Thursday, 28 July 2016

Bergamo, Italy

I can hardly believe that I am really here!  This is a city I hadn't heard of six months ago, now, having been here all of four hours, I am in love with it! I have only explored a few blocks around my little studio apartment but no matter which way I wander I am charmed by my surroundings.  The photos are from my terrace, or the surrounding streets.  I write this, sitting on the terrace, the church bell has just sounded, and the wine and cheese is on the table by my side.

This really was a good idea!



Friday, 29 July 2016

Citta Alta, Bergamo

Today I went to explore the oldest, and highest, part of Bergamo. A 2 km walk and I was in sight of the old city.  There are a couple of ways to ascend, 700 steps, or a sweet little cable car known as Funiculars....the cable car ride was lovely!

This is truly a medieval, walled city, with narrow, winding cobblestone streets, a fabulous town square, with its 11th century bell tower, and the fantastic Maria Maggiore Basilica and Chapel Colleoni 1472-1477.

Needless to say, I took a LOT of pics. There was not a moment of my 3 hour visit that was not photo worthy...but I have edited substantially.

The first set of church pics are in the Basilica, and the second are The Church of St. Agatha, which originated in 1451, with additions in 1511, 1605, and 1724.

There is art from as early as 1490 and as late as 1849.  Hope you like the pictures!

Photos: July 28

Monday, 1 August 2016

Sunday was a good day to stay in and rest, as there were really wild thunderstorms all day.  Today, tho was lovely, a bit cooler, and I decided to walk up (and I do mean UP) Via Saint Alessandro. It is the original road leading from the old city to Milan.  It was a long steep climb, but well worth it for the sights along the way, and the views from the top.  Hope you enjoy the pictures !

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

On yesterday's walk, I passed The Monastery of San Benedetto, one of the suggested sights, but it was closed until the evening.  So...not having had enough of churches, I went back yesterday evening! The order was established in the 13th century, the church first built in 1522. I love the picture of the pilgrims cane leaning against the wall.  It was done in the 1700s by an artist named Orelli.  The church is very small, and beautiful, the other pics are of the attached cloister...where I am not sure I was supposed to be.. but I was not admonished by nuns, or run out of the church...of course the nuns were praying\chanting while I was there...The risks I run ...

Photos: August 01

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

So, yesterday, for a change of pace, I did not visit a church.  Instead,   I went to an art gallery, The Accademia Carrara, where I spent many enjoyable hours looking at spectacular art....most of which is religious based !  Hey, this is Italy, and history, the Catholic Church is omnipresent!  The gallery was founded in 1796 and holds about 600 paintings many of which date back to the 1400s. It is amazing how well preserved they are, and how vibrant the colours. I found the Tarot Cards interesting and took a picture of the info about them.  I know it’s quite dark. I was surprised pictures were allowed at all, but flashes were not.

Some of the last pictures I saw were portraits by a Bergamo artist, Fra Galgario from the mid 1700s. I really liked Giovanni Suardo and his servant.

Today I have been enjoying the sunshine on the terrace. I went out in search of a fruit/veg place and found a wonderful one, and on the way discovered another church!  I just can’t seem to stop...Hope you enjoy the pictures of the pictures!

Photos: August 02

Friday, 5 August 2016

Thursday was a very busy day.  I was in the upper, old city by 9:30 (by cable car this time, not walking/climbing!) And my first stop was the library. The original building was started in the mid 1400s. It houses scrolls and illuminated codices...which are not on display, but I did see some really interesting maps and globes from the mid 1500s. They are surprisingly accurate, but what I enjoyed the most were the drawings on them...camels, elephants, and a unicorn, sea monsters, dragons, and other ships!   The library, map room and the ceilings were fabulous...I have posted pictures..

