Showing posts with label Bergamo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bergamo. Show all posts

15 July 2024

Pietro Ruggeri da Stabello – poet

Talented writer kept record of 1848 rebellions and produced verses in local dialect

Enrico Scuri's portrait of Pietro Ruggeri is kept at Bergamo's Accademia Carrara
Enrico Scuri's 1838 portrait of Pietro Ruggeri
da Stabello (Accademia Carrara, Bergamo)
Prolific writer Pietro Ruggeri da Stabello, who became famous after his death for the poetry he had written in his local dialect, was born on this day in 1797 in a hamlet near Zogno, a short distance from the city of Bergamo in Lombardy.

Ruggeri da Stabello wrote a valuable account of events that occurred in the north of Italy during revolts against the Austrian occupying army, which were later collected in a volume entitled Bergamo Revolution of the Year 1848.

He was the second son of a Bergamo couple, Santo Ruggeri and Diana Stella Ceribelli, who had moved to the Brembana valley to escape the riots that followed the fall of the Republic of Venice in 1797.

When Pietro Ruggeri became an adult, he added the words da Stabello to his name, to honour the small village where he had grown up, which is less than one kilometre from the municipality of Zogno in Val Brembana, to which it belongs.

After Pietro Ruggeri moved to live in Bergamo to study for a diploma in accountancy, he began to compose verses, inspired by his contact with local people and what he had witnessed of how they lived their daily lives in the city.

He wrote his 1816 work, Letter of Pietro Ruggeri da Stabello Against the Widespread Misery, in the Italian language, more for his own pleasure than as a literary exercise. He went on to write four more works in Italian between 1820 and 1822 that were never published.

Ruggeri da Stabello started to write poetry in the Bergamo dialect from about 1822. As his fame spread, he was portrayed in a painting by Enrico Scuri and invited to social gatherings to meet other learned people from the area, while he continued to do a variety of jobs to earn his living.

He founded and became president of The Philharmonic Academy in Bergamo and he was painted on the occasion by Luigi Deleidi, a Bergamo artist, who was also known as Nebbia.

Ruggeri da Stabello wrote sonnets dedicated to his friends and some well-known people, such as the painter Francesco Coghetti, and he started to compile, but never finished, a Bergamo-Italian vocabulary.

Ruggeri da Stabello is commemorated with a statue in Bergamo's Piazza Pontida
Ruggeri da Stabello is commemorated with
a mounted bust in Bergamo's Piazza Pontida 
During 1848, he wrote his volume about the revolts against the Austrians while he was being forced to take refuge in the safer territory of Zogno, because of verses he had written in honour of Pope Pius IX and of Italy, after the Austrians returned to occupy the country.

Pietro Ruggeri da Stabello died in Bergamo in 1878. He was buried in the cemetery of San Maurizio in the Città Bassa, but his tomb was lost after the cemetery was closed.

However, his writing was evaluated after his death and he was recognised as the greatest writer in the Bergamo dialect ever known. In appreciation of his talent, his native city named a street after him and erected a mounted bust of him in Piazza Pontida, one of the historic squares in the Città Bassa, Bergamo’s lower town. 

In 1933, another Bergamo citizen, Bortolo Belotti, published some of his poetry in the volume, Pietro Ruggeri, Poet from Bergamo.

Modern Italian is now the most widely spoken language in Bergamo, but the Bergamo dialect - dialetto Bergamasco - is still seen on menus, street signs and often reproduced in popular Bergamo sayings. Linguistically it is closer to French and Catalan, than to Italian. It is still spoken in some of the small villages out in the province of Bergamo and the area around Crema, another city in Lombardy.

Because of migration in the 19th and 20th centuries, Bergamo dialect is still spoken in some communities in southern Brazil.

The town of Zogno nestles in Val Brembana, 
a beautiful valley north of Bergamo
Travel tip:

The municipality of Zogno, where Pietro Ruggeri da Stabello was born, is about 11km (7 miles) north of Bergamo in the Brembana Valley. Set in beautiful countryside, Zogno has a 17th century church, San Lorenzo Martire, as well as a modern church, the Santuario di Maria Santissima Regina. The village of Stabello now has a population of fewer than 500 people. The Val Brembana is an area rich in history and traditions, about which much can be learned by visiting the San Lorenzo Museum and the Valley Museum. Zogno also attracts many visitors to the Terme di Bracca spa facility.

