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.


Birth of Pope John XXIII

It was an awe-inspiring achievement for a farmer’s son with a lot of siblings from a hamlet just outside Bergamo to become Pope and an influential world leader.
But this was the journey made by the much-respected Pope John XXIII, who was born into a large farming family on 25 November in 1881 at Sotto il Monte near Bergamo.
Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII leads to the upper town
Originally named Angelo Roncalli, he was tutored by a local priest before entering the Seminary at Bergamo at the age of 12.
His religious studies were interrupted by a spell in the Italian army, but he was ordained in 1904. He served as secretary to the Bishop of Bergamo for nine years before becoming an army chaplain in World War One.
After the war Angelo worked in Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece on behalf of the church helping to locate and repatriate prisoners of war.
In 1944 he was appointed nuncio to Paris to help with the post war effort in France. He became Cardinal Patriarch of Venice in 1953 and probably expected to spend his last years serving the church there.
But when he was elected Pope by his fellow cardinals in the conclave of 20 October 1958, it was a turning point in the church’s history.
Although he was Pope for less than five years, John XXIII enlarged the College of Cardinals to make it more representative, consecrated 14 new bishops for Asia and Africa, advanced ecumenical relations and worked for world peace.
He is remembered as ‘il Papa Buono’, ‘the Good Pope’, and since his death on 3 June 1963, his birthplace, and the museum set up to commemorate his life, have become popular destinations for pilgrims.
There is a permanent reminder of Pope John in Bergamo’s lower town, where the main thoroughfare from the railway station to Porta Nuova has been renamed Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII. In the upper town, there are works by Pope John XXIII in the Biblioteca Civica, the white marble Civic Library, in Piazza Vecchia. The Seminary he attended is at the end of nearby Via Arena.
Pope John’s birthplace, which has now been renamed Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXIII, is a short bus or car journey to the west of Bergamo. You can visit the house where he was born in the hamlet of Brusicco. The summer residence at Camaitino, which he used when he was a cardinal, is now a history museum dedicated to him.

Opening hours: Casa Natale (birthplace) at Brusicco 8.30 am to 5.30 pm; Museo di Papa Giovanni (Pope John Museum) at Camaitino 8.30 am to 11.30 and 2.30 pm to 6.30.

See Best of Bergamo’s updated Flights Guide
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Bartolomeo Colleoni’s legacy to Bergamo

Bergamo soldier Bartolomeo Colleoni, who became known for his good works, died on 2 November in 1475.
Colleoni spent most of his life in the pay of the republic of Venice defending the city of Bergamo against invaders.
But he is remembered as one of the most decent condottieri of his era, carrying out charitable works and agricultural improvements in Bergamo and the surrounding area when he was not involved in military campaigns.
Colleoni Chapel is
highlight of upper town

Condottieri were the leaders of troops, who worked for the powerful ruling factions, often for high payments, during the fifteenth century.
Bergamo’s Bartolomeo Colleoni was unusual because he remained steadfast to one employer, the republic of Venice, for most of his career.
During a period of peace between Venice and Milan he worked briefly for Milan but the rulers never fully trusted him and eventually he was arrested and imprisoned. After his release, he returned to work for Venice and subsequently stayed faithful to them.
Towards the end of his life he lived with his family at his castle in Malpaga, to the south of Bergamo, and turned his attention to designing a building to house his own tomb. This has given Bergamo’s upper town its most ornate and celebrated building, the Cappella Colleoni (Colleoni Chapel), one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture in Italy.
Cappella Colleoni was designed by architect Antonio Amadeo to harmonise with the adjacent Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, using pink and white marble to match the colours of the doorway.
Inside the Colleoni Chapel there is an elaborate, two-tier sarcophagus surmounted by a golden statue of Colleoni on horseback. The military leader’s body was placed in the lower sarcophagus, according to his instructions, where it still lies today. Above his tomb there are frescoes by Giambattista Tiepolo.
Bartolomeo Colleoni left money to Venice in his will with a request that a statue of himself be erected in Piazza San Marco after his death. As there was a rule that no monuments were allowed in the Piazza, the statue, made by Andrea del Verrocchio, was eventually placed opposite the Scuola di San Marco in Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo, where it can still be seen today.

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Sant’Alessandro festival 2015

Patron saint honoured by bells

The bells have been ringing out all over Bergamo today to herald the festival in honour of the city’s patron saint, Sant’Alessandro, which starts tomorrow.
The annual event commemorates the event on August 26, 303, when Sant’Alessandro was martyred by the Romans for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.
Column marks spot where
 Sant'Alessandro was executed
It is believed Sant’Alessandro was a devout citizen who had defiantly continued to preach in Bergamo, despite several narrow escapes from the Romans, but he was eventually caught and suffered decapitation.
A series of religious, cultural and gastronomic events focused on the theme of Gratitude will takes place in his name over several days throughout the city, which will be decorated with festive lights.
Palazzo Frizzoni, the seat of the commune, will open its doors to the public for guided tours tomorrow afternoon.
Bergamaschi bell ringers will perform a set of traditional old tunes to entertain the public in Piazza Mascheroni and there will be stalls and refreshments along the Sentierone. A firework display will take place at 10.30 pm tomorrow night.
Porta Sant’Alessandro, which leads from the upper town to Borgo Canale and San Vigilio, was built in the 16th century. It was named after a fourth century cathedral that had originally been dedicated to the saint but was later demolished.

