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15 May 2020 - Day 34 – Bergamo

Shared bathroom. I forgot to include that in yesterday’s post. So I had to pull out the flip flops I carry for these instances, and find the PJs to wear when I need to walk down the hall in the dead of night to pee. In the morning, bring a towel and grab a closet to shower in. It will happen again, so I don’t let it bug me. Back to the room to finish getting dressed and down a level to have breakfast.

Trays are set on tables with the basics for breakfast – the hardware of cups, glasses, bowls and “silverware”. There’s a counter with a slight buffet arrangement, and some cereal. Nothing much appeals to me, so I just head back upstairs, brush my teeth (I do have a sink and a bidet) and grab my gear while wearing the parka. (Occasional showers were predicted.) Back down to the street, and I’m heading to Largo Porta Nuova, an address about 5 minutes away for a 10am rendezvous. My second GuruWalk guide, Agnish would be meeting me for a 2½ hour walking tour that covered quite a bit of Bergamo. His rough plan would take me up beyond the Cittá Alta and then practically to the airport.

Arriving a bit early, it really wasn’t too hard to spot Agnish – I’d guessed he was of (subcontinent) Indian heritage, and the young grad student arrived just after me. He’s studying tourism, has been Bergamo for 2 years, and comes from Kerala. Mid-twenties, unmarried, gregarious. We got the introductions out of the way, and then talked about the tour. Reviewing the sites on Agnish’s page at GuruWalk, I knew we could probably skip the final stop, the Orio al Serio Mall. That would cut 3km out of the walk. I described what Matteo and I had done, and Agnish felt he could add some to what we’d seen, and perhaps embellish it.

First on his itinerary was the #Bergamo fashion district along Via XX Settembre. A pedestrian street, small shops were interspersed with major brands like Zara. He’s not a clothes horse (dressed in old jeans, a faded polo under a black bomber jacket) nor am I, I suspect his main reasons for being here (other than tourist who shop) is the cozy coffee shops and people watching. We strolled along, Agnish relating how fashion is important to Bergamo, and tried to get me into a Starbucks for a coffee. I insisted in a local shop, as we should support the local economy.

Leaving the café behind with each of us holding a paper cup of coffee, we headed towards the upper city. Via Sant’Alessandro took us by Basilica di Sant’Alessandro in Colonna, which we entered to view the veined marble columns that line the nave as well as frescos and paintings on the walls. It turns out Agnish is Catholic, as he observed the rote venerations. That gave us one more thing to discuss on our walk. Next door was a former church and hospital which is now a public gallery with art displays.

Leaving behind the commercial storefronts, we walked past several courthouses before coming to the Monastero di San Benedetto on the corner. A squarish building in a pale orange stucco, the exterior belies the opulence and ornamentation within. Gated side altars resplendent with paintings, statues and sacred treasures line the side walls under a splendid fresco in the dome overhead. Still an active monastery, even the main sanctuary is gated off.

We continued walking up the street, while I learned more about Lombardy and its history. When we came to the corner with a former church (Ex-chiesa di San Carlo dei Mendicanti),we turned into a short street that then became an alley which wended its way through a residential area and a stretch of woods before rejoining the climbing street which brought us over a viaduct to the Porta San Giacomo.

Entering into the Upper City, I again walked by the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and the cathedral. Agnish pointed out the Fontanone Visconteo, one of 16 surviving medieval fountains to supply water to the occupants of the city, particularly when under siege.

Passing the campanile, we headed down a narrow street with many restaurants as we crossed the old city towards the Punto Panoramico.

Turning, we passed through the Porta Sant’Alesandro and rode the Funicolare San Vigilio to the highest points. Getting off the inclined railway, we headed to the Rocca di Bergamo, a fortress, memorial and museum - Museo Storico dell'Ottocento.

We walked the battements and I heard about the various defenses during the nineteenth century. We chose to walk down along the narrow, cobbled street so that I would be able to view from the Belvedere.

Vistas of farming coupled with the urban all were laid out below.

After leaving San Vigilio through the gate, we slowly descended past the Panoramico and Carmelite Monastery I’d seen yesterday, to pass another fountain, Fontana del Lantro.

Entering the building, we could see the columns built to support the street and buildings above the vast collecting basin of water. Following Via della Fara, we passed through or by a few parks, coming to St Augustine’s Monastery, which I’d visited with Matteo. We left the Cittá Alta, descending along the Via Pignolo through a residential area as we headed to the Palazzo Agliardi and the Church of St Alexander of the Cross.

The parish church, Sant'Alessandro della Croce, was lovely but empty this Friday midday, and the palace gates were locked.

