Paths of history • • Visit Bergamo

Paths of history

Description

The urban layout from the Roman period remains, with the cardo and decumano that intersect at the Gombito tower. The most important buildings date back to when the city was a Free Commune.

The years spent under the rule of the Signorie is evidenced by the Fortress and the Citadel, the military and defence structures built to protect the rulers from the city. Venice built the cyclopean rampart walls.

The renovation work performed during the early twentieth century aimed to protect the heritage of the old city.


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The urban layout from the Roman period remains, with the cardo and decumano that intersect at the Gombito tower. The most important buildings date back to when the city was a Free Commune.

The years spent under the rule of the Signorie is evidenced by the Fortress and the Citadel, the military and defence structures built to protect the rulers from the city. Venice built the cyclopean rampart walls.

The renovation work performed during the early twentieth century aimed to protect the heritage of the old city.


Stazione funicolare Città ALTA - Piazza Mercato del fieno/ ex convento S. Francesco

This route runs through the ancient heart of the city.

The ancient fortress offers stunning views, Via Gombito follows the Roman cardo, the former convent of San Francesco is enchanting for its stunning succession of cloisters, while the Lombard and Carolingian royal courts were located near Piazza di S. Pancrazio. Several alleys open up along the route, offering unexpected views.

In the Piazza Mercato del Fieno area, the remains of the Roman baths were discovered in the cellars of buildings.

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This route runs through the ancient heart of the city.

The ancient fortress offers stunning views, Via Gombito follows the Roman cardo, the former convent of San Francesco is enchanting for its stunning succession of cloisters, while the Lombard and Carolingian royal courts were located near Piazza di S. Pancrazio. Several alleys open up along the route, offering unexpected views.

In the Piazza Mercato del Fieno area, the remains of the Roman baths were discovered in the cellars of buildings.

1Former Convent of S. Francesco

Construction on the convent began in the late thirteenth century, following the arrival of various Franciscan friars. Transformed over the centuries, remains of the original structure include sarcophagi of urban families, which stand against the walls of the fifteenth-century cloister, which the chapter house faces with its mullioned and arched portal. Today it serves as the headquarters of the Bergamo History Foundation.

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2Rocca - The stronghold

This Fortress dating back to the year 1331 really captures the essence of Bergamo’s history. You can follow the guided itinerary designed by the Museo Storico di Bergamo’s XIX century section, walking across gardens, walkways, towers and war relics.

If you go along the walkway layout, the same one walked by the guarding soldiers hundreds of years ago, the experience will be absolutely magical: a 360° panoramic tour all around the building.

With just one glance, you will enjoy the view of Città Alta, the Orobie Mountains and the entire plain.

The walk across history continues in the garden: discover the numerous relics of the two World Wars!

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Via Gombito - Museo Storico dell’età  veneta Il ‘500 interattivo

Via Colleoni brings you back to the Roman cardo up to the heart of Piazza Vecchia, the heart of the Upper Town: this is where the city's most important buildings and interesting museums are found.

Despite the diversity of styles and eras, an overall architectural harmony can be seen that makes this square one of the most beautiful in Italy.

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Via Colleoni brings you back to the Roman cardo up to the heart of Piazza Vecchia, the heart of the Upper Town: this is where the city's most important buildings and interesting museums are found.

Despite the diversity of styles and eras, an overall architectural harmony can be seen that makes this square one of the most beautiful in Italy.

3Archaeological Area

The excavations carried out between 2001 and 2011 led to the recovery of large ruins dating back to different historical periods, including the time spanning between the protohistoric settlement and the Middle Ages.

A complex of workshops arranged on a paved road, believed to be a street or a square, dates back to the Roman Empire.

Three tombs and a setback of the foundation on the south side of the civic tower date back to the Dark Ages.

 

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4Piazza Vecchia

Piazza Vecchia represents the core of Città Alta: it has been the heart of political power for centuries and it keeps being one of the most popular places for Bergamo’s citizens to spend some time with friends.

Beauty is all around you if you have a seat at one of the square’s restaurants or cafes, having a drink, breakfast or even a romantic dinner. You can admire the building called “Palazzo della Ragione”, the oldest municipal seat in Lombardy, as well as the Torre Civica, a bell tower also called “Campanone”.

In the middle of the square is located the Contarini Fountain, which was donated to the city by the chief magistrate Alvise Contarini in 1780, while on the opposite side of Piazza Vecchia you can see the Palazzo Nuovo (“New Palace”), which served as Bergamo’s Town Hall until 1873 and is today the seat of the Angelo Mai Library. Its incredible collection includes ancient and precious books: incunabula, books from the 1500s, engravings, manuscripts and other inestimable artefacts making it one of the most outstanding libraries in Italy.