Piazza Pontida, in Bergamo's Città Bassa, was once a hub of commercial activity in the city
Piazza Pontida, in Bergamo's Città Bassa, was
once a hub of commercial activity in the city
Travel tip:

Pietro Ruggeri da Stabello’s statue stands in Bergamo's Piazza Pontida in the Città Bassa, the Lombardy city's lower town. It is near the junction of Via Sant’Alessandro and Via XX Settembre, which would have been the hub of the lower town in the 15th century. The piazza is close to a point known for centuries as Cinque Vie (five roads), where traffic from Milan, Lecco, Treviglio and Crema would converge. It was the place where goods arriving in Bergamo would be unloaded before being sent up to the Città Alta (upper town). Some of the portici (porticos) date back to the 15th century, when farmers and merchants would shelter from the sun under them, while negotiating over the goods. It would have been a lively scene, with storytellers and poets roaming from one inn to the next, entertaining the crowds who had come to trade in the square. There are now modern shops doing business behind the porticos, but the square is still a popular meeting place with plenty of bars and restaurants.

Also on this day:

1823: Fire damages Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls

1850: The birth in Italy of Frances Xavier Cabrini, the first American saint

1933: The birth of cartoonist Guido Crepax


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4 July 2024

Giambettino Cignaroli - painter

Artist celebrated in home city of Verona 

A self-portrait painted by Cignaroli in 1758 ( Kunsthistorisches, Vienna)
A self-portrait painted by Cignaroli in
1758 ( Kunsthistorisches, Vienna)
The painter and writer Giambettino Cignaroli was born on this day in 1706 in Verona, where he spent much of his career and became the city’s leading painter in the Rococo era. 

Primarily a painter of religious scenes, he became known also for spiritual images and celebratory historical painting.

His most famous works include Death of Cato and Death of Socrates, two canvases of Greco-Roman episodes which he painted for the Austrian governor of Lombardy, Count Karl von Firmian; his Virgin and Child With Saints Jerome and Alexander, for the Chiesa di San Giovanni XXIII in Bergamo; and the Death of Rachel for the Scuola Grande della Carità, now part of the Galleria dell 'Accademia in Venice.

He was thought to have painted a portrait of the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart when he visited Verona at the age of 13, although some experts attribute this work to Cignaroli’s nephew, Saverio Dalla Rosa. 

Although his workshop was in his home city, Cignaroli travelled around northern Italy in the 1730s and ‘40s, when he often worked in Venice, Chioggia, Bergamo and Brescia. He was also active in cities such as Milan, Parma, Turin, Bologna and Ferrara. 

Other notable works can be found in the Chiesa di San Lorenzo in Brescia, the basilica of San Giovanni Battista in Lonato del Garda, and the Chiesa di San Marco in Bergamo.

Cignaroli's Death of Socrates, which is now on display in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest
Cignaroli's Death of Socrates, which is now on
display in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest
Cignaroli was born into an artistic family. His half-brothers included a sculptor, Diomiro, and painters Gian Domenico and Giuseppe. Two of his father’s cousins, Pietro and Martino, were also painters, as was his uncle, Leonardo Seniore.

After studying rhetoric at a Jesuit school, he became interested in painting himself. He became a pupil of Sante Prunati before attending the painting school of Antonio Balestra. 

He then spent time in Venice, where he studied the works of masters such as Titian, Paolo Veronese and Palma il Vecchio before returning to Verona to set up his own workshop in 1728, which would become his permanent base. 

By mid-century, his fame had spread beyond Italy’s borders, and his works were sought after by monarchs and elites from Spain, Northern Europe, and Russia. Although he never left Italy, turning down invitations to work at the royal courts in Madrid and Vienna, his clients included the Elector of Saxony, the King of Poland and the Tsarina of Russia.

