A MAGICAL PLACE

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, October 24, 2022

PolentOne - the taste of Bergamo in a bowl

Journalist Jeremy Culley urges visitors not to miss a wonderful chance to enjoy a Bergamo speciality as soon as they arrive in the Città Alta

PolentOne's stall is tucked away under an archway opposite the funicular station
PolentOne's stall is tucked away under
an archway opposite the funicular station
Uninspiring and dingy takeaways often greet you when you arrive in a town or city by train but that is not the case when you emerge from the funicular station into Bergamo’s wonderful Città Alta.

Here, the first food outlet you see is an unassuming stall built under an archway leading from the Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe up some steps to the Piazzetta Luigi Angelini, directly opposite the entrance to the station.

PolentOne provides an immediate introduction to cucina bergamasca  and is about as far a cry from the ubiquitous kebab shop as is possible to imagine. 

As the name suggests, PolentOne’s menu is dominated by polenta, with its versions heralded as the best in the city. Aside from a few panini filled with local meats and cheeses, almost all dishes feature the local cornmeal and buckwheat staple. 

The owners clearly have a sense of humour, too. Polentone - meaning polenta-eater - is a term some southern Italians use to describe northerners, and not necessarily in a complimentary way!

PolentOne's dishes follow a simple format - a choice of bramata (plain) or taragna (made with cheese) polenta topped with a range of delicious local specialities.

After a morning’s sight-seeing in the Città Alta, PolentOne is the ideal spot to rest your feet for a quick, tasty and good-value lunch. 

My wife and I both opted for the delicious polenta taranga, usually made with Branzi or other Alpine cheeses. I picked the salamella (local salsiccia) as a topping and my wife, the ragù cinghiale (wild boar sauce), each costing just seven euros.

Polenta served with ragù cinghiale 
(top) and the local
salamella sausage
For very little extra you can add a bottle of Peroni and a glass of white wine before pulling up a pew at one of the tables to wait for your counter to buzz signifying your food is ready.

The aromas emanating from the kitchen make the wait seem long but in reality it is only five minutes or so. You are presented with steaming hot bowls of polenta taragna. The grilled salsiccia was worthy of a restaurant, while the ragù tasted like it had been simmering for hours despite being served in the time it took to have two sips of wine.

It is a perfect warming lunch - a taste of Bergamo in a bowl for the cost of a drink at a bar. 

The next time you arrive in the Città Alta by funicular do not make the mistake of writing off PolentOne as ‘just another station takeaway’. To do so would be a great disservice to a food outlet serving what must be the best polenta in Bergamo.


Home                       Main Sights                          Bergamo Hotels 

Monday, October 17, 2022

The founding of Atalanta football club

Bergamo institution launched by high school students


The club badge with
the image of Atalanta
Atalanta - Bergamo’s premier football club - was founded 115 years ago today, on October 17, 1907.

The club was the idea of a group of students from the Liceo Classico Paolo Sarpi, one of the city’s oldest and most prestigious high schools, which can be found off Via Arena in the Città Alta.

Football was just one activity that came under the umbrella of the Società Bergamasca di Ginnastica e Sports Atletici Atalanta - the Bergamasca Society of Gymnastics and Athletic Sports - to which they attached the name Atalanta after the Greek mythological heroine famous for her running prowess.

Soon, football was the dominant sport, although for the first seven years of its life, the new club had no home and played friendly matches on whatever open space was available. In 1914 they did find a home ground in Via Maglio del Lotto, adjoining the railway line just outside Bergamo station.

The ground had a small grandstand housing 1,000 spectators. It is said that the drivers of trains approaching the station would slow down in order to enjoy a few moments of the action.

In the event, after Italy was drawn into World War One, the club remained in Via Maglio del Lotto for only two seasons. With so many young men going off to fight, the club suspended its activities and sold the ground.

Atalanta's 1913-14 team, which played at a stadium near Bergamo's railway station
Atalanta's 1913-14 team, which played at a
stadium near Bergamo's railway station
When the club was reconstituted before the start of the 2019-20 season, they established a new home, named the Clementina Stadium, on the site of a former racecourse to the southeast of the city centre.

