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.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Matteo Renzi in Bergamo

Prime Minister Renzi, flanked by police officers and
photographers, makes his way out of Piazza Vecchia
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi paid a visit to Bergamo today to explain the Government's point of view ahead of Italy's 2016 referendum on the constitution.

At a conference to launch his campaign inside Teatro Sociale in Via Colleoni in the Città Alta (upper town), Renzi appealed to his audience to 'help change Italy' by voting Si to constitutional change in October.

Afterwards he strolled through the upper town's historic Piazza Vecchia in the sunshine, greeting supporters and surprising diners sitting outside the restaurants and bars, before leaving through an exit next to the Caffe del Tasso, flanked by police officers and security men.

Teatro Sociale is a small theatre in one of Bergamo's oldest streets, Via Colleoni, an ancient Roman thoroughfare that used to be known as Corsarola.

Piazza Vecchia is said to be one of the most beautiful squares in Italy, with its mixture of medieval and Renaissance architecture, and is lined by smart restaurants and bars with outside tables.

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Bergamo chorister who grew up to be a celebrated tenor famous around the world

Rubini was born in Romano di Lombardia
Giovanni Battista Rubini was born
 in Romano di Lombardia in 1794
Giovanni Battista Rubini, born on this day in 1794 in Romano di Lombardia in Bergamo province, grew up to be an international star in opera, a tenor as famous in his day as Enrico Caruso would be almost a century later.

Blessed with an exceptionally high yet beautifully lyrical voice, his popularity ended the dominance of the castrati in the leading male roles in opera and he is credited with launching the era of the bel canto tenor. 

He formed close partnerships with Vincenzo Bellini and Bergamo's own Gaetano Donizetti, his popularity boosting their standing among composers of the day.

At the peak of his fame, Rubini alternated between Paris and London, singing at the Théâtre-Italien in Paris and His Majesty’s Theatre in the Haymarket, London.  He toured Germany and Holland with Franz Liszt in 1843 and in the same year performed in St. Petersburg, Russia, where Czar Nicholas I appointed him Director of Singing and made him Colonel of the Imperial Music. 

Precociously talented, Rubini was just 12 when he was taken on as a violinist and chorister at the Riccardi Theatre in Bergamo. He was 20 when he made his professional debut in Pietro Generali’s Le lagrime d’una vedova at Pavia in 1814, then sang for 10 years in Naples.  

In 1825 he sang the leading roles in Gioacchino Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Otello, and La donna del Lago in Paris and was soon regarded as the leading tenor of his day. 

Teatro Donizetti is built on the site of Teatro Riccardi, where Rubini was a violinist and chorister as a boy
Teatro Donizetti is built on the site of Teatro Riccardi,
where Rubini was a violinist and chorister as a boy
Bellini wrote many operas specifically with Rubini's voice in mind, giving him the tenor leads in Il pirata, La sonnambula and I Puritani, in which he starred alongside the soprano Giulia Grisi, the baritone Antonio Tamburini and the bass Luigi Lablache, who collectively became known as the “Puritani quartet.”

The four also appeared together in Donizetti's Marino Faliero during the same season. Rubini premiered Donizetti's La lettera anonima, Evida, Il giovedì grasso, Gianni di Calais, Il paria and Anna Bolena. 

In 1845 he retired to Romano di Lombardia and bought a palazzo there, which became a museum after he died in 1854, a month short of his 60th birthday.

Teatro Riccardi stood on the site of Teatro Donizetti in Bergamo's Città Bassa.  Opened in 1791, it was destroyed in a fire in 1797 and reopened in 1800.  It was renamed Teatro Gaetano Donizetti, now commonly shortened to Teatro Donizetti, in 1897, the centenary of the composer's birth. 

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Marvellous memento of your time in Bergamo

You can now take the beautiful sights of Bergamo’s Città Alta home with you, not just in your pictures, but also in the form of unique souvenirs.


A range of gold-embossed, leather bookmarks has been created, depicting some of the most beautiful and historic buildings in the upper town.

The bookmarks are now on sale at the Caffè del Tasso in Piazza Vecchia in the Città Alta and at the gift shop in the Accademia Carrara in Piazza Giacomo Carrara in the Città Bassa.

Elisabetta Campanini - creator
 of Bergamo bookmarks
The souvenirs were the idea of Bergamo tour guide Elisabetta Campanini, who used to collect leather bookmarks, buying them at tourist attractions whenever she visited England.

Elisabetta was born and brought up in the Città Alta and is passionate about sharing her detailed knowledge of the upper town with the visitors she shows round.

“It was always my dream to create the same kind of leather bookmarks for my native city that I used to admire in England, to provide people with the opportunity to buy a souvenir of what they have seen during their stay in Bergamo,” she says.