An altarpiece by Cignaroli in the Church of San Lorenzo in Brescia
An altarpiece by Cignaroli in the
Church of San Lorenzo in Brescia
A  monumental altarpiece by Cignaroli in the Prado Museum in Madrid, depicting the Madonna and Child with Saints Lucia, Lorenzo, Anthony of Padua, Barbara and the guardian angel, was commissioned in 1759 by the Duke and Duchess of Parma on behalf of Elisabetta Farnese, who was Queen of Spain by marriage to King Philip V. 

Cignaroli helped establish Verona’s art academy - now known as the Accademia Cignaroli di Pittura e Scultura - in 1766.  

As a writer, Cignaroli wrote poetry and history, including a series of biographies of Veronese painters.

He died in December, 1770 and was buried in Verona in the church of Saints Siro and Libera, a short distance from the Accademia Cignaroli. He never married and there was no record of any children.

In November 2019, the portrait of the young Mozart some experts attribute to him was sold at auction at Christie's in Paris for more than €4 million. 

The courtyard of the Cignaroli Accademia di Belli Arti di Verona, established during the painter's life
The courtyard of the Cignaroli Accademia di Belli
Arti di Verona, established during the painter's life
Travel tip:

The Cignaroli Academy is one of the oldest academies of fine arts in the world and one of the five historical Italian Academies.  Also known as the Accademia di Belle Arti di Verona, it was founded in 1764 by Giambettino Cignaroli and secured lasting recognition for the Verona school of painting. The institution faced challenges during periods of social and political upheaval but survived and prospered due to figures such as Saverio Dalla Rosa, Cignaroli’s nephew, who worked to preserve Verona’s artistic heritage and opened part of the academy as a public gallery. Today, the Accademia di Belle Arti di Verona maintains its prestigious standing, offering art courses as well as exhibitions open to the public. Situated in Via San Carlo, near Ponte Pietra, it is open on Monday to Friday from 9am until noon, and from 3-7pm.

The Church of Saints Siro and Libera was built within the remains of Verona's Teatro Romano
The Church of Saints Siro and Libera was built
within the remains of Verona's Teatro Romano
Travel tip:

The Church of Saints Siro and Libera, where Cignaroli was buried, can be found in the Veronetta district of Verona, within the archaeological site which includes the ruins of the Teatro Romano, an open-air theatre built in the 1st century BC at the foot of Colle San Pietro, on the left bank of the Adige, which is one of the best preserved Roman theatres in northern Italy.  According to historical accounts, the church owes its unusual location, directly overlooking what would have been the theatre’s stage, to the first Christian mass in the city of Verona being celebrated in an archway of the theatre. It was above this archway that in 913 Giovanni, Bishop of Cremona, built the church. The church was modified and expanded in the early 17th century to include the gabled, west-facing façade, accessed via a staircase divided into two branches.

Also on this day:

1742: The death of mathematician Luigi Guido Grandi

1914: The birth of car designer Giuseppe ‘Nuccio’ Bertone

1927: The birth of actress Gina Lollobrigida


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28 April 2024

Andrea Moroni – architect

Cousin of brilliant painter left mark on Padua

The Basilica of Santa Giustina in Padua is arguably Andrea Moroni's most famous work
The Basilica of Santa Giustina in Padua is
arguably Andrea Moroni's most famous work
Andrea Moroni, who designed many beautiful buildings in Padua and the Veneto region, died on this day in 1560 in Padua.

Born into a family of stonecutters in Albino near Bergamo in Lombardy, Moroni was the cousin and contemporary of Giovanni Battista Moroni, the brilliant Bergamo painter, who was also born in Albino.

Moroni the architect has works attributed to him in Brescia, another city in Lombardy about 50km (31 miles) east of Bergamo. He is known to have been in the city between 1527 and 1532 where he built a choir for the monastery of Santa Giulia.

He probably also designed the building in which the nuns could attend mass in the monastery of Santa Giulia and worked on the church of San Faustino.

As a result, he made his name with the Benedictine Order and obtained commissions for two Benedictine churches in Padua, Santa Maria di Praglia and the more famous Santa Giustina.

His contract with Santa Giustina was renewed every ten years until his death and he settled down to live in Padua.

