that has since been renamed Colle Manzù un his honour.  Ardea has a museum dedicated to his work.

Manzù died in Rome in 1991, The New York Times described him in an obituary as ‘one of Italy’s leading sculptors whose work often mixed religious, allegorical and sexual imagery’.

Sadly, he outlived his son, Pio, by 22 years.  Pio, who was also born in Bergamo, was a successful designer whose work in the automobile industry yielded the groundbreaking Fiat 127, the "people's car" of Italy in the 1970s.  His death at the age of just 30 in a road accident in 1969, however, meant he did not live to see the project completed.

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Marcello Piacentini

Brilliant architect put Bergamo’s Città Bassa on the tourist map

The man responsible for the elegant design of the centre of the Città Bassa, the architect Marcello Piacentini, was born on this day in 1881 in Rome.

He was the son of architect Pio Piacentini and studied arts and engineering in Rome but, when he was just 26, he was commissioned with redesigning the centre of Bergamo’s lower town and his buildings remain notable landmarks today.

The beautiful Banca d'Italia in Viale Roma
He then went on to work throughout Italy and, in particular in Rome, developing a simplified neoclassicism which became the mainstay of Fascist architecture. He designed a new campus for the University of Rome, La Sapienza, and the road approaching St Peter’s in Rome, Via della Conciliazione.

Piacentini went on to become an important colonial architect, particularly in Eastern Libya.

One of his most impressive buildings in the Città Bassa is the Banca d’Italia in Viale Roma, which you pass on the right hand side as you go up to the Città Alta (upper town). Built of brown stone, in keeping with the other public buildings erected at the beginning of the 20th century in the Città Bassa, the bank has a decorative façade.

The building has since become a symbol of Bergamo’s strong commercial and banking tradition.

Another example of Piacentini’s brilliant work in the lower town is the Torre dei Caduti in the centre of the Città Bassa. The early 20th century war memorial towers over Piazza Vittorio Veneto and Via Sentierone but was carefully positioned so that despite its 45 metres of height it does not spoil the skyline of the Città Alta.

The Torre dei Caduti (tower of the fallen) was built to honour the citizens of Bergamo who were killed in the First World War and was officially inaugurated at a ceremony in 1924.

After the fall of Fascism, Piacentini did not work as an architect for several years and he died in Rome in 1960.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi – Bishop of Bergamo

Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi
Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi
The progressive priest who shaped the destiny of a future Pope, Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi will be remembered today on the anniversary of his death in 1914 in Bergamo.

Radini-Tedeschi was Bishop of the Diocese of Bergamo from 1905 and is respected because of his strong involvement in social issues at the beginning of the 20th century.

Radini-Tedeschi was born in 1857 into a wealthy, noble family living in Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna. He was ordained as a priest in 1879 and then became professor of Church Law in the seminary of Piacenza.

In 1890 he joined the Secretariat of State of the Holy See and was sent on a number of diplomatic missions.

In 1905 he was named Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bergamo by Pope Pius X and was consecrated by him in the Sistine Chapel.

Radini-Tedeschi was a strong supporter of Catholic trade unions and backed the workers at a textile plant in the Ranica district of Bergamo province during a labour dispute.

Working for him as his secretary at the time was a young priest named Angelo Roncalli who had been born at Sotto il Monte just outside Bergamo into a large farming family.

Roncalli went on to become Pope John XXIII in 1958 but he never forgot the values Radini-Tedeschi had taught him.

The Church of Santa Maria Immacolata delle Grazie in the Città Bassa
The Church of Santa Maria Immacolata
delle Grazie in the Città Bassa
The Bishop became ill with cancer and died at the age of 57 just after the outbreak of the First World War. His last words are reputed to have been: ‘Angelo, pray for peace.’

A landmark in Bergamo’s Città Bassa, the church of Santa Maria Immacolata delle Grazie in Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII, has an association with Radini-Tedeschi.

The huge church opposite Porta Nuova has a 19th century green cupola topped with a golden statue with an early 20th century campanile next to it. But the origins of the church date back to 1422 when a convent was built on the site dedicated to Santa Maria delle Grazie. The beautiful cloisters have been preserved within the church buildings although the convent was suppressed at the beginning of the 19th century.

The neoclassical design for the new church was created by architect Antonio Preda towards the end of the 19th century and in 1907 the main altar was consecrated in the presence of the Bishop, Giacomo Radini-Tedeschi, accompanied by his 26-year-old secretary, Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Ryanair announces new Bergamo routes for 2017

Ryanair plans 44 new routes to boost its Italian operation
Ryanair plans 44 new routes to boost its Italian operation
Ryanair, the Irish budget carrier which is now established as Italy's biggest airline, will operate new services to Bergamo in summer 2017 as part of a substantial expansion of its Italian operation.

Edinburgh will join Belfast, Bristol, East Midlands, London Stansted and Manchester among the UK's departure points for direct flights Orio al Serio, which is listed in timetables as Milan Bergamo.

There will also be a new flight from Vigo in Spain and from Luxembourg.  Ostrava in Czechoslovakia and the Serbian city of Niš were added to the timetable in 2016.

The new routes follow the announcement of a $1 billion investment by Ryanair in 10 new aircraft to cover a total of 44 new services, which will create 2,250 new jobs and result in an extra three million passengers per year arriving at Italian airports.

Ryanair had previously planned cutbacks to its Italian operation, including the closure of its Pescara hub, in response to increases in taxes being proposed by the Italian government but these increases have now been reversed.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Birth of Vincenzo Coronelli – globe maker

Bergamo’s beautiful Civic Library (Biblioteca Civica Angelo Mai), in Piazza Vecchia in the upper town, is one of only a few places to be graced by a finely-crafted globe of the world made by Vincenzo Coronelli.

The elegant Biblioteca Civica Angelo Mai
in Piazza Vecchia
The Franciscan friar, who was also a celebrated cartographer and globe maker, was born on this day in 1650 in Venice.

He became famous for making terrestrial and celestial globes for the Duke of Parma and Louis XIV of France.

This started a demand for globes from other aristocratic clients to adorn their libraries and a few of Coronelli’s creations are still in existence today in private collections.

Coronelli was the fifth child of a Venetian tailor and was accepted as a novice by the Franciscans when he was 15.

He was later sent to a college in Rome where he studied theology and astronomy.
He began working as a geographer and was commissioned to produce a set of globes for Ranuccio II Farnese, the Duke of Parma. Each finely crafted globe was five feet in diameter.
After one of Louis XIV’s advisers saw the globes, Coronelli was invited to Paris to make a pair of globes for the French King.

The large globes displayed the latest information that had been obtained by French explorers in north America. They are now in the Francois Mitterand national library in Paris.

Coronelli died at the age of 68 in Venice having created hundreds of maps and some precious hand-made globes during his lifetime.

Original globes made by Coronelli can be seen in the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice and the Angelo Mai Civic library in Bergamo.

The globes in the library, photographed by Visit Bergamo
The Civic Library (Biblioteca Civica) Angelo Mai, where Coronelli’s globes are displayed, is at the centre of Bergamo’s upper town. Also referred to as Palazzo Nuovo, the library was founded in 1768 and houses more than 700,000 books, original manuscripts and scrolls.

It is believed that the two Coronelli globes came to Bergamo in 1692 after being purchased in Venice for the library of the Sant’Agostino monastery.

In 1797 when the monastery was suppressed the globes were in danger of being seized by French troops but they were hidden by a Bergamo nobleman in his home and later donated to the Civic Library by his son.

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