Bergamo, Lombardy, Italy

We headed southeast from Lake Como to the impressive city of Bergamo in Lombardy. The city includes the modern area and the old, fortified citadel atop the hill. I’d read that Bergamo was often overlooked by visitors but was an undiscovered gem of art and architecture.

After our two-hour drive from Nesso, we parked in an underground garage in the modern part of the city and hiked to the funicular to carry us up past the medieval defensive walls. This was the second incline train we’d encountered in Italy (the first was in Como).

Once at the top of the hill and inside the walls, we were transported back to the Middle Ages. Very little of modern life intrudes and it’s easy to envision what it might have been like living and working here 500 years ago.

The lion of Saint Mark once again graced the piazza signifying Bergamo as a western outpost of the Venetian empire.

The core of Bergamo was filled with intricate basilicas and cappellas. The exteriors featured extensive carvings and sculptures.

I was especially impressed with the three-dimensional effect on the facades created by the careful geometry of the varied hues of marble.

Inside, every inch was layered with ornate detail. Gazing up at the rich swirl of biblical history, your eyes can barely take it all in.

The church was performing restoration work on a massive painting and had brought it down to floor level for visitors to appreciate the scale and detail. It was an unusual scene depicting the moment the biblical flood receded and the survivors of Noah’s ark emerged to a cleansed world.

Of course I had to climb the campanile (bell tower) to take in the views above Bergamo. The three bells atop the tower were cast in the 1600s. Natually, I was up there a little before 3 p.m. and enjoyed the clanging from up close at the top of the hour. My ears will be ringing for a few days.

The massive works of art and architecture are incredibly impressive but I enjoy discovering smaller carvings hidden throughout the city. To me, these represent the personal vision of a single craftsman from hundreds of years ago. It humanizes the experience for me.

Old Bergamo represented the essence of Renaissance Italian history in its stone walls and dark, narrow streets.

Enlightenment was evident around you. Here, a round sculpture of the sun allowed a pinpoint of light to shine on the ground below. The marble embedded in the street was carved with names of the months and the point of sunlight tracked its path across the calendar throughout the year.

Ancient Bergamo came alive as we were impromptu guests to an Italian wedding. The bride pulled up in a black Audi convertible decked with bouquets of flowers.

Family and priest entered the church while visitors watched smiling in lines on either side of the bride. Her father took her in his arm and they strode inside as the pipe organs thundered.

Back down in modern Bergamo, we came across another example of architecture from the Fascist era in Italy. The Poste e Telegrafi building was planned in 1929 by Angiolo Mazzoni and completed in 1932. Mussolini’s government embarked on a building program based on modern architecture to encourage the Italian people to associate Fascism with progress.

Back in Nesso, we stopped to investigate another monument to Italy’s past. This was more personal …and painful. From what I could tell, it was originally a memorial to the men from Nesso killed in World War I with the years 1915–1918 marked. Sometime after World War II, the years 1940–1945 were added to the bottom.

It was a full day of Italian history and Italian traffic on a Friday afternoon. We’re ready to relax and get a good night’s sleep. Buona sera!

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I prefer to travel slow. Enjoy history, design, architecture, cars, sports digital. Auburn alum, Sooner born.

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Jason R. Matheson

I prefer to travel slow. Enjoy history, design, architecture, cars, sports digital. Auburn alum, Sooner born.