I then went to The Museum and the Treasure of the Cathedral.  This is basically an archeological dig under the existing cathedral, where they have found Roman artifacts going back to the 5th century.  It was incredible...part of a Roman road, swords, spurs, coins, rings, shoes large intact, in situ frescoes, tombs and spectacular gold and silver religious artifacts. They have established the presence of two former churches, and the continual occupation of the site from the 6th to 13th century.  I was not allowed to take pictures, which made me very sad.

Then on to...guess what? Another church...where that is where they keep all the good stuff...The current Cathedral which was completed in the late 1600s ..lots of pics..

After lunch I visited the former Convent of San Francesco built 12th century.    The only part you can tour now is the cloisters as the rest of the building is now offices for the historical society.  If you see in the pictures some large masonry seemingly just piled up, that’s because it is tuff that’s been dug up and they are storing ‘til they figure out what to do with it !  It was quite a lovely place and I was the only person there...which was true of the library, and the Treasure of the Cathedral (with one exception).  The frescoes were in good condition, altho they may not be as old as the original convent.

As I returned to the main square, I caught the tail end of a tour guide explaining the sundial inthe square.  I have posted some pictures.  It does not look like my idea of a sundial, but is beautiful, and according to the guide, very accurate.

Today was, by necessity, a quite one, as it poured rain all day, but tomorrow is forecast to be bright, so Im off to the old city again....lots more to see and do!

Photos: August 03
Photos: August 05

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Saturday was, as predicted a perfectly lovely day.  I visited The Venetian Musem, which starts with a wonderful view of the archeological dig that has been going on there.  I must amend my previous post, where I indicated that they had finds going back to the 5th century...that should have read the 5th century BC!  I have photographed some of the storyboards and the dig...if anyone has a deeper interest, I have much more...which I sent to Veronica.. Just send me a note if you would like me to forward it to you.

There was also an extensive display of maps, some of which   I have included. I loved the room in which they were displayed, the way it was done...and the frescoes! I also found the map of the siege of Malta interesting.  It is both a map, and a pictorial record of the war with the Ottoman Empire.

As I was heading off to my next destination I was distracted by a sign for a theatre, with upcoming films by Woody Allen and Baz Luhrman.  As you will see in the pics the " Theatre" is in the Cloister of a Carmelite Monastery of 1357 !  I wonder if Woody Allen knows ? I think this really has to be on my agenda !

My next, and final destination of the day was the Rocca Fortress.. but I would prefer to call it a castle.  There are a number of sights that I have come across in Bergamo that really make me laugh out loud in delight, and this was one of them.   It is, in part i think, the narrow, curving streets...things just seem to appear unexpectedly.  To come around the curve, and see that huge tower, with the flag fluttering was magical...and NOT in a Disney way! The castle was begun in 1331, the tower completed in the 1400s.  The walk around it was  simply a joy.  Hope the pictures do it some sort of justice.  I love this place!!

Monday, 8 August 2016

A beautiful day at The Bergamo Museum of Modern Art !  Small but interesting. Here are some pictures...

Photos: August 07

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

I have a guidebook that suggests different walks around Bergamo.  Most of them lead from the lower to the upper city.  The one I chose yesterday took me up a stairway, which is described as shaded and cool.  It and I may have been cool at the beginning, but after a steep pathway to the steps, and 188 steps, I was certainly not cool! It is a beautiful walk, and, of course at the end of it you are at Citta Alta with its breathtaking views...assuming you have any breath left to take !  My mission yesterday was to walk at least part way around the old city walls.  There are 6.5 km. surrounding the medieval city.  I walked about half of it yesterday as well as doing some sight seeing.  I also enjoyed a splendid lunch of meat filled tortellini with bacon and sage, accompanied by the tastiest olive oil to use as a dip for your bread.  With a glass of local red wine, it was a feast!  There are pictures....