See Best of Bergamo’s updated Flights Guide
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Accademia Carrara

Palace filled with art treasures is a major attraction in Bergamo

One of the biggest jewels in Bergamo’s crown, the prestigious art gallery Accademia Carrara, is shining even more brightly now it is open to the public again.
The magnificent palace just outside the Città Alta, which was built in the 18th century to house one of the richest private collections of art in Italy, had been closed for renovation work for seven years.
It is the only Italian museum to be entirely stocked with donations and bequests from private collectors. Visitors can now view a broad-ranging collection of works by the masters of the Venetian, Lombard and Tuscan renaissances as well as great artists who came later, such as Lotto, Titian, Moroni, Rubens, Tiepolo, Guardi and Canaletto, to name but a few.
Restored Accademia the day it reopened
The reopening of the Accademia Carrara in April this year sparked great celebrations in Bergamo, after the museum had been closed for so long for restoration and maintenance work.
Following a spectacular opening ceremony and party the museum opened its doors to the public for the first time on 24 April. Thousands of people were waiting outside in Piazza Giacomo Carrara to get their first look inside the refurbished building.
Visitors can now walk through 28 rooms to view more than 600 major works by artists and sculptors spanning five centuries.

Highlights include: Madonna and Child by Andrea Mantegna; Portrait of Leonello d’Este by Pisanello; Three Crucifixes by Vincenzo Foppa; Madonna and Child by Giovanni Bellini; The Story of Virginia the Roman by Sandro Botticelli; The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine by Lorenzo Lotto; Madonna and Child in a Landscape by Tiziano Vecellio; Madonna with Baby and Saints by Palma il Vecchio; Portrait of an Elderly Man seated by Giovan Battista Moroni; The Grand Canal from Palazzo Balbi by Antonio Canal Canaletto.

A Canaletto masterpiece
The Accademia Carrara was established in Bergamo in 1794 on the initiative of Bergamo 
aristocrat Count Giacomo Carrara as a combined Pinacoteca and School 
of Painting.  In addition to his collection of paintings he left his entire estate to the Accademia to secure its future.
The number and quality of works in the Accademia increased over the years thanks to the many donations and bequests received from private collectors.
From being a museum dedicated to Renaissance painting, the Accademia grew into an art gallery that also provided a broad representation of pictorial genres from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
For part of the time the gallery was closed, the gems of the collection went on show in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. And visitors to Bergamo were able to see some of the paintings on display in the Truss Room of Palazzo della Ragione in Piazza Vecchia.
Painting depicts the death of Bergamo composer Donizetti
But now one of the richest collections of art in Italy is back where it belongs, in the Palace built specially to house it, in Bergamo’s Città Bassa.
Accademia Carrara in Piazza Giacomo Carrara is just outside the walls of the Città Alta, a short walk from Porta Sant’Agostino.

Accademia Carrara is open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 am to 7 pm; Friday from 10 am to 12 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 8 pm. It is closed on Tuesday. For more information visit www.lacarrara.it.

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Death in the High City first anniversary