Five different bookmarks

Each bookmark (segnalibro) shows a selection of architectural masterpieces in the Città Alta:
Complete set of Bergamo bookmarks

  • One depicts Piazza Vecchia, with Palazzo della Ragione, the Contarini fountain and Civic Library.
  • Another shows the landmark towers of the Città Alta - the Gombito Tower and the Campanone.
  • There is a bookmark dedicated to the Colleoni Chapel, showing the façade of the building and details such as the rose window and coat of arms of the Colleoni family.
  • Three churches, Santa Maria Maggiore, the Baptistery and the Tempietto are represented on a fourth bookmark. 
  • And all four gates to the walled city, Porta San Giacomo, Porta San Lorenzo (also sometimes known as Porta Garibaldi), Porta Sant’Alessandro and Porta Sant’Agostino are shown on the fifth bookmark.

The bookmarks are made in Bergamo using high-quality Venetian leather and are on sale individually at five euros or can be bought as a set.

For more details, email freelance tour guide Elisabetta Campanini at info@acrossBergamo.com.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Birth of Pope John XXIII

It was an awe-inspiring achievement for a farmer’s son with a lot of siblings from a hamlet just outside Bergamo to become Pope and an influential world leader.
But this was the journey made by the much-respected Pope John XXIII, who was born into a large farming family on 25 November in 1881 at Sotto il Monte near Bergamo.
Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII leads to the upper town
Originally named Angelo Roncalli, he was tutored by a local priest before entering the Seminary at Bergamo at the age of 12.
His religious studies were interrupted by a spell in the Italian army, but he was ordained in 1904. He served as secretary to the Bishop of Bergamo for nine years before becoming an army chaplain in World War One.
After the war Angelo worked in Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece on behalf of the church helping to locate and repatriate prisoners of war.
In 1944 he was appointed nuncio to Paris to help with the post war effort in France. He became Cardinal Patriarch of Venice in 1953 and probably expected to spend his last years serving the church there.
But when he was elected Pope by his fellow cardinals in the conclave of 20 October 1958, it was a turning point in the church’s history.
Although he was Pope for less than five years, John XXIII enlarged the College of Cardinals to make it more representative, consecrated 14 new bishops for Asia and Africa, advanced ecumenical relations and worked for world peace.
He is remembered as ‘il Papa Buono’, ‘the Good Pope’, and since his death on 3 June 1963, his birthplace, and the museum set up to commemorate his life, have become popular destinations for pilgrims.
There is a permanent reminder of Pope John in Bergamo’s lower town, where the main thoroughfare from the railway station to Porta Nuova has been renamed Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII. In the upper town, there are works by Pope John XXIII in the Biblioteca Civica, the white marble Civic Library, in Piazza Vecchia. The Seminary he attended is at the end of nearby Via Arena.
Pope John’s birthplace, which has now been renamed Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXIII, is a short bus or car journey to the west of Bergamo. You can visit the house where he was born in the hamlet of Brusicco. The summer residence at Camaitino, which he used when he was a cardinal, is now a history museum dedicated to him.

Opening hours: Casa Natale (birthplace) at Brusicco 8.30 am to 5.30 pm; Museo di Papa Giovanni (Pope John Museum) at Camaitino 8.30 am to 11.30 and 2.30 pm to 6.30.

See Best of Bergamo’s updated Flights Guide
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Monday, November 2, 2015

Bartolomeo Colleoni’s legacy to Bergamo

Bergamo soldier Bartolomeo Colleoni, who became known for his good works, died on 2 November in 1475.
Colleoni spent most of his life in the pay of the republic of Venice defending the city of Bergamo against invaders.
But he is remembered as one of the most decent condottieri of his era, carrying out charitable works and agricultural improvements in Bergamo and the surrounding area when he was not involved in military campaigns.
Colleoni Chapel is
highlight of upper town

Condottieri were the leaders of troops, who worked for the powerful ruling factions, often for high payments, during the fifteenth century.
Bergamo’s Bartolomeo Colleoni was unusual because he remained steadfast to one employer, the republic of Venice, for most of his career.
During a period of peace between Venice and Milan he worked briefly for Milan but the rulers never fully trusted him and eventually he was arrested and imprisoned. After his release, he returned to work for Venice and subsequently stayed faithful to them.
Towards the end of his life he lived with his family at his castle in Malpaga, to the south of Bergamo, and turned his attention to designing a building to house his own tomb. This has given Bergamo’s upper town its most ornate and celebrated building, the Cappella Colleoni (Colleoni Chapel), one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture in Italy.
Cappella Colleoni was designed by architect Antonio Amadeo to harmonise with the adjacent Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, using pink and white marble to match the colours of the doorway.
Inside the Colleoni Chapel there is an elaborate, two-tier sarcophagus surmounted by a golden statue of Colleoni on horseback. The military leader’s body was placed in the lower sarcophagus, according to his instructions, where it still lies today. Above his tomb there are frescoes by Giambattista Tiepolo.
Bartolomeo Colleoni left money to Venice in his will with a request that a statue of himself be erected in Piazza San Marco after his death. As there was a rule that no monuments were allowed in the Piazza, the statue, made by Andrea del Verrocchio, was eventually placed opposite the Scuola di San Marco in Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo, where it can still be seen today.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sant’Alessandro festival 2015