By that point, club members were eager to join the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and compete in their league but Bergamo had another team with similar ambitions, called Bergamasca, which had evolved from a club started by Swiss emigrants in 1904.

The FIGC would allow only one team from Bergamo to compete in their Prima Categoria, as their first division was then called. To decide which of them would represent the city, in 1919 a play-off was arranged, which Atalanta won 2-0.

In the event, the two clubs agreed to merge in 1920, forming a new club which at first was called Atalanta Bergamasca di Ginnastica e Scherma 1907, scherma being fencing. It was soon shortened to Atalanta Bergamasca Calcio, which remains its name today. 

The club now plays at the Gewiss Stadium on Viale Giulio Cesare in the northeast of the city, a short walk from the centre of the Città Bassa - the lower city - and visible in the panoramic view available from vantage points on the eastern side of the Città Alta.

The stadium has been their home since 1928. It was built during the Fascist era at a cost of 3.5 million lira and originally named Stadio Mario Brumana after a Fascist official, which was common practice with public buildings at the time.

Bergamo's 94-year-old stadium was given an impressive facelift with the Gewiss sponsorship
Bergamo's 94-year-old stadium was given an
impressive facelift with the Gewiss sponsorship
After the Fascist regime was overthrown in World War Two, the ground was renamed Stadio Communale and gradually expanded to allow more than 40,000 spectators to attend matches. It became the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia in 1994 and in 2019 adopted the Gewiss name after the club signed a sponsorship deal with the Swiss electronics company.

At the same time as Atalanta moved into the ground in 1928, the Italian championship was restructured with the top division renamed Serie A, as it is today.

Atalanta were initially placed in Serie B but within a decade had been promoted to Serie A. 

Atalanta have never won the Serie A, yet have the proud record of having spent 62 seasons in the top division, 28 in Serie B and only one in Serie C, which is the best record of any team not based in a regional capital.

The current team, managed since 2016 by Gian Piero Gasperini, are enjoying one of the most successful spells in the club’s history, having qualified for the Champions League three seasons in a row and twice reached the final of the Coppa Italia.


Home                       Main Sights                          Bergamo Hotels 

Monday, October 10, 2022

Risotto alla Bergamasca

Cook this warming Bergamo speciality at home


My version of risotto alla bergamasca, made from ingredients you can buy at home
My version of risotto alla bergamasca, made
from ingredients you can buy at home
After an autumn walk amid the falling leaves along the Via delle Mura surrounding the Città Alta, what could be more welcome than a piping hot risotto in one of the restaurants in the upper town serving Bergamo specialities.

Over the years, I have enjoyed many different, delicious risotto dishes while on holiday in Bergamo. Rice, cooked and stirred with broth until it reaches a creamy consistency, is a classic of northern Italian cooking.

They can be incredibly simple dishes, but are delicious, even if they just contain onion, short grain rice, wine, chicken or vegetable stock, and parmigiano cheese. Add beef marrow to the mix and dissolve saffron in the stock and you have the famous risotto alla milanese, which dates back to the beginning of the 19th century.

I once discovered a recipe for a risotto made with onion, carrots, peas and zucchini that claimed to be risotto alla bergamasca and I featured it on this website in 2011.

But coincidentally, in 2010, the year before my post, Bergamo chef, restaurateur and hotelier Pino Capozzi had given to his beloved city something that Milan had been enjoying for 200 years - a risotto that they could call truly their own.

Most of the major supermarket chains stock Taleggio among their continental cheeses
Most of the major supermarket chains stock
Taleggio among their continental cheeses
In his recipe for risotto alla bergamasca, the star ingredients were local sausage - la salsiccia - or, in dialect, la loanghina - and Taleggio cheese. The wine poured on to the toasted grains of rice was, of course, my own personal favourite, Valcalepio Bianco.

Just as they had polenta alla bergamasca and casoncelli alla bergamasca, the proud city now had risotto alla bergamasca.

The recipe aimed to showcase the products that Bergamo is justifiably proud of: loanghina, the local sausage, Taleggio cheese, and Valcalepio Bianco wine. It was flavoured by the herb that you always see scattered on casoncelli - sometimes called casonsei - fresh sage.

