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.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Antonio Ferramolino – Bergamo military engineer

Brief but brilliant career building fortifications

Bergamo-born architect and military engineer Antonio Ferramolino died on this day in 1550 during the siege of Mahdia in Tunisia.

He is remembered in Bergamo by a road named after him on the outskirts of the city, Via Antonio Feramolino, which is a turning off Via Grumello, the main road running through Grumello del Piano.
Bergamo's own defensive walls were built by the
 Venetians, 11 years after Ferramolino's death

Ferramolino, who is also sometimes referred to as Sferrandino da Bergamo, began his career as a soldier, but by 1529 he was known to have been overseeing the construction of artillery for the Venetian Arsenal.

He fought against the Ottomans in Hungary in 1532 and was also present at the conquest of Tunis in 1535.

In 1536, the Emperor Charles V sent Ferramolino to review the fortifications of Messina and other parts of Sicily. During the next few years he designed fortifications for Messina, Palermo, Catania and Milazzo in Sicily.

In 1538 he went to the Republic of Ragusa, which is now Dubrovnik in Croatia, to design the Revelin Fortress, a series of defensive stone walls that proved impossible to breach. In 1540 he went to Malta, where he designed the Fort of St. Angelo and other fortifications.

Ferramolino died on the battlefield in Tunisia on 18 August 1550 after being hit by a lead ball fired from an arquebus during the siege of Mahdia.

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Monday, July 13, 2020

Bergamo Capital of Culture 2023

Chance for city to showcase rich artistic and musical heritage

As Bergamo cautiously reopens after the devastation caused by the Covid-19 epidemic, the city has received a welcome boost from the Italian government.

The Chamber of Deputies has approved the candidature of Bergamo, jointly with Brescia, as Italian Capitals of Culture 2023.
Bergamo's Teatro Donizetti

This is being seen as a symbol of recovery by the two cities, who both suffered badly during the worst of the pandemic earlier this year.

Once the selection of Bergamo and Brescia is given the formal go-ahead by the Italian senate, the cities can begin drawing up plans to present to Italy’s ministry of culture.

What better setting could be found for a year of cultural events than the beautiful city of Bergamo with its rich history of artistic and musical achievement? 

The city’s Accademia Carrara houses one of the richest private collections of art in Italy.

The Teatro Donizetti, named in honour of opera composer Gaetano Donizetti who was born in Bergamo, presents an enormous variety of operas, concerts, jazz and other cultural events each year.

The imposing walls, le Mura, built by the Venetians to enclose Bergamo’s upper town have been declared a Unesco World Heritage site.
The Venetian walls surrounding the upper town.

Piazza Vecchia, with its wealth of medieval architecture has been described as the most beautiful square in Italy. 

And Cappella Colleoni in Piazza Duomo is said to be the finest Renaissance building in northern Italy, if not in the whole of Italy.

Bergamo’s capital of culture partner, Brescia, to the south east, is also a city of great artistic and architectural importance. Although it is the second city in Lombardia, after Milan, and has Roman remains and well-preserved Renaissance buildings, it is perhaps not as well-known to tourists as Bergamo.

Brescia became a Roman colony before the birth of Christ and you can still see remains from the forum, theatre and a temple.
The beautiful Piazza Vecchia in Bergamo

The town came under the protection of Venice in the 15th century and there is a distinct Venetian influence in the architecture of the Piazza della Loggia, an elegant square in the centre of the town. 

The Santa Giulia Museo della Citta covers more than 3000 years of Brescia’s history, housed within the Benedictine Nunnery of San Salvatore and Santa Giulia in Via Musei. The nunnery was built over a Roman residential quarter, but some of the houses, with their original mosaics and frescos, have now been excavated and can be seen while looking round the museum.

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Friday, May 22, 2020

Accademia Carrara reopens in Bergamo

Caravaggio masterpiece will remain on display

The Accademia Carrara reopened its doors to visitors from today, 22 May, following the lockdown.
The Accademia Carrara reopened its doors to visitors
from today, 22 May, following the lockdown.
A welcome sign that things are getting back to normal in Bergamo is the reopening of the Accademia Carrara.

The prestigious art gallery, which lies just outside the Città Alta, finally opened its doors to visitors again today, following the Covid-19 outbreak.

You can book your access to the museum on line at prenotazioni@lacararra.it or by ringing +39 328 1721727.

A pleasant surprise for art enthusiasts will be that Caravaggio’s famous painting of The Musicians, which was on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York before the Carrara had to close, will remain at the gallery until the end of the summer.

The Metropolitan Museum’s offer to extend the loan of the painting to Bergamo has been described by the Carrara as an ‘extraordinary act of generosity’ and a demonstration of the solidarity that unites Bergamo and New York, ‘two cities that are being sorely tested by the current health crisis.
Baroque artist Caravaggio painted the three young men playing musical instruments, with a fourth dressed as Cupid, while he was still a young man. He was living in the household of his patron, Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte. One member of the group is thought to be a self portrait of the artist.

Caravaggio, whose real name was Michelangelo Merisi, spent the early years of his life living in the small town of Caravaggio just south of Bergamo. It is believed his family moved there because of an outbreak of plague in Milan after his birth in 1571.

Caravaggio's painting, The Musicians, painted in about 1595, is on loan at the Carrara from The Met in New York
Caravaggio's painting, The Musicians, painted in about
1595, is on loan at the Carrara from The Met in New York
He later returned to Milan to train as a painter and then went on to work in Rome, Naples, Malta and Sicily until his death at Porto Ercole in Tuscany in 1610.

