Milan Trip: Day 2 - Bergamo




Here I am, it is taking me a little longer than I would like to get these posts written but some things came up and my writing was delayed. It may not seem like it but these posts take some time to write, in order to get all the details and curiosities right. Still, I am back to tell you more about my journey and to, hopefully, give you some useful tips.
On the second day of our trip, I and my friend decided that it would be a great idea to go on a day trip to Bergamo. Bergamo is a very beautiful and cultural city located about 40 km from Milan, being the 4th largest city in Lombardy. It is also a very peculiar town, being divided into the Città Bassa (the Low City) with the newer more modern buildings, and many older ones too, and the Città Alta (the High City) a walled predominantly medieval part of the town. The Città Alta is enclosed by Venetian defence systems that are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This is a city rich and proud of its history, with high inclines and wonderful architectonic marvels that you only be able to admire by being there and experiencing it. It is a fairly cheap journey from Milan and totally worth the trip.

Porta San Giacomo, the entry to the Cittá Alta
We caught a train early in the morning in the Milano Centrale Station in direction to Bergamo. The tickets can be easily bought at the Trenord machines inside the station and cost us 5.50 euros per journey for a 50 minutes trip. Italian trains are very comfortable and the staff at the station is always available to help, just always check you always talk with identified staff in order not to be robbed. If you have trouble getting to the station on foot you can always get there either by subway, bus or tram.
The train left us right inside the Città Bassa. It is very easy to get around the town from the train station. It is situated right at the beginning of the Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII, which is a central street from which you can very easily locate the main monuments in the city and that leads into the Città Alta's access route and the funicolare (funicular) station, in case you do not want to walk the steep streets that lead into the top.

Chiesa Prepositurale di Santa Maria Immacolata delle Grazie

Chiesa Prepositurale di Santa Maria Immacolata delle Grazie (Source: Visit Bergamo)
This was the first building we visited was a short walk away from the train station, just on the Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII. Its name loosely means Church of Saint Mary Immaculate of Graces. The visible church is the second embodiment of the original one, who was built in 1422. The present building actually, with its neoclassical style, dates from 1875, due to building work to better integrate it with the architectonical context of the city.
Even though this building already looks grand and magnificent from the exterior, it is absolutely worth it to visit it: its interior is beautifully and intricately decorated.

Porta Nuova

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Porta Nuova (Source: Alma Residence)
Walking along from the church, we found ourselves crossing the Porta Nuova. Previously known as Barriera delle Grazie, these neoclassical twin buildings are one of the monumental doors to the city. These were built in 1837 by the occasion of the return of Ferdinand I of Austria to the city and were based on an 1828 project by Giuseppe Cusi. This landmark is situated on the city's main axis, going from lower town to upper town. These magnificent buildings were used as Customs House until 1901, their function being to control the entering of goods and assets into the town.

Monumento al Partigiano

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Monumento al Partigiano (Source: aquadro.net)
The Monumento al Partigiano is a monument also situated along the central axis of the city and its depiction rarely lets it go unnoticed. Made and donated by Giacomo Manzú to the city of Bergamo, it celebrates the Italian anti-fascist resistance. The partigiano, the partisan,  was a member of the Italian anti-fascist resistance movement in World War II.
Also by now, you must have noticed the constant references to Pope John XXII, Papa Giovanni XXIII, he was born in Bergamo and many things were named after him.

Chiesa di Santi Bartolomeo e Stefano

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Chiesa di Santi Bartolomeo e Stefano (Source: Wikipedia)
Diverting a bit from the central axis of the city we found the Chiesa di Santi Bartolomeo e Stefano, Church of the Saints Bartholomew and Stephan, on the Largo Belotti. This is a beautiful baroque building that is totally worth the visit.
Built between 1613 and 1642, this magnificent church is adjacent to the monastery of Saint Bartholomew. An important art highlight is the Martinengo Altarpiece, a beautiful canvas by the painter Lorenzo Lotto which is inside the church, alongside other beautiful art pieces.

Via Torquato Tasso


After leaving the church we followed along to the Via Torquato Tasso. This is a very quaint street where you can find a lot of what I would class "higher class stores". It is a very pleasurable walk since it is very well kept and it is very interesting to look at the shop windows and see all the things they have on display. I sear I had never seen so many beautiful second-hand jewellery in my life (that was also, unfortunately, way out of my price range).
It is also on this street that you can find the Prefettura di Bergamo, which is basically the municipal council of Bergamo. Also, at the beginning of this street, you will find the Library Ciro Caversazzi.


Chiesa di Santo Spirito

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Chiesa di Santo Spirito (Source: Wikipedia)
We walked along the entire Via Torquato Tasso and, at the end of the street we arrived and the Chiesa di Santo Spirito, Church of the Holy Spirit. This church was founded in 1311 by Cardinal Guglielmo Longo, along with an adjacent hospital and a Celestine convent. In 1476 canons of the regular order of the Lateran moved in and with the expansion of the order started to remodel the church, giving it the 500s façade and look it now has.
In Bergamo, this church is known as chiesa dei Tasso, church of the Tassos's, a prominent bergamasc family that gave very important monetary contributions to the church building work during the 500's. The outside beautiful, and very prominent, bronze sculpture was made in 1972 by Francesco Somaini and represents the descent of the Holy Spirit. To this day, the church conserves various works of important artistic value from the 15th and 16th centuries. Amongst these works are artworks by Lorenzo Lotto, Ambrogio da Fossano (il Bergognone), Andrea Previtale, Agostino Facheris and others.
After leaving the church we headed towards the Monastero di San Benedetto, St. Benedict's Monastery, in Via Sant'Alessandro. We really wanted to see this church because of its beautiful Renaissance architecture but it was closed. This is one of those amazing churches that have been around since the 13th century and has a lot of different features that we wanted to see.
Since the church was closed, we followed along Via Sant'Alessandro which, let me tell you, it is a very very steep street towards the Città Alta. However, the climb up to the old city was immensely beautiful and had great spots to stop and enjoy the view on the way. It was totally worth it not to catch the funicular up, still, I caution you, it is not an easy climb.


