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.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Death in the High City first anniversary

Successful year for Bergamo’s first English crime novel

Death in the High City, the first British detective novel to be set in Bergamo, has had an exciting first year.
The novel, which was published in Kindle format on Amazon 12 months ago today, has sold copies in the UK, Italy, America, Australia and Canada. A paperback version of Death in the High City was published in July 2014.
Author Val Culley has had some heart warming emails and messages about the book from readers both in the UK and abroad and has been delighted with the level of interest in her first novel.
With the Colleoni Chapel in the background
In October 2014 Val was a guest at the fifth anniversary celebrations of Bergamo Su e Giù, a group of independent tour guides in the city. She was invited to present Death in the High City to an audience in San Pellegrino Terme and sign copies of the book and she also made an appearance on Bergamo TV to talk about the novel with presenter Teo Mangione.
In November the book was purchased by Leicestershire Libraries and is now in stock at Loughborough, Shepshed, Ashby de la Zouch, Coalville, Castle Donington and Kegworth Libraries and is going out on loan regularly.
In April this year Val was invited to Bergamo again to present her novel to a group of 80 Italian teachers of English and to sign copies. She made a second appearance on Bergamo TV and also formally presented a copy of Death in the High City to the Biblioteca Civica (Civic Library) in Piazza Vecchia, a location that is featured in the novel itself.
Death in the High City centres on the investigation into the death of an English woman who was staying in the Città Alta while writing a biography of the composer Gaetano Donizetti.
On display in a library
The novel is the first of a series to feature the characters of Kate Butler, a freelance journalist, and Steve Bartorelli, a Detective Chief Inspector, who is of partly Italian descent and has just retired from the English police.
The victim had been living in an apartment in Bergamo’s Città Alta and much of the action takes place within the walls of the upper town. The local police do not believe there is enough evidence to open a murder enquiry and so Kate Butler, who is the victim’s cousin, arrives in Bergamo to try to get some answers about her death.
Kate visits many of the places in the city with Donizetti connections and her enquiries even take her out to Lago d’Iseo and into the countryside around San Pellegrino Terme. But after her own life is threatened and there has been another death in the Città Alta, her lover, Steve Bartorelli, joins her to help unravel the mystery and trap the killer. The reader is able to go along for the ride and enjoy Bergamo’s wonderful architecture and scenery while savouring the many descriptions in the novel of local food and wine.
The novel will be of interest to anyone who enjoys the ‘cosy’ crime fiction genre or likes detective novels with an Italian setting.
Death in the High City by Val Culley is available on Amazon.com.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Santa Marta Cloister

A glimpse of the beauty of 14th century Bergamo 

A tranquil spot in the heart of the elegant banking district in Bergamo’s Città Bassa, the Santa Marta Cloister remains as a perfectly preserved part of a 14th century convent.
To the left of the Torre del Caduti in Piazza Vittorio Veneto, a view of the ancient cloister can be obtained from under the colonnades of the Palazzo della Banca Popolare di Bergamo.
Modern sculptures embellish the garden of the cloister
The building housing the bank was built in 1926 and the arcade in front of the bank leads to the entrance to the cloister, which is all that remains of the convent that was founded here in the 14th century,
The convent was enlarged over subsequent centuries but was finally demolished to make way for the urban redesign of Bergamo planned by architect Marcello Piacentino, who was commissioned with revamping the Città Bassa in 1907, when he was just 26 years of age.
Only the longest side of the cloister complete with its arched colonnades now survives from the original building.
To see the beautiful Santa Marta Cloister, look through the iron gates to the left of the main entrance to the bank.

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Monday, February 2, 2015

How Orio al Serio airport has helped put Bergamo on the map for visitors to Italy

Bergamo's airport at Orio al Serio is the fourth busiest in Italy and there is no doubt that its rapid expansion has helped raise the profile of the city.
Developed on the site of a military airfield, the airport welcomed its first commercial flight in 1972 but it was not until the deregulation of the aviation industry in the late 1990s that it began to grow at a significant rate.
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Ryanair is the principal carrier at Bergamo Airport
(Picture by Paul Lenz)

See our updated Flights Guide

With the boom in regional and low-cost airlines that followed deregulation,  Orio al Serio began to see passenger numbers increasing by significant numbers year on year.  Around a million travellers used the airport in 2000; by 2014 the figure was 8.77 million, more than passed through Marco Polo airport in Venice.
At first seen as a third airport for Milan -- hence it is often referred to as Milan Bergamo -- the airport has helped boost Bergamo's standing as an attraction in its own right, not least because its proximity to the city allows travellers to take in some wonderful views as they land, the Città Alta's beguiling charms often visible from the aircraft windows.
Recently renamed Il Caravaggio International Airport - in honour of the artist who took his name from the town in Bergamo Province where he grew up -- the airport is situated just 3.7 kilometres (2.3 miles) to the south-east of the city.  
Taxis to the city are in plentiful supply and there are buses every 20 minutes from outside the arrivals area, every half an hour at weekends
Bus tickets cost only a couple of euros and the journey time is short -- only 15 minutes to the railway station in Bergamo's Città Bassa, 30 minutes to the Città Alta.  Look out for the No 1 service, which runs along Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII and Viale Roma - the Città Bassa's main thoroughfare -- before climbing to the Città Alta along Viale Vittorio Emanuele II.  Most of the Città Bassa's major hotels are within a short walk of the bus route.

