During the Euro VT meeting 2012 we had a pleasant visit to the castle in Grumello del Monte.
This village is some 18 km east from Bergamo. I went there by train.
Probably this castle was originally built around the X century. It also was owned by Bartolomeo Colleoni in 1400. It was turned into a mansion in the XVIII century.
There isn't much to see inside the castle. Only some rooms, a chapel, the ex stable and part of a tower are opened to visitors. So who are going there to visit a castle with lots of beautifully decorated rooms could be disappointed.
A presentation of several kinds of wines was included in the tour. We could sample various kinds of wines accompanied with cold cuts and cheeses. I think this was the best part of the visit. The owners of the castle run a winery.
You need to book if you like to visit this castle.
This small church was probably built around the XI century and was restored in the 1500. I' ve read that inside there are some frescoes dated around 1500-1600 and other painted in the 1800.
I think you have to ask the tourist office if you like to visit it inside.
Tempietto di Santa Croce. It is located next to the south portal of Santa Maria Maggiore; in via Arena.
When you have finished exploring the buildings around the Piazza Duomo you may be tempted to retrace your steps to the Piazza Vecchia, as I am sure most tourists do, but don’t. Instead, go through the entrance to the right of the Capella Corleoni, to find yourself in a small, anonymous-looking building that links the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore with the adjoining bishop’s residence and offices.
Were it not for our guide Giulia, I would never have guessed that such treasures were hidden here! It is covered with frescoes dating back to around the middle of the 15th century. Not all are in great condition, having been covered up in the past, but there is still plenty to see and admire. I especially liked this one of the Last Supper, despite the damage and the unfinished look of the table setting. I am intrigued by the depiction of one of the disciples (or so I assume – maybe it is Judas?) as smaller than the rest and sitting on the table! I also liked the Annunciation on either side of the arch that holds up the ceiling (photos two and three), with the angel Gabriel to the left of the arch and Mary facing him on the right.
As for the name of the building, which is inscribed on it in Latin as Curia Episcopalis, an “episcopal curia” is defined as “the group of persons who assist a bishop, or the prelate taking the place of a bishop, in the administration of a diocese”, and thus the name echoes the purpose of this space as being linked to the bishop’s offices next door.
Directions: The entrance is between the Cappella Colleoni and the Baptistery – or from the other side near the Temple of the Holy Cross
So let us go out through that further door, opposite the one through which we entered, to see the Temple of the Holy Cross or Santa Croce.
Behind the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is another rather hidden gem, Il Tempietto di Santa Croce (Little Temple of the Holy Cross). This dates from around the year 1000, but was mentioned for the first time in a private document drawn up in 1133 as the "ecclesia Sancte Crucis".
In 1444 part of the building became underground as a result of some rebuilding of the bishop’s residence nearby: at the same time a stairway was constructed leading to it from the Piazza Duomo via the Aula della Curia. It underwent some restoration in the 16th and 17th centuries, with additions made each time – frescoes in the 16th century, decoration to the lantern in the 17th, but continued to be partially lost underground until the early part of the 20th century, I believe.
Il Tempietto is considered to be the finest example of Romanesque architecture in Bergamo , and possibly in the whole of Lombardy. It was built in the shape of a rounded Greek cross, a little like a four-leaf clover! The wall is of brown sandstone bricks, decorated with hanging arches which are divided by pilasters into groups of three. Above the windows (bricked-up because of the former burial underground of the structure, I presume) are fading images – see photo two.
I didn’t get the opportunity to see inside (apparently you can ask at the Tourist Office to see if it is possible to visit), but my research, sadly dependent on very limited Italian, tells me that the frescoes focus on depictions of the Cross, including the finding of the cross by St. Helena, and the Emperor Constantine bearing the cross in Rome. But even if you can’t get inside, this little structure really is worth seeking out.
Directions: On the Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore, behind the Basilica of the same name – access through the Basilica or along Via Gaetano Donizetti from the Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe and funicular station. Or see the location on Google maps.
From here we can walk along Via San Salvatore to the church of that name.
This is another sight that I may well not have found without Giulia to guide me. Nor would I know much about it, as it doesn’t seem to get much attention on Bergamo’s tourism websites. But I’m very pleased to have discovered the Chiesa del Santissimo Salvatore, or Church of the Holy Saviour, as it holds several treasures and is also of interest for its great age. In fact, it is thought that this is the oldest church site in the city, dating back to 299 according to Giulia, although the present church is largely Baroque.
Although officially dedicated to the Holy Saviour, the church is also known as the church of “the Madonna of desperate cases”, with many pilgrims coming here to pray to the beautiful 16th century golden statue, “Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of Jesus”, the work of Louis Carrara. Another notable treasure is the painting by Giovanni Battisto Tiepolo of “San Giuseppe e il Bambino” – St Joseph and Child (photo three). Giulia pointed out how, very unusually, St. Joseph is depicted as a young man; normally he is shown as being quite elderly, so that no one might take him as the actual father of Christ.
