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, July 31, 2010

Bello Bardolino

Piazza Giacomo Matteotti in Bardolino
The resort of Bardolino on Lago di Garda (Lake Garda) lies within easy reach of Bergamo and is an ideal place to visit for the day.
Exploring the pleasant town is as enjoyable as quaffing the light red wine of the same name that is produced there.
From Bergamo, drive to Desenzano del Garda, following the A4 autostrada (motorway) towards Venezia (leaving at the Desenzano exit), or take the train to Brescia and then change to the Milan to Venice service which calls at Desenzano. 
From Desenzano, there are regular boats to Bardolino from Piazza Matteotti, which is at the side of the lake.
You will see the tower of an old castle that is now part of a hotel as the boat approaches Bardolino.
Walk down the short main street into the town, which is lined with shops, restaurants and bars, such as the one in our picture (above), where you can sample Bardolino by the glass.
Bardolino's waterfront
Make a point of visiting the church of San Severo, which dates back to the 11th century and is a popular location for weddings, and the small church of San Zeno, which dates back to the eighth century and still contains traces of its original frescoes.
If you want to learn more about Bardolino wine and the history of wine making, visit the fascinating wine museum run by the Zeni family of winemakers at Via Costabella 9. The museum is open from mid March until the end of October and individual visitors are admitted free of charge. For more information visit www.zeni.it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bergamo museum dedicated to Donizetti

The beautiful Palazzo della Misericordia Maggiore in Via Arena in Bergamo’s Città Alta houses a unique and fascinating museum.
The palace at No 9 is home to the collection of furniture, paintings, books and musical scores brought together to commemorate the life of composer Gaetano Donizetti, who was born and died in Bergamo.
The building dates back to the 13th century but was remodelled in the 17th century.
Via Arena is off the Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore and climbs towards the west end of the Città Alta. It can be accessed after leaving the church at the south entrance.
The museum is dedicated to the life and works of Donizetti, who composed about 70 well-regarded operas in 30 years, making him one of the leading composers of opera in the early part of the 19th century.
Visitors are able to see Donizetti’s furniture, including the bed (below) he died in and the chair (above right) he used to sit in towards the end of his life when he was living in Palazzo Scotti in Città Alta as the guest of a wealthy family. The composer’s piano, portraits, original scores from his operas and letters are also on view in display cases.
The palace has a very decorative interior which is worth looking at for its own sake, but there are also plenty of items in the collection which will be of interest to music lovers.
To add to the atmosphere as you look round the museum, you hear occasional snatches of music played by students using the practice rooms of the musical institute, which is also housed in the palace.
The Donizetti Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday. For opening times check with the Ufficio di Informazione Turistiche (Tourism Information Office) in Via Gombito.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Enjoy views of Bergamo from Colle Aperto

Keen photographers will appreciate the views over Bergamo’s Città Bassa (lower town) from Colle Aperto, the area just outside the walls of the Città Alta.
From there it is a good place to start a walk around the Venetian walls that encircle the historic city.
To reach Colle Aperto (open hill) leave the Città Alta through the Piazza Cittadella which leads to the Porta San’ Alessandro, one of the four entrance gates into the walled city.
This used to be a checkpoint manned by customs officers, who would tax the farmers who came from San Vigilio and the other villages in the hills above the city to sell their vegetables, eggs, chickens and wine.
The panoramic views from Colle Aperto take in the northern part of the Città Bassa, which includes the stadium of Bergamo’s football club, distinguishable by its floodlights.
There are several restaurants and bars and an edicola (news stand) in Largo Colle Aperto, the square which gives access to the Borgo Canale area and the Casa Natale di Donizetti (birthplace of Donizetti). This is also the location of the station for the funicular railway up to San Vigilio and the bus stop for the service that runs to the Città Bassa, railway station and the airport at Orio al Serio.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pescarenico trattoria specialises in seafood

