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.


Giacomo Manzù and his famous gift to Bergamo

The Monument to the Partisan by Giacomo Manzù can be found in Piazza Matteotti
The Monument to the Partisan by Giacomo
Manzù can be found in Piazza Matteotti
The acclaimed Bergamo sculptor Giacomo Manzù was born Giacomo Manzoni on this day in 1908. 

One of Manzù's most notable works, his Monument to the Partisan, can be found in Piazza Matteotti in the Città Bassa, a short distance from Porta Nuova.

The 3.2m (10ft 6ins) bronze sculpture shows a young anti-Fascist partisan fighter hanging upside down by his feet, having supposedly been tortured to death by Italian Fascists or Nazi soldiers.  Alongside him stands a young woman looking on in sadness.

On the reverse is a poem written by Manzù, dedicated to the partisan.

Manzù presented the work to his home city on its completion and it was unveiled on April 25, 1977.

The son of a shoemaker, Angelo Manzoni, who was also sacristan of the parish church of Sant’Alessandro in Colonna, Manzù taught himself to be a sculptor, helped only by a few evening classes in art, and went on to achieve international recognition.

He changed his name to Manzù and started working in wood while he was doing his military service in the Veneto in 1928.

After moving to Milan, he was commissioned by the architect, Giovanni Muzio, to decorate the Chapel of the Sacred Heart Catholic University.

But he achieved national recognition after he exhibited a series of busts at the Triennale di Milano.  The following year he held a personal exhibition with the painter, Aligi Sassu, with whom he shared a studio.

Sculptor Giacomo Manzù was the son of a Bergamo shoemaker
Sculptor Giacomo Manzù was the son
of a Bergamo shoemaker
His 1939 series of bronze bas reliefs about the death of Christ were criticised by the Fascist government when they were exhibited in Rome in 1942.  They were interpreted by some as a symbolisation of violence committed by the Fascist regime against their opponents and Manzù, who was a communist, went into hiding for a while for fear of being arrested.

Manzù had started teaching at the Accademia di Brera in Milan, but during the war he went back north to live in Clusone, to the north of Bergamo, in Val Seriana. He returned to teach in Milan at the end of the war.

Manzù then moved to Salzburg, where he met his wife, Inge Schabel, who became the model for several of his sculptures.

He built an 11-foot high sculpture, Passo di Danza, in Detroit and his last great work was a six-metre tall sculpture of a woman with a child outside the United Nations headquarters in New York in 1989.

During his long career he also built stage sets for the composer Igor Stravinsky and he eventually designed his tomb in Venice.

A devout Catholic, Manzù was a personal friend of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who would go on to be Pope John XXIII and who was also from Bergamo, and he completed some important commissions for the Vatican and St Peter’s Basilica.

Pio Manzù, Giacomo's son, who died tragically young in 1969
More examples of his work in the Città Bassa in Bergamo can be found inside the entrance portico of the Palazzo della Provincia in Via Torquato Tasso, and at the Museum of Contemporary and Modern Art (GAMeC) in Via SanTomaso, opposite the Accademia Carrara museum.

While in Rome he lived in Ardea, south of the capital and close to the sea, in a locality that has since been renamed Colle Manzù un his honour.  Ardea has a museum dedicated to his work.

Manzù died in Rome in 1991, The New York Times described him in an obituary as ‘one of Italy’s leading sculptors whose work often mixed religious, allegorical and sexual imagery’.

Sadly, he outlived his son, Pio, by 22 years.  Pio, who was also born in Bergamo, was a successful designer whose work in the automobile industry yielded the groundbreaking Fiat 127, the "people's car" of Italy in the 1970s.  His death at the age of just 30 in a road accident in 1969, however, meant he did not live to see the project completed.

Home                       Main Sights                          Bergamo Hotels 


Marcello Piacentini

Brilliant architect put Bergamo’s Città Bassa on the tourist map

The man responsible for the elegant design of the centre of the Città Bassa, the architect Marcello Piacentini, was born on this day in 1881 in Rome.

He was the son of architect Pio Piacentini and studied arts and engineering in Rome but, when he was just 26, he was commissioned with redesigning the centre of Bergamo’s lower town and his buildings remain notable landmarks today.

The beautiful Banca d'Italia in Viale Roma
He then went on to work throughout Italy and, in particular in Rome, developing a simplified neoclassicism which became the mainstay of Fascist architecture. He designed a new campus for the University of Rome, La Sapienza, and the road approaching St Peter’s in Rome, Via della Conciliazione.

Piacentini went on to become an important colonial architect, particularly in Eastern Libya.

One of his most impressive buildings in the Città Bassa is the Banca d’Italia in Viale Roma, which you pass on the right hand side as you go up to the Città Alta (upper town). Built of brown stone, in keeping with the other public buildings erected at the beginning of the 20th century in the Città Bassa, the bank has a decorative façade.

The building has since become a symbol of Bergamo’s strong commercial and banking tradition.

Another example of Piacentini’s brilliant work in the lower town is the Torre dei Caduti in the centre of the Città Bassa. The early 20th century war memorial towers over Piazza Vittorio Veneto and Via Sentierone but was carefully positioned so that despite its 45 metres of height it does not spoil the skyline of the Città Alta.

The Torre dei Caduti (tower of the fallen) was built to honour the citizens of Bergamo who were killed in the First World War and was officially inaugurated at a ceremony in 1924.

After the fall of Fascism, Piacentini did not work as an architect for several years and he died in Rome in 1960.

Home                       Main Sights                          Bergamo Hotels