The challenge for a fan of cucina bergamasca living in England, such as myself, was how to replicate the authentic flavours when trying out the recipe at home.

Taleggio cheese is sold by several of the major supermarket chains - mine came from Asda - and through research I discovered that Cumberland sausage was made to a recipe similar to that of loanghina. I also found that Pinot Grigio used some of the same grape varieties as Valcalepio Bianco. (Of course, I know Pinot Grigio doesn’t taste nearly as good, but sadly Valcalepio Bianco isn’t widely available in the UK!)

Valcalepio Bianco is the local white wine in Bergamo
Valcalepio Bianco is the
local white wine in Bergamo
Here then, is my anglicised version of Risotto alla Bergamasca for two people:

Ingredients:

150 grams of risotto rice - Arborio or Carnaroli

40 grams of butter

100 grams of fresh Cumberland pork sausage, removed from its skin and formed into small balls

60 grams of Taleggio cheese cubed

a litre of vegetable or chicken broth

half a glass of white wine

a shallot

sage leaves

black pepper.

Method:

Fry the shallot in half of the butter in a large saucepan with a couple of sage leaves. When the shallot has softened and started to turn gold, remove the sage and add the sausage and fry for a couple of minutes. Then add the rice and toast it in the butter for a few minutes before pouring in the glass of white wine.

When the wine has evaporated, continue to cook the rice, while adding ladles of the hot broth.  When the rice has reached the perfect consistency, remove the pan from the heat and add the rest of the butter, a pinch of ground black pepper and the cubes of Taleggio. Serve on hot plates.

Buon appetito dall'Inghilterra!




Home                       Main Sights                          Bergamo Hotels 

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Visit Bergamo’s Civic Archaeology Museum

Civico Museo Archeologico di Bergamo

The Museum is housed in a 14th century palace in Piazza della Cittadella
The museum is housed in a 14th century
palace in Piazza della Cittadella
You can travel in the footsteps of the Celts, Romans and Longobards who built Bergamo by visiting the Civic Archaeology Museum to see the wealth of artefacts that have been uncovered over the centuries in the city and the surrounding area.

Items dating back to the Neolithic period in prehistoric times reveal Bergamo’s ancient origins. Stone axes, iron swords, Celtic bronze ornaments and Longobard gold crosses are among the items on display in the museum. Bergamo’s Roman period is particularly well represented with a wealth of sculptures, inscriptions, tomb stones and funerary items.

The Civic Archaeology Museum is now housed in a 14th century palace in Piazza della Cittadella in the Città Alta, but its collection dates back as far as 1561, when Bergamo’s Great Council established ‘a collection of antiquities’ for people to view in the loggia under Palazzo della Ragione in Piazza Vecchia in the Città Alta.

The original display of artefacts has increased hugely over the centuries thanks to the many valuable items that have been unearthed locally and donated to the collection and the museum has had to move to many different locations in the city as it kept requiring more space.

The museum has collections of artefacts from many periods of history unearthed locally
The museum has collections of artefacts from
many periods of history unearthed locally
A special publication registering the most notable archaeological discoveries in the care of the museum was published in 1900 by Professor Gaetano Mantovani. All the important finds were gathered together in the 1930s and given a home in the Rocca fortress, where they were kept safe during World War II.

The collection was moved in 1960 to its present location, where it now occupies the ground floor of a palace built in the 14th century by the Visconti family. Milan’s ancient rulers, in Piazza Cittadella.

There are rooms displaying prehistoric, bronze age, Iron age, gallic and Longobard items. There is plenty of evidence from the Roman period in Bergamo, with an important collection of funerary epigraphs from the area. There are rooms devoted to the city’s history from the early urban settlement of the fifth century BC to the Roman city becoming a municipium in the age of Caesar- Augustus. Artefacts from the Longobard duchy in the early Middle Ages include fascinating examples of the pieces of armour worn by soldiers at the time.

The museum is open between October and December from 9.00 to 13.00 and 14.00 to 17.00 Thursday and Friday and from 10.00 to 13.00 and 14.00 to 17.30 on Saturday and Sunday.

The entrance ticket is three euros and the ticket is also valid for entry to the Natural Science Museum, also in Piazza della Cittadella. 


