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, 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
Home                       Main Sights                          Bergamo Hotels 

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
Home                       Main Sights                          Bergamo Hotels