The geometrical layout of the buildings around the square is so harmonic that when Le Corbusier visited Bergamo he said “you can’t move a single stone, it would be a crime”

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5Palazzo Nuovo - (Mai Public Library)

Palazzo Nuovo (“New Palace”) is like a theatre wing located in via Colleoni, overlooking the Piazza Vecchia. It’s called like that in contrast with Palazzo Vecchio (“Old Palace”) aka Palazzo della Ragione, standing in the opposite side of the square.

It took three centuries to build it: the works started in 1604 and ended in 1928. The Palace has served as Bergamo’s Town Hall for three hundred years, till 1873.

Since 1928, one of its rooms has been hosting one of Italy’s most renowned libraries, the “Civica Angelo Mai”, safeguarding parchments, incunabula, codices and precious music sheets.

Inside the Tassiana Hall, you can admire the wonderful globes by Vincenzo Maria Coronelli, cosmographer of the Venice Republic. Dating back to 1688 and 1692, they feature a 3 m circumference and are made of 50 illustrated sheets. Take a look at them: are they really different from today’s ones?

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6Gombito Tower

That’s an odd name, indeed! Do you know its origin? “Gombito” is the Italian evolution of the Latin word “compitum”.

However, there are several interpretations about the meaning of “compitum”. Some say it means “crossroad”, as the tower rises in the meeting point between the two main axis of the Roman town, the “decumanus” and the “cardo” (today’s via Gombito and via Lupo). Another argument claims that “compitum” means computare”, “counting”: in fact, the old numbering system of the streets started from here.

The imposing Gombito Tower was built in 1200 as a symbol of power and military hegemony during the struggles between the different city factions: it used to control the access to Piazza Vecchia, the core of Bergamo, from the roads coming from the valleys. Bergamo Administration owns it and opens it to the public in spring and summer: from its top you can enjoy a fantastic view of the surrounding territory! 

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7Palazzo della Ragione

Going under the ancient Administration Headquarter you can enjoy the best of medieval architecture: buildings full of history and beauty perfectly combine practical functionality and elegance.

Over its long existence, the Palace has been damaged and rebuilt several times: it was also used for many different purposes, also becoming a theatre and a library!

Today, after 800 years, with its beautiful architecture style the Palace represents all the art and the history of Bergamo, also hosting numerous art exhibitions.

The Palazzo della Ragione is a must-see in your itinerary across our city! 

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8Historical Museum - Venetian Age

The “Museo Storico” session dedicated to the Venetian Age is really remarkable: in fact, it is not a “traditional” museum, but it is characterized by a series of multimedia tools allowing you to learn and have fun at the same time.

In the ancient Palazzo del Podestà, in Piazza Vecchia, you will listen to the past talking to you by means of paintings, manuscripts, maps and old documents, which magically become alive thanks to the newest technologies.

Come take a fantastic trip across the XVI Century, when Bergamo became part of a geographical new scenario, suddenly enlarged by the discovery of America and with the explorers’ sailings to the south end of Africa and towards the east. History itself will talk to you by voices, sounds, images, and environment reproductions: an overall narration, an intense and all-absorbing experience.

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9Civic Tower (Campanone)

The Civic Tower, also known as “Campanone”, is located in the main square of the Upper Town, Piazza Vecchia.

It was built between XI and XII Century, when the aristocratic families used to vie to erect the highest tower in the city, so much that Bergamo was nicknamed “The City of one hundred Towers” during that time.

There are different ways to appreciate the Tower’s beauty. You can stare at it from Piazza Vecchia, or you can climb up to its top and enjoy the amazing view: in fact, it’s the only point from where it’s possible to see both the squares at the same time, Piazza Vecchia and Piazza del Duomo.

Similar to a belfry, the “Torre Civica” connects the Palazzo della Ragione and the Palazzo del Podestà.

Every night at 10, in the last 360 years, the bell has been chiming one hundred times: back in the days, the Campanone used to warn citizens about the closing of the four entrance Town Gates.

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Piazza Duomo - Tempietto S. Croce

Behind Piazza Vecchia the road plan becomes less regular, as it was likely of pre-Roman origins. The ups and downs of the route are reminiscent of the small hills on which the city rose up.

The chatter in the streets in the Upper Town is less intrusive, allowing you to enjoy the magical atmosphere to the fullest. 

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Behind Piazza Vecchia the road plan becomes less regular, as it was likely of pre-Roman origins. The ups and downs of the route are reminiscent of the small hills on which the city rose up.

The chatter in the streets in the Upper Town is less intrusive, allowing you to enjoy the magical atmosphere to the fullest. 

