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.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Capodanno in Italy

Toasting the New Year the Italian way

New Year’s Day is called Capodanno in Italy, which literally means ‘head of the year’.

It is a public holiday and schools, Government offices, post offices and banks are closed.

After a late start following the New Year’s Eve festivities, many families will enjoy another traditional feast together. This year is obviously different, with the option of booking a restaurant for a big family meal off the agenda because of Covid-19 restrictions.

It is still possible to attend church services - another tradition before the festive meal - but anyone leaving their home under the current lockdown measures has to fill in a certificate before venturing out with police entitled to check their purpose is legitimate.  As well as going to places of worship, Italians can leave their homes only for essential shopping or to seek healthcare.

Italy is in what has been determined as 'red zone' restrictions, much like those imposed in March last year after the first outbreak of the virus. The measures will be eased for one day on 4 January, allowing non-essential shops to reopen, but are due to be re-imposed on 5 January ahead of another traditional celebration, the Feast of Epiphany.

Rai Uno traditionally broadcasts a New Year’s Day concert live. This year it came from Teatro La Fenice, the famous opera house in Venice.

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Thursday, December 31, 2020

Festa di San Silvestro - the Feast of Saint Sylvester

Celebrate with a meal of pork and lentils for a prosperous New Year

Firework displays are a traditional part of  New Year's Eve celebrations in Italy
Firework displays are a traditional part of 
New Year's Eve celebrations in Italy
New Year’s Eve in Italy is known as the Festa di San Silvestro in memory of Pope Sylvester I who died on 31 December in 335 Rome.

It is not a public holiday in Italy but it is usually a festive time everywhere, with firework displays, concerts and parties. This year, however, the celebrations have had to be drastically curtailed because of Covid-19 restrictions.

A curfew is in place across the whole of Italy from 10pm until 7am, so the gatherings that normally take place in the piazze - the public squares - cannot go ahead.

The bars and restaurants in Bergamo are normally busy with residents and visitors enjoying drinks and meals before seeing in the New Year in the main square, Piazza Vecchia in the upper town or one of the large open spaces in Città Bassa, when the church bells ring out at midnight.

TV station Rai Uno’s traditional New Year’s Eve variety concert is usually an outdoor affair, with a different town or city each year chosen as the venue, with the audience packed together in front of a stage erected in the main square to watch some of Italy’s favourite performers in an entertainment extravaganza spanning more than three hours, culminating in a New Year countdown at midnight.

Crowds normally gather in the Piazza Vecchia in Bergamo's Città Alta to see in the New Year
Crowds normally gather in the Piazza Vecchia
in Bergamo's Città Alta to see in the New Year
The show, entitled L’anno che verrà - The Coming Year - will go ahead as usual, but this time the artists will be confined to a TV studio and Italians will have to be content with watching at home.

The restrictions ought not to hamper a tradition still followed in some parts of Italy, particularly in the south, of throwing your old things out of the window at midnight to symbolise your readiness to accept the New Year.

Likewise, families can still enjoy a Capodanno - New Year - feast, even if the numbers round the family table are fewer.

Popular menu items at New Year include cotechino (Italian sausage), zampone (stuffed pig’s trotter) and lenticchie (lentils).

Rai's popular New Year's Eve show L'anno che verrà is scaled down this year
Rai's popular New Year's Eve show L'anno
che verrà
is scaled down this year
Pork is said to represent the fullness or richness of life, while lentils are supposed to symbolise wealth or money. Many Italians believe the coming year could bring prosperity if these foods are eaten on New Year’s Eve. 

The President of the Republic delivers an end of year message from the Quirinale in Rome, which is shown on most Italian television channels during the evening. 

Sylvester I was pope from 314 until his death in 335, an important time in the history of the Catholic Church.

Some of Rome’s great churches, the Basilica of St John Lateran, the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem and the old St Peter’s Basilica, were founded during his pontificate.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Moscato di Scanzo

Savour this intense red wine from Bergamo

Moscato di Scanzo should be savoured like a good port
Moscato di Scanzo should be
savoured like a good port
A small area of vineyards near Bergamo covering just 31 hectares is the only territory where the grapes can be grown for the prestigious wine, Moscato di Scanzo.

A red wine that has earned the status Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG), the highest grade given to a wine in Italy, Moscato di Scanzo is made from grapes harvested solely from the fields around Scanzorosciate, a town about six kilometres (four miles) to the northeast of Bergamo in the foothills of the southern Alps.

The dark-skinned Moscato di Scanzo grape variety was probably brought to Lombardy by the Romans, who evicted the Gauls from the area in about 50 BC. By the Renaissance period, Moscato di Scanzo was known to be a favourite wine among the northern Italian nobility.

During the 18th century, the Czarina Catherine II of Russia - commonly known as Catherine the Great - received Moscato di Scanzo wine as a gift from the Bergamo architect Giacomo Quarenghi, who designed many magnificent buildings in St Petersburg.

