The novel coronavirus induced total lockdown has caused a standstill on the Streets of Nuremberg. While technically I could take my camera out on the streets (walks of single persons are still permitted), morally I’d feel kind of guilty. And on top of it, with the totally deserted streets, what’s the point of doing street photography? And with travel all but impossible in the days of closed borders and cancelled flights, this is a good point in time to revisit some older travel photographs, and allow us to travel the world virtually via our blogs. This first post takes you to the city of Bergamo in Northern Italy, today the epicenter of the horrific corona pandemic in Italy.
Bergamo is located about 50km east of Milan and has a beautiful, medieval old town on a hill. Città Alta, with its medieval and Renaissance buildings, cobble stoned streets and surrounded by Venetian walls (since 2017 part of the Unesco world heritage list), is tightly clustered at the top of a rocky outcrop. The best way to get there is on the funicular. It is home to Bergamo Cathedral, the Romanesque Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and Grand Cappella Colleoni, a chapel with 18th century frescoes by Tiepolo.
The cable car ends in Piazza delle Scarpe, where the shoemakers’ guild once had its headquarters. Crossing the upper town on the “main street”, you reach Piazza Vecchia.
A remarkable and beautiful assembly of patrician houses and the Palazzo della Ragione, the city hall, frame this square at the heart of the old town. The 12th-century Palazzo della Ragione’s stone staircase and loggia of three Gothic arches (largely rebuilt in the mid-1500s) forms the piazza’s upper side, adjoining the tall tower, Torre del Comune.
The opposite side of Piazza Vecchia is bounded by the late-Renaissance Palazzo Nuovo, housing the municipal library. The center of the Piazza features the Contarini Fountain, decorated by Venetians lions. A café in the upper corner makes a good spot for appreciating the scene.
Through the archway at the top of Piazza Vecchia you reach the Piazza del Duomo. Here you find the splendid ensemble of Bergamo’s most impressive architectural treasures.
The church of Santa Maria Maggiore, begun in 1137 as a Romanesque basilica, has a stepped-back tower over the crossing and an ornate choir. Doorways at either side of the church are guarded by lions under beautiful Gothic canopies (1353 and 1360). Inside Santa Maria Maggiore you will find fine Renaissance choir stalls, splendid Baroque stucco work, 16th-century tapestries on the walls of the side-aisles and the tomb of world famous composer Gaetano Donizetti (Lucia di Lammermoor), a Bergamo native that is buried in this church.
Next to Santa Maria Maggiore is the Cappella Colleoni, in Renaissance style with a lavishly decorated facade of multicolored inlaid marble. Built 1470-76 to house the tomb of the condottiere Bartolomeo Colleoni and his daughter Medea, the chapel and the tombs inside were designed by Giovanni Amadeo. The ceiling paintings by Giambattista Tiepolo were added in 1732.
Opposite the chapel is the Cathedral of Bergamo, Sant’Alessandro. Built in 1459, a neoclassical facade and a dome were added in the late 19th century. Inside are paintings by Tiepolo, Previtali, and Moroni and beautiful Baroque choir-stalls.
Strolling through the narrow streets of Città Alta, you can find many more medieval churches and fountains and some beautiful views of the lower city.
From the Parks like the Parco della Rimembranza, you can enjoy splendid views of the red tiled roofs of the Città Alta and the Colline di Bergamo, the hills surrounding the city.
Beautiful Bergamo deserves better than to be the synonym of the epicenter of the novel coronavirus in Italy, and I can only encourage you to visit this city, once eventually things return to normal.We visited the city in 2004, when we were living in Genoa. Our hearts and prayers go out to the people of Italy that are so hard hit by the virus.
I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting these old photographs from a visit back when I was still photographing with the Minolta Dimage A1, back in the stone age of digital photography.
I hope you are all safe and, despite the current global crisis, don’t lose your creative spirits.
Wish you a great week!