Home > 2011 Posts > Medievally Goodness in Lombardy

Medievally Goodness in Lombardy

Limoncello makes everything delightful. My bride and I clinked our glasses of it together softly after another delicious, leisurely Italian lunch. This time, we were sitting in the seriously medieval Old Plazza in the High City above modern Bergamo, about 30 miles northeast of Milan. 

But, the Piazza Vecchia in Bergamo’s Città Alta doesn’t look nearly as old as it is. Rome’s legions conquered the Orobi celts here by around 200 BC, and Caesar made them citizens of the republic about the time he crossed the Rubicon 150 years later.

So, Roman buildings must have been about the only ones around us back then. But, thanks to the ever-cranky Attila, Bergomum (as it was called in Latin), had to be slowly rebuilt by brave folks who resettled the rubble after the Hun’s brief visit 500 years later.

After that, the town was capital of a medieval Lombard duchy and then a free and prosperous ‘commune’—until Milan decided to take its cut. Venice took over in the early 1400’s and prosperity returned for another 350 years. Then, a pesky Corsican paid a visit, pretending to be all for that new liberté, egalité, fraternité stuff. After Waterloo and a stint under Austria, Bergamo became Italian in 1859.

Which brings us back to what we did after lunch on that 2,200 year old piazza.

Our first stop clearly had to be the fountain next to us, guarded by Lions of St. Mark, the symbols of Venice, who ruled the place for 100 years longer than there’s been a US of A. Then, it was off to a great view from the 160’ tall, c.1100’s Torre Civica.   

Strolling under the arches of Palazzo della Ragione, built in the 11th century and then rebuilt by the Venetians, we were headed to Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the best Romanesque churches in northern Italy, and its marvelous, baroque interior.

Then, it was off to make a circuit of the city walls, which were rebuilt as a massive fortification by the Venetians around 1500. If you know what to look for, a few pieces of the old Roman walls pop up now and then. We ended our circuit back at the funicular down to the Città Bassa and took a convenient city bus to the station.

I won’t bore you with details and downstream effects regarding the guy directly behind me who sneezed Ebola all over my neck for the whole trip. Maybe he’ll discover tissues, if he survived… .

But, Ebola takes a few hours to incubate.

So, on the train back to Milan, my bride and I happily listened to compositions by Bergamo’s favorite son, composer Gaetano Donizetti, who serenaded us from my phone as we sipped Trenitalia’s passable wine. Though he’s best known for opera, I like his pieces for string quartet most.

I don’t like Ebola, though.

And, I still didn’t like it a week later in Florence, either.

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