A secret in Bergamo, Italy

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I have posted a few travel blogs about Bergamo, Italy – a gorgeous city in Northern Italy with a charming historical city center that sits above the city on a hill. Bergamo is certainly one of those places you can visit multiple times.

On my last two visits to the city of Bergamo, the citta alta, to be exact, I found a secret. Keep reading to find out what it is!

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When you visit Bergamo, you will inevitably see the Basilica S. Maria Maggiore which lies just behind the main piazza (or square). The Basilica also sits next to the Baptistry which is a must-see. On visiting the Basilica, you will admire the elaborate décor, marvel at the ceilings and sit to study the tapestries. Then, there is the secret which is actually the treasure of the Basilica. To the right of the apse there is a doorway to a spiral stairway that passes below 14th century frescoes and up to a small room filled with treasures of the Basilica from statues to tapestries to an ornate cross and more. The treasures are considered a mini museum of religious artifacts; however, I consider the stairway the secret treasure. I always admire frescoes, and seeing 14thcentury frescoes in good condition, is a bonus for art history buffs.

So how do you gain access the secret passage? There is a small visitor desk when you enter the Basilica which also acts as a mini store. Ask the attendant if you can buy a ticket (3 euros as of summer 2019) to see the treasure! After paying, the visitor guide will take you over to the door and allow you to ascend the secret stairway in the hidden apse. Enjoy the frescoes and admire the treasures.

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Now in case you missed the previous posts about Bergamo, see below for links.

Also you can see more photos of the city on my photography website here: Travel Photography of Bergamo, Italy by Monica Goslin

Enjoy!

 

Visiting Bergamo, Italy Part 2

Bergamo, Italy by Monica Goslin

Visiting Bergamo, Italy – Part Two: The Baptistry, Castle and Park, and how to get there

Bergamo, Italy is the epitome of a charming medieval town and modern city combined. Bergamo has a big city feel in the lower city where traffic is crazy; locals are having boisterous conversations with plenty of hand gestures, modern art exhibits and operas, and the general rush of big city life. While the upper city is a medieval maze of cobble stoned streets, charming cafes, grand piazzas and castle ruins.

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What to see and do in Bergamo, Italy – Part 2 (for more of what to see in Bergamo see part one).

The main tourist attraction is the upper city or “Citta alta” situated on a hill above the city.

* To see more photos of Bergamo, Italy click here.

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5 – The Baptistry – Next to the Chapel and the Basilica is a delicate, octagonal Baptistry from the 14th century. I have never been inside and I am not entirely sure if it is ever open to the public.

6 – Bergamo Cathedral – The Cathedral is white building catty-corner to the Basilica. The Cathedral of Bergamo is dedicated to the patron saint of the city – Saint Alexander. The current Cathedral dates back to the 17th century and the neo-classical façade is from the late 19th century. The interior is elegant but seems very toned down compared to the chapel and the Basilica.

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7 – Rocca – The Castle of Bergamo – The castle can be reached  by going up a steep narrow street to the right of cable car station (there is a small sign pointing to the castle but you will only see it if you are looking for it!). The main part of the castle is actually a public park so you can see a good deal of it for free! Plus make sure to walk around the entire park for panoramic views of both the upper and lower cities of Bergamo!

8 – Another Cable Car – If you walk to end of the “citta alta” you will find another cable card (through the old city gate and to the right) which takes you up to another small hill with more panoramic views of the city of Bergamo. You can also veto the cable car and simply walk up to the hill, which takes about 15 or 20 minutes.

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How to get to Bergamo’s “Citta alta”  – You can reach the medieval city by a cable car for just a few euros (best to by round trip ticket and there is no designated time on the ticket) or by foot. It is not advisable to drive up and into the upper city as parking is extremely limited and you would spend more time trying to find a spot then seeing the city.

How to get to Bergamo – The city of Bergamo is about an hour away from Milan by train or car. For train schedules and fares visit Rail Europe. Bergamo airport is right by the city as well, officially named Orio al Serio.

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* To see more photos of Bergamo, Italy click here.

Visiting Bergamo, Italy

Bergamo, Italy by Monica Goslin

Visiting Bergamo, Italy – Part One: Main Attractions

Bergamo, Italy is the epitome of a charming medieval town and modern city combined. Bergamo has a big city feel in the lower city where traffic is crazy; locals are having boisterous conversations with plenty of hand gestures, modern art exhibits and operas, and the general rush of big city life. While the upper city is a medieval maze of cobble stoned streets, charming cafes, grand piazzas and castle ruins.

* See more photos of Bergamo, Italy by clicking here. 

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What to see and do in Bergamo, Italy

The main tourist attraction is the upper city or “Citta alta” situated on a hill above the city.

1 – Piazza Vecchia – the old square is the where you will find the main attractions, details of each below. Just past the square is the Piazza Duomo where you will find the main sights which are two churches and a chapel, all representing different centuries, and collectively spanning 500 years!

2 – Palazzo della Ragione – Situated at the end of the old square, this small stone building is now an art museum. The atrium below the palazzo has an 18th century sundial that cuts a diagonal right through the atrium.

3 – Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore – The basilica is just past the old square and right next to the Capella Colleoni/Colleoni Chapel. The church was founded in the 12th century and was constructed well into the 13th and 14th centuries with restorations made in the 17th century. In fact, the Basilica rests on the site of what used to be a Roman temple and an 8th century church.

The church can be entered by the small door flanked by two lions. Above the doorway are the statues of Saints and the Madonna and Child. (There is another entrance to the church on the other side which is a bit less traveled by tourists, and that entrance is guarded by two white marble lions).

Inside the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore you will find tapestries from the 16th century, frescos, a wooden choir, bronze candelabras, a 14th century crucifix, and the tomb of the composer Gaetano Donizetti and his teacher Simone Mayr. Also note the fresco of The Last Supper from the 14th century by the entrance, the artist is unknown, but it is a lovely painting.

 

4 – The Colleoni Chapel has the geometric façade composed of pink and white marble. The Chapel was built in the late 15th century for Bartolomeo Colleoni, a member of an important family of the city and whose tomb is inside facing the entrance while a tomb and monument to his daughter Medea is on the left. The chapel is dedicated to the saints Mark, Bartholomew, and John the Baptist whose stories are depicted in the frescoes of the dome.

* Both the Chapel and the Basilica are free to enter.

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For more of what to see in Bergamo, Italy keep an eye out for part two of “Visiting Bergamo, Italy”