Bergamo has long been two cities – the Upper, the Citta Alta, and the Lower, the Citta Bassa. There should be a grave accent on the a of Citta, but I’ve no idea how to do that in WordPress. The Citta Alta is the ancient citadel, surrounded by 15th Century walls. The Citta Bassa is where later development was able to take place, joining up small settlements and monasteries on the plain. So the Citta Bassa contains the new, and the relatively new as well as the very old. Its main shopping centre is on the wide boulevard called the Via Sentierone.
This street, the Via Pignolo is one of the most historic streets in the Lower City. It runs from the plain, up the hill, towards the St Augustine Gate of the Upper City. It is lined by 16th Century palazzi, now mainly apartment buildings, but originally built for prosperous merchants and local notables. The ground floors often feature arcades, which are occupied by shops – like ancient Roman town houses, these palazzi face inwards. Their favourite connection to street level is a robust door. The street-facing windows are higher up and neither large nor showy.
I really recommend you to walk the length of the Via Pignolo in Google Maps. I am borrowing the image from Ostia Antica below.
The town of Ostia Antica was active in the Roman period but later abandoned. It is less famous than Pompeii and Herculaneum, but just as interesting. You can see from the mosaic in one the the archways that it was used as a shop or bar. This pattern of use is more than two thousand years old. The plain exteriors give no clue to what lies inside the buildings, whose access to light and air is through interior courtyards.
This is the door to the apartment block where we stayed – or at least to a section of the block, which has been divided. There is nothing behind the door except a steep marble staircase. The rest of the ground floor is used for retail and offices. Our apartment was on the first floor. It still had its high ceilings, but otherwise had been completely redivided and modernised. However, the view from the windows told a different story.
This is the view into the courtyard.
Let’s look a bit more closely at the wall painting behind the balcony.
I’m not an expert, but I would say that is 16th century, maybe early 17th. Here is the view down.
The front window onto the street looks onto the Piazzetta del Delfino: Dolphin Place, named after the statue on a Triton on a dolphin which ornaments its fountain . The Romans provided public water by channelling spring water, by aqueduct if necessary, to public fountains. This system carried on in Italy, and although the fountains are now ornamental, there is nothing more typical than a fountain in a public square. The water was icy cold. I took this photo by night, when the bar next to the fountain was closed. If I find a better photo I will add it to the blog. Looks like it’s ‘Good Night’.