In 1850, it was the only Italian wine to be listed on London’s stock exchange for 50 guineas per barrel.

In 2012, the Italian mail decided to pay tribute to Moscato di Scanzo DOCG by dedicating a stamp to it.

The grapes for Moscato di Scanzo are grown on the hills overlooking Scanzorosciate
The grapes for Moscato di Scanzo are grown
on the hills overlooking Scanzorosciate
The wine produced today is an intense, deep, ruby red colour, with a full body and powerful aromas, said to be reminiscent of dried sage and wild rose, maraschino cherries and plums, acacia honey and marmalade and with even a hint of sweet spice, leaning towards cinnamon, clove and liquorice. The new wine is characterised by hints of tobacco and chocolate, which later evolve with ageing. It is said to have a rich intensity similar to port.

The wine became a DOC in 2002 and was upgraded to full DOCG status in 2009. The upgrade brought in stricter production conditions, which stipulate not only the maximum yields and ripeness levels at harvest, but also minimum alcohol levels and residual sugar in the finished wine.

Moscato di Scanzo is an expensive wine because of the production process required to make it. The manual harvest takes place between late September and mid-October. The grapes are carefully selected and dried on special racks for at least three weeks. They lose about 30 percent of their harvest weight through evaporation, concentrating both their natural sugars and flavours. Afterwards, careful pressing extracts as much of the juice as possible.

Once fermented, the wine is aged for a minimum of two years in steel or glass containers. It cannot go on sale until 1 November two years after the harvest and should be served at 15 degrees centigrade in large glasses. 

The wine is said to go well with the cheeses produced in Bergamo, such as Strachitunt and Formai de Mut, and with dark chocolate and dry pastries.

If you get the chance to try a glass of the precious Moscato di Scanzo, savour every sip of the soft, smooth, full-bodied ruby red wine. 


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Picture credits: Wine in glass by nonnoant via Wiki Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0); Scanzorosciate by Dans via Wiki Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Azzurri held to a draw at Bergamo’s Gewiss Stadium

Match closed to public - but health workers among invited guests

Roma's Lorenzo Pellegrini scored Italy's goal in the fixture
Roma's Lorenzo Pellegrini scored
Italy's goal in the fixture
The match between the Italy national football team and the Netherlands at the Gewiss Stadium in Bergamo on Wednesday ended in a 1-1 draw after an early goal by Roma’s Lorenzo Pellegrini was cancelled out by an equaliser from Manchester United midfielder Donny van de Beek.

Both goals came in the first half of a match for which there were no paying spectators because of the coronavirus crisis but which hundreds of health workers from the Bergamo province attended as the invited guests of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), along with the mayors of the 243 Orobic municipalities.

Before the game, a delegation from the federations of both countries laid wreaths at a cemetery in the city in tribute to the victims.

One of the stands of the stadium was covered in a huge Italy flag and, after the national anthems were played before kickoff, the players and coaching staffs of both teams turned to the main stand and applauded the health workers and mayors, who were occupying seats in a carefully-organised grid that ensured social distancing rules were observed.

The match, in the UEFA Nations League, was moved to the Bergamo venue to honour the city after it suffered the loss of thousands of citizens to Covid-19 earlier in the year, having been scheduled to be played in Milan.

Bergamo's mayor Giorgio Gori
Bergamo's mayor Giorgio Gori
The match was only the third senior men’s international fixture to be staged in Bergamo and the first since November 2006.  Bergamo's mayor, Giorgio Gori, described the match as a signal of the rebirth of the city.

The Gewiss Stadium has undergone improvements to meet with standards required by the Champions League, in which the Bergamo team Atalanta are playing for the second time this season.  They are part of a wider upgrade of the stadium, which was known as the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia before the sponsorship deal with the electrical components company Gewiss saw it renamed.

The stadium is in the Borgo Santa Caterina district of Bergamo's Città Bassa, in Viale Giulio Cesare.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Bergamo hosts the Azzurri

Mancini's team take on the Netherlands

The new North End of the Atalanta ground, now known as the Gewiss Stadium
The new North End of the Atalanta ground,
now known as the Gewiss Stadium
The Gewiss Stadium, home of Bergamo’s Serie A club Atalanta, will on Wednesday evening host the Italy national team for the first time in 14 years. 

The match between Italy and the Netherlands in the UEFA Nations League has been switched from Milan's Giuseppe Meazza stadium, which was its original scheduled venue, to honour the city after it bore the brunt of the wave of coronavirus that hit Italy earlier this year.

The right to host the match, which will be played without spectators, is a source of pride and satisfaction for Bergamo, which will host the Azzurri for the third time in the city’s history.

The last time was in November 2006 when the Italy squad then coached by Roberto Donadoni, took on Turkey in a friendly, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

The first time Bergamo staged a senior international match was in January 1987, when the team coached by Azeglio Vicini faced Malta in a European championships qualifier, winning 5-0.

