One of the most beautiful and characteristic streets in the Città Alta (upper town) is the peaceful Via Arena.
The narrow cobbled street lined with old houses with ornate portals and fresco decorated walls runs from Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore up to the west end of the Città Alta and the Seminario Vescovile. It can be accessed by leaving the church of Santa Maria Maggiore at the south entrance.
On the left side is the high wall encircling the Santa Grata convent with an ornate church entrance. Opposite is the Palazzo della Misericordia Maggiore, which houses a musical institute and the Donizetti museum.
The palazzo, at Number 9 Via Arena, was originally built in the 15th century but was extended and refurbished in the 17th century to become the largest baroque building in Bergamo .
The museum dedicated to Gaetano Donizetti has a unique and fascinating collection of furniture, paintings, books and musical scores.
Donizetti, who was born and died in Bergamo, composed about 70 highly regarded operas in 30 years, making him one of the leading composers of opera in the early part of the 19th century and a major influence on Verdi, Puccini and other Italian composers who came after him.
|Donizetti museum entrance in Via Arena|
Visitors are able to see Donizetti’s furniture, including the bed he died in and the chair he used to sit in towards the end of his life when he was living in Palazzo Scotti in Bergamo ’s Città Alta as the guest of a wealthy family. There are also the composer’s piano, portraits, original scores from his operas and his letters on view in display cases as well as a library of books and documents.
To add to the atmosphere as you look round the museum, you will hear occasional snatches of music played by students using the practice rooms of the musical institute, which is also housed in the palace.
The origins of the musical institute go back to the charitable lessons in music provided for orphans early in the 19th century by Simone Mayr, music master at Santa Maria Maggiore, under who Donizetti himself at one time studied
The Donizetti Museum in Via Arena is open from Tuesday to Friday from 9.30 to 13.00 and on Saturday and Sunday from 9.30 to 13.00 and from 14.00 to 17.30. Closed Mondays.