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.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Porch of Santa Maria Maggiore Bergamo

Statue of Sant’Alessandro stands above Basilica entrance 

One of the most important and beautiful churches in Bergamo, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Piazza Duomo in the Città Alta, has so many fascinating architectural details that it is impossible to take them all in on your first visit.

The Basilica was built in the 12th century in the shape of a Greek cross but was modified in the 14th and 16th centuries.

The loggia above the entrance to the Basilica
The Basilica’s sacristry was demolished in the 15th century to make way for the Colleoni Chapel, which was built on the orders of Bergamo’s famous condottiero, Bartolomeo Colleoni, to house his own tomb.

The Colleoni Chapel, which stands next to Santa Maria Maggiore in Piazza Duomo, was designed by Giovanni Antonio Amadeo to harmonise with the architecture of the Basilica and it has come to be acknowledged as one of the finest Renaissance buildings in Italy.

But the porch to the left of the Colleoni Chapel, one of two entrances to the Basilica, is just as architecturally beautiful and can certainly hold its own with the Colleoni Chapel.

The entrance to Santa Maria Maggiore from Piazza Duomo was built by the architect Giovanni di Campione between 1351 and 1353. Above the archway there is a loggia with three arched niches containing statues. The Saints Barnaba and Proitettizio stand on either side of a statue of Bergamo’s patron saint, Sant’Alessandro, who is on horseback. You have to look up before you ascend the steps to the Basilica or you will miss it.

Every year on 26 August Bergamo commemorates the date in 303 that Sant’Alessandro was martyred by the Romans for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.
The porch is next to the Renaissance gem,
 the Colleoni Chapel

It is believed Alessandro was a devout citizen who had continued to preach Christianity in Bergamo, despite several narrow escapes from the Romans, but that he was eventually caught and suffered decapitation.

A series of religious, cultural and gastronomic events take place in his name over several days at the end of August throughout the city, which is decorated with festive lights.

Porta Sant’Alessandro, the gate which leads from the Città Alta to Borgo Canale and San Vigilio, was built in the 16th century as part of a massive project to protect the historic upper town with defensive walls. 

It was named after a fourth century cathedral that had originally been dedicated to the saint, but was later demolished by the occupying Venetian forces who were overseeing the rebuilding of the walls.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Accademia Carrara Bergamo

See highlights of collection inside this magnificent palace

English-speaking visitors and students are being offered a unique opportunity to explore Bergamo’s prestigious Accademia Carrara, accompanied by an expert guide speaking in their own language.

Saturday Morning Visits at the premiere art galley in Bergamo will reveal the highlights in the collection from now until October this year (2019).

Tours start from the ticket office in the lobby of the gallery at 11 am each Saturday. The cost is six euros in addition to the normal ticket price and booking is not necessary.
Accademia Carrara is housed in 18th century palace

This is an opportunity to find out more about Pisanello. Mantegna, Bellini, Botticelli, Raffaele, Lotto and Moroni, to name just a few of the great artists whose works are in the Carrara’s collection.

The English-speaking guides promise to show visitors the art treasures ‘at the heart of the museum’s collection’ during a 90-minute taster tour. 

One of the biggest jewels in Bergamo’s crown, the prestigious art gallery Accademia Carrara is housed in a magnificent palace just outside the Città Alta, built in the 18th century to house one of the richest private collections of art in Italy.

It is the only Italian museum to be entirely stocked with donations and bequests from private collectors. Visitors can now view a broad-ranging collection of works by the masters of the Venetian, Lombard and Tuscan renaissances as well as great artists who came later.

The Accademia Carrara was established in 1794 as a combined Pinacoteca and School of Painting on the initiative of Bergamo aristocrat Count Giacomo Carrara. In addition to his collection of paintings he left his entire estate to the Accademia to secure its future.

The number and quality of the works in the Accademia has increased over the years thanks to the many donations and bequests from private collectors.

From being a museum dedicated to Renaissance painting, the Accademia has grown into an art gallery that also provides a broad representation of pictorial genres from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Accademia Carrara is in Piazza Giacomo Carrara, a short walk from Porta Sant’Agostino. For more information visit www.lacarrara.it.

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Monday, May 27, 2019

Historic moment for Atalanta

Bergamo team qualify for Champions League

Atalanta have never before qualified to play in the Champions League
Atalanta have never before qualified
to play in the Champions League
Bergamo football team Atalanta made club history last night by clinching third place in the final Serie A table, meaning they qualify for the Champions League for the first time.

Atalanta Bergamasca Calcio, to give the club’s full name, beat Sassuolo 3-1 to finish the season with 69 points.

Inter Milan, who finished on 69 points but with an inferior goal difference, also qualify for the Champions League - Europe’s premier soccer competition - but AC Milan (68 points) and AS Roma (66) have to settle for places in the Europa League.

Two years ago, the Orobici or Nerazzurri, as they are popularly known, qualified for the Europa League, giving them their first taste of European football for 26 years, and did so again last season. This season they reached the final of the Coppa Italia for the first time in 23 years, losing to Rome club Lazio.

