Bergamo: Torre dei Caduti and Città Alto
Despite not being politically or administratively accurate, tourists should think of Bergamo as two cities. The lower part of the city is newer, although portions of it are still not particularly new. And, from what I’ve seen so far, it’s less interesting, but it has its interesting sections.
Città Alta, the old part of town sits on top of a hill. There is at least one road that goes up there, maybe more. But vehicle traffic is, thankfully, extremely limited in the old town. And it’s nonexistent on many of Città Alta’s streets.
If you’re a tourist (e.g., me) a more enjoyable way to get from the lower town, where the train station and my hotel are, to Città Alta is the funicular. Although, on weekends the line for the funicular can be long and the car can be full to an uncomfortable level, particularly in the time of a pandemic. Or, at least, it was today, a Sunday, which decreased the enjoyment level for me somewhat.
There are also walking routes. I haven’t taken one yet, but I might if the funicular is just as crowded again tomorrow.
Note to self: Lobby the United Nations to abolish weekends in the countries I visit. They can resume weekends when I leave. That should cut down on day-tripper crowds.
(I know the question in your mind. The answer is yes. Yes, it is all about me.)
Lower Bergamo: Torre dei Caduti
On the walk to the funicular I stopped at Torre dei Caduti in the lower town. The torre (tower in English) is six storeys tall. It is dedicated to the memory of the dead of the First World War.
Steps are the only option for going to the top. I suppose jumping is also an option for going down, but I very strongly advise against it. I imagine that the tower’s management is even more adamant about people taking the stairs rather than jumping. They’d have to clean up the mess.
On each floor of the tower, exhibits in a small room tell a portion of an abridged version of the history of Bergamo. Many, but not all, of the signs that provide that information include English translations.
The top of the tower offers great vistas over the city and beyond. I took advantage of the offer.
Upper Bergamo: Città Alta
If you walk around Città Alta you can’t help finding quaint old streets and pleasant squares. The old upper town is filled with them. The original city walls date from the sixteenth century, but many buildings pre-date even that.
As I alluded to in the introduction to this entry, today, Sunday, Città Alta was crowded. I don’t leave Bergamo until late afternoon tomorrow. Hopefully the old city will be a little more peaceful tomorrow.
Part way through the afternoon, after I wandered around a bit and went into the Duomo (see below), both of which are, I think, open seven days a week, I went to a museum with a sign giving opening hours. It’s closed Mondays. Tomorrow is Monday and my last day here.
Only then did I think to check the opening hours of the other sights I wanted to see. Other than churches, all of the indoor ones I intended to visit were also closed Mondays. Consequently, I packed more into today than I planned.
I know what you’re thinking. Why didn’t I check on opening days and hours before, and plan accordingly? There’s a perfectly good reason for that. I’m amazed it didn’t occur to you. Or maybe it did.
I’m an idiot. That’s why. That’s what idiots do or, rather, don’t do.
Note to self: Lobby the United Nations to abolish Mondays to better accommodate idiots. In some cities, some museums and art galleries close Tuesdays rather than Mondays. So we’d better get rid of Tuesdays too. Keeping the days, but banning Monday and Tuesday closings might work too.
And, yes, it is still all about me.
The Bergamo Duomo
The Bergamo Duomo is not huge, but it’s beautiful. Windows around the base of the painted dome stream light in into the cathedral. Although—just a guess—probably not at night.
By “painted,” I of course don’t mean that someone slapped a coat of eggshell-white over top of a base coat. I mean that an artist painted heavenly figures up there. By “heavenly,” I don’t mean “wonderful,” although that too. I mean the artist painted figures floating in the sky. At least a couple of the figures have angels’ wings.
Paintings and sculptures hang on the walls.
The cathedral also has a few side chapels that are gorgeous.
Almost right next door to the Bergamo Duomo is another, smaller church, Cappella Colleoni. It’s interesting, with frescos and other decorations on the walls. But signs forbade the taking of pictures inside. So, the heck with them. These are the only words it gets here.
The Campanone is a bell tower that I climbed. There is an elevator. But there are also stairs. The person at the entrance told me to take the elevator up and the stairs down. But as I got close to the elevator and stairs, a sign offered me a choice between the two. I haven’t climbed nearly enough towers on this trip, so I took the stairs both up and down. (According to a brochure I had, that’s 230 steps each way. My Fitbit likes me today.)
I said in the previous paragraph that the Campanone is a bell tower. For all I know, campanone might be the Italian word for a big bell tower. But when I asked Google Translate, it translated campanone from Italian into campanone in English.
I’m not familiar with an English word campanone. Then again, my vocabulary isn’t the greatest. If saying the Campanone is a bell tower is redundant, I apologize for that redundancy to the Italian-speaker who reads this journal. You know who you are.
Keep in mind that Città Alta is already on a hill. The tower rises 52.76 meters. For the benefit of the metric-challenged, that’s 173 feet. The combined height delivers great views of Bergamo and its surroundings, including the hills behind the city. Or in front of the city depending on your perspective.
Palazzo Del Podestà
The Palazzo del Podestà is connected to the Campanone. It contains a museum that tells the story of 16th century Bergamo. All of the audio in the exhibits and portions of the text were unilingually Italian. So I didn’t get as much out of it as an Italian-speaker might.
To pass from the Campanone to the Palazzo del Podestà, I walked along a hall that overlooked a archaeological dig that I believe is in situ. The dig uncovered shops from Roman times.
Rocca is a fortress. It contains a museum that “tells about the town’s transformations between the ancient regime and the Italian unification.” At least, that’s what the Museo delle Storie di Bergamo brochure told me in English. The brochure had English translations on its museum listings, but the Rocca museum itself didn’t provide a lick of English in the text that accompanied its exhibits. So, I’ll take the brochure’s word for it.
Entrance to Rocca also allows you to walk along the top of the wall around the fortress, and climb up the steps of the fortress tower. Like at the Campanone, that allowed me to take in beautiful vistas.
The clouds today made for dramatic photographs. A better photographer would have captured them dramatically. Instead, you’re stuck with the pictures I took.
Convento di San Francesco
The Convento di San Francesco is a medieval monastery. (In this case, I use “medieval” to date its construction, not a derogatory comment on old-fashioned, dramatically unprogressive ways. I reserve the latter connotation of medieval for some of the more extreme of social conservatives.)
The monastery has a couple of attractive, peaceful cloisters. And it too provides some beautiful views of the hills behind Bergamo and the landscape between Città Alta and those hills.
The buildings of the monastery currently house administrative offices and a photography and motion picture equipment exhibit. The brochure says those are rotating exhibits. So if you go, you might see something different.
Some of the rooms have frescos on the walls. Most of them are in pretty rough shape. The one in the accompanying photograph is in better shape than most. The frescos will probably still be there if you go.
Wowie, wow, that was an ambitious day! Some beautiful churches in that town for tomorrow (look out for the 16th century painter Lorenzo Lotto, particularly in some of the churches in the lower town – one of your readers wrote her MA thesis on him).
Looks like you had beautiful weather for your spectacular views. And charm to spare. Enjoy!