A MAGICAL PLACE

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 15, 2017

Hail the brilliant new Atalanta!

By Jeremy Culley


Wayne Rooney
'His Majesty' Wayne Rooney
‘His Majesty Wayne Rooney had to run into the Nerazzure mouths of a hungry goddess, who makes a morsel of the soft Toffees of Liverpool’ was the triumphant declaration from the iconic Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sport.

English audiences unsure what to expect as Everton travelled to Italy last night will be under no illusions now, after Rooney and co were so convincingly thumped.

This was the final stage of the rebirth of Atalanta, the Bergamo club making their first foray into European competition since 1991.

The club will be familiar to British fans hooked by Football Italia on Channel 4 in the 90s and noughties, but few would associate it with anything remotely resembling success.

They have perennially been little more than fodder to be brushed aside by the likes of Juventus, Roma, AC Milan and Internazionale.

So this renaissance of ‘La Dea’, or ‘the Goddess’, a nickname stemming from the club being named after the Greek huntress, has something almost mythological about it.

Not least on Thursday as their fans had to traipse 120 miles south to Reggio Emilia to take in the historic occasion, while the ageing Stadio Atleti d’Azzurri Italia in Bergamo is refurbished to meet UEFA regulations.





Being forced into unfamiliar surroundings would surely be a leveller for Everton to seize upon against the Italian upstarts?

Never.

The thousands who travelled turned the temporary home into a cauldron, Atalanta’s fans oozing the optimism and confidence generated last season when the Bergamaschi defied expectations by finishing fourth in Serie A to qualify for the Europa League.

They symbolically finished ahead of both neighbouring Milanese giants, so often having watched their illustrious rivals Inter and Milan hog the limelight.

In 1991, appropriately enough it was Inter who defeated Atalanta 2-0 at the UEFA Cup’s quarter-final stage, sentencing them to a quarter of a century in the European footballing wilderness.

Gian Piero Gasperini, the head coach of Atalanta
Gian Piero Gasperini, the head
coach of Atalanta
How sweet the Peroni must have tasted in the bars of the Città Alta last night, and back in May when Atalanta finished nine points ahead of Milan and 10 clear of Inter.

Everton were dreadful, their manager Ronald Koeman withering of his players’ efforts, yet their colossal £130m summer spending spree, notwithstanding the free transfer of Rooney, dwarfs the modest outlay spent on the Atalanta revolution.

Andrea Petagna, the pacy scourge of Everton last night, was plucked from AC Milan at a bargain price after spells on loan in Serie B.

Marten de Roon, a £12m Middlesbrough buy ahead of last year’s Premier League season, flopped on Teesside and returned to Bergamo.

And Andreas Cornelius, Cardiff City’s record £7.5m buy in their maiden season in the top flight, was a disaster of such epic proportions in south Wales he left after just six months.

All three, especially the wonderful, electric Petagna, are now integral to Gian Piero Gasperini’s side, which continues to confound doubters.

Gasperini himself, a journeyman manager now at 59, has a somewhat chequered record.

Marten de Roon was a flop in England with Middlesbrough
Marten de Roon was a flop in England
with Middlesbrough
Success with Crotone and Genoa earned him the opportunity to revive the fortunes of Atalanta’s neighbours Inter.

He took the helm just over a year on from José Mourinho’s Champions League triumph in 2010, after which a poor period under Rafa Benitez had led to a decline in fortunes.

Gasperini fared disastrously in trying to arrest the slide and was sacked after just five matches in charge, losing four of them.

Rather aptly, the Italian media routinely referred to him as ‘Gasp’ in headlines, such was the panic that seemed to be engulfing San Siro.

It left Gasperini with a career to resurrect, his stock having taken a pounding, and the recent success of Atalanta is as much a story of his revival as it is the club’s. 

The giants of Inter, Roma and Napoli departed Bergamo empty-handed last season as Atalanta surged to six straight wins in October and November.

All season, defeats were rare, with AC Milan and Juventus also unable to claim victory at the intimidating Atleti d’Azzurri.

The Argentine winger Alejandro Gomez, another astute purchase, from the Ukrainians Metalist Kharkiv, was the star, bagging 16 goals and earning a maiden cap for his country in the process.