But qualifying for the Champions League trumps those achievements, reflecting well on the qualities of coach Gian Piero Gasparini, who has been in charge for just under three years.

Atalanta began the current Serie A season with a victory over Frosinone but failed to win any of their next seven matches, suffering four defeats.

Colombian striker Duvan Zapata has been Atalanta's top scorer
Colombian striker Duvan Zapata
has been Atalanta's top scorer
But they triumphed in six of the next eight to put themselves in contention for a top four place and have achieved consistent results since then, finishing the season with an unbeaten run of 13 matches.

They have been praised for their entertaining, attacking football under Gasparini. No team in Serie A has scored more goals than their tally of 77, which is seven more than champions Juventus.

Colombian Duvan Zapata, who finished as the club's top scorer this season with 23 goals, netted the first goal in the win over Sassuolo, which was officially a home match but was played at the Sassuolo stadium in Emilia Romagna because of redevelopment work at Atalanta’s own stadium in the Città Bassa. The others were scored by Argentinian forward Papu Gomez and the Croatian midfielder Mario Pasalic, on loan from Chelsea.

During the closing weeks of the season, the Orobici achieved some spectacular results, including away wins at Napoli and Lazio and a draw in Turin against Juventus.

Setting aside tribal loyalties, their achievement has been admired by Italian football fans because they did it on approximately a quarter of the budget of Juventus and the powerful Milan clubs.


Friday, April 26, 2019

Atalanta reach final of Coppa Italia

Victory over Fiorentina clinches trip to Rome

Alejandro 'Papu' Gomez scored the winning goal for Atalanta in last night's match
Alejandro 'Papu' Gomez scored the winning
goal for Atalanta in last night's match
Bergamo’s football team, Atalanta, will attempt to win a major title for only the second time in the club’s history when they face the Rome team Lazio in the final of the Coppa Italia next month.

The nerazzurri came from a goal behind to beat Fiorentina 2-1 in the home second leg of the semi-final last night for a 5-4 aggregate victory.

Atalanta have not won a major trophy since lifting the Coppa Italia in 1963 but this was their second semi-final in two years in what is becoming an outstanding season under coach Gian Piero Gasparini.

The team came from behind to win at second-placed Napoli in Serie A on Monday to move level on points with fourth-placed AC Milan in the fight for the last Champions League spot. The nerazzurri have never previously qualified for the Champions League.

Last night, knowing they had to score at least after a 3-3 first-leg result in Florence gave Atalanta a potential advantage on the away-goals-count-double rule in the event of another draw, Fiorentina went ahead after just three minutes, when Luis Muriel’s shot beat Atalanta goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini after a good pass by Federico Chiesa.

Gian Piero Gasparini has been in charge of the Atalanta team since 2016
Gian Piero Gasparini has been in charge
of the Atalanta team since 2016
But Atalanta, who had knocked out holders Juventus in the quarter-finals, were level less than 10 minutes later.

A foolish challenge from Fiorentina defender Federico Ceccherini on Alejandro 'Papu' Gomez gave them a penalty, which former Fiorentina forward Josip Ilicic converted.

Argentina-born forward Gomez scored the winner in the 69th minute when Fiorentina goalkeeper Alban Lafont could not prevent a shot by the Atalanta captain going into the net, despite getting both hands to it. 

In the May 15 final, Atalanta will face Lazio at the Roman club’s ground, the Stadio Olimpico. Lazio eliminated AC Milan on Wednesday.

Atalanta play their home matches at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia in Via Giulio Cesare in the Città Bassa, which they share with another Bergamo club, Albinoleffe, who currently play in Serie C, the third tier of Italian professional football.

Coach Gasparini, who represented Palermo and Pescara among other clubs in a 17-year playing career, has been on Atalanta’s bench since June 2016.

Read also:

Hail the brilliant new Atalanta!

Atalanta promoted to Serie A

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Bergamo’s Mint

Old palace was where the city's coins were made

The strong wall of Palazzo Pacchiani Rivola
An unassuming old palace in Via Donizetti in the Città Alta used to house Bergamo’s Mint.

Palazzo Pachiani Rivola, at one time known as Palazzo Gromo dei Rivola, is at number 18 in the beautiful street named after the opera composer, Gaetano Donizetti. It has particularly strong walls and parts of it date back to the 13th century.

During what is known as the communal period, between the 11th and 14th centuries, when the citizens of Bergamo ruled themselves, the Mint of Bergamo, la zecca, was based in the palace.

The family who owned Palazzo Pachiani Rivola at that time, the Belfante di Rivola family, were believed to have received a good rent for housing the Mint.

The Rivola were one of the oldest and most powerful families in Bergamo . They were Guelphs and were involved in continual battles with the Suardi family, who were Ghibellines.

The only access to the house was along a small path named Gromo dei Rivola. This made the house so secure that the gold and silver from nearby mines were kept there after being brought to the city from the valleys. It is known that coins were minted in the palace by 1236, if not earlier.