Moroni supervised the construction of Palazzo del Bo, the university building in the centre of Padua
Moroni supervised the construction of Palazzo del
Bo, the university building in the centre of Padua
He was commissioned by the Venetian Government to build the Palazzo del Podestà, which is now known as Palazzo Moroni in Via VIII Febbraio , and is currently the seat of Padua city Council. It is considered one of the most significant Renaissance buildings in the entire Veneto region.

Moroni was also involved in the construction of the Orto Botanico, Padua’s famous botanical gardens, where medicinal plants were grown, and some of the university buildings.

It is known that he supervised the construction of Palazzo del Bo, the main university building in the city, but there is some controversy over who designed the internal courtyard. Famous names such as Jacopo Sansovino and Andrea Palladio have been suggested rather than Moroni.

However the Loggia of the Palazzo del Capitaniato and the Palazetto have been attributed to him, along with Palazzo Zacco and the Charterhouse of Vigodarzere.

Some architectural historians believe Moroni’s reputation as an architect, and the question marks over whether some buildings attributed to him were really the work of others, may have suffered because his career coincided with that of Palladio.

The Chapel of St Luke at the Basilica di Santa, where the remains of the saint are said to rest
The Chapel of St Luke at the Basilica di Santa,
where the remains of the saint are said to rest

Travel tip:

The Basilica di Santa Giustina in Padua is at the south-east corner of the square called Prato della Valle, where it is joined by Via Avezzano and Via Ferrari. At the back of the Presbytery, a magnificent altarpiece painted by Paolo Veronese in 1575 depicts the moment of her death. The basilica also contains Jacopo Bassano’s Santa Giustina enthroned with the saints Sebastian, Antonio Abate and Rocco, which was painted by him in around 1560 with the help of his son, Francesco, and is considered one of the most original examples of the Venetian Mannerist culture. Next door to the basilica there is a Benedictine monastery with frescoed cloisters and a famous library that can be visited by arrangement. The remains of Santa Giustina, a devout young woman who was martyred in 304, are buried in the church, which is also home to the tomb containing the body of St Luke the Evangelist, who was credited with writing the Gospel according to St Luke.

The Orto Botanico in Padua, now a UNESCO heritage site, is thought to the world's first botanical garden
The Orto Botanico in Padua, now a UNESCO heritage
site, is thought to the world's first botanical garden
Travel tip:

Padua’s Botanical Garden (Orto Botanico), which was created in 1545, is thought to be the world’s first botanical garden. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the garden, which still belongs to the University of Padua, is in Via Orto Botanico close to Prato della Valle. When it was founded, the garden was devoted to the growth of medicinal plants that could provide natural remedies. According to UNESCO, the garden has made a profound contribution to the development of many modern scientific disciplines, notably botany, medicine, chemistry, ecology and pharmacy.  The garden was designed by Moroni as a circle enclosing a square divided into four quadrants, in which the plants were grown. The Orto Botanico is open to the public every day apart from working Mondays with an entry fee of €10. 

Also on this day:






22 November 2023

Beatrice Trussardi – entrepreneur

Art promoter chosen among the 100 most successful Italian women

Beatrice Trussardi has become an important promoter of art and design
Beatrice Trussardi has become an
important promoter of art and design
Art and design promoter and business woman Beatrice Trussardi, the daughter of fashion designer Nicola Trussardi, was born on this day in 1971 in Milan.

Since 1999, Beatrice has been president of the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, which was founded by her father to promote contemporary art and culture.

Nicola Trussardi, who was born in Bergamo, went to work in his grandfather’s glove making business in the city and turned it into a multimillion-dollar business that helped contribute to the popularity of the Made in Italy label throughout the world.

Beatrice, who was his eldest child, obtained a degree in Art, Business and Administration at New York University and went on to work at the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art.  

She directed the move by the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi from its permanent exhibition space in Milan to develop a new, itinerant model. The foundation now focuses on holding art exhibitions in historical monuments and forgotten buildings in Milan, that were not previously accessible to the public.

As part of this, Palazzo Litta, Palazzo Dugnani and Palazzo Citterio have all been restored, enabling them to host major exhibitions by contemporary artists.