Much-needed improvements to Atalanta’s home ground are now on the agenda, after the club bought the stadium – still quite a rarity in Italy – from the local council.
Andrea Petagna was the scourge of Everton
Andrea Petagna was
the scourge of Everton
Such upbeat signs are a far cry from seven years ago.

As Inter celebrated Champions League glory, their neighbours in Bergamo were relegated to Serie B, suffering two heavy defeats to their rivals at San Siro before Napoli nailed the coffin lid shut with a 2-0 win on the penultimate weekend.

It was a third relegation in seven years, with real fears voiced for the club’s future, both financially and on the pitch.

But an immediate promotion and successive seasons of survival have shored up the club, with Atalanta heavy reliant on bargain buys and academy graduates to be competitive.

The superb Petagna might not strictly be an Atalanta product but it is they who have catapulted him into the limelight.

He follows an illustrious line of players to have blossomed in Bergamo, with Filippo Inzaghi, Christian Vieri, Paolo Montero and Roberto Donadoni among a star-studded list.

The sale of these stars has always been a necessary evil to keep the club afloat.

Such prudence explains why the Bergamaschi have endured such a long wait for silverware; the 1963 Coppa Italia triumph remains Atalanta’s solitary major trophy.

But perhaps now – possibly even through the Europa League – the wait for a trophy may end.

Certainly the only ‘gasps’ from watching pundits now are in admiration for the job Gian Piero is doing in Bergamo.

‘The Toffees of Liverpool’ are merely one of many teams to come unstuck against the new, brilliant Atalanta.


See Best of Bergamo’s updated Flights Guide
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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Porta San Lorenzo or Porta Garibaldi


Porta San Lorenzo is sometimes known as Porta Garibaldi
Porta San Lorenzo is sometimes known as Porta Garibaldi
The oldest and smallest of the gates leading into the Città Alta is Porta San Lorenzo, which leads into the upper city from Via Maironi to the north.

Confusingly, it is also sometimes referred to as Porta Garibaldi, as it was the entrance Giuseppe Garibaldi led his volunteer army through in June 1859 when he entered Bergamo and freed it from Austrian domination.

Porta San Lorenzo used to be the passageway to enter the city for people from the valleys north of Bergamo and from countries beyond the Alps.

Its ancient name comes from the church that used to be there, which was demolished by the Venetian invaders in order to build the walls.

Its second name, Porta Garibaldi, is to recognise the special connection Italy’s military leader had with Bergamo. Garibaldi played a key role in the process of Italian unification and, when he led the Expedition of the Thousand in 1860, some of the soldiers came from Bergamo.

As a reference to this expedition, Bergamo is also called Città dei Mille, the City of the Thousand.

Porta San Lorenzo had to be closed between 1605 and 1627 in order to keep the city safe. It was hard to keep the gate under enough surveillance to prevent an ambush.

The travellers from the valleys, who used to come into Bergamo through this gate, protested to the authorities until it was reopened.

But like the other three gates into the Città Alta, Porta San Lorenzo was always closed at 10 pm, when the bells would ring to signal the beginning of the curfew, which was imposed to guarantee the safety of the city.





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Monday, March 6, 2017

New scheme will give Bergamo bus passengers the chance to buy tickets on board

Passengers on the airport bus will soon have the option to buy a ticket on board
Passengers on the airport bus will soon have
the option to buy a ticket on board
Bergamo today becomes the first city in Italy to offer passengers the opportunity to buy travel tickets on board buses and trams.

Traditionally, passengers are required to buy a ticket before boarding, either at a roadside machine or in a bar or shop approved as a ticket outlet.

From today, the Atb company that operates services in and around Bergamo is introducing ticket machines on board, partly for the convenience of passengers but also to help combat the problem of fare dodging.

The service will be available only on one route for the moment - the T1 tram service between Bergamo's railway station and the town of Albino, to the north-east of the city - but there are plans to introduce it across the whole Atb network if it proves a success.

Passengers will have the option to pay with coins or by using their credit or debit card if it carries the VISA or Mastercard symbol.

There have been concerns that the new system would lead to services being delayed by queues of passengers waiting to use the on-board machines.