See our updated Flights Guide

Currently you can fly to Caravaggio from more than 30 countries around Europe and North Africa. Ryanair has developed Bergamo as one of its major hubs and the majority of flights to the airport are operated by the Irish budget carrier.
Visitors to Bergamo from the United Kingdom can fly with Ryanair from Bristol, East Midlands, London Stansted and Manchester.  Flights from London Stansted account for around 375,000 passengers arriving in Bergamo each year. 
Ryanair has also become a major carrier within Italy, operating flights to Caravaggio from 10 departure points
In addition to the UK, countries with direct flights to Bergamo are: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine. 

More details can be found in our Flights Guide which has been updated to show the spring and summer schedules.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year celebrations in Piazza Vecchia

For the first time ever the funicular that links the Città Bassa with the Città Alta will run until two o'clock in the morning on New Year's Day (Capodanno) in Bergamo.
This is to enable revellers to enjoy the celebrations in Piazza Vecchia, which are expected to go on well after the Campanone has rung in the New Year at midnight.
Action in Death in the High City
 takes place in Piazza Vecchia.

Restaurants around the square will be putting on special New Year's menus and there will be live music and entertainment for the crowds in Piazza Vecchia. A fireworks display from Porta San Giacomo will welcome in 2015 with a bang.
ATB (Azienda Trasporti Bergamo) have taken the decision to keep the funicular running after midnight when it would normally stop to enable locals and visitors to get home safely after enjoying the festive atmosphere.
Bergamo's Piazza Vecchia will clearly be the place to see in the New Year.
Buon Anno and a Happy New Year to all visitors to Best of Bergamo.
And a special thank you to everyone who has bought a copy of Death in the High City, published in 2014 and the first crime novel to be set in Bergamo, in which most of the action takes place within the walls of the Città Alta.

Death in the High City by Val Culley is available in paperback and in Kindle from Amazon

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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Celebrating Christmas Bergamo style

With Italian specialities readily available in the shops there is no reason why you can’t recreate a traditional Bergamo Christmas in your own home.
Panettone, Pan d’Oro and Panforte are great alternatives to Christmas pudding and Prosecco is, in my opinion, better than Champagne.
Prosecco, cake and a novel set in Italy
While you may not be able to find authentic Bergamo sausages or meats for your antipasti or not want to go to the trouble of making your own casoncelli alla bergamasca for your primo piatto, you can find good quality prosciutto and salami and stuffed pasta in most shops.
Christmas is very much a family feast in Bergamo, just as in the rest of Italy .
After la Vigilia di Natale (Christmas Eve), when traditionally a fish meal is consumed, Natale (Christmas Day) is a time for feasting.
While the children open their presents, the adults savour a glass of Prosecco as they prepare the festive table.
Friends and relatives who drop in with presents or to exchange good wishes will be offered nuts, biscuits and torrone (nougat from Cremona.)
Antipasti dishes of prosciutto and bresaola are served with preserved mushrooms, olives or pickled vegetables.
Stuffed pasta is usually served as a first course, either in the shape of ravioli or tortellini, which are said to have been offered as Christmas gifts to priests and monks during the 12th century.
For the main course, turkey or capon is likely to be served, with potatoes and vegetables as side dishes.
The traditional end to the meal is almost always Panettone, served warm accompanied by a glass of sparkling wine.
Panettone is said to have been concoted by a Milanese baker, Antonio (Toni), to impress his girlfriend at Christmas time in the 15th century. The result was so successful that ‘Pane de Toni’ has become a regular feature of the Christmas season all over Italy and now abroad.
The feasting and family parties continue on 26 December, the festa di Santo Stefano (Boxing Day).
To transport you back to Bergamo over the festive season, why not read Death in the High City, a crime novel in which much of the action takes place in Bergamo’s Città Alta.

Death in the High City by Val Culley is available from Amazon.com

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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Casa Natale di Gaetano Donizetti

