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.


Bergamo’s casoncelli go international

Casoncelli 'Spaghetti House' style
A variation of Bergamo’s local dish, casoncelli alla bergamasca, is currently being enjoyed in London by diners at Spaghetti House restaurants.
Spaghetti Houses are including casoncelli under ‘la pasta artigianale e risotti’ section of their menu.
The casoncelli are described as half moon pasta filled with parmesan, pear, amaretti, beef and pork, tossed with cavolo nero -- a dark-leafed Tuscan cabbage -- and sausage.
It is a tasty version of Bergamo’s traditional dish, providing customers with hearty, warming food in London this autumn.
Spaghetti House restaurants have been serving traditional Italian food since 1955, when the first restaurant was opened in Goodge Street .
Although there are now 11 restaurants throughout London, Spaghetti House is still a privately owned, family run company.
For futher information about Spaghetti House restaurants visit www.spaghettihouse.co.uk

(Picture shows the Spaghetti House in St Martin’s Lane in west London, which is next door to the English National Opera.)



Carrara collection in Bergamo’s Palazzo della Ragione

Although Bergamo’s prestigious art gallery the Accademia Carrara remains closed for restoration work, some of its masterpieces can still be viewed.
Palazzo della Ragione
A selection of paintings has been chosen for display in the heart of the Città Alta in the Truss Room of the Palazzo della Ragione in the Piazza Vecchia.
From October 2010 till May 2011 the exhibition can be viewed from Tuesday to Friday from 9.30 am to 5.30pm and on Saturdays and Sundays from 10.00 am to 6 pm .
The exhibition will be closed every Monday and between 25 December and 1 January.
The Truss Room is already home to some old frescoes taken from churches and public buildings in Bergamo .
Now, alongside them are some of the jewels of the Carrara’s collection, from the 15th to the 19th centuries.
The Bergamo school of painting is represented by artists such as Andrea Previtali, Palma il Vecchio and Lorenzo Lotto.
While Venetian masters include Fra Galgario, Francesco Guardi and Giovanni Antonio Canal ‘Canaletto’.
The exhibition provides a unique opportunity to admire the interior of the Palazzo della Ragione, see some of Bergamo’s ancient frescoes and experience the cream of the Carrara collection all together.

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Sant’Alessandro column signposts Bergamo church

A Roman column in front of Chiesa di Sant’Alessandro in Colonna is believed to mark the exact spot where Bergamo’s patron saint was martyred by the Romans for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.
Chiesa di Sant'Alessandro in Colonna
The column in Via Sant’Alessandro in Bergamo Città Bassa (lower town) was constructed in the 17th century from Roman fragments. There are different theories about where the pieces came from.
Every year on August 26th Bergamo remembers Sant’Alessandro’s decapitation in 303. This year for the first time there was a re-enactment of the event in full costume at the scene.
The church of Sant’Alessandro in Colonna was rebuilt in the 18th century on the site of an earlier church. Its ornate campanile was completed at the beginning of the 20th century.
The church houses a work depicting the martyrdom of Sant’Alessandro by Enea Salmeggia and one showing the transporting of Sant’Alessandro’s corpse by Gian Paolo Cavagna. It also contains paintings by Lorenzo Lotto and Romanino.


Call in at Caffé del Colleoni

Caffé del Colleoni
An elegant setting for enjoying un aperitivo is the Caffé del Colleoni on Via Sentierone in Bergamo Città Bassa (lower town) where you can sit under the colonnades and watch people go by.
The Caffé is open from seven in the morning for early morning coffee until nine at night. Its weekly closing day is Monday.
It is a popular lunch spot as it serves hot primi and secondi piatti as well as salads and sandwiches.
Caffé del Colleoni also offers a good selection of wines and spumanti and a long list of cocktails.
There are plenty of tables outside from where you can watch the comings and goings in Piazza Giacomo Matteoti, which links the Sentierone with the busy shopping street Via XX Settembre.
Caffé del Colleoni takes its name from one of Bergamo’s most illustrious citizens, the 16th century condottiero Bartolomeo Colleoni, who defended the city on behalf of its Venetian rulers and built the beautiful Colleoni Chapel to house his own tomb.
For more information telephone Caffé del Colleoni on 035.217080.

Language point

An Italian meal is usually composed of un primo piatto (a first dish) and un secondo piatto (a second dish).
Typical primi piatti are soup, pasta and rice dishes. Secondi piatti are fish or meat dishes served with contorni (accompaniments) such as salads, potatoes and hot vegetables.