In 2021, Beatrice launched the Beatrice Trussardi Foundation, a nomadic art foundation, working with artistic director Massimiliano Gioni to produce and exhibit art installations in international locations. Issues such as climate change, gender inequality and talent empowerment are at the core of the foundation’s research programme.

Beatrice was CEO of her father's Trussardi Group for 11 years
Beatrice was CEO of her father's
Trussardi Group for 11 years
Beatrice became president and CEO of Trussardi Group in 2003, positions she held until 2014.

In 2007, she enrolled in the Global Leadership and Public Policy for the 21st century programme at the John F Kennedy School of Government.

Beatrice became one of 237 people selected by the World Economic Forum to be part of its Young Global Leaders group in 2005. She joined the Women’s Leadership Board at the John F Kennedy School of Government, which was founded to promote gender equality in society and politics, in 2007. She became president of the Friends of Aspen at Aspen Institute Italia, whose aim is to analyse and discuss important economic, social and cultural issues fundamental to development.

She was appointed to the Board of Directors of Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo in Rome in 2013 by invitation of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and, in 2014, she joined the Board of Directors of Comitato Fondazioni Italiane Arte Contemporanee.

Beatrice is married to businessman Federico Roveda and the couple have two children. She was chosen by Forbes Italia as among the 100 Most Successful Italian Women in 2019.

Bergamo's Città Alta is guarded by imposing walls built by the Venetians in the 16th century
Bergamo's Città Alta is guarded by imposing
walls built by the Venetians in the 16th century
Travel tip:

Bergamo, where Trussardi’s father, Nicola, was born, is a beautiful city in Lombardy about 50km (31 miles) northeast of Milan. It has upper and lower town that are separated by impressive fortifications. The magical upper town - the Città Alta - has gems of mediaeval and Renaissance architecture surrounded by the impressive 16th century walls, which were built by the Venetians who ruled at the time. Outside the walls, the elegant Città Bassa, which grew up on the plain below, has some buildings that date back to the 15th century as well as imposing architecture added in the 19th and 20th centuries. While the Città Alta is the draw for many tourists, the lower town also has art galleries, churches and theatres and a wealth of good restaurants and smart shops to enjoy.  The Trussardi family home, Casa Trussardi, which they acquired in 1983, sits on top of the south-facing walls overlooking Viale delle Mura, with commanding views over the Città Bassa and the vast Po Valley.

Travel tip:

Palazzo Litta, also known as Palazzo Arese-Litta, is a Baroque palace on Corso Magenta in the centre of Milan, opposite the church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore and a short distance from the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which houses Leonardo da Vinci’s wall painting of The Last Supper. Built between 1642 and 1648, it dates back to the period of Spanish rule of the city. The original owner was Count Bartolomeo Arese, a member of one of Milan’s most influential families of the period, who went on to become President of the Senate of Milan in 1660. The structure of the palace has changed over time, although parts of architect Francesco Maria Richini’s original design remain intact. Having become the property of the Litta family in the mid-18th century, the palace was given a facelift when Bartolomeo Bolli constructed the current façade, highly decorated with Rococò features. Apart from its exhibition spaces, the palace is home to the oldest theatre in Milan, originally Richini’s oratory and later turned into a private theatre for the use of the Arese family and guests. It is still in use as the Teatro Litta di Milano.

Also on this day:

1533: The birth of Alfonso II d’Este, last Duke of Ferrara

1710: The death of Baroque composer Bernardo Pasquini

1902: The birth of Mafia boss Joe Adonis

1911: The birth of Olympic champion cyclist Giuseppe Olmo

1947: The birth of footballer and coach Nevio Scala

1949: The birth of entrepreneur Rocco Commisso

1954: The birth of former prime minister Paolo Gentiloni


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28 August 2023

Giovanni Maria Benzoni - sculptor

Roman collectors called him the ‘new Canova’

Benzoni's self-portrait bust is in the Biblioteca Angelo Mai in Bergamo
Benzoni's self-portrait bust is in the
Biblioteca Angelo Mai in Bergamo
The sculptor Giovanni Maria Benzoni, who earned such fame in Rome in the mid-19th century that collectors and arts patrons in the city dubbed him the “new Canova” after the great Neoclassical sculptor Antonio Canova, was born on this day in 1809 in Songavazzo, a small mountain village in northern Lombardy.

