A MAGICAL PLACE

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.

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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