Lorenzo Lotto’s legacy of art in Bergamo

Venetian artist Lorenzo Lotto spent 12 of his most creative years living and working in Bergamo.
The entrance to church of San Bartolomeo

Many churches contain altar pieces and paintings of religious subjects produced by Lotto in the period between 1513 and 1525.
In the church of San Bartolomeo, which looks out over the Via Sentierone in the Città Bassa (lower town), there is a large altarpiece by Lotto depicting the Virgin Mary and child on a throne surrounded by saints.
The church of Santo Spirito in Piazza di Santo Spirito has an altarpiece by Lotto in one of the chapels featuring the Virgin Mary with child and saints.
And in the small church of San Bernardino in Via Pignolo there is also an altarpiece depicting the Virgin Mary with child and saints.
If you carry on walking up Via Pignolo towards the Città Alta (upper town) you will come to the area where Lotto lived during his time in Bergamo. His local church, San Michele al Pozzo Bianco (Saint Michael at the white well), is home to one of his most important works, Vita di Maria (history of Mary’s life), which decorates an entire chapel to the left of the altar.
The church of Sant’Alessandro in Colonna in Via Sant’Alessandro houses Lotto’s Deposition from the Cross and Virgin Mary and Child.
Lorenzo Lotto did not receive widespread recognition for his brilliance until the middle of the last century but his works are now displayed in galleries in New York and Washington as well as the Uffizi in Florence and the Borghese gallery in Rome.
Born in Venice, Lotto worked in Treviso, Le Marche and Rome before going to live in Bergamo.
He returned to live in Venice in 1525 where he concentrated mainly on painting portraits but by 1544 he had become elderly and poor. He went to live in Loreto, where he lived by painting canvases for the Basilica until he died in 1556.
It is thought that the happiest and most creative period of Lotto’s life was spent in Bergamo and his legacy is that some of his best works are accessible in the churches to be viewed free of charge by visitors.

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San Pancrazio fountain – ornate symbol of Bergamo’s past

Centuries ago when homes did not have running water, Bergamo’s fountains were extremely important to the residents.
Fountain of San Pancrazio
Today, as you walk round the Città Alta (upper town) you can still seem some beautiful, decorative examples, but it is also possible to spot the places where the more practical, medieval water fountains used to exist.
It is believed the Romans established a water supply to Bergamo by building an aqueduct connected to springs in the surrounding hills.
In medieval times each local area had a fountain and a large cistern that guaranteed water supplies in periods of prolonged drought.
In Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe, the square in front of the funicular station, you can see a large vaulted area, which is evidence of the cistern for a large capacity fountain that used to quench the thirst of residents as far back as the 15th century.
At the side of some of the roads in the Città Alta you will notice large stone arches, which denote the former presence of a water fountain.
From the period of Venetian rule, Bergamo’s fountains began to assume imposing and beautiful shapes, becoming genuine works of art.
It was important to the city that travellers would be impressed by the elegance of the fountain, when they arrived in the Città Alta and wanted to quench their thirst.
If you walk up Via Gombito you will come to the 16th century fountain of San Pancrazio in front of the church of the same name. It was built in 1549 in white Zandobbio marble by Leonardo Isabello.
The fountain graces what was probably a busy square in the 16th century as it was at the crossroads of some important streets.
The elegant marble fountain in the centre of Piazza Vecchia was a practical gift to the people of Bergamo from the Venetian Podesta, Alvise Contarini, at the end of his time in office in 1780. 


Cremona – where sweet music was created

Music lovers will find Cremona an interesting place to visit for the day and it can be reached easily from Bergamo.
Il Torrazzo
The Lombardian city is about an hour by car to the south of Bergamo and it takes less than two hours on the train, with one change at Treviglio.
Cremona is famous for the invention of the modern violin in 1566 and as the birthplace of composers Claudio Monteverdi and Amilcare Ponchielli.
Andrea Amati, who created the modern violin from the medieval fiddle, was followed into the profession by his sons, Antonio and Gerolamo and apprentices Andrea Guarneri and Antonio Stradivari, whose violins became recognised as the best in the world.
When you leave the railway station, if you walk along Via Palestro and turn left into Via Ugolani Dati, you will find the Museo Stradivariano, which is within the Museo Civico ‘Ala Ponzone’. The collection of items in the Stradivarius museum is housed in the elegant rooms of a former palace.
Street entertainment
Cremona style
Visitors can see how the contralto viola was constructed in accordance with the classical traditions of Cremona, view instruments commemorating Italian violin makers in the 19th and early 20th centuries and look at more than 700 relics from Stradivari’s workshop.
From the museum it is a short walk along Via Alessandro Manzoni to Piazza del Comune, where the decorative Duomo is connected by a loggia to the tallest bell tower in Italy, il Torrazzo, which measures more than 112 metres in height.
Before leaving Cremona do not forget to call at Negozio Sperlari in Via Solferino and buy some of their famous torrone (nougat). The concoction of almonds, honey and egg whites was created in the city to mark the marriage of Bianca Maria Visconti to Francesco Sforza in 1441, when Cremona was given to the bride as part of her dowry.