Benzoni sculpted many allegorical and mythological scenes, but also busts and funerary monuments.  

Songavazzo being just outside Clusone in the province of Bergamo, Benzoni was regarded as a bergamasco - a native of the ancient city - even though he spent much of his life in Rome.

As such he was held in similar regard to celebrated bergamaschi such as the composer Gaetano Donizetti, the philologist Cardinal Angelo Mai and the painter Francesco Coghetti, all of whom lived in Rome during Benzoni’s time there.

He was later commissioned to sculpt a monumental tomb for Cardinal Mai in the Basilica of Sant’Anastasia al Palatino in the centre of Rome.

Benzoni’s parents, Giuseppe and Margherita, were farmers of modest means. Giovanni Maria worked briefly as a shepherd, but his father died when he was around 11 years old, after which he was sent to work in his uncle’s small carpentry shop at Riva di Solto, on the western shore of Lago d’Iseo, about 25km (16 miles) away.

Benzoni's Flight from Pompeii is notable for its extraordinary realism
Benzoni's Flight from Pompeii is
notable for its extraordinary realism
He began to show a talent for carving religious statues which came to the attention of a wealthy patron called Giuseppe Fontana, who was impressed enough to speak about him to Count Luigi Tadini, who would later open the Tadini Academy of Fine Arts in Lovere, another town on Lago d’Iseo.

Tadini asked Benzoni to make a copy of the Stele Tadini, the sculpture made for him by Antonio Canova in memory of the count’s son Faustino, who had died at a young age.

He was so impressed by Benzoni’s attention to detail and the accuracy of the reproduction that he arranged for the young man, who had never had a formal education, to attend a college in Lovere. 

When he reached the age of 18 or 19, Tadini took Benzoni to Rome, where he would work in the workshop of Giuseppe Fabris - an artist who would later became director general of the Vatican museums - and attend the prestigious Accademia di San Luca, where his fees were paid by Count Tadini.

Benzoni’s elegant marble sculptures had echoes of Canova’s work, which he greatly admired. One of his earliest pieces sculpted at the Academy, entitled Silent Love, attracted the approval of wealthy buyers in Rome, who soon began to speak of him as “il novello Canova” - the new Canova. 

After winning several competitions at San Luca, Benzoni began to earn money for his work and opened a small studio in Via Sant'Isidoro, in the centre of Rome, off the street now called Via Vittorio Veneto. Demand for his work grew so rapidly that he was obliged to find bigger premises, first in Via del Borghetto and later in Via del Babuino, between the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo.

Benzoni's bust of his former patron, Count Luigi Tadini, in Lovere
Benzoni's bust of his former patron,
Count Luigi Tadini, in Lovere
At the peak of his fame, he employed more than 50 assistants, making multiple versions of his most popular works. His Cupid and Psyche (1845) and Veiled Rebecca (1863) are considered to be two of his greatest triumphs.  Benzoni had clients in Holland, France, England and Ireland as well as in Italy.  

One of his later works, Flight from Pompeii or The Last Days of Pompeii (1868), was inspired by his visits to the Naples region in the 1850s and 1860s, when he was moved by the capacity for destruction of the volcano Vesuvius. The sculpture depicts with notable realism a man, his wife and their baby child, the man holding a cloak above his head to try to protect the trio as they seek refuge from the falling ashes.

The original was made for the wife of a wealthy New York hotelier. Among the many copies Benzoni produced, one is housed in a museum in Australia, another in the Neoclassical-style Town Hall at Todmorden, in the English county of Yorkshire.

Benzoni, who married into a noble Roman family and had six children, always lived in Rome but returned regularly to Bergamo, where he became a member of the city’s university and donated busts of famous citizens. His own self-portrait bust is in the Biblioteca Civica Angelo Mai on Piazza Vecchia in Bergamo’s mediaeval Città Alta.