Successful year for Bergamo’s first English crime novel

Death in the High City, the first British detective novel to be set in Bergamo, has had an exciting first year.
The novel, which was published in Kindle format on Amazon 12 months ago today, has sold copies in the UK, Italy, America, Australia and Canada. A paperback version of Death in the High City was published in July 2014.
Author Val Culley has had some heart warming emails and messages about the book from readers both in the UK and abroad and has been delighted with the level of interest in her first novel.
With the Colleoni Chapel in the background
In October 2014 Val was a guest at the fifth anniversary celebrations of Bergamo Su e Giù, a group of independent tour guides in the city. She was invited to present Death in the High City to an audience in San Pellegrino Terme and sign copies of the book and she also made an appearance on Bergamo TV to talk about the novel with presenter Teo Mangione.
In November the book was purchased by Leicestershire Libraries and is now in stock at Loughborough, Shepshed, Ashby de la Zouch, Coalville, Castle Donington and Kegworth Libraries and is going out on loan regularly.
In April this year Val was invited to Bergamo again to present her novel to a group of 80 Italian teachers of English and to sign copies. She made a second appearance on Bergamo TV and also formally presented a copy of Death in the High City to the Biblioteca Civica (Civic Library) in Piazza Vecchia, a location that is featured in the novel itself.
Death in the High City centres on the investigation into the death of an English woman who was staying in the Città Alta while writing a biography of the composer Gaetano Donizetti.
On display in a library
The novel is the first of a series to feature the characters of Kate Butler, a freelance journalist, and Steve Bartorelli, a Detective Chief Inspector, who is of partly Italian descent and has just retired from the English police.
The victim had been living in an apartment in Bergamo’s Città Alta and much of the action takes place within the walls of the upper town. The local police do not believe there is enough evidence to open a murder enquiry and so Kate Butler, who is the victim’s cousin, arrives in Bergamo to try to get some answers about her death.
Kate visits many of the places in the city with Donizetti connections and her enquiries even take her out to Lago d’Iseo and into the countryside around San Pellegrino Terme. But after her own life is threatened and there has been another death in the Città Alta, her lover, Steve Bartorelli, joins her to help unravel the mystery and trap the killer. The reader is able to go along for the ride and enjoy Bergamo’s wonderful architecture and scenery while savouring the many descriptions in the novel of local food and wine.
The novel will be of interest to anyone who enjoys the ‘cosy’ crime fiction genre or likes detective novels with an Italian setting.
Death in the High City by Val Culley is available on Amazon.com.

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Santa Marta Cloister

A glimpse of the beauty of 14th century Bergamo 

A tranquil spot in the heart of the elegant banking district in Bergamo’s Città Bassa, the Santa Marta Cloister remains as a perfectly preserved part of a 14th century convent.
To the left of the Torre del Caduti in Piazza Vittorio Veneto, a view of the ancient cloister can be obtained from under the colonnades of the Palazzo della Banca Popolare di Bergamo.
Modern sculptures embellish the garden of the cloister
The building housing the bank was built in 1926 and the arcade in front of the bank leads to the entrance to the cloister, which is all that remains of the convent that was founded here in the 14th century,
The convent was enlarged over subsequent centuries but was finally demolished to make way for the urban redesign of Bergamo planned by architect Marcello Piacentino, who was commissioned with revamping the Città Bassa in 1907, when he was just 26 years of age.
Only the longest side of the cloister complete with its arched colonnades now survives from the original building.
To see the beautiful Santa Marta Cloister, look through the iron gates to the left of the main entrance to the bank.

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How Orio al Serio airport has helped put Bergamo on the map for visitors to Italy

Bergamo's airport at Orio al Serio is the fourth busiest in Italy and there is no doubt that its rapid expansion has helped raise the profile of the city.
Developed on the site of a military airfield, the airport welcomed its first commercial flight in 1972 but it was not until the deregulation of the aviation industry in the late 1990s that it began to grow at a significant rate.
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Ryanair is the principal carrier at Bergamo Airport
(Picture by Paul Lenz)

See our updated Flights Guide

With the boom in regional and low-cost airlines that followed deregulation,  Orio al Serio began to see passenger numbers increasing by significant numbers year on year.  Around a million travellers used the airport in 2000; by 2014 the figure was 8.77 million, more than passed through Marco Polo airport in Venice.
At first seen as a third airport for Milan -- hence it is often referred to as Milan Bergamo -- the airport has helped boost Bergamo's standing as an attraction in its own right, not least because its proximity to the city allows travellers to take in some wonderful views as they land, the Città Alta's beguiling charms often visible from the aircraft windows.
Recently renamed Il Caravaggio International Airport - in honour of the artist who took his name from the town in Bergamo Province where he grew up -- the airport is situated just 3.7 kilometres (2.3 miles) to the south-east of the city.  
Taxis to the city are in plentiful supply and there are buses every 20 minutes from outside the arrivals area, every half an hour at weekends
Bus tickets cost only a couple of euros and the journey time is short -- only 15 minutes to the railway station in Bergamo's Città Bassa, 30 minutes to the Città Alta.  Look out for the No 1 service, which runs along Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII and Viale Roma - the Città Bassa's main thoroughfare -- before climbing to the Città Alta along Viale Vittorio Emanuele II.  Most of the Città Bassa's major hotels are within a short walk of the bus route.

See our updated Flights Guide

Currently you can fly to Caravaggio from more than 30 countries around Europe and North Africa. Ryanair has developed Bergamo as one of its major hubs and the majority of flights to the airport are operated by the Irish budget carrier.
Visitors to Bergamo from the United Kingdom can fly with Ryanair from Bristol, East Midlands, London Stansted and Manchester.  Flights from London Stansted account for around 375,000 passengers arriving in Bergamo each year. 
Ryanair has also become a major carrier within Italy, operating flights to Caravaggio from 10 departure points
In addition to the UK, countries with direct flights to Bergamo are: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine. 

More details can be found in our Flights Guide which has been updated to show the spring and summer schedules.

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