Home                       Main Sights                          Bergamo Hotels 

Friday, March 25, 2022

Bergamo’s airport passes 50-year milestone

First commercial flight took off in 1972


In 1972, the airport's facilities consisted of a small single-storey building - a far cry from today
In 1972, the airport's facilities consisted of a small
single-storey building - a far cry from today
Bergamo’s international airport this week celebrated 50 years since the first commercial flight left the runway at Orio al Serio.

The flight, operated by the former Itavia airline using one of their McDonnell Douglas DC-9 aircraft, took off at 9.15am on 21 March bound for Rome, due to land around one hour later. There were just 18 passengers on board. 

The anniversary was marked by a presentation at the Teatro Donizetti in Bergamo’s Città Bassa, at which Giovanni Sanga - the president of SACBO, the company that runs the airport - explained how traffic through the airport has expanded so rapidly in the last 20 years that Orio al Serio - known nowadays as Il Caravaggio - is now the third busiest airport in Italy.

Built on the site of what had been a World War Two military airfield, Il Caravaggio handled more than 13.8 million passengers in 2019 - the last full year before the Covid-19 pandemic - which meant only Rome Leonardo da Vinci and Milan Malpensa were busier. In 2000, the numbers of passengers through the airport was only one million

Ryanair is by far Bergamo's biggest airline today,
serving more than 100 destinations
Including seasonal charter flights, more than 20 airlines link Bergamo with around 135 destinations. By far the biggest carrier using Il Caravaggio is the Irish airline Ryanair, which flies to more than 100 destinations. The airport - usually referred to in timetables as Milan Bergamo - is Ryanair’s third largest hub after London Stansted and Dublin.

Less than four kilometres (2.5 miles) from the city, Il Caravaggio is easily accessible with the Bergamo's railway station only 15 minutes away by the Linea 1 service run by ATB (Azienda Trasporti Bergamo). From the station, the service travels along the main thoroughfare through the Città Bassa, stopping within a short walk of most of the major hotels, to Città Alta, to which the journey takes about half an hour.

There are plans to open a railway station at the airport in 2024.


Home                       Main Sights                          Bergamo Hotels 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Who is Giorgio Gori, Bergamo’s mayor?

Giorgio Gori has been Mayor of Bergamo since 2014
Giorgio Gori has been Mayor of
Bergamo since 2014
Giorgio Gori, Mayor of Bergamo since 2014, is a well known figure in his home city but saw his profile rise further afield during the first stage of the Covid-19 pandemic, when Bergamo found itself at the epicentre of the crisis.

As television crews descended on the city, Gori was regularly interviewed on camera and thus was seen by audiences in many countries as the story of Covid-19’s devastating impact on Italy dominated news bulletins.

Gori’s own background is in the media. Educated in the magnificent surroundings of the Liceo Classico Paolo Sarpi in the historic Città Alta, he went on to study architecture at the University of Milan but also was keen to become a journalist. He began to contribute to local newspapers, including L’Eco di Bergamo, and the city’s own television station, BergamoTV.

In 1984 he joined the television station Rete4, which at the time belonged to the Arnaldo Mondadori publishing house and later became part of Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset stable. Gori worked for Mediaset for 15 years. Between 1991 and 2001, he was director of the three Mediaset networks, Rete4, Canale5 and Italia1. 

It was through Canale5 that Gori met his wife, the journalist and TV presenter Cristina Parodi, who was one of the faces of Canale5’s flagship news programme, TG5, which launched in 1992. They were married in 1995, made their home in Bergamo and have three children, Benedetta, Alessandro and Angelica.

Gori left Mediaset in 2001 to partner Ilaria Dallatana and Francesca Canetta in setting up a television production company, Magnolia, which specialised in the development and production of original formats for television and interactive media. Magnolia collaborated with the Rai, Mediaset, LA7 and Sky networks and had some memorable successes, including the hit shows L'isola dei famosi, Piazzapulita, MasterChef Italia e L'eredità.

The neoclassical facade of the Liceo Classico Paolo Sarpi in the Città Alta
The neoclassical facade of the Liceo
Classico Paolo Sarpi in the Città Alta
As a student, Gori had been quite politically active and even as he pursued a career, he never turned away completely from politics. In 2012 he took the bold decision to leave Magnolia in order to devote himself to fulfilling some political ambitions and to help his home city, for which he had much affection.