Look up too, to see the lovely trompe l’oeil ceiling (photo five). And on the right-hand wall (as you face the altar) is this (photo four) 15th century fresco depicting the Virgin and Child with St. Pantaleon, patron saint of doctors, who has in his right hand a surgical tool and left a box of medicine.
Directions:About halfway along the Via San Salvatore, which runs parallel to and south of the Via Bartolomeo Colleoni.
Our excellent tour ended here, and I went in search of lunch with some other members of our group, settling on the trancheria that had been recommended to us.
This is a little known, elegant little church tucked away on the via San Salvatore. If I understand the website it dates from the early 18th century and is also known as Nostra Signora del Sacro Cuore di Gesu (Our Lady of the Sacred Heart). The painting "Ite ad Joseph" is one of its highlights as is the wonderfully ornate domed ceiling.
Although no longer used for mass it is still used for weddings - maybe that's why it is also known as the Church of the Desperate - HA!
We only found it because we had the services of the excellent guide, Guilia, from the tourist office.
Here's the PDF webpage which is well worth a visit -
After a thoroughly enjoyable wine-tasting at Castello di Grumello it was time for lunch. This too had been organised from afar by the resourceful, and gorgeous, ElenaKKKK and was provided by the Agriturismo La Beccaccia (website below).
An "Agriturismo" is essentially a working farm which also offers accommodation and/or meals to the general public - tourists and locals. La Beccaccia is situated on a hill overlooking the town of Grumello del Monte, a short drive from the Castello.
Here we were treated to a couple of the house's pasta dishes, along with freshly picked salad leaves and of course more wine!! This made for an excellent finale to our morning out; being a relaxed slow affair with the restaurant staff keeping us topped up with everything. Particularly memorable was the "Venison-filled Ravioli, finished with parmesan and pancetta and even more so was the house's own Extra Virgin Olive Oil which when drizzled over the freshest of fresh baby salad leaves took them into another dimension.
Oh and the wine was more than drinkable too ;-HIC!
Even our guide who was showing us around and giving us the historical bit knew that that was just a warm up for the main event - the wine tasting. The area has been a wine producing region for thousands of years and the new owners of the Castello, the Reschigna Kettlitz family, have concentrated on producing high quality wines from their own vinyards which are fermented, matured and bottled on the premises.
They produce a total of six different styles, four red and two white, of which we got to taste one of the whites and three of the reds. The tasting took place in the Knight's Hall under the supervision of the winemaker Paolo Zadra and each wine was accompanied by an appropriately complimentary nibble.
First off was the Aurito Chardonnay which is bottle-aged for at least two years. This was a perfect Chardonnay, dry and crisp, with a full-frontal fruit. This came with Tellegio cheese, a local speciality, whose creamy ripeness let the wine's fuit have centre stage.
Next up was the house red - Valcalepio Rosso. This unfortunately I somehow managed to miss out on as I'd gotten involved in conversation and next time I caught my breath we were on to number 3. I did though manage to grab a slice of the Salame Bergamasco which it came with and that was a meaty nibble.
Third on the menu was their Riserva "Colle Calvario", a Cabarnet Sauvignon which is barrel aged and bottle finished. This had a wonderful Rioja-type back taste, having been aged for a minumum 5 years, and deep fruit flavour. It suited the richness of the foie gras, and vice versa, which it was served with although I could quite happily have quaffed a glass or two unaccompanied,
We completed the tasting with Moscato Passsito which was presented as a dessert wine. The winemaker informed us that this would be ideal with strong cheese - maybe a blue but in this instance he'd chosen chocolatecake. I was a bit dubious, not being one for either dessert wines or chocolatecake, but with an open mind I gave it a chance. It worked. The wine isn't as sweet as most dessert wines and with a powerful alchohol content (16%) takes on more of a fortified wine character. The cake, similarly, was made with a top quality bitter chocolate and the two melded perfectly - certainly by the time I'd managed my third glass.
Then it was down to the cellars to see the things working before getting the chance to make our purchases which I had to pass on since I wasn't traavelling with excess space.
Excellent morning out.
To get there we arrived by private coach which Elena had organised but if you want to go by public transport there are regular trains from Bergamo to Grumello del Monte and the journey takes just over twenty minutes - see www.trenitalia.it for timetables and fares.
For an interesting, educational and historical, day out from Bergamo a visit to the Castello di Grumello is well worth looking at. The original castle was built sometime after 1000 AD as a defensive outpost overlooking the town of Grumello del Monte and the villages in the area In its early years it was owned and garrisoned by the local community. It was gifted to the Pope's appointee, Cardinal Guglielmo Longo, sometime in the early 1300's and ownership changed several times until the relative peace brought about by the Venetian takeover of the region from 1428.
