Citta Alta, Bergamo
The historic laundry in the Upper city is near to the Gombito Tower. It was built in the XIX century and it was used till the '50es. Now it is one of the most typical place in the Upper City of Bergamo.
Ahhhh, we were not able to make the VT meet in Bergamo, but later that year we did make it for a quick stop and we wanted to see what drew VT there.
We had no "direction" and no previous information and the local information office was closed that day. So we just wandered, found a good restaurant to have lunch and saw -
1) The entrance gate
2) Old circular church
3) Water fountain
4) Outlook over the surrounding valley
5) Toucan Bar where they serve Guinness (that was for our friend Nathalie, just in case she missed the Guinness sign) ^O^
All in all we enjoyed the time there even without knowing all the history and facts.
Città Alta is the oldest part of Bergamo. It's a fortified part of town up the mountain with many towers.
Points of interest in Città Alta:
-The City Walls
-Porta San Giacomo
-Torre Civica in Città Alta
-Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore
-Cattedrale di Bergamo
-Theatre of Society
-Torre di Adalberto
-Civic Archaeological Museum
-Enrico Caffi Civic Museum of Natural Sciences
-Former Monastery of San Francesco
-Museo di Palazzo Moroni
-San Vigilio Funicolar
-Città Alta - Città Bassa Funicular
Address: Città Alta
Directions: Take bus 1 to the end stop of use the funicular from the lower city.
On our first morning in Bergamo, Sue had arranged for us to have a free guided walk in Città Alta. Such tours are available to the general public, though they normally cost €10 (see website for details). If the public tours are even half as good as ours was (and I expect they would be, as the same guides do both) then they would make a great introduction to the sights and history of Alta for any visitor. If you’d like to do one, book at the tourist office on Via Gombito or just meet at the Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe (by the upper Funicular Station) at the times given on the website.
Or guide, Giulia, was very apologetic about her English (she normally guides in German) but need not have been. It was excellent, as was her knowledge of and enthusiasm for the city of Bergamo. I learned so much on this tour that stood me in good stead for later explorations on my own, and she took us to at least a couple of spots that I doubt I would even have discovered. We started in the Piazza Luigi Angelini, took in the Gombito Tower and other tower houses, then headed for the Piazza Vecchia and surrounding buildings. Giulia was particularly full of information about the beautiful Santa Maria Maggiore and the Colleoni Chapel. From here we went through back streets to the church of San Salvatore, where our tour ended. It had been a long and informative morning, and thanks to Giulia, and to Sue, we had had a wonderful introduction to Bergamo’s Città Alta.
My next few tips describe the main sights we saw on this walk, starting with the Gombito Tower and other tower houses – a classic sight of Bergamo.
There are some old places where you can really 'feel the history' and imagine that you've stepped back in time...... well for me, one such place is when walking up or down the medieval scalettas.
The medieval streets and squares developed in the upper town, with markets dedicated to various goods - the meat market and peschiera (fish market) for example. Guilds, such as the shoemakers had their businesses in the square outside the upper funicular station. This was an important trading centre and soon, the settlement extended outside the city walls and into the plains of the lower town.
In the surrounding valleys and mountain villages, agriculture and husbandry were the main sources of income.
Their goods were sold at the markets in the upper town, and being long before motorised transport and internet shopping had been dreamed of, entailed the back breaking ascent to Citta Alta, loaded with their wares, and/or leading their livestock to market.
Well worn pathways developed on the hillside, which in turn were developed into stepped 'staircases' or scaletta's.
High stone walls or hedges flank the steps, behind which are trees and flowers,
Atmospheric lights illuminate the steps now, but it's not difficult to imagine these traders stumbling in the dark, with their flimsy footwear, or citizens of the upper town hurrying to return to the safety of the inner walls before the gates were locked for the night.
There are around 10 of these scaletta, each are named. A board at the entrance (pic 2) gives their name, length of the pathway, the streets that are connected and a map illustrating the pathway.
Some of the names of the scaletta are ; Paradiso, Santa Lucia Vecchia, More, San Martino, Scorlazzino and Scorlazzone.