Walking between the Museo Diocesano Adriano Bernareggi (diocesan museum) and the Palazzo Bonomi ex Pezzoli, the museum with its religiously marked columns was closed for lunch, while the yellow walls of the palace revealed its reuse as apartment flats. At the church on the corner we turned downhill on Via Giuseppe Verdi as we reentered the commercial district. Agnish took me into a small park, Parco Caprotti.

We sat on a bench overlooking a pond with swimming waterfowl and concluded the tour. He understood my lack of interest in going to the mall, and was excited for me about my trip ahead. He was heading off to class, so wouldn’t join me for lunch.

After lunch, I planned to visit the Accademia Carrera Museum. There was an exhibition, “Tiziano e Caravaggio in Peterzano” which closes this weekend, and I had a prepaid ticket. So between the garden and the museum I would find a place to eat. Agnish had told me of a small restaurant run by the two Benigni brothers up near the two art museums, so I set out for Ambulatorio Gastronomico.

Yes, it’s small, but there was a table for me. Not wanting a huge meal, I had a small starter, a piece of freshly made whole-grain bread, toasted, with red pepper, basil and an anchovy.

For my main I opted for Risotto acquerello e gambero rosso de Mazara. The brothers maintain an eclectic wine list, with several local wines by the glass, so I just said a glass of white, and never even asked. Terrific experience, wonderful food, I was tempted to book for the evening, but they were complete – I overheard Paolo on the phone turning down about a half dozen callers. Boy, did I luck out with lunch.

Out the door, around the corner a block, and I was at the Accademia Carrara Museum. This the Fine Arts Museum; the GAMeC – Galleria D’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, is just up the street from the restaurant. But I was here for their special exhibition. To clip from their catalog:

The latest major exhibition event at the Accademia Carrara is another world first.

A pupil of Titian and the master of Caravaggio, Simone Peterzano was a crucial figure in the art of the Renaissance.

In his painting we find Venetian colours and the down-to-earth naturalistic tradition of Lombardy. A legacy that appears overwhelmingly in the work of Caravaggio.

In an exhibition with a wealth of masterpieces by Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and Caravaggio, the rediscovery of Peterzano’s work is shown in the setting it deserves – among the greatest names in the history of Italian art.

Gathering and exhibiting the works of Simone Peterzano side by side with Caravaggio, Vecellio, Tintoretto, Campi and his peers of the later sixteenth century Italy, was eye opening. I wasn’t aware of his work, but walking through the galleries gave me an appreciation for all these artists. To view the announcement, visit this site:

I had entered at 3, and left a bit after 5. I did visit a few galleries after trying to absorb the exhibition. The sky was lightening as I left, slowly walking down the gentle slope. At the corner I turned so I could pass the GAMeC, although time didn’t really allow me to view, and besides, I was saturated. At the next corner I turned downhill and soon passed the Parco Suardi. Fairly large suburban park, it has manicured lawns, lots of trees, a few fountains and an oval racing track for children in mini-vehicles to zoom around. Adults and kids, along with their dogs, were drifting into the park as I walked past.

At the next corner was an old tower, Torre del Galgario. It used to be part of the defenses of the lower city, before those walls were torn down. Here I turned down Via Teodoro Frizzoni, which took me into the commercial district and the B&B. Heading directly to the room, I brought my journal out onto the deck and relaxed as I got it updated, while the first camera battery charging. I started on the blog, drinking water from the tap (I drink local water as long as it doesn’t taste horrible, at which point I’ll get bottled.) After a 90-minute break, I decided to venture out and try to find dinner. Sunset would be in about half an hour, so I figured I’d be sitting down by 8. As I hadn’t been to the other side of the tracks, I checked to see what might be there. Not much – pizza and kebab places mainly. So much for that idea.

There’s a beer pub not too far away, but it only had burgers. A bit closer, and probably dearer to my heart and palate, was La Delizia Ristorante & Wine Bar. So, with a backup, I headed to the wine bar. And lucked out, as there were still a few open tables when I poked my head in the door. As far as wines went, I left it to the experts. For my primi, "Il Casoncello" Home Made local Ravioli, crispy Bacon, Butter and Thyme. And the main was Low cooked Beef braised in Valcalepio Red wine served with Mais Polenta. The cheese table looked like fun, so I opted in, getting three cheeses and those crispy things too. At that point I felt stuffed to the gills, as well as ready to float down the hill. The four wines were terrific, but I can’t read my handwriting.

Slowly strolling (stumbling) back, I got to the hotel and the room without incident, and managed to finish this posting, as well as download and select photos. Tomorrow I depart for Brescia at 9, so up by 8 and maybe try eating. Let’s get this uploaded.

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