Bergamo: City between mountain and valley
Mountains and valleys, medieval towns and trendy shopping areas: you will find it all in Lombardy. Yet there is only one place in this region where all this really comes together. That place is Bergamo. All the qualities of the region merge effortlessly here. Bergamo is the heart of Lombardy, a city full of contrasts.
With views of the mountains in the north and valleys in the south, Bergamo has a fantastic location. This city, just forty kilometers east of Milan, actually consists of two cities. The Città Bassa is located in a valley and forms modern Bergamo with wide avenues and trendy shops. The old core, the Città Alta, with its medieval alleys and characteristic turrets, is located on top of a hill and is surrounded by a thick fortress wall.
Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe
A good place to start a walk through the Città Alta is the Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe. During the Middle Ages this small square was the center of the shoemaker’s quarter. With its old houses and towers, it still looks medieval. A street with cobblestones runs up from the square. At the top rises a beautiful fifteenth-century rock castle, surrounded by the lush Parco delle Rimembranze. The walking paths, flower beds, lawns and monumental trees make this park a wonderful green retreat. From here you have a good view of the Città Alta with typical buildings such as the Torre Civica and the church of Santa Maria Maggiore with its oriental-looking bell tower.
Forge & Il Campanone
Beyond the park, on Via Solata, are cute houses with balconies full of flower boxes. The street ends at Piazza Mercato del Fieno. The sound of a hammer on an anvil invites you to take a look at the forge of Rafaelle Scuri. The space on the ground floor of an age-old building resembles a cave. The anvils, the fire and the beautiful counter bring you back in time for hundreds of years. “The things were left by my ancestors who were also blacksmiths,” Raffaele says. He is a man of few words, but proudly shows what he has made. His fencing, grilles and balcony gates for villas and houses are true works of art.
From the square you reach the beautiful Piazza Vecchia via Corso Colleoni. It is surrounded by beautiful buildings such as the Palazzo della Ragione, the Palazzo del Podestà and the Biblioteca Civica. This square reminds many people of a theater: the buildings are like wings where every moment a harlequin in a brightly colored suit can emerge. The terraces on the lively square are full, tourists walk up and down with their cameras. In the center is an eighteenth-century tribute to the Venetian rulers, the Fontana Contarini. The Torre Civica towers above the buildings. The inhabitants of Bergamo call this twelfth-century tower also Il Campanone. Exactly every evening at ten o’clock he hits a hundred times. The ritual dates from the time that the city gates were closed for the night. Nowadays the tower can be climbed with an ultra-modern lift. Upstairs you have a magnificent view over the roofs of the city, up to the forerunners of the Alps.
The Piazza Duomo is behind Piazza Vecchia. Here stands the impressive Romanesque basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. Inside you can admire a large number of works of art, including the fourteenth-century frescoes by Lorenzo Lotto and Flemish and Florentine gobelins. The tomb of Gaetano Donizzetti, the world-famous composer from Bergamo, is also impressive. The cathedral is flanked by an octagonal baptistery and the burial chapel of condottiere Bartolomeo Colleioni. This chapel is one of the finest examples of the Renaissance in Lombardy. At the back of the square is another church from the year 1000, the Tempietto di Santa Croce. However, the elegant building is somewhat in the midst of all the Romanesque violence.
Culinary delights in the Città Alta
In Bergamo’s culinary traditions, the refined flavors of the Po plain unite with the more robust flavors of the mountains. A perfect place to get acquainted with the local products.