Alternative sightseeing in Bergamo 3
A guide to the city's hidden spots
Here we are with the third instalment of this special guide to the most fascinating spots in Bergamo: I will be telling you four stories about enchanting places in my city, all perfect for exploring among the changing colours of autumn.
Not sure what I'm talking about? Then I would advise that you immediately catch up on the previous instalments but let me quickly explain what this is.
Alternative Bergamo is a special feature inspired by my passion for seeking out unusual places to visit when I travel. Somewhere off the beaten track, whether a panoramic view, a hidden work of art or a historic home that makes me go "WOW"!
I decided to share some similar spots with visitors to my own city. You might have lived in Bergamo all your life or just be spending a weekend here, all you need is the Bergamo City Kiwi map, comfortable shoes and eager eyes, ready to admire all the charm that Bergamo has to offer!
If you take the funicular up to the upper city, it is just a few steps along the Corsarola to one of the most fascinating squares in this hill city.
As well as the Church from which it takes its name and the fountain of the same name, Piazza S. Pancrazio is also home to a tower house, which has been the Agnello d'Oro Hotel-Restaurant since the Sixties.
Notice how the windows and their iron balconettes get smaller, the higher they go? This optical effect makes the high tower look even higher!
The restaurant is now closed for restoration but trust me when I say that the interior of that historic location, covered with odds and ends, is quite unforgettable. Not to mention Pino Capozzi’s famous risottos, which include the delicious Risotto alla Bergamasca with sausage, taleggio cheese and Valcalepio wine... Oh dear, I’ve made myself hungry!
THE BEST TERRACE ALONG THE WALLS
Hands up who likes to take a walk along the walls of the Upper Town when feeling stressed, tired, or simply in need of open spaces and a wonderful view? I certainly do!
The walls have not always been popular with local residents, in fact they have a troubled history. So much so that when they were built they left indelible and painful traces in our city; yet our perspective has changed over time and today we love them more than ever.
There is one particular spot that is very close to my heart, a special portion of wall, rarely visited despite being immediately after Porta S. Agostino: I'm talking about the terrace of S. Michele, which offers an incredible view of Borgo Pignolo from above, making you feel for a moment that you might just take flight!
THE MONASTERY OF SANTA GRATA
The road we’re looking for is rather tucked away. A long white wall runs alongside a narrow roadway. Cars rarely pass here. This is Via Arena and that high wall surrounds one of Bergamo’s sacred jewels: the Monastery of Santa Grata, still active today.
A large garden lies beyond the walls and a small church that resembles a golden casket holds the remains of Saint Grata, who recovered the head of Saint Alexander and buried him. Rich in golden decorations and stuccoes, it is almost a miniature version of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.
There was a time when the nuns of this monastery were responsible for producing the sacramental bread for every church in the Diocese: it is said that local children would leave a penny in a wheel, the only connection the nuns had with the outside world at the time, in exchange for the cut-offs from the sacramental bread, as precious as sweets at the time!
THE LOTTO FRESCOES
We know that Bergamo is bursting with hidden works of art. But this is one that never fails to move me. Head down towards Porta S. Agostino from Via Porta Dipinta and, when you reach a sort of small square on a small hill, enter the Church of S. Michele al Pozzo Bianco. Aim for the chapel to the left of the altar and you will find a cycle of frescoes by Venetian artist Lorenzo Lotto!
The frescoes depict various episodes from the life of Mary: her birth in a room that could easily have belonged to a sixteenth-century family, her climb up to the Temple and her meeting with Elizabeth.
Look carefully and you’ll see that a maid wraps little baby Mary in the same delicate cream cloak with golden stripes that she is then wearing when she marries Joseph and is once more wrapped around her shoulders when, pregnant, she greets her cousin Elizabeth with a hug. A touch of magic, so typical of Lotto!
WHO AM I?
My name is Nadia and I am a Bergamo City Guide. I like to call myself a guide for travellers rather than a tourist guide because I think that travellers have more respect for the places they visit, they tiptoe around the cities they visit and are curious and passionate about travel!
Find me online (Facebook e Instagram) as LA MARGÌ, it’s the name of a famous Bergamasco card game that I used to play with my granny (she always cheated!).
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