Bergamo (Bèrghem in Eastern Lombard) is a town in Lombardy, Italy, about 40 km northeast of Milan, and is home to 119.234 inhabitants. The city was founded on a hill by a first very old settlement in the protohistoric age, which gave it the configuration that still characterizes it: the oldest part of the town, enclosed within walls, lays up on the hill – Città Alta (Sìta Ólta) -, while the modern centre has developed on the plain – Città Bassa (Sìta Bàsa) -.
Celts, Goths, Romans, Lombards succeeded on the hill, but little can now be seen of them: some of the most important monuments date back to the Middle Ages.
The four centuries under the Venetian domination are the most significant period, when Venice and Bergamo were very close, both from an historical and a cultural point of view.
There are many hypotheses to explain the origin of the name Bergamo Bergamo.
Probably an Indo-European origin of the name, from the greek Πέργαμον (Pérgamon) “citadel, fortress” (in reference to fortified dwellings on top of a hill), but also from the base prelatina barga” hut”.
It should be noted that in modern German Berg means “mountain” and Heim ‘home’ – Berg-Heim, house on the mountain -, as well as in Swedish berg means “mountain” and hem “home”. However the hypothesis of a Germanic origin of the name clashes with the lack of documents about German settlements in the area before the Roman conquest.
Remains curious that Bèrghem is the name used in the dialect of Bergamo.
Piazza Vecchia, the heart of the old town, is enriched by such remarkable historical monuments as the Palazzo del Comune or Palazzo della Ragione, the Commune Tower, the Venetian Mayor ’s House and the Library Angelo Mai, formerly the town hall.
All around the Cathedral Square, a very religious area, are the Cathedral, Santa Maria Maggiore, the Colleoni Chapel and the Baptistery.
Built (1472) by Giovanni Antonio Amadeo by order of the famous condottiere Bartolomeo Colleoni, the Colleoni Chapel is one of the most significant examples of the lombard Renaissance.
The basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore was built to the glory of God by the people of the town in ‘200. The upper town gathers churches and monasteries which represent the most remarkable traces of the past such as Sant’Agostino and S. Francesco.
The church of San Michele al Pozzo Bianco with its important collection of frescoes dated 200 and 500 is one of the most charming places of upper Bergamo, where also Lorenzo Lotto worked in 1525.
The Accademia Carrara is one of the most important picture-galleries in Italy. Its exhibition halls show paintings of world famous artists, including also some works of the most important artists of Bergamo. Close to the Accademia Carrara is the Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art (GAMeC).
Vittorio Veneto square is in the centre of the modern town. The building on the left, which is now head office of UBI – Banca Popolare di Bergamo., was erected at the place of the ancient monastery of S. Marta whose elegant cloister is still present inside the bank.
Bergamo is a music-town, native land of Gaetano Donizetti (1797), the famous musician who left more than seventy compositions, among which “Elisir d’Amore” (1832)and “Lucia di Lammermoor” (l835) won him world renown. Gaetano Donizetti was always emotionally bound to his town, which treasures many memories of him.
Just outside the walls encircling the upper town, at the beginning of Borgo Canale, one can see the house where he was born. Bergamo dedicated him the major theatre and a museum, rich in very suggestive relics and memories.
The characteristic alleys, old urban centres, with their shops and handicrafts are always full of people.
The new centre, connecting the East to the West part of the lower town, is crossed by the Sentierone, a traditional meeting point and shopping area for the people living in Bergamo.
Developing for more than five kilometres, the still well-preserved town-walls that encircle Bergamo on the hill are one of the most important evidence of bulwarks of the fifth century.
Venice started their building in 1561 thus making Bergamo a fortress on the boundary with the State of Milan.
The grand ring provided with four gateways offers a charming and very frequented promenade with foreshortened views on the modern town, the plain and the mountain.
After being amazed at the charming skyline of towers and bell towers, those who want to reach the upper town have to pass through the imposing town-walls.
The Castle of S. Vigilio, once part of the ancient fortification, offers you one of the most suggestive views of the old town. Two different cable railways take people from downtown either to the Castle or to the upper town.
The old town lays amongst the greenery, to the advantage of the landscape. This strip of lush vegetation connects the historical town with the hill region extending westward.
The territory, included in the park “Parco dei colli” of Bergamo, is full of villas, farmhouses, vegetable gardens, gardens, woods and is enriched with some important historical and architectonic elements, such as the former monastery of Astino.
The period spent in Bergamo – regarded by Lotto (the Venetian “pictor famosissimus”) as his adopted home – was without doubt the happiest of his life. It was also the most productive.
In the 12 years spanning 1513, when the S. Bartolomeo altarpiece was painted, and 1525, when the frescoes depicting Stories from the Life of Mary were completed in the church of San Michele al Pozzo Bianco, Lotto also produced the Santa Maria Maggiore choir intarsias and the altarpieces adorning the 2 churches of S. Alessandro patron saint of Bergamo and S. Spirito and S. Bernardino.
The artist’s personal fusion of elements of Bramante’s, Raffaello’s and Leonardo’s art with those of the school of Lombardy can be seen as marking the high point of Lotto’s artistic expression. For more than a century to come, painting in Bergamo was to be influenced by the art of Lorenzo Lotto.
To download the city map, click here.