Photos: August 09

Friday, 12 August 2016

Having walked now, a number of times from lower Bergamo to Citta Alta I might have been persuaded that above that was only sky....but I would be mistaken.  There is a second funicular that runs up from Citta Alta to the village of San Vigilio which is 621 meters above the old city. has a castle !  I love castles, even if there is not a great deal of them left standing.  This one, built in 1166 and expanded in1335 has one remaining tower which you can climb.  There is a narrow stone staircase, slits from which to shoot arrows (difficult to photograph as the light comes thru), a big round room half way up, and a number of spectacular views when you reach the top. I its day it was also connected to the old city by a secret underground passage. Unfortunately, no longer safe to explore.

What would a day in Italy be without visiting a church ? The Church of San Vigilio was built at the beginning of the 8th century with renovations being carried out in 1512. It was not open during the time that I was there, but I did take pictures of the doors, which I thought were extraordinary. I will plan to revisit when the church is open...with doors like that...

I went off to find lunch.  The food was great, and the view from my table, incredible.

What a fabulous place this is!

Photos: August 11
Photos: August 14

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

I had some difficulty with my Wifi, which thankfully has been resolved, but I am now a few days, back to last Sat., when my plan was to walk the other half of the old city walls.  On my way from the funicular station to the wall I noticed a very modest looking church tucked away on a side street. I almost passed it by, as I really have seen a LOT of churches recently.  I am so thankful I didn’t.  The Church of St. Michele Al Pozzo Bianco was built in 774, probably over a pagan temple dedicated to the god Vulcan (live long and prosper...sorry !) The walls are covered with frescoes, many dating from the early 1200s. They weren’t cover by glass, or roped off, many were at eye level. .you could actually touch them.  They are stunning to see.  The colours still so rich and vibrant. .words really, I took lots, and lots of pictures.  I was able to take close-ups of faces etc.  The frescoes on either side of the alter are more recent, done in 1525 by Lorenzzo Lotto.  I also visited the crypt, which was dark and more than a bit spooky, but holds some more fabulous frescoes.  If you enjoy these pictures half as much as I enjoyed being able to be there, you will love them !

I was in the church for about 2 hours and during that time there was only one other visitor. I have not seen this church in any of the guidebooks...I was so lucky to have stumbled across it.

I did eventually find my way to the walls, and make my way around the 3 or so kms that I had not yet walked.  There are pics of one of the other city gates, Porta Lorenzo, which was one of the earliest to be built. The story board states that 23 churches were destroyed when the walls were built, as they were on the direct route of the planned walls. Now, think about this....this is a city that can be enclosed by 6.5 kms of walls.  They only destroyed the churches that were directly in the way (23), so, how many churches might there have been in the city altogether ?? The city closed this gate in the early 1600s, much to the chagrin of the people who lived close by.  In 1625 they paid 4000 gold ducats to have the gate re-opened.  Anybody know how much a gold ducat is worth ?  I love these stories.

I'm skipping ahead a bit, but had to share my experience last night. .... watching a movie,  Woody Allen s  A Midnight Sex Comedy in a 13th century cloister.   It was fabulous!  I’m not a huge fan of his but it was really funny and what a setting!

