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Report 1176: September Song: High Notes of a Few Precious Days in Italy

By Roz from Massachusetts, Fall 2006

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Page 3 of 16: Bergamo: You're the Top

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Bergamo: Walking along the wall

We didn't have a whole lot of information about Bergamo in our guide books, so decided to pick up one of those picture books for tourists that every Italian city of any size seems to have on display in the news stands. This was a good decision -- the information in the book led us to a lot of intriguing places we would never have found otherwise, starting with some of the atmospheric back streets that meandered to the pathway along the old city wall. Although the skies were hazy, we still had some fabulous views as we walked the high Viale delle Mure past some of the tall, strikingly sculptured city gates, over to Porta San Agostino. The old monastery there is now part of the University of Bergamo.

The most fascinating street of our morning stroll was the Via Porta Dipinta. Although the painted wall from which the street got its name has been destroyed, it took us to a stunning assortment of frescoes inside the small church of San Michele al Pozzo Bianco (St. Michael of the White Well). The church turns its back to the street; you have to be looking for it to find your way to its front door. From outside, you'd never suspect that its four little walls display a capsule history of Italian art -- frescoes from Romanesque, Byzantine, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque artists. San Michele is most famous for its Lorenzo Lotto paintings, but we were drawn to the more primitive saints and madonnas, and especially one fragmentary frieze of sinners that we dubbed "the chorus line to Hell."

The main activity of the afternoon was a hunt for the tourist information office. You wouldn't think this would be something a city would hide, but Bergamo is not a very well-documented place! We did see a tourist office in the Cittą Alta, but we wanted to find an Internet point, and had been told that we had to go down to the Bassa for that. So we took the funicular down the hill.

We had a map from Cadogan, a map sent to us by the city of Bergamo, and the information in the aforementioned tourist guidebook. Every single one of them located the tourist information office in the Lower Town on Viale Vittorio Emmanuele -- the main drag down below, not far from the funicular stop. We must have walked back and forth past the I-marked spot on the maps six times, seeing nothing resembling a tourist office. Finally DH spotted a tiny sign saying something about "Turismo" on a big locked iron gate in front of an official-looking building. There was an intercom with a buzzer, so we pressed it. The disembodied voice we reached indicated that this was an office where the tourism officials conduct business -- not where they actually admit and give information to tourists. But this is the spot that all the maps show as the tourist information office! So if you ever find yourself in Bergamo's Cittą Bassa and want tourist information, here's how -- ignore the maps and go to the railroad station.

The station was a good mile and a half farther on, and we barely made it in the door with five minutes to spare before closing time. Fortunately the woman on duty was able to direct us to what she said was the only Internet point in town. So I'll put that essential information in this report too for anyone else who might want to check your e-mail in Bergamo. It's called Chiocciol@, and it's on Via Giovanni d'Alzano, off Via Papa Giovanni, 2 1/2 blocks north of the train station. It's open 9:30 - 12:30 Mon-Fri, and 2:30 - 7:30 Mon - Sat.

It's also near a very pleasant pedestrian shopping street, Via XX Settembre. There's a nice bookstore along there, with a smiling bulldog on guard.

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