Citta Alta and Citta Bassa
Bergamo is divided into two parts called Città Alta (upper city) and Città Bassa (lower city). The Città Alta is the old town with most of Bergamo’s historical buildings. On some days, it can become a little too touristy, but that should not keep you away from diving into the city’s past. A medieval atmosphere can be felt in several parts of the town – may it be under the arches of the Palazzo della Ragione or just walking along one of the narrow cobblestone-covered streets. The old town can be reached by a funicular railway, by two public bus lines or by car. It is also possible, but not easy to walk up there. Up there, please keep in mind that most parts of the Città Alta are decalred as pedestrian zone, so that you have to leave your car close to the wall. And parking lots are often full…
The Città Bassa has also some nice buildings, for example the well known Porta Nuova. But it is far less touristical and more real life. Although I would recommend to spend most of your time in the Città Alta, do not forget to explore the Città Bassa too.
Una Culla Per La Vita-Cradles for Life
Coming across this, quite near to where I was staying, had quite an emotional impact, when I realised that the 'cute' cartoon babies and multi lingual messages weren't identifying a baby clinic or nursery.
Una Culla Per La Vita, translates as Cradles for Life. I'd walked past this sign a few times before 'the penny dropped'!- the 'bin' on the gate (pic 2) confirmed my thought.
In the late 12th Century, Pope Innocent 111, came up with the idea of The Foundling Wheel- a revolving wooden cylinder, that was installed in churches and convents.
Its purpose? For mothers to leave their babies, that they couldn't care for- either due to poverty, or the stigma of being unmarried etc.
This Pope had been shocked into action after seeing numerous dead babies floating in the Tiber River.
The mother could leave her baby in the cylinder, turn the wheel, then walk away, without being identified. A bell would then ring, to alert the inhabitants of the convent/church etc to its new arrival.
This system continued through parts of Europe until the 19th Century.
(Previously, in a convent in Santiago de Compostela in Spain, I'd come across a revolving 'cupboard' that I guessed could have been used for this purpose. When I tried to confirm this, I was met with embarrassed or non committal reactions)
Now, I'm not sure why the practice ended - Babies not being abandoned anymore???? Possible-but-
Fast Forward to the 21st Century...........
Newborn babies are still being found abandoned - dead and alive in garbage bins, in telephone boxes, on hospital steps etc. Not just in '3rd World Countries' but in 'Wealthy, Educated and 'Permissive/open'' European cities, with Social Services etc.
One solution has been to install modern day equivalents of the Foundling Wheel in hospitals and convents etc - a cylinder that the baby is placed into (Known as Cradles for Life or Baby Boxes), which after 2 minutes, starts to activate a heated mattress and ventilation system, with electronic sensors linked to an alarm, that notifies the presence of the baby, which in turn alerts an ambulance and medical team. The aim is that the baby is saved, and is then adopted by a caring family.
This system is in operation in many European cities as well as in India and Japan.
The reason that I was unaware of this service is that apparently under English law it is illegal to abandon a baby/child.
I'm not sure how many babies have been deposited in these 'cradles'.
I can't imagine how these mothers must feel, being so desperate as to abandon their babies, having carried them through pregnancy (probably hiding this as best they could, or mistakenly expecting the father to stick around etc) then walking away-possibly comforted that their baby might have a better life, but having little or no support for themselves.
This Cradle in Bergamo was installed in February 2007.
It is fixed to the exterior side of the gate of the Dominican monastery on Via A Locatelli 16.
Curiosity got the better of me, and I walked towards the cradle. I got quite a shock when I heard a bell ring in the distance, the gate swung open and 2 nuns were hurrying towards me!! I turned round and hurriedly left!
I'm sure that it was just a co-incidence that the gate opened etc. (I hadn't touched the cradle)- but it spooked me a bit- imagine if I had been a young scared mother about to abandon my baby anonymously - would I have left it or not?
Hmmm -so many mixed feelings on this one, so many questions and answers!
Google Una Culla Per La Vita or Cradles for Life for more info/ views etc.
Piazzetta Sant Pancrazio
This small square of Saint Pancras stands off Via Gombito. It is named after the nearby church.
The square is considered to be a typical example of a medieval square and crossroads - look out for mopeds and other vehicles appearing unexpectedly!
The centrepiece of the square is the fountain that dates back to 1548.
The Hotel and Restaurant Agnello D'Oro forms an attractive backdrop. I haven't eaten here, but I understand that it is quite popular
The Funicular (Funicolare)
The 2 centres of Bergamo -Citta Alta, the upper town and the lower town of Citta Bassa, have been linked by a funicular railway since 1887. This has been modernized many times over the years.
In 1912 another Funicular was built to link Citta Alta and the hill of San Viglio. From 1976 to 1991, this service was closed. Initially, this was for renovation and safety works. As the works proved to be so expensive, the service was closed, but later the city council and ATB invested in the service.
The atb (Azienda Trasporti Bergamo) company runs the service.
Tickets are available from the ATB point in Largo Porta Nuova, and the Funicular stations.
A single ticket is 1.50 euros, a daily ticket Tariff G gives unlimited travel on the funiculars and all ATB urban bus services. I purchased the 3 day Tariff S ticket for 5 euros. As well as unlimited use on the funiculars and buses, it included the Airport bus service. As my hostel was near to the Citta Alta Funicular station on Viale Vittorio Emanuele 11, I used the funicular service many times during my stay.
I'm afraid that I didn't get to use the San Viglio funicular, hopefully I'll visit again and will use it.
The Citta Alta funicular runs from 0700 - 2400 hrs.
Trains run approximately every 7 minutes, and the journey takes less than 5 minutes.
Each carriage holds up to 50 passengers. There are 2 carriages on the 2 rail lines.
There are great views over the city on the journey, as well as sneaky peeps into the gardens of some of the grandest houses.
Pizzeria in the Lower City
This place does all the standard pizza varieties plus a good range of pastas, risotto and some secondi. The pizzas we tried (one sausage, one buffalo mozzarella) were well-made, although I thought the base was slightly elastic-y. Nice and satisfying, but nothing incredible. The food came very quickly, despite the fact that the place was full to bursting.
The restaurant itself is divided into two rooms: the first is more appealing than the back room where we were sat (and where the staff seem to deposit lots of loved-up teenagers). Ask to sit in the main one if you can.
Prices were average for a pizza restaurant: margheritas start at EUR 4.50, with most types hovering around EUR 6/7. Pizzas for two plus plentiful drinks came to EUR 30.
Arlecchino seems to be very popular with the locals and was packed out on the Friday night we visited, with lots of talking, gesticulating and laughter. Very much the typical Italian pizzeria experience!