10Piazza Duomo

The religious heart of the city owes its name to the impressive cathedral that overlooks it, situated opposite the baptistery, the bishop's palace and the Curia.

Before the Venetian Republic created what is known today as Piazza Vecchia, this was the city’s medieval square, dedicated to St. Vincent, and the centre of the city and political life where decrees were announced, deeds were written and trades and negotiations took place.

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11Basilica S. Maria Maggiore

There’s a deep and old connection between the city and Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica, maybe due to the peculiar circumstances of its construction. During the first years of 1100, a terrible plague breakout spread across Europe, causing death and desolation. That’s why the people of Bergamo decided to ask the Virgin Mary to assist them: they vowed to dedicate a church to Her if she had protected them from being infected. Being men of their word, in 1137 Bergamo’s citizens started to built the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica on the Piazza del Duomo, in the Upper Town. They actually acted big: the church turned out to be really beautiful, and it was adorned even more in the following centuries. Frescoes, stuccos, tapestries and wooden marquetry designed by the renowned artist Lorenzo Lotto decorate the inside of the building.
Santa Maria Maggiore also houses the funerary monument dedicated to Gaetano Donizetti, the famous music composer, symbol and representative of Bergamo all over the world.

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12Colleoni Chapel

It’s surely the most beautiful building in Bergamo.

Its façade is decorated with red and white marble, an authentic Italian Renaissance masterpiece. The interiors are a fantastic collection of artworks: the equestrian statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni, mercenary captain from Bergamo, the marble sarcophaguses, the exquisite tomb of his daughter Medea, the inlayed wooden desks.

It would takes us pages and pages to describe them all, that’s why we suggest you to enter the chapel and let this art universe take you over!

Fun fact: legend has it that touching the coat of arms on the Chapel’s gate at midnight brings good luck. Believe it or not, it can be a nice excuse to take a walk to the lovely Città Alta by night!

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13Cathedral Museum & Treasure

The Museum and Treasure of the Cathedral opened in 2012 under the Sant’Alessandro Cathedral. Here, during the adjustment works in 2004, several archaeological remains have been discovered, dating back to the X Century B.C. up to the XVI A.D.: prehistoric settlements, Roman domus remains, ruins of the Paleochristian church and the Romanesque cathedral.

By means of this Museum, Bergamo’s Diocese aims to disclose the church’s history, showing its building phases and let the visitor enjoy the sacred and beautiful atmosphere of the old San Vincenzo Cathedral, by displaying numerous precious items of religious art.

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Museo Donizettiano - Orto Botanico

Via Arena, most likely a reference to the location of the Roman arena, goes down towards the walls.

From the ramparts of San Giovanni you can enjoy a splendid view of the underlying Conca d'Oro, behind which you can see the flatlands of the Po Valley and the Apennines on clear days.

Behind the terraces of the vegetable gardens and the gardens of the Monastery of Santa Grata, who lived until the year one thousand, is where the remains of St. Grata rest, the city's patron saint along with St. Alexander. 

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Via Arena, most likely a reference to the location of the Roman arena, goes down towards the walls.

From the ramparts of San Giovanni you can enjoy a splendid view of the underlying Conca d'Oro, behind which you can see the flatlands of the Po Valley and the Apennines on clear days.

Behind the terraces of the vegetable gardens and the gardens of the Monastery of Santa Grata, who lived until the year one thousand, is where the remains of St. Grata rest, the city's patron saint along with St. Alexander. 

14Botanical Garden “Lorenzo Rota"

The 2,400 square metre gardens are home to over 1,200 types of plants, the majority of which in micro-habitats, which replicate or imitate their natural environments.

The gardens are only accessible by foot from a staircase of 141 steps, offering a unique panorama with sweeping views over the Upper Town’s rooftops and monuments and the first offshoots of Bergamo’s Alpine foothills.

 

http://www.ortobotanicodibergamo.it/

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15Cannoniera di San Giovanni (embrasure)

To enter the San Giovanni Casemate you have to go down a few meters under the ground by means of an iron staircase, in the rampart with the same name: this defensive structure was built right here, hundreds of years ago.

Getting to the manoeuvre area of the casemate, perfectly restored, history suddenly becomes something tangible, as you immediately understand what was war like five hundred years ago.

Casemates were used to allocate soldiers and cannons defending the city Walls. As you may notice, the embrasures don’t face the flatland: this is not a mistake, but a strategic choice! The cannons’ openings were guarded against the enemy fire, so that they could open fire to the enemy soldiers assaulting the walls.

Once you got back to surface, you will notice a particular metal object. It’s a sundial, a very ancient tool reinterpreted by using contemporary features and materials: it can almost seem an art installation, indeed!