He sculpted a statue of his former patron, Count Tadini, which stands on a plinth in a lakeside garden opposite the Tadini Academy in Lovere.

After his death in 1873, the popularity of Benzoni’s work declined, in common with the Neoclassical style as the newlly unified-Italy began to look forward. It has enjoyed a revival in recent years, however. Among his most famous works, his 1861 sculpture Innocenza difesa dalla fedeltà (Innocence Defended by Loyalty), which shows a young girl removing a thorn from the paw of her faithful pet dog, sold at Sotheby’s in New York in 2001 for more than $84,000 (€77,800; £66,800) and was presented as a gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Torre dell'orologio is one of several notable buildings in the town of Clusone
The Torre dell'orologio is one of several
notable buildings in the town of Clusone
Travel tip:

Benzoni’s birthplace, Songavazzo, is just outside the town of Clusone, about 35km (22 miles) northeast of Bergamo, a beautiful small town nestling on a plain against the backdrop of the Alpi Orobie - sometimes translated as the Orobic Alps - which attracts visitors all year round. Apart from its proximity to ski resorts, Clusone is famous for the frescoes that decorate some of its most significant buildings, such as the Municipio (Town Hall), the Torre dell'orologio (Clock Tower) and the Oratorio dei Disciplini (Oratory of the Disciplines), which has a macabre offering entitled The Triumph of Death. Clusone is also home to a prestigious annual jazz festival.

The Palazzo Tadini in Lovere on Lago d'Iseo is home of the Accademia di Belle Arti Tadini
The Palazzo Tadini in Lovere on Lago d'Iseo is
home of the Accademia di Belle Arti Tadini
Travel tip:

Lovere, where Benzoni received his first formal education, is the largest town on the western shore of Lago d’Iseo  and has wonderful views of the top of the lake with its dramatic backdrop of mountains. Benzoni’s patron, Count Luigi Tadini of Crema, established the Accademia di Belle Arti Tadini in the lakefront Palazzo Tadini in 1829 and it has become one of the most important art galleries in Italy. The church of Santa Maria in Valvendra has some 16th century frescoes and the church of San Giorgio, which is built into a mediaeval tower, contains an important work by Palma il Giovane. A pleasant boat ride connects Lovere with Pisogne on the eastern shore of the lake, which has a railway line linking the lake with the city of Brescia. The landing stage adjoins Piazza XIII Martiri.

Also on this day:

1665: The death of painter and printmaker Elisabetta Sirani

1909: The birth of Lamberto Maggiorani, star of classic movie Bicycle Thieves

1938: The birth of journalist and talk show host Maurizio Costanza


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20 May 2023

Giovanni Paolo Cavagna – artist

Prolific painter left a rich legacy of religious canvases

Frescoes by Cavagna illuminate the dome of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo
Frescoes by Cavagna illuminate the dome of the
Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo
Late Renaissance painter Giovanni Paolo Cavagna, who became famous for his religious scenes, died on this day in 1627 in his native city of Bergamo.

Cavagna was mainly active in Bergamo and Brescia, another historic city in the Lombardy region, for most of his career, although he is believed to have spent some time training in Venice in the studio of Titian.

The artist was born in Borgo di San Leonardo in Bergamo’s Città Bassa in about 1550. The painter Cristoforo Baschenis Il Vecchio is believed to have taken him as an apprentice from the age of 12. Cavagna is also thought to have spent time as a pupil of the famous Bergamo portrait painter Giovanni Battista Moroni.

Cavagna’s work can still be seen in many churches in Bergamo and villages in the surrounding area. In the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo’s Città Alta there are paintings by him of the Assumption of the Virgin, the Nativity, and Esther and Ahasuerus.

The church of Santo Spirito in Bergamo's Città Bassa
The church of Santo Spirito
in Bergamo's Città Bassa
In the Church of Santo Spirito in Bergamo’s Città Bassa, there are his paintings of Santa Lucia and the Crucifixion with Saints. He painted a Coronation of the Virgin for the Church of San Giovanni Battista in the province of Casnigo, which is to the north east of Bergamo, and some of his paintings can also be seen in the sanctuary of the Madonna del Castello in Almenno San Salvatore, a province to the north west of Bergamo.