Photos: August 17
Photos: August 18


Friday, 19 August 2016

OK, so enough of the time travel. Back to the sequence of events and Sat Aug 14th. One of my guidebooks mentions the Matris Domini Monastery Museum, which is open for 2 hours on Sat afternoon, and 2 hours Sun morning.  When I arrived Sun morning the museum appeared to be closed.  As I was leaving, a couple were ringing the bell for the monastery and I asked them if they knew about the museum.  When the nun came to answer their ring, they kindly made inquiries on my behalf.  The nun, drawing a cell phone from her robes/pocket...Un me. .a few minutes later we were joined by another nun, who was to become...." The nun that I love...ou, ou, ou, hey, the nun that I love..  (sorry .   This lovely, kind, generous, knowledgeable, English-speaking, , woman gave me a private guided tour of the museum which contains an extensive collection of frescoes dating mostly from the 13th century.  This was an extraordinary experience, and all due to her generosity.  She walked me thru every work of art and gave me background and context.  There is a wonderful frescoe of the last supper, and she told me that the one being offered\accepting bread is Judas and Jesus was to know his betrayer by that act.  Then there is a fresco of the Day of Judgment...the look of terror on the people’s faces, and she pointed out the fashion and richness of their clothes, down to the sleeves on the dress of the first woman.  There is a fresco of Mary and Joseph asking after Jesus in Jerusalem, where they look very worried (with good reason), and a kindly St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.  I would have been thrilled to see these works at all, but to see them with such a guide was incredible.  There are a few photos of stained glass also from the 13th century. Believe me, the pictures do not do them justice.  The colours are very strong.  They were done by a German artisan, whose name is unknown.   One of the final frescoes is of St. Rocco and his wife offering up their 2 daughters to the church, thru St. Dominic.  It is later, 15th century I think. St. Rocco is really big here.  He was French, but apparently travelled thru much of northern Italy and cured the plague by touching people.  You can recognise him by either the sore on his thigh, or the fact that one of his stockings is down....see the things I learn !!

The last set of pictures are of the ceiling tiles...they look like they were fired yesterday. .bright reds, blues and yellows...I love the one of the really looks like a contemporary child’s picture.

So, my heartfelt thanks to the sister who gave me such a wonderful experience. I think that she recognized how much I appreciated the art and was blissfully unaware of my atheist status....which in case you are wondering has not changed.

I happily made a donation, did not mention that it was the Dominicans who started the Inquisition, and went on my way.   The quality of the pictures is a bit sketchy, but I felt I had taken so much of her time that I was a bit hurried.  Hope you enjoy them, and are suitably scared by Lucifer !!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Bergamo Museum of Archeology. I have been rather saving this, and it was worth the wait.  The oldest finds here are from the 5th and 6th century B.C.  Please note that AC here means BC to us.  There are wonderful tomb finds, jewelry, pots, and coins.  That was the first room.

The second room was tombstones from the Roman 1st to 4th century.  I tried to get pictures of the explanations of what is on the tombs.  There is one of a soldier whose duty it was to guard the weapons, one of a "freeman" who made the tombstone for he and his wife, and one of 2 brothers. one of whom was known as  the bald. but is shown with curly hair T

The next gallery is of the Roman Town... wonderful Roman statues (many headless...but what can you do?), some fabulous frescoes (please note the bowl of figs, and the birds), A plaque that confirms there were Roman baths here, as the plaque commemorates the citizen who donated the money for the baths and the canal system, The heads of bulls that were part of the arena, and an almost complete mosaic floor.  There are pictures...

Friday, 26 August 2016

This has been a week of entertainment.   On Monday evening, I was looking forward to attending a performance of Verdi's Aida in the 12th century town square of the old city. Unfortunately, when I arrived it was sold out.   I had the impression that it had been sold out some time ago, as I only saw people picking up their tickets.  But, as I said it was an outdoor performance, so I sat in one of the outdoor cafés that border the square and had dinner.   I couldn't see the performance, but I did get to hear it. So, it was Verdi and salami, Verdi and ravioli, and Verdi and rabbit.   As Glen noted, Verdi goes with everything!

My other choice on Monday was George Cukor's 1939 movie The Women, with Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford.  It was showing at the lovely venue of the Cloisters,  but I really dislike that movie !! I did get to see another movie in that spectacular setting though, as I went last night to see the 1969 film,  Women in Love, based on the D. H. Lawrence not a cheery rom-com!   But a very enjoyable evening all the same.

Photos: July 28: Bergamo
Photos: July 29: Bergamo
Photos: August 01: Bergamo
Photos: August 02: Bergamo
Photos: August 03: Bergamo
Photos: August 05: Bergamo
Photos: August 07: Bergamo
Photos: August 09: Bergamo
Photos: August 11: Bergamo
Photos: August 14: Bergamo
Photos: August 17: Bergamo
Photos: August 18: Bergamo
Photos: August 26: Bergamo