Following Bergamo's absorption into the Ventian State in 1428 the Venetians set about transforming the Citta Alta into a showpiece of Rennaisance flair and culture. Streets were widened, churches and palaces built or renovated, the imposing city walls were constructed around the mid 16th century and the centrepiece of it all was the Piazza Vecchia.
In order to enlarge the existing piazza many older buildings were demolished and the square opened up to the frontages of the Palazzo Nuovo (now the civic library), the Palazzo del Podesta and the Palazzo della Ragione (Palace of Reason - the former law courts), next to which stands the Civic Tower, or Campanone, where the bell which tolls the 10 pm call to the city gates hangs.
This has been described as one of the most beautiful squares in Italy and its present-day appearance is little changed from that of its Venetian heyday. Surrounded by stunning architecture, and some great little terraced cafes, this is also the hub of the upper city's alfresco social life being used for exhibitions, concerts and plays, and, on the day that we visited, a youth sports day.
This is the main square of Upper Bergamo. It is surrounded by various old buildings. One of these is Palazzo della Ragione that was built during the second half of the XII century and rebuilt in the 1500's. It is connected by a bridge and a staircase to the Palazzo del Podestà. This was the seat of the chief magistrate, or governor who ruled Bergamo from the 16th until the end of the 18th century. It was built between XII and XIII centuries. On the north–east side of the square stand the Palazzo Nuovo, or Biblioteca Angelo Mai; the civic library. Its construction began at the beginning XVII century and finished in 1958.
There are also some restaurants and cafes in this square.
Bergamo's Bell Tower TORRE DEL CAMPANONE dates back to the 12th century. Also known as the Torre Civica - Civic Tower - it stands next to the Palazzo Della Ragione and dominates the south corner of Piazza Vecchia.
From the top, there are amazing views of Bergamo and the surrounding countryside.
At 10:00 p.m. every evening, the bell tolls 100 times, marking the ancient curfew, when the gates to the city were locked at night to keep the city safe from intruders.
The structure of the tower has been modified over the centuries. A clock face was added in the 15th century.
Open Saturdays and Holidays only between 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Located at the southern end of Piazza Vecchia is the 12th century PALAZZO DELLA RAGIONE or Palace of Reason. The ground floor walls were removed in the 15th century, to allow a view through the arches into Piazza Duomo. You can clearly see the facade of the Colleoni Chapel.
The carving of the lion over the central window was added in the 18th century.
Open to visitors every day except Mondays.
The Heart of Citta Alta PIAZZA VECCHIA is simply amazing. I was in awe at the first sight of it.
At the southern end of the square is the 12th century Palazzo Della Ragione - Palace of Reason (pic #1). To the right is the covered staircase, built to enable visitors to access the "Salone Superiore" - the top floor room. Next to it is the Bell Tower Il Campanone (pic #2), which dates back to the 12th century. On the west side of the Piazza Vecchia is the 14th century Palace, Palazzo Del Podesto Veneto - Palace of the Mayor of Venice. It now houses the University of Bergamo's Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literature.
At the northern end is the white marble Biblioteca Civica (pic #3) - Civic Library. It was built originally as a town hall for Bergamo at the beginning of the 16th century.
Featured in the center of the Piazza is the Fountain (pic #4) - Fontana Contarini - which is decorated with white marble lions.
There are bars and restaurants on both sides of the square including (in the far northern corner) our restaurant for Sunday VT Dinner - Ristorante Il Sole (pic #5).
Forming the northern edge of Piazza Vecchia BIBLIOTECA CIVICA or CIVIC LIBRARY, is a popular place to hang out, because you can sit on its steps and enjoy the events in the Aquare.
Founded in 1768, The Library is unique among Italian libraries as its collections not only include books and journals, but a variety of maps, archives, music, photographs, coins, relics and paintings.
Located in the center of Piazza Vecchia, the FONTANA CONTARINI was donated to the city of Bergamo by the Venetian Podesta, Alvise Contarini, in 1780.
Built of Zandobbio Marble, the fountain is composed of a main octagonal basin with a fountain. It is surrounded by ornamental statues. Alongside the basin you will also find stone carvings of snakes and Lions. I thought the fountain was very mystical . The afternoon we were there, many school children were enjoying an outing in the Square and of course, the fountain was very popular, especially since it was so hot out.
Nowadays you will find more and more restauration works going on.
They must have started in the 90ties as I saw many places where restauration got finished in 1998 or something.
here, at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the restauration works were still going on anno 2005.
Favorite thing: Piazza Vecchia is the hub of old Bergamo in the "upper" part of the town. It's a small square with three of the town's most remarkable buildings: Cappella Colleoni - a funerary chapel all made of polichromatic marbles, Palazzo della Ragione - the old Town Hall, and Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore- a romanic/baroque church with precious ancient tapestries which hosts the grave of the musician and composer Domenico Donizetti
Catch as many views as possible. Climb the Torre del Comune and behold the beautiful sight. This 12th century tower is located in the Piazza Vecchia in the upper town of Bergamo. Its clock and curfew bell played an important part in Bergamo's history. The bells were tolled every night at 10pm to remind the people of Bergamo that the gates to the city were going to be closed, during the Venetian rule.
Fondest memory: Seeing all those buildings with red roofs against the green mountains.
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