Patron saint honoured by bells

The bells have been ringing out all over Bergamo today to herald the festival in honour of the city’s patron saint, Sant’Alessandro, which starts tomorrow.
The annual event commemorates the event on August 26, 303, when Sant’Alessandro was martyred by the Romans for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.
Column marks spot where
 Sant'Alessandro was executed
It is believed Sant’Alessandro was a devout citizen who had defiantly continued to preach in Bergamo, despite several narrow escapes from the Romans, but he was eventually caught and suffered decapitation.
A series of religious, cultural and gastronomic events focused on the theme of Gratitude will takes place in his name over several days throughout the city, which will be decorated with festive lights.
Palazzo Frizzoni, the seat of the commune, will open its doors to the public for guided tours tomorrow afternoon.
Bergamaschi bell ringers will perform a set of traditional old tunes to entertain the public in Piazza Mascheroni and there will be stalls and refreshments along the Sentierone. A firework display will take place at 10.30 pm tomorrow night.
Porta Sant’Alessandro, which leads from the upper town to Borgo Canale and San Vigilio, was built in the 16th century. It was named after a fourth century cathedral that had originally been dedicated to the saint but was later demolished.

See Best of Bergamo’s updated Flights Guide
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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Accademia Carrara

Palace filled with art treasures is a major attraction in Bergamo

One of the biggest jewels in Bergamo’s crown, the prestigious art gallery Accademia Carrara, is shining even more brightly now it is open to the public again.
The magnificent palace just outside the Città Alta, which was built in the 18th century to house one of the richest private collections of art in Italy, had been closed for renovation work for seven years.
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, such as Lotto, Titian, Moroni, Rubens, Tiepolo, Guardi and Canaletto, to name but a few.
Restored Accademia the day it reopened
The reopening of the Accademia Carrara in April this year sparked great celebrations in Bergamo, after the museum had been closed for so long for restoration and maintenance work.
Following a spectacular opening ceremony and party the museum opened its doors to the public for the first time on 24 April. Thousands of people were waiting outside in Piazza Giacomo Carrara to get their first look inside the refurbished building.
Visitors can now walk through 28 rooms to view more than 600 major works by artists and sculptors spanning five centuries.

Highlights include: Madonna and Child by Andrea Mantegna; Portrait of Leonello d’Este by Pisanello; Three Crucifixes by Vincenzo Foppa; Madonna and Child by Giovanni Bellini; The Story of Virginia the Roman by Sandro Botticelli; The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine by Lorenzo Lotto; Madonna and Child in a Landscape by Tiziano Vecellio; Madonna with Baby and Saints by Palma il Vecchio; Portrait of an Elderly Man seated by Giovan Battista Moroni; The Grand Canal from Palazzo Balbi by Antonio Canal Canaletto.

A Canaletto masterpiece
The Accademia Carrara was established in Bergamo in 1794 on the initiative of Bergamo 
aristocrat Count Giacomo Carrara as a combined Pinacoteca and School 
of Painting.  In addition to his collection of paintings he left his entire estate to the Accademia to secure its future.
The number and quality of works in the Accademia increased over the years thanks to the many donations and bequests received from private collectors.
From being a museum dedicated to Renaissance painting, the Accademia grew into an art gallery that also provided a broad representation of pictorial genres from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
For part of the time the gallery was closed, the gems of the collection went on show in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. And visitors to Bergamo were able to see some of the paintings on display in the Truss Room of Palazzo della Ragione in Piazza Vecchia.
Painting depicts the death of Bergamo composer Donizetti
But now one of the richest collections of art in Italy is back where it belongs, in the Palace built specially to house it, in Bergamo’s Città Bassa.
Accademia Carrara in Piazza Giacomo Carrara is just outside the walls of the Città Alta, a short walk from Porta Sant’Agostino.

Accademia Carrara is open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 am to 7 pm; Friday from 10 am to 12 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 8 pm. It is closed on Tuesday. For more information visit www.lacarrara.it.

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