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, 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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Friday, January 24, 2014

City in the skyline entices visitors

If you arrive in Bergamo by train, or by bus from the airport, you will immediately be greeted by a magnificent view of the Città Alta.
Stand outside the railway station and look down the long, straight Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII and you will see the towers and roofs of the Città Alta silhouetted against the sky.
View in the skyline from outside the railway station.
It’s a magical view and will make you want to go and explore the upper town at close quarters.
The view is different according to the seasons. The Città Alta looks magnificent on a bright day against a blue sky, but it also looks beautiful shrouded in mist in the autumn.
The Number 1 bus will take you directly there. Alternatively, you could choose to explore part of the Città Bassa on your way to the funicolare, the funicular railway that also transports visitors up to the Città Alta.
Walk down Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII to Porta Nuova, a neoclassical gateway made in Bergamo’s medieval walls in the middle of the 19th century, which is flanked by i Propilei (the Propylaea), two buildings that look like temples.
Further along Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII you will reach Via Sentierone. Turn to your right to see the 18th century Teatro Donizetti and next to it the monument to the composer Gaetano Donizetti, erected in 1897 in the centenary year of his birth. Opposite is Balzer, a bar founded in 1850 that has now become a Bergamo institution.
Further along Via Sentierone is the church of San Bartolomeowhich has a large altarpiece by Renaissance artist Lorenzo Lotto depicting the Virgin Mary and child on a throne surrounded by saints.
Retrace your steps along Via Sentierone and continue walking down the main thoroughfare, Viale Vittorio Emanuele II, until you reach the funicular railway station on the left hand side. Trains leave every few minutes from there for the short journey up to the Città Alta.
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Monday, August 19, 2013

Police in Bergamo

Polizia or Carabinieri?

Bergamo is a very safe city for visitors and by taking normal precautions when you are out and about you can make sure nothing happens to spoil your holiday.
Organise comprehensive travel insurance before you go and be as careful with your property while you are there as you would be in your own home town.
Carabinieri Command Station In Piazza Cittadella
Only take out with you what you need each day and keep your passport and other valuables safe in your hotel room.
Stick to busy, well-lit routes at night and keep a close eye on your bag when on buses and trains.
If you are unlucky enough to become a victim of crime you should report it to the police as quickly as possible to get a claim number for your insurance company.
The Polizia di Stato (State Police) is the civil national police force. The Questura (their headquarters) in Bergamo is off Via Gianforte Suardi in Borgo Santa Caterina in the Città  Bassa.
If you need help and advice while in the Città Alta you could try the Carabinieri Comando Stazione in Piazza Cittadella.
The Carabinieri are one of Italy’s four armed forces but they carry out both civil and military operations and some police duties. They wear a distinctive dark blue uniform with a red trim.
You may also see cars and officers from the Guardia di Finanza (finance police) while in Italy . They come under the Ministry of Economy and Finance and deal with financial crime and illegal immigration.
To call the police in an emergency while on holiday in Bergamo dial either 112 or 113.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Enjoy a day trip to Sarnico on Lago d’Iseo

The foot of Lago d'Iseo seen from Sarnico

As the weather gets warmer in Bergamo, consider spending a day in Sarnico on Lago d’Iseo. It takes less than an hour to drive or travel by bus to the elegant little town 27 kilometres from Bergamo .
Sarnico is on the edge of what is perhaps Italy’s most romantic and least known lake. Lago d’Iseo is in a beautiful setting among mountains and has the spectacular Monte Isola, the biggest lake island in Europe, at its centre.
Sarnico is at the foot of the lake on its western shore, where it joins Fiume Oglio (River Oglio.)
There is a service to Sarnico every hour from the bus station in Via Bartolomeo Bono in Bergamo. The bus leaves the city along Via Borgo Palazzo and passes through a series of interesting, small towns with mountain views in the distance.
From Chiudino onwards you will see fields of vines with the grapes for the next season’s Valcalepio wine growing on them.
The bus passes through Grumello del Monte, which has a pretty square with a fountain, Castelli Calepio and Villongo before turning towards the lake. The nearest stop to the lake is outside Sarnico’s Municipio (Town Hall) in Viale Roma. From there it is a short walk to the lake where you can stroll along Via Garibaldi, which runs alongside it, and admire the views.
A street in the centre of Sarnico
There is also a medieval town centre to explore uphill away from the lake. In Via Lantieri, which is off Piazza Umberto, you will see architectural reminders of the middle ages such as narrow alleyways and passages under arcades. Call at the Tourism Information Office at number 6 Via Lantieri and ask for a free map and a list of the main sights.
Just above Piazza Umberto in Piazza San Paolo, off Via Tresanda, is the 15th century church of San Paolo.
Il Museo Civico Gianni Bellini has works of art from between 1500 and 1700 on display in a restored 15th century palazzo.
To see a villa in stilo Liberty (early 20th century Liberty style) take a look at Villa Faccanoni in Via Vittorio Veneto, built by Milanese architect Giuseppe Sommaruga.

Where to eat in Sarnico

For a good meal in a lovely setting, try Ristorante Pizzeria Anphora in the heart of the town in Piazza XX Settembre on the edge of the lake.
Steps lead up from the square to the restaurant, which has an outside eating area for summer use overlooking the lake.
Inside, the restaurant is smart and modern but is furnished with antiques and bric a brac.
Ristorante Pizzeria Anphora specialises in fish and seafood dishes but also offers Lombardian recipes. It is closed on Mondays.
To book a table or check the opening hours telephone 035 910828.

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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Enjoy musical memories in tranquil Via Arena in Bergamo

Bergamo: Via Arena
Quiet Via Arena in Bergamo
One of the most beautiful and characteristic streets in the Città Alta (upper town) is the peaceful Via Arena.
The narrow cobbled street lined with old houses with ornate portals and fresco decorated walls runs from Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore up to the west end of the Città Alta and the Seminario Vescovile. It can be accessed by leaving the church of Santa Maria Maggiore at the south entrance.
On the left side is the high wall encircling the Santa Grata convent with an ornate church entrance. Opposite is the Palazzo della Misericordia Maggiore, which houses a musical institute and the Donizetti museum.
The palazzo, at Number 9 Via Arena, was originally built in the 15th century but was extended and refurbished in the 17th century to become the largest baroque building in Bergamo .
The museum dedicated to Gaetano Donizetti has a unique and fascinating collection of furniture, paintings, books and musical scores.
Donizetti, who was born and died in Bergamo, composed about 70 highly regarded operas in 30 years, making him one of the leading composers of opera in the early part of the 19th century and a major influence on Verdi, Puccini and other Italian composers who came after him.
Donizetti Museum, Bergamo
Donizetti museum entrance in Via Arena
Visitors are able to see Donizetti’s furniture, including the bed he died in and the chair he used to sit in towards the end of his life when he was living in Palazzo Scotti in Bergamo ’s Città Alta as the guest of a wealthy family. There are also the composer’s piano, portraits, original scores from his operas and his letters on view in display cases as well as a library of books and documents.
To add to the atmosphere as you look round the museum, you will hear occasional snatches of music played by students using the practice rooms of the musical institute, which is also housed in the palace.
The origins of the musical institute go back to the charitable lessons in music provided for orphans early in the 19th century by Simone Mayr, music master at Santa Maria Maggiore, under who Donizetti himself at one time studied
The Donizetti Museum in Via Arena is open from Tuesday to Friday from 9.30 to 13.00 and on Saturday and Sunday from 9.30 to 13.00 and from 14.00 to 17.30. Closed Mondays.

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