The top of the street named
 after opera composer Donizetti
It has also been recorded that in 1254 a meeting was held in the Palazzo del Comune to agree regulations for Bergamo’s monetary system

A plaque on the wall of Palazzo Pachiani Rivola states that silver money was made on behalf of the Rivola family in the palace between 1236 and 1302.

Via Donizetti leads from Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe to Piazza Giuliani.

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Sunday, December 30, 2018

A Bergamo saying

Wise words to remember in 2019

A Popular Bergamo saying in dialect is:

'Scarpe larghe e bicér pié e tö i bùsere come i vé.' 
 In Italian this is: 

'Scarpe larghe e bicchiere pieno e prendi la vita come viene.'

This advises you to have : Wide shoes and a full glass and to take life as it comes!

Buon Anno and a Happy New Year from all at Best of Bergamo!

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Bergamo’s top golfer turns 62

Ex-factory worker put Italian golf on map

Costantino Rocca is one of the greatest golfers to come out of Italy. He was born just outside Bergamo
Costantino Rocca is one of the greatest golfers to come out
of Italy. He was born just outside Bergamo
The Bergamo golfer Costantino Rocca, who until this year was the most successful Italian in the history of competitive golf, celebrates his 62nd birthday today.

Rocca, born on December 4, 1956 in Almenno San Bartolomeo, just a few kilometres from the city, won five professional tournaments on the European circuit.

He enjoyed his best years in the mid-1990s, peaking with second place in the Open Championship at St Andrews in 1995.

He was beaten by the American John Daly in a four-hole play-off on the Scottish course but established a lasting place in golf folklore after the incredible putt he sank on the final green to deny Daly victory inside the regulation 72 holes.

Rocca shows his delight after sinking his incredible  65ft (20m) putt at the 1995 Open Championship
Rocca shows his delight after sinking his incredible
65ft (20m) putt at the 1995 Open Championship
Needing a birdie to be level with Daly at the top of the leaderboard after the American finished six under par, Rocca appeared to have blown his chance when his poorly executed second shot - a chipped approach that was meant to leave him in easy putting distance of the hole - did not even make it safely on to the green, coming to rest in an area just off the green known colloquially as ‘the Valley of Sin’.

It left him 65ft - almost 20m - short of the hole, needing somehow to make a putt that had first to go uphill and then break sharply to the right.

Extraordinarily, he pulled it off, to the delight of the gallery and the astonishment of Daly, who was watching on a TV monitor. Rocca flung his arms back in sheer joy before dropping to the ground and lay flat on his stomach with his face buried in the grass, drumming the turf with his fists, his whole body shaking with emotion.

It was described as a ‘miracle’ putt and when Rocca returned to the east Scotland course in April of this year, he had more than 20 attempts to reprise the shot but could not make it even once.

Rocca set up a company in Bergamo to promote golf
Rocca set up a company in
Bergamo to promote golf
The 1995 was jointly his best season with 1996, in each of which he finished fourth in the Order of Merit for the European tour.  He won five tour titles in total, the first of which was the 1993 Open de Lyon and the most prestigious of which was the 1996 Volvo PGA Championship.

Rocca's second-best finish in a major was a tie for fifth place in the 1997 US Masters, in which the 21-year-old rising star, Tiger Woods, won his first major title. 

The bergamaschi did defeat Woods later in the year in a vital singles match in the Ryder Cup at Valderrama in Spain, representing Europe against the United States. 

Rocca is regarded as the man who put Italian golf on the map and his position as the greatest golfer the country had produced remained unchallenged until this year, when Francesco Molinari not only drew level with and then passed his tally of five European tour wins, but also became the first Italian actually to win a major when he triumphed in the Open at Carnoustie, also in Scotland.

For 17 years, Rocca was the only Italian to play for Europe in the Ryder Cup until Molinari’s selection in 2010. Rocca had a 6-5-0 win-loss-half record in three Ryder Cup appearances, at 53% one of the best winning records in the history of the European team. 

Almenna San Bartolomeo is famous for its circular  Romanesque church, the Rotonda San Tomè
Almenna San Bartolomeo is famous for its circular
Romanesque church, the Rotonda San Tomè
In the 1995 Ryder Cup, Rocca made only the third hole-in-one in the competition's history.

Rocca used to work in a factory in Almenna that produced polystyrene before he took up golf professionally, initially working as a caddy and then as a caddy master at the nearby L'Albenza Golf Club. 

Be became a professional in 1981, the same year he married his wife, Antonella.

The couple have two children, 33-year-old Chiara, and Francesco, who is 27.  Both work for his Rocca’s Bergamo-based company, Rocca Golf Ambition, which encompasses a golf academy for aspiring players, a clinic for established players looking to improve their game, and support for young professionals.

Rocca played his last tour event in 2015, when he contested the Italian Open, an event which, extraordinarily, he never won in 33 attempts. He still plays on the European Seniors tour, so far winning two titles.

The town of Almenno San Bartolomeo, which is situated about 9km (6 miles) northwest of Bergamo along the valley of the Brembo river, is well known as the home of the Rotonda di San Tomè, an unusual circular church which is one of the most notable examples of Romanesque architecture in northern Italy. 

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