Italy - Bergamo Citta Alta
With our friends we flew on RyanAir (www.ryanair.com)from Paris to Milan/Bergamo (BGY). The early morning flight from the Beauvais/Tilly airport was on time and 1 hour and 55 minutes later we arrived in Bergamo at the Orio al Serio International Airport (BGY). From there we took a public bus (1.25 Euros) that took us straight through the modern town the Citta Bassa up to the Citta Alta where we had reserved a couple of rooms at the Palazzo Vechia (www.palazziovecchia,com). Our rooms were ready for us. The hotel is housed in an old palazzo and its entrance is located on the main street Via Bartholomeo Calleoni just a stone throw away from Piazza Vecchio. The hotel is quite modern inside and was just recently newly renovated. The rooms are lovely with all the modern conveniences. Ours had a balcony overlooking the Bergamascan hills. The hotel is family-run and the owners daughter, Kim, mans the reception when she is not studying in Milan. She speaks excellent English and was most helpful and highly competent in getting me in touch with the Intl. Credit Card Cancellation service in Italy, when I needed to cancel a lost visa card.
After an excellent, and very reasonable lunch (we feasted on Casoncelli tipi calla bergamasca and tagliata di manzo alla griglia with some lovely regional wine) at the Restaurant Bernabo on Piazza Mascheroni, we set out to explore the Bergamo - Citta Alta.
The Citta Alta, surrounded by the Venetian walls is an extraordinary cradle of works of art and architecture. Medieval and Renaissance streets and palaces, which heroically resisted over the centuries, are safe and protected clinging onto the hillside. The upper city can easily be reached by cable car which has been working since 1887. A second cable car was opened in 1912 and terminates on San Vigilio hill with its castle, from which we enjoyed a beautiful view of Bergamo Citta Bassa and the plain. We were told that more and more Italian and especially foreign tourists visiting Bergamo appreciate the beauty of this city.
We enjoyed walking through the narrow cobblestoned medieval streets, squares, Renaissance palaces and visiting monuments like the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and Colleoni Chapel. The Basilica is the most remarkable religious building in the town and houses the famous marquetries of the choire by Lorenzo Lotto. The Colleoni Chapel is a masterpiece of the Lombard Renaissance. Next to it is the Domo The Cathedral. The cathedral is dedicated to Allesandro, the Patron Saint of the town; it was started in 1459 and finished in the 19th century. Unfortunately, we could not visit since it was being renovated. We walked onto the Piazza Vecchia The old Square. The square is overlooked by Palazzo del Ragione and by the Biblioteca Civica Angelo Mai (the public library) as well as the Campanone (big bell) and the massive tower of the Town Hall. Contarinis fountain (about 1780) stands out in the center of the square. From there we walked up to the Fortress La Rocca. This fortified building is the result of several works which started in the 14th Century and is surrounded by the Parco delle Rimembranze. The Fara garden, viewed from the Fortress is right in front of the former monastery of Saint Augustine. A little further down we passed the Saint Agostino Church. This deconsecrated church has a sandstone faade in late Gothic style. It used to belong to a convent, now it hosts frequent art exhibitions and cultural events. Not far from the Sant Agostino Church stands La Porta di Sant Agostino (Saint Augustines Gate), built at the end of the 16th century together with the monumental fountain standing just in front of it, representing the eastern entrance to the Citta Alta. We continued our walk along the Viale delle Mura the Avenue along the walls. From this long Avenue admired the view of the lower town. Along the path stands the Porta San Giacomo and from there we returned to the Citta Alta.
In the Citta Bassa you shouldnt miss the wonderful ArtGallery of the Accademia Carrara,(www.accademiacarrara.bergamo.it) one of Northern Italy's most important collections of medieval, Renaissance and Baroque paintings. Founded in 1796 after the death of Count Carrara as a school of painting and art gallery, the Accademia has been managed by the Municipality of Bergamo since 1958. Over the years it has received private donations and acquired more works. Thanks to its heritage of almost 2000 paintings and collections of sculptures, prints and drawings, it is one of the most relevant museums in Italy. It is located in the neoclassical palace buit in 1810 according to a project by Simon Elia and occupies three floors.
Right in front of the Accademia Carrara , in an old convent, there is the Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, (www.gamec.it), the city's gallery of modern and contemporary art, which usually hosts some interesting exhibitions .
Also dont miss the Donizetti Museum (Museo Donizettiano), www.teatrodonizetti.it, Via Arena 9, devoted to one of Bergamo's most famous sons, the composer Gaetano Donizetti. Musicians, lovers of good music and enthusiastic melomaniacs can follow a tour in Bergamo to retrace the life of Gaetano Donizetti, born here in 1797. The composer was born in a humble house at No. 14 Borgo Canale but the building he died in in 1848 Palazzo Scotti is a fine baroque construction standing in the street named after him. The DonizettiMuseum houses hand-written manuscripts, first printed editions, documents and personal items, including the furnishings from his last bedroom and two pianos that belonged to the Maestro. Do have a look at the Donizetti Theater, founded in 1787 which dedicates every year an important musical Festival Donizettiano to this illustrious composer.
After all this sightseeing we stopped for some wonderful gelatta at the Bar Funicolare with a grandious panorama of the lower town. Then we rode the funicolare from the Citt Bassa up to the Citt Alta. This was a lot easier than walking, and the views on the way up were spectacular.
For dinner we had some wonderfult stone fired pizza at the Da Mimmo Restaurant on Via Colleoni, www.ristorantemimmo.com, with some excellent local wine. And then it was off to bed.
The next morning we took the public bus from the Citta Alta down to the Citta Bassa trainstation where we caught the train to Milan/Florence In two days we knew we could stay a lifetime and still love this place. But it was time to move on.