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A walk round Piazza Vecchia

Palazzo della Ragione

From whatever direction you arrive in Bergamo’s Piazza Vecchia at the heart of the Città Alta (upper town), if it is the first time you have seen the square, you will be amazed by its fine buildings.
You will probably find your eyes drawn to the 12th century Palazzo della Ragione (Palace of Reason), an imposing presence at the southern end of the piazza.
The ground floor walls of the Palazzo were removed in the 15th century to allow a view through the arches into Piazza Duomo. This gives you a glimpse of the pink and white facade of the Colleoni Chapel, in stark contrast to the dark stone of the Palazzo. The carving of the lion over the central window was added in the 18th century, demonstrating the domination of the Venetians over Bergamo.
The palazzo's covered staircase
An interesting architectural feature is the covered staircase at the side, built to enable visitors to access the salone superiore (main top floor room) of the palazzo from ground floor level. These days the salone is open to the public for exhibitions and cultural events.
The staircase and the stone bridge that connects it to the palazzo were added to the original 12th century building in 1453.
Next to it, the big bell tower, il Campanone, dates back to at least the 12th century. It is also known as the Torre Civica (Civic Tower). If you are in the Piazza Vecchia at 10 pm on any evening you will hear the bell toll 100 times, marking the ancient curfew, when the gates in Bergamo’s walls were locked at night to keep the city safe from outsiders. The bell tolled to remind the Bergamaschi that it was time to come back inside the walls or be locked out for the night.
An interesting building on the west side of Piazza Vecchia is the 14th century palace that used to be the residence of the Venetian rulers of Bergamo.
The Palazzo del Podesta Veneto (the Palace of the Mayor of Venice) now houses the University of Bergamo’s Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literature.
The palace was originally built by the powerful Suardi family in about 1340 and was once decorated with frescoes by Bramante. The remaining fragments of the frescoes are now carefully preserved inside the Palazzo della Ragione.
The palace became the residence of the Podesta, the mayor sent to govern Bergamo by the Venetians. The various Podesta ruled Bergamo from there from the 16th century until the end of the 18th century, when the city finally became free of Venice .
A beautiful building at the northern end that should not to be overlooked is the white marble Biblioteca Civica (Angelo Mai Civic Library), also referred to as the Palazzo Nuovo.
Piazza Vecchia looking towards Biblioteca Civica
It was originally built as a town hall for Bergamo at the beginning of the 16th century, based on a design by architect Vincenzo Scamozzi.
It became the home of a library in the 18th century and the collection of documents, manuscripts and volumes has grown to more than 500,000 items.
The facade of the building was completed in the 20th century, still following Scamozzi’s original design, and the library was later named after Cardinal Angelo Mai, a famous palaeographer, who was born in Schilpario, north of Lago d’Iseo.
An elegant feature in the centre of the piazza is the fountain decorated with white marble lions. It provides a good focal point for photographers, with either the Palazzo della Ragione or the Biblioteca Civica providing a backdrop.
The baroque fountain was donated to the city by Alvise Contarini in 1780 at the end of his time as Podesta for Bergamo .
There are restaurants on both sides of the square and bars at each end where you can sit outside and contemplate your surroundings. After spending some time in the square, you will understand why Piazza Vecchia has been praised for its beauty by architects ranging from Le Corbusier to Frank Lloyd Wright.

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Hotel Avogadro at the heart of San Pellegrino

For a relaxing break in the countryside north of Bergamo, consider staying in San Pellegrino Terme.
This elegant spa town has plenty of amenities, whether you are there to take the waters or not.
River Brembo in San Pellegrino Terme
It is in the middle of beautiful countryside but is within easy reach of Bergamo if you decide to visit the city for the day.
The Avogadro Hotel and Ristorante is in a good location in Via Carlo, which is in the centre of San Pellegrino Terme.
All bedrooms have well-appointed bathrooms, telephone, television and hair dryer and are served by a lift.
The hotel’s restaurant has an extensive menu and serves well cooked food at reasonable prices.
For more details visit www.hotelavogadro.it or telephone 39 0345 21251.
You will be able to enjoy peaceful walks along the banks of the River Brembo, which flows through the town, and appreciate the views of the mountains of the Val Brembana in the distance.
Since medieval times it has been believed that San Pellegrino’s waters are effective against uric acid and kidney stones.
San Pellegrino used to count European aristocracy among visitors who came to take the waters, but the town has become famous for its bottled aqua minerale, which is now sold all over the world.
San Pellegrino’s heyday was at the end of the 19th century when impressive buildings such as the Grand Hotel, il Palazzo della Fonte and il Casino Municipale were built in elaborate Liberty style.
There is a regular bus service to Bergamo, which is 24 kilometres to the south.

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