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, July 29, 2014

Bergamo Su e Giù

How to get the inside track on Bergamo

Visitors to Bergamo have a wonderful opportunity to see the architectural treasures of the city from an insider’s point of view.
A small number of dedicated tour guides with a wealth of local knowledge are available to show groups around both the upper and lower towns and point out some of the hidden gems and nooks and crannies that may not be immediately obvious to outsiders.
Looking down on Bergamo from San Vigilio

The guides, who are all committed to promoting the unique heritage of Bergamo, formed their association Bergamo Su e Giù to offer this service to discerning tourists nearly five years ago.
They can provide tours with commentary in English, French, German, Spanish, Russian and Japanese and can take groups from as few as six people up to around 30 people.
Bergamo Su e Giù, which literally means Bergamo up and down, can provide customised guided tours, according to the wishes of each particular group, concentrating on a particular aspect, such as art, history or religion, as required.
The secretary of Bergamo Su e Giù Elisabetta Campanini was born and brought up in the Città Alta and knows every stone and corner of the old town intimately.
She says: “We are all passionate about Bergamo and are dedicated to helping visitors to discover its uniqueness, its stunning natural beauty and its amazing architectural heritage.
“As we go around the city we are able to bring each area to life, by telling both funny and touching anecdotes about the stories behind each building.
“We also like to take our guests down the lesser-known side streets and show them surprises that many visitors never discover.”

For more information about Bergamo Su e Giù visit their website at www.visitbergamo.info or contact them on +39.035.234182. If you mention that you read about them on Best of Bergamo you will be offered a 10 per cent discount.


Friday, June 6, 2014

When the big bell tolls 100 times

A stunning sight silhouetted against the blue sky, the distinctive bell tower, il Campanone, in Bergamo’s Città Alta (upper town) is visible from miles away.
Il Campanone towers above Piazza Vecchia
Bergamo’s bell tower dates back to at least the 12th century. It is also known as the Torre Civica (Civic Tower) and stands next to the Palazzo della Ragione, dominating a corner of Piazza Vecchia. From the top there are wonderful views over Bergamo and the surrounding countryside.
If you are in Piazza Vecchia at ten pm on any evening you will hear the bell toll 100 times marking the ancient curfew, when the gates in Bergamo ’s walls were locked at night to keep the city safe from invaders. The bell tolled at ten pm to remind the Bergamaschi that it was time to come back inside the walls or be locked out for the night. Although residents and visitors to the Città Alta can now come and go as they please, the tradition of 100 chimes at ten pm continues.
Il Campanone and the city’s ancient curfew feature in a new crime novel set in Bergamo, Death in the High City by Val Culley. The book was published as a Kindle edition in May 2014 on Amazon and is also due out in paperback later this month.

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Bergamo airport to close for runway work

Flights to Bergamo between next Tuesday (May 13) and Sunday June 1 will be subject to re-routing because of resurfacing work on the runway at the Caravaggio Airport, otherwise known as Orio al Serio.
Bergamo airport

No services in or out will operate between 00.01am on Tuesday and 06.00 on Monday June 2.  This will impact especially on Ryanair's extensive schedules and travellers should check with the airline should they have a flight booked during this period.

Ryanair's website advises that all their flights to and from Bergamo between these dates will instead arrive and depart from Milan's Malpensa Airport, which is located 91km west of Orio al Serio.  Those flying with other airlines should consult their websites or contact their customer service departments.

Work is continuing on an expansion of the arrivals and departure areas at Caravaggio, which is the fourth busiest airport in Italy, after Rome Fiumicino and the two Milan airports, Malpensa and Linate.

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Death in the High City

Brand new detective story taking place in Bergamo

A new crime novel set in Bergamo has just been published on Amazon Kindle.
The novel is the first in a series featuring detective duo Kate Butler, a freelance journalist, and Steve Bartorelli, a retired Detective Chief Inspector who is of Italian descent.
Believed to be the first British crime novel to put the spotlight on Bergamo, Death in the High City centres on the investigation into the death of an English woman who was writing a biography of the composer Gaetano Donizetti.
Of interest to anyone who enjoys the cosy crime fiction genre or likes detective novels with an Italian setting, the book is currently available as a Kindle edition, but can also be read on smartphones, tablets and computers using Amazon’s free Kindle app.
The dead woman had been living in an apartment in Bergamo ’s Città Alta and much of the action takes place within the walls of the high city. The local police do not believe there is enough evidence to open a murder inquiry so Kate Butler, who is the victim’s cousin, arrives on the scene to try to get some answers about her cousin’s death.
Kate visits many of the places in Bergamo with Donizetti connections and her enquiries even take her out to Lago d’Iseo. 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 her 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.