Atb have addressed this possibility, however, and will set on-board fares at 30 cents more per journey compared with tickets bought before boarding.

A journey from the airport into the city, for example, would cost €3 if the ticket was bought from a machine on the bus compared with €2.70 if purchased before boarding.

Fare dodging on Bergamo buses is a problem for Atb as it is for all transport providers across Italy.  The company estimates that about six per cent of passenger journeys on its network are completed without a ticket.

The new system may not deter a committed fare dodger but passengers who fail to buy a ticket for other reasons - if they are running late or simply forget, for example - will have the chance to buy on board rather than risk a fine.


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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Birth of Bergamo actor Cesare Danova


Cesare Danova in his debut film, The Captain's Daughter, with co-star Irasema Dilián
Cesare Danova in his debut film, The Captain's
Daughter,
with co-star Irasema Dilián
The handsome Cesare Danova, who appeared in more than 300 films and TV shows, was born Cesare Deitinger on this day in 1926 in Bergamo.

The son of an Austrian father and an Italian mother, the actor adopted Danova as his professional name after meeting the film producer, Dino de Laurentiis, in Rome.

De Laurentiis gave him a screen test and was so impressed he immediately cast Danova in the 1947 movie The Captain's Daughter, playing alongside established Italian film actor Amedeo Nazzari and the relative newcomer, Vittorio Gassman.

So began a career that was to see Danova star opposite Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Joseph L Mankiewicz's 1963 hit Cleopatra, opposite Elvis Presley and Ann-Margaret in Viva Las Vegas (1964), alongside Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel in Martin Scorsese's cult movie Mean Streets (1973) and as part of a star-studded cast in National Lampoon's Animal House (1978).

In his later years, Danova became a familiar figure on TV screens in America, making appearances in almost all the popular drama series of the 1980s, including Charlie's Angels, Murder, She Wrote, Falcon Crest, Hart to Hart and Mission: Impossible.

He never retired and had appeared in an episode of In the Heat of the Night shortly before he died in 1992 of a heart attack, aged 66.

Cesare Danova in the 1960s, by which time he was a well-established star of film and TV
Cesare Danova in the 1960s, by which time
he was a well-established star of film and TV
Danova was an individual blessed with a wide range of talents. He spoke five languages, was a licensed pilot and a self-taught painter.

Standing 6ft 4ins (1.93m) tall, he was also an accomplished athlete, winning a fencing championship at the age of 15 and playing for the Italian national rugby team at 17. He was also a good golfer and tennis player, an amateur swimming champion, an expert horseman and polo player, and a master archer.

He might have made a career in professional sport but his parents wanted him to become a doctor.  While studying at Rome University, he became interested in acting, but was so determined not to disappoint his parents he pushed himself so hard in his academic work he suffered a nervous breakdown.

It was while he was recuperating that a friend introduced him to De Laurentiis, by then an up-and-coming producer, whose gamble on giving this unknown a part in a prestigious title paid off, launching Danova as a kind of Italian Errol Flynn, cast as the dashing lead in about 20 Italian action-romance movies.

Danova moved to the United States in the 1950s. He had been spotted by MGM when appearing in the German-backed 1955 movie Don Giovanni and signed a long-term contract with the studio in June 1956.

Danova (left) on the set of Mean Streets with Harvey Keitel and director Martin Scorsese
Danova (left) on the set of Mean Streets with Harvey
Keitel and director Martin Scorsese
When he was cast in Cleopatra as one of a trio of lovers vying for the Egyptian queen’s attention alongside Rex Harrison's Julius Caesar and Richard Burton's Marc Antony, he filmed a number of love scenes with Elizabeth Taylor. But after a real-life romance between Taylor and Burton made headlines, the producers decided they needed to exploit the Burton-Taylor chemistry and most of Danova's scenes ended up on the cutting room floor.

But he later won acclaim as the Mafia Don Giovanni Cappa in Mean Streets, Scorsese's brilliant story about life among the small-time hoods in New York , and as corrupt mayor Carmine DePasto in Animal House.

Married twice, Danova had two sons, Marco and Fabrizio, by his first wife, Pamela.


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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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