Special Places in Italy

Special Places in Italy “Bergamo”

As the rain falls upon the Alps in Italy, the water takes a delicious journey of 30 years to reach it’s destination, Bergamo. This is where the natural mineral water, San Pellegrino, in it’s eventual green bottle and red star, arrives.  I watched the 2017 Giro d’Italia bicycle race (in Italian, so I understood thirty percent of what was said) and I heard the words, “Città Alta” and I was suddenly brought back to my experience in Bergamo in 2013 with the Italian Studies program at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley.  A major benefit of this program is that English speaking guides, who are experts in the geography, history, architecture, culture, and cuisine of a given place, are provided as part of the educational experience.

I remembered the guide taught us that Bergamo has a Città Alta (Upper Town), built up on the hills, and the Città Bassa (lower town).  The guide showed us the proof that this was a Roman town – as the streets Via Gombito and Via Colleoni follow the the route of the ancient decumanus (the east-west oriented road).  The Romans originally built the walls and then, when under Venetian control, the city was majorly renovated – higher walls (as this was the western-most Venetian held territory and it needed more protection because the rival from Milan was so close), redirection of the palace Palazzo della Ragione away from Piazza Vecchia (which has no church, very unusual for a main piazza!), and the infusion of Venetian symbols which include a chapel of a Bergamo-born mercenary or condottiero, Bartolomeo Colleoni.  He was a soldier of fortune, often employed by the Venetian republic (but sometimes employed by Milan). 


His Renaissance style chapel is attached to S. Maria Maggiore basilica and his tomb is inside (with the light of the sun coming through the window to illuminate his tomb).  His surname comes from an anatomical defect, three testicles.  It is part of the family crest, and legend has it (according to our guide) you touch them on the crest for good luck.



Città Bassa (lower town) is where the windows (and shops) were attractive and interesting.  Polenta is of this region (Bergamo has fields around it – perfect for growing corn).  Polenta e Osei, is a speciality of Bergamo.  It is a cake that looks like polenta with a bird (osei) on top.

–Jeanne Florini



This section of La Rondine will feature special places in Italy shared by ICSTL members.  A wealth of insights exists within our membership to enrich each other’s travels.


Write to ciao@italianclubstl.com with your favorite spot, a photo if you like, and the information about why you love the place, a specific spot within a place, a place to stay, a place to dine…you get the idea.

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