Do you drink St. Pellegrino water at restaurants? Did you ever asked yourself where the water is coming from? Well, San Pellegrino is a little town in the foothills of the Bergamo Alps.
Bèrghem is the Bergamasque dialect for Bergamo and the name seems to come from the German word ‘Bergheim’, which means hill-town. It’s a city only 40 km/25 mi from Milan and 30 km/ 19 mi from Switzerland at the foothills of the Alps.
A little bit about history: Already the ancient Cenomani, a Celtic tribe, founded the settlement. Then the Romans came and made it part of their reign. As a Roman municipality it had around 10.000 inhabitants, very big for that time (today it has 10 times more). 500 years after Attila destroyed the city because it was an important hub between Friul and Raetia.
Later in the Middle Ages it became the seat of the first Lombard duke named Wallaris.
From the 11th century Bergamo was an independent commune, but part of the Lombard League.
When in the 13th century two of the Guelph and the Ghibelline sympathizing families had conflicts between each other, a third family, the Tasso, was forced to leave its land to escape feuding. But Amadeo Tasso came back years later and organized the city’s couriers. Later the family became known as the Princely House of Thurn and Taxis. They are known to be the first modern postal service.
In 1264 Bergamo came under the rule of Milan. And today many know the city because of the airport that is used as ‘cheaper airport for Milan’.
The city itself today has two parts: the upper city ‘Città Alta’ and the lower city ‘Città Bassa’. The first is the historic core, the lower city the modern, financial center. Both parts are connected with the funicular.
The modern city part is connected to many Italian cities and the highway from Venice to Milan passes here.
The old city, or Città Alta, has all that tourists want. It is surrounded by Venetian walls. The many narrow streets are so typical for the Medieval era and very picturesque. Little shops and restaurants everywhere, in the summertime tables are outside in the street themselves.
At the Piazza Vecchia there is the Palazzo della Ragione. Opposite there is the Palazzo Nuovo, today a library, on the sides there is the Palazzo della Podestà and the belfry, the Torre Civica with a beautiful stairway.
A little behind there are some churches and a mausoleum in the Piazza Duomo. Of course there is the Cathedral of Bergamo, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, the baptistery ‘Tempietto di S. Croce’ and the Colleoni Chapel.
To all of these beautiful monuments we had a short visit. People everywhere, almost overcrowded, but still we could soak in the beauty of the architecture, the decorations and art of ancient times. And again I thought how sad it is that there is no beauty anymore in modern architecture and structures.
In the end we also had a walk to the San Virgil Castle, the Castello di San Virgilio. This is an old structure for defense which maybe has had a watch-tower during the Roman era. But only in 1166 the first fortification was built here. Today it is abandoned and more of a park with a really amazing view of the town(s), the flat surrounding land to the south and the high Alps to the north.
We enjoyed our day-trip to Bergamo and hope to be back again for another one.
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