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Cittadella viscontea - Teatro sociale

This last route does not require much walking, but it will take time if you plan to visit the Natural History and Archaeological Museum, housed in the fourteenth-century defensive structure built by the Visconti.

From the Visconti citadel, this route leads back to the heart of the old city, a popular site for taking a Sunday stroll, shopping and enjoying fine food, which ends with a discovery of its other treasures. Be sure to include the Lantro Fountain on your list of sites to see (via della Boccola - check open hours). 

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This last route does not require much walking, but it will take time if you plan to visit the Natural History and Archaeological Museum, housed in the fourteenth-century defensive structure built by the Visconti.

From the Visconti citadel, this route leads back to the heart of the old city, a popular site for taking a Sunday stroll, shopping and enjoying fine food, which ends with a discovery of its other treasures. Be sure to include the Lantro Fountain on your list of sites to see (via della Boccola - check open hours). 

16Archaeological Museum

The first exhibition of the current Archaeology Museum was located in the Loggia under the Palazzo della Ragione, in Piazza Vecchia, where it was simply a “collection of old stuff” and included several epigraphs.

Since then, the collection moved several times: in fact, it required more and more space due to the conspicuous and constant donations over the centuries. Today the Museum is housed in the Cittadella Palace (XIV Century), built by the Visconti family, Milan’s ancient rulers.

Visitors can plunge into history just looking at the museum’s walls. Visiting the Archaeology Museum is like going on a journey across the history of Bergamo and its territory, from its prehistoric background to the Langobardic domination in the Middle Age.
It is very common do find groups of children and kids inside it. In fact, the “Centro Didattico-culturale”, the former “Gruppo Guide del Museo” established in 1981, contributes to give a strong educational spirit to the Museum, by carrying out many guided tours, workshops and activities for children and adults.

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17E. Caffi - Natural Science Museum

Located next to the Archaeology Museum in Piazza della Cittadella, where it was moved in the same year (1960), the Museum of Natural Science keeps most of its collections in its archives, in order to let scientists study them and develop the knowledge about environment, living animals and extinct species. It was established in 1861 in the building of Regio Istituto Tecnico: today, it hosts millions of natural findings!

Before entering the Museum, we have a little warning for you: an enormous mammoth is going to welcome you at the entrance. But don’t be afraid, it is extremely friendly!

Right after the Museum’s prehistoric guardian you will find many specimens, divided into groups: zoology, entomology, geology and palaeontology. Afterwards, you can admire many examples of all five classes of vertebrates, along with a wide and rich collection of arthropods, with more then one million specimens!

You can also admire the shimmering collection of minerals. Moreover, if you loved Jurassic Park you will also love the amazing fossils coming from Bergamo territory and from all over the world: over 55.000 findings, including a fantastic life-size cast of the skeleton of an Allosaurus, a large bipedal dinosaur!

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18Cittadella Viscontea

This citadel was built in the most central point of Bergamo: why? To defend the city from the enemies attacks and as a sort of garrison house in case of popular uprising, of course, but also to make sure that the subjects always remembered how powerful their rulers were: the Visconti family, head of Milan’s Duchy and Bergamo’s ruler from 1332 to 1428.

Today, this space has become a typical square in Città Alta and still hosts many traces of its past. Coming from the old town, you will walk under the Torre della Campanelle. On west, you will see a medieval postern gate: once you crossed it you’ll find a roman street (the short paved section right before the cobblestones leading to the postern gate) and you will walk under the Romanesque lowered vaults and the cylindrical pillars belonging to an ancient private house.

As soon as you’ve left the portico, you will find the La Crotta garden, a magical place full of beautiful trees, bushes and paved paths made of rectangular sandstone. The stone benches hidden among the vegetation are there for you: enjoy a romantic break!

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19Teatro Sociale - Theatre of the Society

There is no porch or colonnade at the entrance of the Teatro Sociale, because the street is too narrow: nevertheless, this place is extremely surprising. Once you stepped in, you enter a magical, cosy and refined setting, warmed by the wooden balustrades and the beams of the ceiling.

The boxes’ vertical layout features three orders plus a fourth gallery, visually representing the old hierarchical groups.

The architect Leonardo Pollack was asked to design this kind of structure by the aristocratic sponsors of the theatre, as to underline the class differences of that time. In fact, the “Teatro della Società” (“Theatre of Society”), as it was originally called, was born to face a challenge: containing the constant and relentless loss of prestige of Città Alta – the Upper Town – in the favour of the Lower Bergamo’s districts.

Despite its splendour, the theatre presence wasn’t enough to reverse the course of history.

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