When on a day trip to Lecco from Bergamo it is well worth taking the time to visit the historic fishermen’s quarter of Pescarenico.
Trattoria Vecchia Pescarenico
Pescarenico was immortalised in the classic novel I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed) by Alessandro Manzoni. It was the setting for Padre Cristoforo’s convent in the book and it was also from Pescarenico’s shore that the character Lucia set off in a boat to escape the clutches of the evil Don Rodrigo.
The village grew from a cluster of fishermen’s homes at the side of Lago di Lecco (Lake Lecco) and an inn became established there in the 19th century.
Now named Trattoria Vecchia Pescarenico, the inn is located at number eight Via Pescarenico, a small street leading down to the side of the lake. Today it is an excellent restaurant specialising in seafood.
It is advisable to book in advance, but we were lucky enough to get a table for lunch in one of the two small rooms when we came across the restaurant unexpectedly during a recent visit.
There was a good range of seafood antipasti, including unusual dishes such as capesante gratinate (baked scallops served with a pea puree) and gamberi in salsa di ceci (prawns in a chickpea sauce).
Among the many pasta dishes were the more unusual tagliatelle alla polpa di granchio (tagliatelle with a crab meat sauce) and gnocchetti alla pescatrice con olive (small gnocchi with a seafood and olive sauce).
The main dishes included rombo al cartoccio con pomodori primavera (baked turbot with spring tomatoes) and grigliata di mare (an impressive selection of mixed grilled seafood) available only for a minimum of two people.
There was a good selection of wines from the region, including reasonably priced Lugana and Prosecco, as well as a comprehensive list of wines from other parts of Italy .
We had a very good meal, the service was friendly and the owners took the time to talk to us about the area.
For more information, visit http://www.vecchiapescarenico.it/ or telephone 0341 368330.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Take time to see il Tempietto

A tiny church that dates back to the year 1000 is still standing in Bergamo’s città alta (upper town).
Il Tempietto di Santa Croce (small temple of the holy cross) can be viewed through an iron gate next to the south portal of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore .
The carefully preserved old church, which was built on the plan of a Greek cross, was restored in the 16th century and still contains some 16th century frescoes.
To get the best possible photographs of il Tempietto, take your pictures through a gate from the small street off Via Arena on the right hand side.
Il Tempietto is considered to be the finest example of Romanesque architecture in Bergamo .
Check the arrangements for opening up il Tempietto by enquiring at the Tourism Information Office in nearby Via Gombito.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pause at Pisogne to see the frescoes

The historic town of Pisogne at the northern end of Lago Iseo is an easy day trip from Bergamo , by car, bus or train.
You can also reach Pisogne by boat from Lovere, which is on the opposite side of the lake.
Since the early 20th century a railway line has run to Pisogne from Brescia , the route continuing up into Val Camonica.
At Pisogne there are cafes at the side of the lake where you can sit and enjoy the beautiful views of Lago Iseo.
But the town also has a medieval centre away from the lake with plenty of other things to see.
The 14th century Torre del Vescovo (Bishop’s Tower, pictured right), which is visible from the lake as you arrive by boat, has become a symbol of the town.
Also well worth a visit is the 15th century church of Santa Maria della Neve (Saint Mary of the Snow), which has frescoes by Romanino depicting the Passion. These are so beautiful that they have been referred to as ‘the poor man’s Sistine Chapel’.
Despite the fact that they were painted at the beginning of the 16th century, the characters are very realistic with interesting expressions on their faces.

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Mystery of Saint Michael’s well

Artist Lorenzo Lotto is said to have enjoyed the happiest and most productive period of his life while living in Bergamo between 1513 and 1525.
The Venetian born painter was famous for his altar pieces, paintings of religious subjects and portraits.
While in Bergamo he lived near the church of San Michele al Pozzo Bianco (Saint Michael at the white well), which is probably why this ancient church contains one of Lotto’s most important works, Vita di Maria (history of Mary’s life.)
A short walk down the Va Porta Dipinta from the Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe in the Città Alta (upper town) takes you to Largo San Michele al Pozzo Bianco (shown on the map below).
The church, devoted to Saint Michael, dates back to the eighth century, but was rebuilt in the 12th and 13th centuries.
The stone façade was completed during restoration work carried out early in the 20th century, but the interior still has many medieval features, such as brick archways and an open truss roof.
The chapel devoted to the Virgin Mary, to the left of the altar, is entirely decorated with the frescoes of Lorenzo Lotto.
San Michele contains many other beautiful 15th and 16th century frescoes and is a popular choice for weddings.
But don’t spend a lot of time looking for a white well outside the church, as it no longer exists.
It is believed the church derived its name from a well that used to stand in the middle of the square, which has now been paved over. It probably took water from the same cistern that filled the 13th century fountain in nearby Via Osmano.
Il pozzo bianco must have been a vital local amenity when Begamo did not have so many bars.

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