A trip to Bergamo, Italy is a journey between two towns, one on a hill and the other on the plain; two towns that are fundamentally different but are linked not only by history but also by a dense web of streets, alleys, and cobbled stairways. Because of its open spaces, the beauty and atmosphere of its attractions, and the quality of life, Bergamo is a people-friendly city. As a result, even if you don't plan a specific itinerary, it's a city worth visiting.
It then continues in search of the spectacular views of the plain and the Alps from the tops of the Civic Tower (Campanone - Big Bell), the Rocca (Fortress), and the Gombito Tower. The old routes through the historic quarters of Pignolo or Sant'Alessandro, as well as the road that descends from the ramparts through Sant'Agostino Gate to the centre of Lower Bergamo, are ideal itineraries for discovering the city's two facets from a constantly changing perspective. But don't forget about the funicular, which, on the one hand, helps to connect the two towns while also providing a different and unique way to get to know Bergamo.
In the hilltop town, where we can take in the atmosphere of the historic centre and its monuments, as well as the lights and character of Piazza Vecchia, which harkens back to old Venice.
Today, the terminal of Orio al Serio Airport is one of the best places to admire Bergamo, Italy.
Visitors arriving by air get a first glimpse of the city's distinct character, with its historic old town perched majestically on a hill against the backdrop of the Alps. Once on the ground, this view is revealed in all its splendor, with the unmistakable outline of Old Bergamo's towers, domes, and bell towers revealed. However, there is another way to gain a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between Bergamo and its surroundings.
As you travel from the plain along one of the main roads that crosses the countryside dotted with businesses and houses, the city in the distance appears to be a gateway to the mountains. Old Bergamo grew in a strategic location, at the entrance to the Seriana and Brembana Valleys, which both wind for about fifty kilometres between the Orobie Alps. Because of its strategic location, the city was able to secure a monopoly on trade between the plain and the mountains, which lasted for centuries and was only lost in the last few decades due to the construction of new road systems.
The first settlement on Bergamo hill was most likely the result of these exchanges between protohistoric populations. Recent archaeological excavations have revealed the presence of a fairly large community that developed between the sixth and fourth centuries B.C. The Roman city was constructed on the site of the first Celtic village, which was most likely followed by a Gallic oppidum.
This confirms that the Bergamo hill complex was a natural meeting point for the economies of the plain and the mountains , which developed along a mountains path used since prehistory. The hilltop city has grown, developed, and changed over the centuries, but the centre has remained in its original location.
Although the construction of the Venetian walls altered the appearance of the hill, it helped to highlight this distinguishing feature. Bergamo's Old Town remained on the hill, while the historic quarters that expanded along the routes leading to the plain and other Lombardy cities maintained connections with the rest of the area.
This natural expansion did not occur to the detriment of the areas on the hill, but rather across the plain where, with careful planning, the modern city was built over the last century. Following the main street (Viale Vittorio Emanuele and its continuation to the railway station) and the adjacent road network, one beautiful view after another reinforces the town's unique quality. Aside from its monumental and artistic heritage, the magic of Bergamo lies precisely in this dual aspect, which has so far withstood the city's rapid growth and subsequent building expansion over the last fifty years.
Click by Jocelyn Erskine-Kellie from Flickr
The Walls And The Gates
When work on the walls began in August 1561, General Sforza Pallavicino discovered he had made a calculation error. The original plan was to build simple defences against a surprise attack by the Spanish who had taken control of Milan, but this idea was abandoned and it was decided to build fortifications capable of withstanding an army equipped with the most modern firearms of the time. As a result, the walls, which should have been finished in a matter of months, were not completed until 1588. The work was extremely expensive, and the appearance of the city and the hill changed irreversibly. To make way for the fortification, nearly a third of the houses were demolished, as was one of the most important monasteries, the San Domenico Monastery, and an entire quarter, San Lorenzo, which was crossed by the road leading to the Brembana Valley. The walls were built with four gates, each corresponding to the main roads of communication with the surrounding area and other cities: Sant'Agostino Gate, with its beautiful marble fountain, located on the road to Brescia and Venice.
Click by Dimitris Kamaras from Flickr
Piazza Vecchia's architecture plays a subtle trick on the eye, making the square appear larger than it is. This area, which is the heart of political and administrative life in Bergamo and the surrounding area, began to take shape in the fifteenth century with the demolition of a group of houses in front of Palazzo della Ragione. This central area acquired its Renaissance form and dimensions at the start of Venetian dominance, particularly when the building on the western side was transformed into the seat of the Venetian Podestà. Bramante, one of the most famous artists of the time, was commissioned to decorate the façade with frescoes in 1477. The Town Hall on the east side of the square gave the square its definitive appearance in 1604. The architect Vincenzo Scamozzi was entrusted with this project, but due to a lack of funds, the building was not completed according to the original design. The building, which is clad in white marble, now houses the Angelo Mai Civic Library, which preserves a valuable heritage of parchments, illuminated codices, incunabula, and archives that tell the story of the city.