Birthplace is now a national monument

It is both humbling and inspiring to visit the birthplace of Bergamo composer Gaetano Donizetti, just outside the walls of the Città Alta (upper town).
Donizetti was born into a large family living in the basement of a house in Borgo Canale on 29 November 1797, a date that was to be of major significance for music and opera.
Entrance to Donizetti's birthplace
The Casa Natale (birthplace), which has now been declared a national monument, is open to visitors free of charge every weekend and it is well worth a visit to see the conditions in which the musical genius spent his early years.
You can still see the well from which the family drew their water and the fireplace where meals were cooked, which would have also been their only source of heating.
Music from Donizetti’s operas echoes around the basement while you study the exhibition that commemorates his life and career, helping you to reflect on the amazing journey he made from his place of birth to being acclaimed in theatres all over the world when he was at the height of his success.
The child born 217 years ago today in these humble surroundings went on to become a prolific composer of operas in the early part of the 19th century and was a major influence on Verdi, Puccini and many other Italian composers who came after him.
To reach Donizetti’s birthplace, leave the Città Alta through Porta Sant’Alessandro and go past the station for the San Vigilio funicolare. Borgo Canale is the next street on the right and the Casa Natale, at number 14, in the middle of a row of characteristic, tall houses, is marked by a plaque.
The family's only source of water
Donizetti was the fifth of six children born to a textile worker and his wife.
He once wrote about his birthplace: “…I was born underground in Borgo Canale. One descended the stairs to the basement, where no ray of sunlight had ever been seen. And like an owl I flew forth…”
Donizetti developed a love for music and despite the poverty of his family benefited from early tuition at a special music school that had been set up in Bergamo to train choirboys.
He went on to compose some of the greatest lyrical operas of all time such as Lucia di Lammermoor and L’Elisir d’Amore.
After a magnificent career Donizetti returned to Bergamo as a sick man and died in 1843 in the Palazzo Scotti, where he was living at the time with friends. The street in the Città Alta where the palazzo is situated was later renamed Via Donizetti in his honour.
There is also a museum dedicated to his life and career in the Città Alta, within the former Palazzo Misericordia Maggiore, which is still being used to house a musical institute, in Via Arena. 
Donizetti’s tomb is in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Piazza Duomo in the Città Alta.
Fireplace where the family would gather round
A monument dedicated to him was erected in the Città Bassa in Bergamo in 1897, 100 years after his birth.
It is close to the theatre on the corner of Via Sentierone that was renamed Teatro Donizetti in honour of the composer.

Casa Natale is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 10.00 to 13.00 and 15.00 to 18.00. From Monday to Friday, visits to the house are by appointment only.

See Best of Bergamo’s updated Flights Guide
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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Restored Casinò a triumph for San Pellegrino Terme

Casinò Municipale di San Pellegrino Terme

One of the most magnificent examples of the architectural style known in Italian as stile liberty, the Municipal Casinò at San Pellegrino Terme is now available as a venue for weddings and conventions.
Casinò di San Pellegrino
Both the impressive exterior and ornate interior of the building in Via Bartolomeo Villa have been carefully restored, taking it back to the elegance and sophistication of the glorious days early in the 20th century when it was fashionable for the rich and glamorous to visit San Pellegrino.
The spa town’s Casinò took just 20 months to build between 1905 and 1907 and is generally regarded as a masterpiece of Stile Liberty, or Art Nouveau, as it is also known.
Illustrious guests visiting San Pellegrino Terme to take the waters would come to the Casinò to hear musical concerts or gamble in the Sala da Gioco (gaming room). It became a meeting place for the most eminent people from the worlds of finance and politics as well as the aristocracy.
The gaming room was closed on Mussolini’s orders in 1926 and reopened, for a brief period only, in 1946.
Ornate detail
inside the Casinò
Nowadays under Italian law, gambling is permitted in a few places only, the most famous being the Casinò in Venice.
San Pellegrino Terme and the province of Bergamo are now working in partnership to revive tourism in the town and the restoration of the Casinò and adjacent theatre were the first projects undertaken. There are also plans for a new Spa centre and for the restoration of the Grand Hotel.
The Casinò now provides a prestigious venue for weddings, meetings and conventions. For more information about arranging an event there, visit www.casinosanpellegrinoterme.com.
Guided tours of the Casinò can be booked with Bergamo Su e Giù, who are a small group of dedicated tour guides committed to promoting the unique heritage of Bergamo and the surrounding area. They formed their association to provide services for tourists five years ago and can provide tours with commentary in English, French, German, Spanish, Russian and Japanese for groups from as few as six, to around 30 people.
Bergamo Su e Giù, which literally means 'Bergamo up and down', have taken more than 600 visitors round the Casinò since it reopened. For more information, visit www.visitbergamo.info.

Sample some San Pellegrino

The name San Pellegrino has become synonymous throughout the world with the bottled aqua minerale that comes from the town.
But since medieval times San Pellegrino Terme, which is about 24 kilometres north of Bergamo in the Valle Brembana, has been a place people visited hoping for a cure for their illnesses. The waters were believed to be particularly effective against uric acid and kidney stones.
San Pellegrino became fashionable at the end of the 19th century and impressive buildings such as the Grand Hotel, il Palazzo della Fonte and il Casinò Municipale were designed for the town by architect Romolo Squadrelli.
It is worth a visit, by car or bus from Bergamo , to see the opulent architecture and to take a stroll along the banks of the River Brembo, where you can imagine what San Pellegrino would have been like at the height of its popularity.
There are plenty of elegant bars and restaurants on the main street looking out over the river.
But wherever you decide to stop for refreshment, make sure you order a bottle of San Pellegrino!

See Best of Bergamo’s updated Flights Guide
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