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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