Bergamo, the splendid city on the hill
Those who arrive and see Bergamo for the first time can’t help but think that a good portion of its history is found in the beautiful hilltop city. And this is precisely the case: 2,500 years are concentrated up there, and many have passed since the traces of the first inhabitants, who date back to the fifth century BC, were discovered. An exciting story to which new details are continuously added as new archaeological investigations reveal details of the old city. It is therefore no coincidence that Upper Bergamo offers the visitor the possibility of making an extraordinary excursion combining the beauty of the monuments and locations with the discovery of the past. We suggest starting with the funicular, which from Lower Bergamo (the station of departure is in Viale Vittorio Emanuele) takes you to the upper part of the city. A short journey that allows you to observe Bergamo’s development from a particular point of view: the modern city below, which has developed, above all, in recent decades, and the ancient one above, surrounded by the formidable walls that Venice built in the sixteenth century. Once arrived, upon exiting the station, the visitor is welcomed by a spectacular space that seems to be formed from a theatre set. This is the Mercato delle Scarpe (shoe market), a square that was once a major traffic junction: roads met coming from the east - from Venice (via Porta Dipinta) - and from the west - Milan (via San Giacomo). Due to the presence of these communication routes, it is believed that the square was home to Roman Bergamo’s first market. Via Gombito, which begins right by the exit of the funicular, is identified by the Decumanus, one of the Roman city’s two main roads (the other is the Cardo) that spanned the entire city from east to west, an urban axis that has remained intact to this day. In the same square, on the right-hand side, Via Rocca begins with a short climb that leads to the top of a hill - the hill of Santa Eufemia - which is dominated by the Rocca, a fortress with four-teenth century origins that has been modified and updated with defences many times. According to tradition, it was here that the Capitol building stood, a very important building in the structure of a Roman city. The Decumanus offers the pleasure of a beautiful walk amongst shop windows, bars, restaurants and old buildings from Medieval Bergamo (don’t overlook the adjacent streets!), but here nothing can be seen of the Roman city. In the confined space of the hill, the city was demolished and rebuilt many times and the remains of the first city are underground. Every time a more in-depth dig takes place, traces of Bergamo from Julius Caesar’s or Augustus’ era emerge. It was precisely during one of these excavations that the foundations of huts from the Iron Age were identified: the first sign of a settlement on the hill of Bergamo, 2,500 years ago. Further ahead stands a huge tower, which seems to have been built to guard what is the heart of Roman Bergamo’s roads, in the spot where the Decumanum crossed the Cardo (north - south), represented today by Via San Lorenzo and Via Mario Lupo. By no coincidence this area is called Gombito, “Compitum” (Latin for crossroads), which refers directly to the Roman place name. A little further on lies the splendid Piazza Vecchia, dominated by the Torre del Comune (Municipality Tower). Recently, at the base of the Palazzo del Podestà, the remains of the Forum, one of the fundamental structures of Roman cities, were uncovered. A visit here is particularly important because it is part of the tour that leads to the Venetian History Museum, which has an interactive section on the sixteenth century, a visit that can be concluded with a ride in a lift to the top of the tower, which offers splendid panoramic views. On the other side, the new Museum and Treasure of the Cathedral offers a fascinating journey through time that unwinds in the basement of the Cathedral, where the foundations of three much older churches were discovered, including a early Christian basilica from the fifth century. After Piazza Vecchia, our tour continues along the second part of the Decumanus, which corresponds to Via Colleoni. Here, under the Fountain of Saint Agatha, on the corner of the street of the same name, the remains of a mosaic belonging to a Roman house were found. Our walk ends at the large complex of the Citadel, which houses the Archaeological Museum. Among the statues, gravestones, urns, altars and objects displayed in its glass cases, it is possible to learn more about older Bergamo. Frescoes that decorated the walls of a house dating back to Roman times can also be found, and with meticulous recovery and restoration work, three rooms have been rebuilt as they were originally: a Medieval tower was erected above and the “domus” was forgotten underground. Almost a little Pompei.