Roberto Mancini is the current coach of the Italy national team
Roberto Mancini is the current
coach of the Italy national team
"The Azzurri, who will be in Bergamo from 12 October onwards, will pay homage to the city, while adhering to all the necessary sanitary protocols," a spokesman for the FIGC - Italy’s football federation - said.

The Italy team, coached by Roberto Mancini, are the current leaders in  Group 1A of the Nations League, with a win and two draws from their three matches so far. The Netherlands are in second place with four points. When the teams met in Amsterdam in September, the Azzurri won with a goal from Nicolò Barella, of Inter-Milan.

The city of Bergamo and its wider province lost thousands of citizens, perhaps as many as 6,000 according to some estimates, after the pandemic peaked in northern Italy during spring and early summer. Almost half of the 35,000 casualties reported across Italy since the virus was identified occurred in the Lombardy region, of which Bergamo is the fourth largest city.

The Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia, as it was known before the sponsorship deal with the electrical components company Gewiss, is currently undergoing a programme of renovation, costing €40 million, that will increase capacity to 24,000 from the current 21,300.

The stadium is in the Borgo Santa Caterina district of Bergamo's Città Bassa, in Viale Giulio Cesare.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Antonio Ferramolino – Bergamo military engineer

Brief but brilliant career building fortifications

Bergamo-born architect and military engineer Antonio Ferramolino died on this day in 1550 during the siege of Mahdia in Tunisia.

He is remembered in Bergamo by a road named after him on the outskirts of the city, Via Antonio Feramolino, which is a turning off Via Grumello, the main road running through Grumello del Piano.
Bergamo's own defensive walls were built by the
 Venetians, 11 years after Ferramolino's death

Ferramolino, who is also sometimes referred to as Sferrandino da Bergamo, began his career as a soldier, but by 1529 he was known to have been overseeing the construction of artillery for the Venetian Arsenal.

He fought against the Ottomans in Hungary in 1532 and was also present at the conquest of Tunis in 1535.

In 1536, the Emperor Charles V sent Ferramolino to review the fortifications of Messina and other parts of Sicily. During the next few years he designed fortifications for Messina, Palermo, Catania and Milazzo in Sicily.

In 1538 he went to the Republic of Ragusa, which is now Dubrovnik in Croatia, to design the Revelin Fortress, a series of defensive stone walls that proved impossible to breach. In 1540 he went to Malta, where he designed the Fort of St. Angelo and other fortifications.

Ferramolino died on the battlefield in Tunisia on 18 August 1550 after being hit by a lead ball fired from an arquebus during the siege of Mahdia.

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Monday, July 13, 2020

Bergamo Capital of Culture 2023

Chance for city to showcase rich artistic and musical heritage

As Bergamo cautiously reopens after the devastation caused by the Covid-19 epidemic, the city has received a welcome boost from the Italian government.

The Chamber of Deputies has approved the candidature of Bergamo, jointly with Brescia, as Italian Capitals of Culture 2023.
Bergamo's Teatro Donizetti

This is being seen as a symbol of recovery by the two cities, who both suffered badly during the worst of the pandemic earlier this year.

Once the selection of Bergamo and Brescia is given the formal go-ahead by the Italian senate, the cities can begin drawing up plans to present to Italy’s ministry of culture.

What better setting could be found for a year of cultural events than the beautiful city of Bergamo with its rich history of artistic and musical achievement? 

The city’s Accademia Carrara houses one of the richest private collections of art in Italy.

The Teatro Donizetti, named in honour of opera composer Gaetano Donizetti who was born in Bergamo, presents an enormous variety of operas, concerts, jazz and other cultural events each year.

The imposing walls, le Mura, built by the Venetians to enclose Bergamo’s upper town have been declared a Unesco World Heritage site.
The Venetian walls surrounding the upper town.

Piazza Vecchia, with its wealth of medieval architecture has been described as the most beautiful square in Italy. 

And Cappella Colleoni in Piazza Duomo is said to be the finest Renaissance building in northern Italy, if not in the whole of Italy.

Bergamo’s capital of culture partner, Brescia, to the south east, is also a city of great artistic and architectural importance. Although it is the second city in Lombardia, after Milan, and has Roman remains and well-preserved Renaissance buildings, it is perhaps not as well-known to tourists as Bergamo.

Brescia became a Roman colony before the birth of Christ and you can still see remains from the forum, theatre and a temple.
The beautiful Piazza Vecchia in Bergamo

The town came under the protection of Venice in the 15th century and there is a distinct Venetian influence in the architecture of the Piazza della Loggia, an elegant square in the centre of the town. 

The Santa Giulia Museo della Citta covers more than 3000 years of Brescia’s history, housed within the Benedictine Nunnery of San Salvatore and Santa Giulia in Via Musei. The nunnery was built over a Roman residential quarter, but some of the houses, with their original mosaics and frescos, have now been excavated and can be seen while looking round the museum.

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