Bergamo: Città Alta and San Vigilio

A gate in the Città Alta wall (not mentioned in the post, so don't look for a reference)
A gate in the Città Alta wall (not mentioned in the post, so don’t look for a reference)

In my previous post, I told you how crowded Città Alta was yesterday, Sunday, and I expressed a hope that it would be less crowded today. That wish might come true most Mondays. But not today. Every year, regardless of the day of the week, April 25th is Liberation Day in Italy. Who knew?

The upshot is it was crowded again in Città Alta. True, I didn’t have to wait for the funicular today. And the funicular car was full, but people were not squeezed in with a shoehorn like yesterday. But that might have just been the luck of the time I went up. It was jammed in the old high town.

It was probably even more packed than yesterday, but it’s hard to tell. Wall-to-wall people are wall-to-wall people. It’s just a question of how much friction the people pushed against the walls feel.

Oh, and museums that are normally closed on Mondays opened today to serve the holiday crowds. So I didn’t have to rush yesterday to cram in the sights I thought would be closed today.

I’m beginning to think it might be worth doing a little more in-depth research on local customs and festivities before I travel. I probably won’t because I don’t enjoy that part. I’m just beginning to think I should. We’ll see.

By the way, I won’t go into it in depth here, but the lower part of Bergamo also has some interesting sections. For instance, today, before picking up my bags from the hotel and heading to the train station, I walked along a long, pleasant, pedestrian-only shopping street. Pleasant, that is, except for it being crowded too. The street was lined with much newer (compared to Città Alta) but still old buildings a few stories high.

Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore

Not the in-use entrance to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore
Not the in-use entrance to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore

But, back to Città Alta.

There is a clump of three churches in Città Alta that can be confusing to the easily confused. Just to be clear, I’m talking about me here.

One of the churches in the clump is the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. My online map pointed me to a door that the church doesn’t allow people to enter through. A sign at that entrance pointed me toward a path that led to the in-use entrance on the other side of the church, on the Piazza Duomo.

If you read yesterday’s entry, “Piazza Duomo” should give you a clue to the other two churches. The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is immediately adjacent to the Cappella Colleoni. The buildings are attached, but I didn’t see a door between them. Yesterday, I thought that the door to Santa Maria Maggiore was another door to Cappella Colleoni. Had I paid any attention when inside the Cappella I would have realized it couldn’t be. The Cappella is way too small to have another door.

The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is kitty-corner to the Bergamo’s Duomo.

Oh, yeah. The Basilica.

The nave of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore
The nave of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore

I think the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, rather than the Duomo, is the major church in Città Alta. I think this because it charges a small admission fee, whereas the Duomo and other churches are free. Because I had to pay a couple of Euros, I lingered a bit longer there. I had to get my money’s worth, don’t you know?

Even without lingering, it would have been worth it. The basilica is gorgeous. Large, sumptuous (but many are somewhat faded), old tapestries adorn the lower portions of most of the walls. Paintings sit above a number of them. Carved figures and paintings decorate the arched ceilings.

The ceiling of the basilica
The ceiling of the basilica

There are a few side naves and chapels that are also beautifully adorned.

Of course, there are a bunch of other Christian religious objects, new and old, dotted around the basilica. It is a church, after all. And a functioning one, at that. In fact, I had to wait a few minutes for a mass to end before I could go in.

You’ve got to expect religious objects under those circumstances.

One of the many tapestries in the basilica
One of the many tapestries in the basilica

Above Città Alta: San Vigilio

Part of the castle ruins in San Vigilio
Part of the castle ruins in San Vigilio

San Vigilio is another neighbourhood of Bergamo. It sits on some small plateaus farther up the same hill that Città Alta is on. I rode another funicular to go up there.

San Vigilio consists of some homes, restaurants, and a park. The park has a few walking trails and the ruins of an old castle.

Ruins. Damnable sloth. That’s what it is, I tell you. Some people refuse to put in the work necessary to maintain their places. Shame on them! It’s thoroughly disgusting. And then, through their neglect, what have they got? Ruins, that’s what. But enough about my condo unit. Back to the castle.

A view from atop the castle ruins

Large portions of the castle still stand. It’s rough and unadorned, but there. I walked up a set of the old castle’s internal stairs* to the portion of the park that’s atop the castle. There’s also a set of stairs leading up there from one of the roads.

* At least some portion of the stairs aren’t the original stairs. Stone stairs transition to newer metal stairs for several steps.

Being even higher than Città Alta, the views of the environs, including the mountains/high hills on one side, from atop the castle are again spectacular.

Another view from the castle ruins
Another view from the castle ruins

Rather than taking the funicular down, I walked along a narrow road to Città Alta. At a couple of points, the road was so narrow that I feared I’d have to exhale before a car and I could fit on it. Fortunately, only a couple of cars drove past me on my walk down, and none at the choke points.

I was far from being the only pedestrian on the road. I hope the others all survived.

Along the road, houses here and there hugged the hill.

Palazzo della Ragione

The exterior of the Palazzo della Ragione
The exterior of the Palazzo della Ragione

Back in Città Alta, I went to the Palazzo della Ragione. It’s a handsome old building on one side of Piazza Vecchia, with the Piazza Duomo on the other side.

The palazzo is raised over a square. Arches below the palazzo span the spaces between the supporting pillars.

I’d seen its exterior a few times on my walks in Città Alta yesterday and today, but I wanted to go inside. I walked around, looking for an entrance. But I don’t think it was open today. A sign affixed to one of the pillars holding up the palazzo told me in Italian and English that it was indeed the Palazzo della Ragione above me. At least, I assume it said the same thing in Italian as it did in English, but I can’t confirm that.

The sign also mentioned the steep staircase leading up to the palazzo. I couldn’t help but find the staircase. It was right there. But a locked gate barred entry. There was no sign beside the gate, so I’m not sure if the palazzo is ever open to the public.

I read elsewhere that the palazzo has frescos inside and it hosts temporary art shows. Maybe it’s only open when there’s a temporary exhibition on.

The frescos and art exhibits were not why I wanted to go in. I checked. Palazzo della Ragione translates to Palace of Reason.

We live in an age awash in anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, people who think the pandemic is fake, people who think Donald Trump is still president, people who think Trump isn’t technically president but one of the deceased Kennedys is still alive and will somehow re-inaugurate Trump, and people who believe in still other crazy conspiracy theories and lunatic fantasies. How could I not want to go into the Palace of Reason to try to find a modicum of reason?

But perhaps it wasn’t rational of me to think reason might be found there. And, of course, they wouldn’t let me in the Palace of Reason if I was irrational. Or maybe reason is dead.

Arrivederci, Italia

Tomorrow, I fly back home. Or, to be more precise, if all goes according to plan, two planes will take turns flying me home.

According to the late Douglas Adams, flying without the use of a flying machine is simply a matter of throwing yourself at the ground and missing. Unfortunately, I haven’t mastered that skill yet.

I leave a little past noon. That’s too early to do anything noteworthy in the morning, particularly considering I’m now in a hotel in Milan’s Malpensa airport. Malpensa is an hour away from central Milan.

So, barring an unforeseen flight cancellation, this will be my last post for this trip.

‘Til next time.

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