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Bergamo (Lombardia)

 

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The Capella Colleoni - memorial chapel for Condottiere Bartolomeo Colleoni (1400 - 1475 (75)), Bergamo's most famous son  (unless you are a fan of the composer Donizetti or Pope John XXIII). 

 

You may have heard of Colleoni's name because of the famous equestrian statue of him by Andrea del Verrocchio outside SS Zanipolo in Venice

 

As the chapel is the main (indeed only) reason a lot of people go to Bergamo, a good crowd is common and photographs are not allowed in the horizontally restricted space inside.  The glorious (and more interesting) facade can of course be photographed as much as you like!

 

In fact there are several other good reasons to go to Bergamo, two of which are illustrated below.  It will get even better later in the decade when the major building work in the centre of the old town is finished, particularly as Bergamo was one of the few Italian towns to escape the bombs of the USAAF in the Second World War.

 

Old Bergamo is on a high hill and ringed by walls with by a number of massive old gateway arches.  You can either follow the masses, park at the bottom of the hill and ride up in the funicular,  or follow Dom P and drive up and around the old town to the base of the second funicular (Funicolare San Vigilio),  where there is a parking area whose custodian used to be a chef in a Sydney hotel!  From here it's a pleasant six minute walk through the outer square and down the old main drag to the town centre.

 

 

 

A panel of the most beautiful intarsia (wood mosaic) work we've seen in Italy, specially unlocked for Mr P in the choir of the large, tapestry lined and friendly feeling Santa Maria Maggiore.  One of a cycle of bible stories designed by Lorenzo Lotto and made by Capoferri, Lotto and others in the 1520s and 30s.   Intarsia was a very skilled craft practiced in a very limited number of places in Italy in the later Renaissance.  If you are in southern Tuscany, the place for a spot of fine intarsia is Monte Oliveto, and the other outstanding example is Duke Federico's study in Urbino (a twin studiolo in Gubbio somehow shamefully found its way to America).

 

Below - a jumble of frescos, including a last supper, on the basilica's north wall.

 

The nave of the mighty Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (above) is from a different world to the nave of the old monastery church of San Michele al Pozzo Bianco (below), which, like most churches in Europe,  used to be completely covered in wall paintings.

Some of the restored fresco fragments in  San Michele al Pozzo Bianco

 

The lightening conductor above right is on top of the Duomo which in 2005 was closed for major restoration work.  In July 2005 there was a fascinating exhibition in the old Franciscan monastery of photos of Alpini partisans towards the end of WW II. 

 

In WWI the regular Alpini units had 88 battalions and 66 mountain artillery groups - 240,000 men of whom 43,181 had been killed or were missing by the end of the war.

 

And Bergamo Alto, high in the cold air of the alpine foothills, is also a town of interesting chimneys!

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