We entered the Cittá Alta via the Porta San Giacomo and, in the picture above, you can see me resting after finally having arrived in the old part of the city. The view from the path leading to the "high city" is marvellous and takes your breath away and you also can almost feel the buildings getting older and more mystical as you travel upwards.

Piazza Mercado delle Scarpe


After taking a small break to rest in the gardens beside the Porta San Giacomo we headed towards the centre of the Città Alta. The first place we found ourselves in was the Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe, which basically translates to "Piazza Shoe Market". This piazza connects the low and high city, it is where the funicular station is located. Formerly, the piazza connected the roads that came from Venice and Milan.
This is also one of the three oldest piazzas in Bergamo, already indicated in 1263. It gained its name during the dominations of the Visconti, when piazza's throughout the city gained the name of the products they sold. There is still a shoe store in the piazza so I believe it makes it even more authentic! I was joking, but you have to admit it is funny. We followed along towards the Piazza Vecchia and enjoyed the stores and the architecture. It is very easy to get lost in the beautiful details of the city.

Piazza Vecchia (Fontana del Contarini)


After a short walk, we finally arrived at the Piazza Vecchia, where I took the amazing panoramic shot you can see above. I really love medieval squares, since I am a giant geek, and this one certainly stole my heart. I have heard that this is a great spot to drink and have fun with friends.
This piazza is the core of the Città Alta and it was the heart of political power for centuries. In this piazza you can find the Palazzo della Raggione, which is the oldest municipal seat in Lombardy, and the Torre Civica. In the middle of the square you will find the Contarini fountain, donated to the city by the chief magistrate Alvise Contarini in 1780. One interesting thing about this piazza is that it was built exactly where the Roman Forum once stood.


Piazza Duomo 

(Left) Cappella Colleoni; (Right) Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
We went across the Piazza Vecchia and arrived at the Piazza del Duomo. The first thing we were faced was the very big and very impressive façade of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, honestly, it is very very hard not to notice it immediately. The basilica was built on the second half of the 12th century and its outside conserves the original Romanic-Lombard architectonic lines. The interior is decorated in the baroque style (1500s/1700s) and it is one of the most richly decorated churches I have ever seen, and I have seen many. It is completely worth the visit!
Besides the Basilica we found the Cappella Colleoni, "chapel Colleoni", which also has an impressive and beautiful façade. This Cappella was built as a personal burial shrine to the condottiere Bartolomeo Colleoni. Built between 1472 and 1476 by Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, this beautiful Renaissance chapel, annexed to the Basilica, is a work of art by itself while also containing marvellous works of art inside it.

Duomo di Bergamo, Cattedrale di Sant'Alessandro
Besides the other two amazing buildings, there is a third amazing building, the Duomo di Bergamo, Cattedrale di Sant'Alessandro! With its neoclassical outside and baroque interior, this is certainly a church to visit. The Duomo was built between the 15th and 19th centuries and carries many architectural features of all that time. Across from the Duomo, you will find the Battisterio, built in 1340 by Giovanni da Campione.

Piazza della Citadella / Torre di Adalberto

Polenta e Osèi
After leaving the Piazzas we went on a long walk throughout every little street and corner we found until we stopped in order to eat our lunch, that we had packed. For dessert, we bought some traditional Bergamasc cakes called Polenta e Osèi. This little cake is made of sponge cake, butter, chocolate, hazelnut cream and rum. The sponge is covered in yellow marzipan and dusted with yellow sugar crystals.
After our little lunch break, we walked through the Piazza della Cittadella. This Piazza was built in the heart of Bergamo to defend the citizens and also as a sort of garrison in case of an uprising. The piazza also served as a reminder of the Visconti's power, as they were the head of the duchy of Milan and ruled Bergamo from 1352 until 1428. This is also where the museum centre is, with the Civico Museo Archeologico and the Science Museum. As this was only a day trip we did not have the time to visit them but they come very highly recommended.
We then crossed through to the Torre di Adalberto, which is one of the oldest documented towers in Bergamo, hailing from medieval times and headed to the Funicolare di S. Vigilio. In the funicular, we bought two-way tickets and headed towards the castle!

Castello di San Vigilio

Castello S. Vigilio
The Castello S. Vigilio, or the ruins of the castle, stand 496 meters above the Città Alta. This site consists of the ruins of a 6th-century castle with beautiful gardens and wondrous views! After visiting this part of the city we caught the funicular down and ate a great gelato at Carmen Gelato and walked down back to the train.
Overall, this is an amazing city and I would like to have had more time to visit it! However, I do believe this was a really great one-day trip. I am sorry to post this so much time after the previous post but these take a very long time to write! 

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