Unsurprisingly, many of the scaletta lead to one of the gateways of the upper town -
In May 2011, we found that it was quicker to walk UP to Citta Alta from our accommodation in Santa Caterina by one of these ancient pathways Via Noca to Porta Sant Agostino (rather than catch 2 buses), but it's certainly a lot easier walking DOWN!
The pathway that I've used most frequently connects the splendid Porta San Giocomo (with its panoramic view over Citta Bassa and miles beyond) and Via Sant' Alessandro, with the lower funicular station on Via Vittorio Emanuele 11. I think this is known as Vicola Strada della Scaletta.
It was especially atmospheric in December, with a slight haze at dusk, and the lights giving a warm glow to the leaf strewn steps.
On my free city centre map, some of these scaletta are indicated with ladders
There is a lovely walk around the edge of Citta Alta. As you come out of the Funicular station, turn left and head down towards the gateway and wall. See the marvelous views over the city from this area, and even watch the aircraft landing at the airport in the distance. Follow the wall around the Citta Alta and you will eventually come to another gateway which leads to the funicular that goes up to San Vigilio. The walk is great with terrific views and the train ride up to San Vigilio is also terrific.
When you get back again, there is a great walk back down to Citta Bassa from the original location of the wall and gateway. The walk covers tiny streets and shops right into the centre of town again. Enjoy it.
Address: Citta Alta / Bassa - Bergamo
Directions: Can't miss it. Turn left from the Funicular Station in Citta Alta
Once you arrive at the top of the funicula ride, you exit out the door to a small piazza. You will see everyone heading for the street ahead and to the right. This is the main street in Alto. You can follow it up to the big tower (see my page on things to do where I enclude photos of the view) and along the way are so many fine shops with all types of food, clothes, jewelry, crafts, and more.
Take a look at the photos I have included here to give you an idea of what foods are available. I am always fascinated by how different cultures make food, and how it is presented. For instance, the first photo is cakes made especially in the Bergamo area made of polenta. There were several shops selling these cakes.
I am also including a page on a shop run by two women who make rugs with their looms. Don't miss this shop as they will be happy to give you a demonstration. (If you take the elevator to the top of the tower, they will give you a ticket for a free gift from this shop--worth it....) Look for the page entitled rug craft making in my pages.
Directions: Main Steet, Bergamo Alto....follow the crowd off the funicula ride.
When you reach the main piazza of Bergamo Alto, look for the tower. There is an elevator inside. You have to pay a modest fee, or you can walk the stairs. The view of Bergamo Alto, then the castle, then the surrounding area of Bergamo with the villages on the hill sides, is so awesome. On a clear day you can see the beginning of the Alps to one side and the farmland with all its quaint villages on the other.
This is, to me the top choice of things to do in Bergamo. Don't miss it.
Here are some photos I took on a Sunday afternoon.
Directions: There is only one main street from the area where the funicula stops, you can't miss the direction.
Bergamo has two distinct parts - the lower more modern centre known as Bergamo Bassa and up on a rocky hill 1200 feet above the plains of Lombardy the medieval city of Bergamo Alta.
Up in this lively but easy going city with its wanderable lanes and fresh mountain air you will find one of Italy's loveliest city centres - with an interesting mixture of Neoclassical with medieval cobbled streets.
The Venetians ruled the town for over 350 years building its signature houses and palaces with fancy Gothic windows and adornment - along with its lion symbol of the republic.
The walls that surround the city managed to keep armies out until 1796 when the French Revolutionary troops successfully stormed the city and ended centuries of Venetian rule.
Be careful with your spelling! Pish can be a rude word in Scotland!