Click by Dimitris Kamaras from Flickr
Palazzo della Ragione
The façade of the thirteenth-century Palazzo della Ragione has been stripped of numerous coats of arms of Bergamo's rectors and "podestà." For 350 years, the lion of St. Mark, which towers above the central balcony, was a symbol of Venetian dominion. The original marble lion was destroyed in 1797 when the French arrived, and the current marble lion is a copy donated by the city of Venice in 1933. The arcade beneath the old municipal building serves as a filter between Piazza Vecchia, the seat of civil power, and Piazza del Duomo, the seat of episcopal power. Overlooking the city are the Cathedral, the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the Colleoni Chapel (the only secular presence - to some extent), the Baptistery, and the Bishop's Palace.
Click by Luis Ascenso from Flickr
The construction of the Duomo di Pisa began in 1063 under the architect Buscheto. Its architecture shows signs of Byzantine and Moorish influence, which points to Pisa's international ties as a former sea power. Some essential artwork inside the cathedral is the mosaic of Christ in the apse, the pulpit by Pisano, and the golden ceiling. The cathedral also contains the tomb of St. Rainerius, the patron saint of Pisa and all travelers.
Click by Maurizio Abbiateci from Flickr
The third primary sight, the former site of the Battistero, or baptistry in English, dates from 1152. Nevertheless, the tower was remodeled and extended more than a generation ago by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, while it was only finished in the 14th century. Climbing to the top gallery to hear the incredible acoustics of the dual dome, which the custodians regularly display, is one of the greatest things anyone can do here. There is a religious site on the Piazza Dei Miracoli after leaving Battistero.
Click by Elliott Brown from Flickr
Palazzo Del Podestà
From the beginning of the thirteenth century to the first half of the sixteenth century, the Palazzo del Podestà was the seat of the Podestà (Chief magistrate or Governor) and various municipal functions. It is linked by a footbridge to the adjacent Palazzo della Ragione, where the architect Pietro Isabello created a single magnificent room known as the Sala delle Capriate during restoration work after the devastating fire of 1513. During the last century, the Palazzo del Podestà was used for purposes that were not in keeping with its historical significance, having been used in various ways under Venetian and Austrian rule.
Click by David Orban from Flickr
The Teatro Sociale reopened to the public in the spring of 2009, two centuries after its original opening in 1808, with a full calendar of shows and performances by renowned artists. This was made possible by the exceptional restoration work done on this magnificent structure. Leopoldo Pollack, a Piermarini pupil who rose to fame after constructing the Arch of Peace in Milan and the Villa Reale in Monza, designed the theatre. Pollack used an area occupied by a part of the Venetian Palazzo del Podestà, destroyed by fire on the initiative of a group of aristocrats who formed a "society." The theatre was successful for several decades until it began to decline in popularity after competing with the Riccardi Theater (the current Donizetti), which was preferred because of its location on the plain; it was still used for operas until 1929.
Click by Elliott Brown from Flickr
The Cittadella is the only surviving part of a fortification built by the Visconti family during their reign in Bergamo. On the hill of San Giovanni (where the Seminary now stands), a fortress was originally constructed, to which a large building ("Hospitium Magnum") was added to house the garrison, armoury, and storerooms. However, this complex was used to guard the city rather than defend it against external enemies. The Cittadella was then transformed into the residence of the Venetian military commander, but its large rooms were still used to store cereals and as a warehouse. Its military use continued under the French and Austrians, but the building began to deteriorate gradually. Between 1958 and 1960, it underwent renovation work, during which time a portion of the building was restored to its original state. The Enrico Caffi Museum of Natural Sciences and the Civic Archaeological Museum are now housed there.
Click by Larry Koester from Flickr
Church Of San Bartolomeo
Santi Bartolomeo e Stefano is a Bergamo Baroque church. The church was built between 1613 and 1642, next to the San Bartolomeo monastery, which belonged to the Humiliati religious order. After the suppression of this order, this convent was given to the Dominican order, with whom it is still associated today. The church houses a large canvas, Pala Martinengo, or Martinengo Altarpiece, by the well-known painter Lorenzo Lotto.
Click by Pedro from Flickr
Monza is located on the Lambro River in northern Italy, about 15 kilometers from Milan. Monza is an important economic and industrial centre in the Lombardy region of the country. The city is known for its rich cultural heritage and historical buildings, as well as the iconic Autodromo Nazionale Monza race track, which hosts the Formula One Italian Grand Prix.