Death in the High City by Val Culley, published in May, 2014, is now available on Amazon.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Don’t miss architectural gems of Bergamo’s lower town

The stunning medieval and Renaissance architecture of the Citta Alta (upper town) is understandably a magnet for visitors to Bergamo.
It can be easy to overlook the Citta Bassa and go straight up to the beautiful town within the walls that you see in the skyline when you arrive in the city.
But Bergamo’s lower town has a wealth of imposing 18th and 19th century buildings to admire as well as many areas of historical importance.
One square definitely not to be missed is Piazza Pontida, near the junction of Via Sant’Alessandro and Via XX Settembre, which would have been the hub of the city in the 15th century.
Decorative porticos in Piazza Pontida
The square is close to a point known for centuries as Cinque Vie (five roads), where traffic from Milan, Lecco, Treviglio and Crema would converge. It was the place where goods arriving in Bergamo would be unloaded before being sent up to the Citta Alta (upper town).
Some of the portici (porticos) date back to the 15th century, when farmers and merchants would shelter from the sun under them while negotiating over the goods. It would have been a lively scene in those days, with story tellers and poets roaming from one inn to the next, entertaining the crowds who had come to trade in the square.
There are now modern shops doing business behind the porticos, but the square is still a popular meeting place for local people and it is pleasant to sit at a table outside one of the bars or restaurants and watch the Bergamaschi going about their daily lives.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Ancient palace has become Bergamo landmark

One of the most distinctive buildings in the Citta Alta, Bergamo’s upper town, is the 12th century Palazzo della Ragione, an imposing presence at the southern end of Piazza Vecchia.
The dark, medieval palace is perhaps Bergamo’s most frequently photographed building and has become an iconic image of the Citta Alta.
Medieval Palazzo at one end of Piazza Vecchia
The ground floor walls of the Palazzo were removed in the 15th century, allowing a view through the arches into Piazza Duomo. This provides a glimpse of the sumptuous fascade of the Colleoni Chapel, which is a bright contrast to the dark stone of the Palazzo.
It is claimed court cases used to be heard under the open arcades that now form the ground floor of the Palazzo and that prisoners were put on show there for the Bergamaschi to see.
Nowadays you will often be able to listen to musicians under the arcades while you sit and enjoy a drink at the Bar Tasso next to the Palazzo.
A grand covered stairway was added to the Palazzo della Ragione in 1453. This rises from Piazza Vecchia to the first floor of the Palazzo, where 13th and 14th century frescoes, taken from old churches and houses in the surrounding area, were used to decorate the upper hall. Known as the Truss Room, the upper hall is now often used for art exhibitions.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

See the stone walls built to protect Bergamo

The monumental walls encircling the Città Alta (upper town) are a striking feature of Bergamo.
Built in the 16th century, the stone walls effectively divided Bergamo into two cities and everything left outside them became part of the Città Bassa (lower town).
To see the walls at close quarters and appreciate how well they were built, it is worth taking a stroll along Viale delle Mura, a beautiful tree-lined avenue that overlooks the Città Bassa.
Solid stone walls surround Bergamo's historic high city
Walls had been built to protect Bergamo in Roman times and rebuilt and repaired over the centuries.
But it was the huge walls built by the Venetian rulers of Bergamo that came to define the city and are still admired for their grandeur today.
The Venetians kept the project secret beforehand so that any protests against the building work would be too late to have any effect.
On 1 August 1561 the major work began and several churches were demolished, including the ancient Basilica di Sant’Alessandro, which was dedicated to Bergamo ’s patron saint. At the time it was recorded that more than 200 private homes were demolished, but it is believed the figure was probably higher than that.
The work also damaged the sewerage system causing underground cellars and passages to flood.
The Bergamaschi were forced to provide lodgings for the soldiers who had been put in charge of guarding the fortifications, an additional hardship at a time when many had lost their homes and received no compensation.
The walls were designed by a Florentine, Bonaiuto Lorini, who already had a reputation for his intelligent fortifications and the way he defended cities. They were built with places for canons to be positioned and for soldiers to be housed, and with openings to enable troops to go out and seize any survivors from among invaders who had been fired on.
Prisoners were locked up in the Torre Adalberto, which became nicknamed Torre della Fame, tower of hunger, because of the way the inmates were treated.
Beautiful gates were designed and built to provide entrances for legitimate visitors to the Città Alta. They were always manned by troops and people had to pay to bring their goods and produce in to sell in the upper town.
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