Everyday domestic items, work tools used in the fields, woods and vineyards and equipment for dairy production, woodworking and wool, linen and hemp weaving. A good way of learning about the trades, crafts and folk traditions of the Bergamo valleys is to visit the small museums that have collected documents and testimonies of life in days past. See for instance the Ethnographic Museum of the Valley at Zogno, housed in a 16thcentury mansion, the Museum of the Valley at Schilpario, set up in a former water-driven sawmill dating from the 19th century, or the Museum of Upper Val Brembana at Valtorta, in the 16th-century mansion of the former Venetian Magistrate. Also of interest are the Museum of the Lujo Valley at Albino, in the church of the S. Cuore, and the Folk Museum of Verdello, in Palazzo Comunale. The Carpentry Museum of Almenno San Bartolomeo, which offers a rare and comprehensive description of the woodworking culture, is the only one of its kind in Europe.
Cycling along the Adda
Perhaps the ideal image of the Lombard countryside should be sought along the course of the River Adda. Rolling hills, patches of vegetation reflected in tranquil waters, isolated buildings that bear witness to a nature tamed by man - it is a landscape of remarkable beauty and was chosen by Leonardo da Vinci as the backdrop to his Mona Lisa and other famous paintings by him. The river habitat discovered along the well sunken banks of the river or by cycling down dirt tracks remains extraordinarily intact. The most surprising thing is that, just a few kilometres from factories, roads and major urban centres, the landscape maintains its natural traits, with thick arboreal vegetation of alder, white willow, black poplar and locust trees; nor is it a rare occurrence to encounter blue herons hidden amidst the reeds or little white egrets on the edges of the river. The signs of man’s presence are not lacking along this important watercourse, the geographical and historical boundary between west Lombardy, subject to Milan, and east Lombardy, the Bergamo portion of which is a reminder of the outermost limits of Venetian domination. Not only are there old locks, hollows and canals, but also power stations built at the end of the 19th century. On this landscape dominated by nature, ‘constructed’ elements manage to live in perfect harmony with the habitat.
Pellegrino, the lady of art nouveau
Sumptuous reception rooms in the Grand Hôtel, walks along the river, porticoes, gardens, celebrations and musical afternoons, San Pellegrino Terme bore all the marks of an elegant ‘ville d’eau’ and became a popular and renowned spa resort between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Records of this successful period and precious evidence of the tastes of the times are to be seen in its Art Nouveau villas, immersed vegetation, and Palazzo della Fonte, featuring a luxury Pompeii-style drinking salon. A portico joins this building in a single complex with the municipal Casino, which with its exuberant decorations represents one of Lombardy’s most significant examples of Art Nouveau. San
The treasures of the Accademia Carrara
There are truly many fine works to be admired in the picture gallery of the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo, founded in 1795 and considered one of the richest museum collections in Italy. The approximately 1700 paintings, by artists Italian and non-, dating from the 15th to the 18th century reveal a clear predominance of the schools of Bergamo, Lombardy and Venice, bearing witness to the strong bonds between the various cultural circles of the times. Hence, although the refined atmosphere of international Gothic lives on in the tarot cards painted by Bonifacio Bembo for Filippo Maria Visconti and the passage of Leonardo can indeed be seen in many 15th-century Lombard painters, the influence of the Venetian Republic is evident in several works painted in Bergamo and its province. Of note among these are - besides important paintings by Lorenzo Lotto - paintings by G.B. Moroni (portraits from his early years to maturity), Evaristo Baschenis (four paintings showing musical instruments) and a large repertoire of portraits executed by Fra’ Galgario. The Accademia Carrara also presents two interesting portraits by Carlo Ceresa: to gain greater familiarity with this 17thcentury local painter you can follow the Itinerario Ceresiano, featuring 16 paintings in eight churches in San Giovanni Bianco, his birthplace.
The romanesque country church of S. Tomé
Scholars agree that not only is the country church of S. Tomé one of the most important artistic expressions in the whole province, it is also one of the loveliest Romanesque constructions with a central plan in all Lombardy. Built in the 11th or early 12th century in ashlar stone, the small church stands out in the countryside at the foot of Almenno San Bartolomeo, in Valle Imagna. The building has a cylindrical main body to which was added the presbytery with a semicircular apse. The circular lines are also repeated inside, in the two levels of the ambulatory, in the women’s gallery, in the niches in the walls and in the presbytery, as well as in the fine dome with annular vaults.
Bergamo, the home of Donizetti
Musicians, lovers of good music and enthusiastic melomaniacs can follow a tour in Bergamo that retraces the life of Gaetano Donizetti, born here in 1797. The composer was born in a humble house at No. 14 Borgo Canale but the building in which he died in 1848 - Palazzo Scotti - is a fine baroque construction standing in the street named after him. A visit must be made to the Donizetti Museum, set up in the former Palazzo della Misericordia Maggiore, of 15th-century origin but revamped in baroque times. It houses hand-written manuscripts, first printed editions, documents and personal items, including the furnishings from his last bedroom and two pianos that belonged to the maestro. The tour ends with the Donizetti theatre, founded in 1786 and the venue for the Festival Donizettiano, an important musical event dedicated every year by the city to the illustrious composer, also celebrated by a nearby monument by Francesco Ierace (1897).
In the footsteps of Lorenzo Lotto
The thirteen years that Lorenzo Lotto spent in Bergamo were probably the happiest of his long and restless life. Valued by the powerful local families, this painter of Venetian origin - today considered one of the most fascinating artists of the Renaissance - produced major works which exude a profoundly religious soul and a highly unusual attention to details, which often become metaphors. Of the altarpieces kept in the provincial capital, the most famous is that of the Madonna, Child and Saints in the church of S. Bartolomeo, better known as the "Martinengo altarpiece". Also of particular note are cycle of frescoes on the Life of Mary in the church of S. Michele al Pozzo Bianco and the precious wooden inlays designed for the choir of S. Maria Maggiore. A city tour retracing the footsteps of Lorenzo Lotto cannot fail to visit the Accademia Carrara, which displays the predellas of the Martinengo altarpiece, the painting depicting the Mystical Marriage of St Catherine and the intense Portrait of Lucina Brembati. Paintings by Lotto can also be found around the province of Bergamo: an altarpiece in the parish church of Sedrina, a polyptych in the 15th-century parish church of SS. Vincenzo e Alessandro at Ponterànica and frescoes in a chapel in the church of S. Giorgio at Credaro. The frescoes portraying the life of the saint in the church of S. Barbara at Trescore Balneario are a veritable masterpiece in which the immediate narrative invention and wealth of detail confirm the painter’s adhesion to traditional Lombard naturalism.