The town of Caravaggio is well worth visiting to see the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Caravaggio, which was built in the 16th century on the spot where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a local peasant woman. The Sanctuary was rebuilt in the 18th century and is now a grand building visited by pilgrims from all over the world.

Bergamo airport at Orio al Serio changed its name to the Caravaggio International Airport Bergamo - Orio al Serio in 2011.

The Accademia Carrara is one of the biggest jewels in Bergamo’s crown. The art gallery is housed in a magnificent palace, built in the 18th century to house one of the richest private collections of art in Italy.

It is the only Italian museum to be entirely stocked with donations and bequests from private collectors. Visitors can 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.

The Carrara was established in 1794 as a combined Pinacoteca and School of Painting on the initiative of Bergamo aristocrat Count Giacomo Carrara. In addition to his collection of paintings he left his entire estate to the Accademia to secure its future.

The number and quality of the works in the Accademia has increased over the years thanks to donations and bequests from private collectors.

Accademia Carrara is in Piazza Giacomo Carrara, a short walk from Porta Sant’Agostino. For more information about the new opening hours visit www.lacarrara.it.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Church of Sant’Agostino Bergamo

A gem of Gothic architecture, the beautiful Church of Sant’Agostino, lies close to Porta Sant’Agostino, the gate marking the eastern entrance to the Città Alta.
The Gothic facade of the church of Sant'Agostino

The de- consecrated church was originally part of a monastery complex but is now used as a lecture theatre by Bergamo’s University and is also a venue for art exhibitions and events.

The sandstone church was built in Gothic style by the Eremitani Friars in 1290 and then passed to the Observant Friars in 1407, both belonging to the Sant’Agostino order.

By the 17th century the monastery complex had become an important centre for religious and cultural research.

Above the central rose window there is a marble statue of Sant’Agostino in a niche.
Inside, you can still see the medieval frescoed walls and original wooden ceiling beams.

It is believed the monastery complex once sheltered Martin Luther, who stayed there for one night on his way to Rome on the eve of his excommunication.

The open area in front of the church was once used as a defensive bastion for the city but is now the Fara park, a green space where sport is played and tired tourists can sit and relax.

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Monday, March 16, 2020

A message from the Editor of Best of Bergamo

‘It is with great sadness that I’ve watched events unfold in Bergamo over the last few weeks and seen the coronavirus (Covid-19) cause devastation to the city I love so much.
The towers of the upper town seen from San Vigilio

My heart goes out to all the people who have lost loved ones and to those who have become ill with the virus.

I can only express my admiration for the tireless work of the emergency services and, in particular, the doctors and nurses in Bergamo, who are on the front line every day but remain unflinching in their dedication to their patients.

I am also sorry for the people who have had to close their businesses and whose livelihoods are suffering, many of whom have become my friends during the last ten years.

The empty streets and the beautiful buildings having to remain closed, which usually give so much pleasure to tourists when they visit, have been poignant sights.

But I have been heartened by the messages I have received from friends in Bergamo that have demonstrated the resilience of the Bergamaschi and shown their strong resolve to fight the virus together: ‘fermiamolo insieme!

Today marks the tenth anniversary of Best of Bergamo and during that time I have written many words highlighting the beauty of this elegant northern city with its fascinating mix of modern and medieval architecture.

My first post written on Tuesday 16 March 2010 about Il Sole restaurant in Piazza Vecchia was just the beginning of my long love affair with Bergamo.

I look forward to visiting Bergamo with my family in happier times and making that magical journey up to the Città Alta once again to revisit all our favourite places.

Viva Bergamo! e Viva l’Italia! Our thoughts are with you’.

From Val Culley, Editor of Best of Bergamo

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Friday, February 21, 2020

Palazzo della Ragione Bergamo

Medieval palace was once used as a courthouse

The facade of the 12th century Palazzo della Ragione is an iconic image of Bergamo’s upper town, the Città Alta. 

But the most photographed and admired building in Piazza Vecchia hides many fascinating secrets.

If you step under the archways into what was once the ground floor of the building, you are entering what used to be Bergamo’s courthouse.
The white seat was where the prisoner would have to sit

During the period of Venetian domination the judges used to preside over legal proceedings there and would take a decision based on their ‘reason’, in Italian ‘ragione’. This is how the medieval palace acquired its name.

You will see a row of stone seats along one of the palace’s walls but only one of the seats is white. This is the so called ‘Seat of Shame’ where the prisoner accused of the crime would have had to sit during the legal arguments.

Take a seat there yourself and imagine what it would have been like to be someone accused of a crime in the 16th century when the Venetians first took control of Bergamo. The defendant would have been very glad to be able to stand up and walk into Piazza Duomo and continue sightseeing, as today’s visitors can!

The palace has been damaged by fires over the centuries and has had to be rebuilt many times.  It is said that the ground floor walls were removed to allow a view through the arches into Piazza Duomo. This enables visitors to see the stunning pink and white facade of the Colleoni Chapel, which is in stark contrast to the dark stone of Palazzo della Ragione. 

The facade of the medieval Palazzo della Ragione
The grand covered stairway, which dates from 1453, rises from Piazza Vecchia to the first floor of the palace. There are 13th and 14th century frescoes, which were taken from old churches and houses in the area, decorating the upper hall.

The palace was mentioned in a document of 1198 and is therefore believed to be the oldest communal building in Italy.  It was once used for meetings of Bergamo’s civic authority, but it has also been a theatre and a library and occasionally acted as an art gallery.

The carving of the lion over the central window of the palace was added to the exterior of the building to mark the domination of the Venetians over Bergamo. The current lion is actually a 20th century replica of the 15th century original, which was torn down when the French took control of Bergamo in 1797.

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