In the 18th century the castle was converted into a stately home with the addition of the palace and the chapel whilst the Medieval tower, cellars, knights hall and some of the battlements were retained. The present day castle is still under private ownership, by the Milanese Reschigna Kettlitz family who have developed it as a winery and conference centre.
Our visit, as a group, was organised by our very own ElenaKKKK who did an amazing job of first selecting it as a possible day trip and then arranging everything from the far flung Tiaga of Northern Russia.
Whilst the historical stuff was interesting that wasn't the main reason for our visit - see next tip!
This convent was built at the end of the XIII century. It was formed by a church, three cloisters and the convent itself. Today we can see what remains of the church and two cloisters. The cloister of the Arche (Arks) was used in the XIV as a cemetery for the nobles citizens. The second cloister is named chiostro del Pozzo (cloister of the well). The third cloister was demolish time ago. The cloisters has several ancient frescoes; the oldest date to the 1300. The convent was suppressed by the French at the end of the 1600. Then it was used as hospital and consequently as prison. It was restored in the 1900 and housed a elementary school.
This church was originally built in the VIII century; rebuilt around the XII and the XIII centuries and restored in the 1400's.
Inside you can see several frescoes painted in the 1400 and 1500. There is also a cycle of frescoes made by Lorenzo Lotto; in the chapel of Madonna.
The Augustine convent occupies the easternmost point within the walls and bulwarks of Città Alta. It was the namesake for the adjacent Porta Sant’Agostino, where the main road (Viale Vittorio Emanuele) enters the old town. If you take the 1A bus you will pass through this gate.
The church of Sant’Agostino is a characteristic example of the plain Italian version of the gothic style. Unfortunately it was closed, and looked as if it was closed for good.
The adjacent cloister is open and can be entered for free. It is a strange place that feels deserted and abandoned, almost a bit spooky. However, the artwork in the middle is part of an exhibition of contemporary sculpture all over the town, so they expect people to come here. There was only one other visitor, a young lady who sat under the arches and happily munched her sandwich.
The gates to the back were barred with padlocks and the buildings seemed dead but when I peeped into a window I spotted a seminar room with glass tables and ultra-modern technical equipment. The former convent buildings are used by a faculty of the University of Bergamo; their entrance is from the back, though.
Piazzale degli Alpini, opposite the train and bus station, is a large square with a small park. In the middle of the square there is a large monument, dedicated to the mountain soldiers called the Alpini which also became the namesakes of the whole square. The Alpini are an elite unit in the Italian army, originally formed in 1872 to defend Italy’s Northern border.
The monument consists of two massive pillars made from sandstone blocks, about the height of a 3-storey house, in the middle of a fountain. Between the two stone pillars, the bronze figure of a soldier seems to be struggling to climb up, just like a mountaineer would climb in a narrow cleft between two vertical rocks – or is he in fact slipping down and struggling to hold on? Hard to decide – it is a monument about the fallen soldiers, after all. The Italian flag next to it is waving from half-pole.
This bronze sculpture is the piece with the most artistic value in the whole monument and deserves a closer look. The shapes are rather abstract, but it expresses the movements of the body, the fight of the soldier to survive in these extreme conditions in a striking way.
I have no date for the design of the square and the monument, but I assume it is from the 1920s, the era of Fascism. The square is part of the long street axis planned by Marcello Piacentini, and the law court building in the background is clearly fascist architecture. Hence the monument would refer to “la Grande Guerra”, World War I.
Borgo Pignolo is one of the old quarters in Bergamo Bassa, the lower town. Its backbone, along which the suburb developped, is Via Pignolo. Access is easiest to find from Porta Sant'Agostino. Walk gownhill from the gate, but not along the main road, walk down the fes stairs on the left side of the street and then follow the smaller street gently downhill.
This quarter has a forgotten, almost morbid feel. The street was almost completely empty, many blinds closed. There was hardly anyone in the street. The old buildings are a mix of sizes and quality according to the wealth and social status, or lack thereof, of their owners. There are a couple of impressive renaissance and baroque palazzi along this street that were designed to impress. Next to them, however, there are rather humble townhouses, some well kept, others decaying.
Halfway down Via Pignolo a street triangle forms a small piazza with a baroque fountain. The huge baroque facade of the church of S. Alessandro del Croce is far too big for this narrow space.
There are several of these Medieval footpaths to explore.
The Borgo Canale (Canale neighbourhood) is a good place to start, but there are also scallette running down from San Vigilio (Via della Scorlazzone) and from near Porto San'Agostino (Via Della Noca).
The funicular leaflet (from the tourist info, the ATB office in Porta Nuova and hotels etc) has a useful little map on the back showing you where they can be found and they are also marked with a ladder symbol on the city map available at Tourist info and hotels.
I managed to walk the Via della Noca as well as the Vicolo del Paradiso during my short visit. Next time, I'll seek out more...they are really very pleasant ways to amble around the city.