He joined the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and in 2012 worked as a close adviser to Matteo Renzi, then Mayor of Florence, as he prepared what was ultimately his successful bid to become prime minister.

In Bergamo, Gori set up the InNova Bergamo Association with the aim of studying the issues concerning his city and in 2014 was elected the city’s mayor, defeating the incumbent Franco Tentorio, who represented Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia.

Gori failed in his attempt in 2017 to become regional president of Lombardy but in 2019 was re-elected as Mayor or Bergamo, the first to be returned for a second term since the position became subject to a public vote.

During the first Covid-19 lockdown in Italy, Gori - whose 62nd birthday is today - wrote a book entitled Riscatto - Bergamo e Italia: Appunti per un futuro possibile (Ransom - Bergamo and Italy: Notes for a possible future) in which he describes his life and professional experiences, the story of Bergamo during the first wave of Covid-19, and sets out his view of the path Italy must take to be reborn after the pandemic.

The Liceo Classico Paolo Sarpi, the high school attended by Gori, is an historic institution in Piazza Rosate in Bergamo’s Città Alta, opposite the rear entrance of the city’s cathedral. 

Identifiable by its neoclassical facade designed by Ferdinando Crivelli, the Liceo has its roots in the first public school of Grammar, Humanities, and Rhetorics established by the Republic of Venice in 1506 under the name of Accademia della Misericordia. It was renamed after Paolo Sarpi, a Venetian polymath, in 1803, by Napoleonic decree. 

The building that houses the modern school was built between 1845 and 1852 under the auspices of the Austrian Government, when it was known as Regio Liceo.

In 1860, the academy contributed to the Italian Unification with 70 students joining Garibaldi's Expedition of the Thousand, aimed at annexing the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies to the embryonic Kingdom of Italy. In 2011, the academy took part in the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Italian unification, attended by the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano.

Garibaldi famously referred to Bergamo as La Città dei Mille, because of the major role it played in the Expedition of the Thousand. 

Home                       Main Sights                          Bergamo Hotels 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Goggia 'fairy tale' almost realised at Winter Olympics

Sofia Goggia became an Olympic champion in 2018
Sofia Goggia became an
Olympic champion in 2018
The Bergamo skier Sofia Goggia narrowly failed in her bid to defend her downhill title at the Winter Olympics in Beijing on Tuesday - but was delighted with her performance nonetheless after fearing she would not be able to take part in the Games in China.

Goggia, who became an Olympic champion for the first time when she took the women's downhill gold at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, suffered damaged anterior cruciate ligaments in her left knee and fractured her fibula in a World Cup race at Cortina d'Ampezzo in Italy last month.

"I'm a little sorry about (not winning) the gold medal, but I could not do more than this,” she told reporters after taking the silver medal, her time just 16 hundredths of a second behind Switzerland's Corinne Suter.

"I'm really happy with the way I skied,” she added. “It's a fairy tale that I managed to make real because, after the injury at Cortina, it seemed like a dream that had gone up in smoke.

"I thank the doctors who told me that, if I really believed, I could do it and took the responsibility of letting me race.”

Michela Moiola receives an honour from Italy president Sergio Mattarella after her 2018 win
Michela Moiola receives an honour from Italy
president Sergio Mattarella after her 2018 win
The 29-year-old Goggia races with an outline of the Bergamo skyline on the back of her helmet, which she dedicated to the 6,000 citizens of Bergamo province who have lost their lives during the Covid-19 pandemic.

They included the grandmother of her friend and Italy teammate, 26-year-old Michela Moioli, who comes from Alzano Lombardo, just outside Bergamo.

Moioli, who was the women’s snowboard cross champion at the Pyeongchang Games, replaced Goggia as Italy’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony in Beijing.

Unfortunately, her title defence also ended in disappointment when she was eliminated at the semi-final stage of the snowboard cross event.

(Portrait photo of Sofia Goggia by Vale93b via Wikipedia Commons)



Home                       Main Sights                          Bergamo Hotels