Of course you can take a pushcart, or pushchair with you. There are lots of parking places around the town. Try and park near the Lower funicular railway station. You can buy day tickets for buses and both the funicular railways, just make sure you stamp them when you get on the bus. (Please note that the lower funicular is being repaired, but should be completed by end May)
A suggested itinerary with a pushcart is take the funicular to the Citta Alta. The main street, which isn't very wide is in front of you and slightly to the right. Just walk up there sampling the gelati and all the delicious take away food on the way! (The cafe "Alba" on the left does the best hot chocolate ever. Good for kids and pushcarts as there's loads of space)There are no steps here, but the streets are cobbled so be careful. Keep on walking up hill on the main street and eventually you'll see an arch in front of you. walk through and the path bears to the right. Pass under the next arch and you're in Colle Aperto. There's a great cafe there! You'll see another arch on your left. Walk under it and there on your right is the upper funicular station (Borgo Canale)that will take you to San Vigilio. Once you're at San Vigilio there is a fantastic view, on a clear day! There are some rigorous descents down some steep steps,but there is also a gentle walk back to Borgo Canale, just bear left just past the upper funicular station, and keep going. On your walk back there are some great views. Repeat your journey down through Citta Alta to the funicular station and go back down to the bottom. You will have covered a lot of ground without any steps. There is also a great cafe in the Citta Alta station. Again great views from the terrace. If you're too tuckered out from your stroll down from San Vigilio, The number 1 bus at Colle Aperto will take you back to the lower town.
If you go to Bergamo, you really need to visit the Citta Alta. In my opinion, it was one of the only parts of the city worth going to see! If you are a church & museum sort of person, it is definately the place for you with some fantastic sights.
I took a wander up from the Ostello armed with my map and proceeded to get completely and utterly lost! As it was, I ended up at the Castle, which was good as I wanted to go there anyway! It is quite a walk, uphill all the way, and as it turns out you can actually take the 'Furnicular' which is a kind of railway. However, I would advise taking the time and effort to walk all the way up as the views on the way are amazing - you can see right out across the whole town! I followed the city walls for a part of the way taking plenty of photographs as I went...
I found the Citta Alta to be a bit of a maze (once I found my way back) but to see some of the architecture, it is well worth being stared at by italian schoolchildren as you pass by them for the 5th time! I didn't actually go into any of the buildings (which I now regret) as I wanted to do and see as much as possible while I was there. Sometimes not the best thing to do!
Address: Top of the Hill
Directions: I have no idea how to get there, I found it by accident. However Bus No 3 from Hostel does go up there.
You will see in pictures that I posted: View of Citta Alta. As the name implies, it is the upper city of Bergamo. This is one of the historical part of this town being surrounded with Venetial walls and old building architecture. This tourist attraction is not popular to tourist alone. It is also frequented by locals of Bergamo and people from its neighboring towns and cities. I arrived at Bergamo airport from Paris on a very smooth and short journey and took a bus right from the airport straight to Citta Alta. It was April 2, 2006 and being a Sunday, people from all over the world enjoy strolling at the grassy space behind the wall overlooking the lower city. In a few minutes, you will be going up the narrow and sometimes steep streets leading to the old square, Piazza Vecchia. From there, you will be spending time seeing for yourself the adjoining old city hall Palazzo della Ragione, Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and the Capella Colleoni.
You can go around Citta Alta on foot. It is rather amusing to see the details by doing so. I enjoyed it for sure but I had to leave. Coming back is not a question as I loved the place. Join me when I come back to Bergamo. I will be staying a little bit longer next time!
Address: Citta Alta, Bergamo, Italy
This church is neither the most famous nor the most important of the city, but its location is really wonderful, as it dominates the plain.
The church is dedicated to Santa Grata, almost unknown saint who somebody labels as the 'Princess of Bergamo', lived between 8th and 9th century.
Directions: It's in Via Borgo Canale, in the western side of Città Alta
Santa Grata was the daughter of a Roman convert, called Lupo, and hers was the pious task of gathering the spoils of the greatest martyr of Bergamo, Sant' Alessandro, patron saint of the city to whom today two churches are dedicated in Citta Bassa, replacing the most famous Alexandrine basilica which was destroyed by "guastatori" who worked to make way for the Venetian Walls.
According to the gentle legend, the Saint had found the body of Sant' Alessandro, whose drops of blood had caused pristine white lilies to bloom, and had buried him outside the city walls.
On the external wall of the monastery there is a fresco portrays the saint. Above the tympanum there is a sculpture by Giovanni Antonio Sanz.
Address: Via Arena
Directions: Citta Alta
When in Bergamo you must go to the upper city, Città Alta, in Italian.
This is a beautiful medieval city, full of amazing houses, piazzas and churches (like the one seen here).