Bergamo – The Italian Capital of Culture

Bergamo, Lombardy, Italy

This is a very special year for Bergamo, in the Lombardy region. It’s one of the Italian Cultural Capitals along with with Brescia, another amazing town in the same region.

A year full of events, shows, exibitions that you can find listed on the following website: bergamobrescia2023

By reading this article, you can start discovering Bergamo’s historical and artistic heritage, full of traditions and beauty. Let’s begin!

BERGAMO ALTA, THE  UPPER  TOWN

The funicular, Bergamo, Lombardy, Italy

Reaching Bergamo Alta is really fun, especially if you decide to leave the car behind to get on one of the colorful Funicular wagons. The ride starts from the Lower Town, where it is easier to find parking. In a few minutes, it overcomes a difference in height of 85 meters, climbing up a hill dotted with villas and gardens.

Our walk starts from Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe, right in front of the Funicular station.

Small, sprawling, surrounded by ancient tower houses, the square has preserved the typical features of the medieval era, when it was the headquarters of the shoemakers.

A few meters on the right, a cobbled road leads to the heights of Sant’Eufemia, where you can spot the Fortress. Dating back to the 1400s, the Fortress looks massive. It is surrounded by the Park of Remembrance, one of the green lungs of the city, characterized by walking paths, flower beds, grass and embellished with monumental trees.

Bergamo Alta, Lombardy, Italy

From here, the view is great. Not only on the plain, but also on the monuments of the Upper Town itself, placed at a lower level. There are, for example, the Civic Tower and the Gombito Tower, the Palazzo della Ragione, the church of Santa Maria Maggiore with its oriental bell tower and the golden statue of Sant’Alessandro, patron of the city, on top of the Dome.

Continuing towards Via Solata, bordered by houses with flowered balconies, you reach in a few minutes piazza Mercato del Fieno and via Gombito. Here, our visit becomes increasingly interesting and full of pleasures, because Bergamo is also a hub of local delicacies.

‘Polenta e Osei’ – ‘Polenta and chocolate birds’, Pastry shop, Bergamo, Lombardy, Italy

In the middle of Via Gombito, a charming medieval street, there is the Pasticceria Cavour, a historical place with beautiful vaulted interiors and furnishings of the late ‘800. While entering the shop, you can perceive a sweet smell of Torta Donizzetti, pears and chocolate and polenta e osei, the most classic dessert of the town.  Made with a fragrant yellow half-sphere of sponge cake, polenta e osei is stuffed with almond and hazelnut cream and decorated with small chocolate birds on top.

TOWARDS THE OLD SQUARE

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A few meters away, still in the direction of piazza Vecchia, Vineria Cozzi reserves an interesting selection of labels from nearby Valcalepio, with rich and elegant red wines, and white wines with a fruity and aromatic scent.

On the other side of the street, the windows of the old Mangili Gastronomy invite you to stop and take a look at the shelves full of sauces, mustards, jams, and hams lined up behind the sales counter.

A few minutes walk along Corso Colleoni, you can see the beautiful Piazza Vecchia, with the Contarini Fountain in the center. An eighteenth-century tribute to the glory of the Venetian rulers, the fountain is surrounded by an incredible sequence of palaces (La Ragione, del Podestà, Biblioteca Civica…), enlivened by the continuous flow of tourists.

It is almost spontaneous to compare the square to a theatrical scene, so perfect in the balance between the alignment of the buildings and the open space. A theatre play where you expect to see Harlequin appear while wearing his dress with multicolored patches or Brighella or some other mask by the local ancient Commedia dell’Arte.

The Civic Tower of the twelfth century, which the locals call Il Campanone, dominates the square. Every night at 22:00, it rings 100 times in memory of the period when the city gates were closed for the night. The top of the tower can be reached by a fast and modern lift, which opens up an extraordinary panorama, with the rooftops in the foreground and the Orobic Pre-Alps in the background.

THE MAIN CATHEDRAL

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After the Loggia of the Palazzo Comunale, another space full of wonders opens up: Piazza del Duomo, with the Cathedral, the octagonal Baptistery, and the burial chapel of the historic commander Bartolomeo Colleoni, one of the highest examples of the lombard Renaissance Age. The romanesque Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is characterized by sumptuous interiors that contain a number of works of art: fourteenth-century frescoes by Lorenzo Lotto, Flemish and Florentine tapestries, a baroque confessional in walnut and boxwood; the tomb of Gaetano Donizzetti, a worldwide-known composer originally from Bergamo and much more.

Bergamo, Lombardy, Italy

Behind the square, there is also the Tempietto di Santa Croce, a church of the year 1000. Humble and silent, it hosts the remains of Roman Bergamo.

Before leaving the Upper Town, you must stop in La Marianna, in Largo Colle Aperto 2, next to Porta Sant’Alessandro. This is a place that, for the people of Bergamo, stands for a gelato break, in particular the stracciatella flavour. A soft milk cream studded with dark chocolate chips, which earned the locality many awards.

THE  FUNICULAR

Wall boulevard, Bergamo, Lombardy, Italy

Built in the late ‘800 to avoid the isolation of the historical center from the modern Lower Town, the Funicular is worth a try. The valley station is located in Viale Vittorio Emanuele, a few steps from Porta Nuova, where two colorful wagons await. A casual climbing on a hill covered with greenery and houses that overcomes a difference in height of 85 meters and a maximum gradient of 52%.

The journey takes a few minutes and as the wagon moves away from the Lower Town, the perspective expands, opening beautiful views over the rooftops. Halfway from the final destination, the Funicular runs through the belly of the Venetian walls and in a few minutes it completes its run, entering the large mountain station. This is built inside an ancient building, Palazzo Soardi, with white and beautiful ceilings.

View of the city, Bergamo, Lombardy, Italy, Italia; Europe

The Funicular is perfectly integrated with the urban transport system of the city: the rides take place at intervals of 8 minutes from each other and you can also bring your bicycle with you.

A stop not to be missed, still inside the mountain station, is the Funicular Café, a place of character, with large pointed windows and retro interiors.

From the terrace the view is enchanting, but what most fascinates is the double function of this place: during the day, a point of passage for travellers and meeting spot of elderly people; in the evening, it’s crowded and lively, with happy hours and a restaurant with a daily a la carte menu. A delicacy not to be missed? Polenta and Branzi, a typical cheese from the mountains nearby, of course !

 

Credits: Alberto Campanile

 

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