The artist also completed a painting of the Crucifixion for the Church of Santa Lucia in Venice.

Cavagna’s son, Francesco, who became known as Cavagnuola, and his daughter, Caterina, also became painters.

After his death in 1627, Cavagna was buried in the Church of Santa Maria Immacolata delle Grazie in the Città Bassa in Bergamo, but after the reorganization of the lower town in the 19th century, the church was rebuilt and Cavagna’s tomb had to be moved, and it is now uncertain what happened to it.

Piazza Pontida is in Bergamo's Borgo San Leonardo quarter in the Città Bassa
Piazza Pontida is in Bergamo's Borgo San
Leonardo quarter in the Città Bassa
Travel tip:

Borgo San Leonardo, where Cavagna was born and lived, is a historic part of Bergamo’s Città Bassa where the Church of San Leonardo fronts an attractive square, Piazza Pontida, which links the important thoroughfares of Via Sant’Alessandro and Via XX Settembre. Piazza Pontida is part of an area that was known for centuries as Cinque Vie (five roads), where traffic from Milan, Lecco, Treviglio and Crema would converge and goods arriving in Bergamo would be unloaded. Some of the porticos in the piazza date back to the 15th century, when the farmers and merchants of the time would shelter from the sun under them.

The Via Arena entrance to the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
The Via Arena entrance to the
Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
Travel tip:

Some of Cavagna’s paintings can be seen in one of the most important and beautiful churches in Bergamo, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, which has entrances from both Piazza Duomo and Via Arena in the Città Alta. The basilica was built in the 12th century in the shape of a Greek cross but was modified in the 14th and 16th centuries. It has a large interior with a richly decorated cupola from the 16th century and some fine Flemish and Florentine tapestries and works of art. At the back of the church is an elaborate white marble monument designed by Vincenzo Vela, marking the tomb of opera composer Gaetano Donizetti, who was born in Bergamo and came back to die in the city.





Also on this day:

1470: The birth of poet Pietro Bembo

1537: The birth of anatomist Hieronymous Fabricius

1916: The birth of athlete Ondina Valla

1943: The birth of singer Al Bano

1967: The birth of film director Gabriele Muccino


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25 February 2023

Enea Salmeggia – artist

Painter was dubbed the Raphael of Bergamo

Enea Salmeggia's Il Martirio di Sant’Alessandro is one of his most famous paintings
Enea Salmeggia's Il Martirio di Sant’Alessandro
is one of his most famous paintings
Prolific painter Enea Salmeggia, who was active during the late Renaissance period and left a rich legacy of art in northern Italy, died on this day in 1626 in Bergamo in the region of Lombardy.

Salmeggia, also known as Il Talpino, or Salmezza, went to Rome as a young man, where he studied the works of Raphael. His style has often been likened to that of Raphael and he has even been called the Bergamo Raphael by some art lovers. A drawing formerly attributed to Raphael, now in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, of two figures seated with some architectural studies, has subsequently been ascribed to Enea Salmeggia.

The artist was born at Salmezza, a frazione of Nembro, a comune - municipality - in the province of Bergamo, between 1565 and 1570. It is known that he grew up in Borgo San Leonardo in Bergamo, where his father, Antonio, was a tailor.

He learnt the art of painting from other Bergamo painters and is also believed to have studied under the Bergamo artist Simone Peterzano in Milan. Caravaggio was one of Peterzano’s most famous pupils and it has been suggested that Salmeggia could have been studying with Peterzano at the same time as Caravaggio.

Enea's Madonna col Bambino e santi
 Ambrogio e Carlo Borromeo
Salmeggia was so young when he received his first commission to paint an Adoration of the Magi for the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo that his father had to sign the acceptance document on his behalf.

The artist married Vittoria Daverio, the sister of Milanese sculptor Pietro Antonio Daverio, and they had six children. Two of their children died from the plague and one went into a monastery, but his daughters, Chiara and Elisabetta, and his son, Francesco, worked in his studio near the Church of Sant’Alessandro in Colonna in Bergamo and later became painters themselves.

One of Salmeggia’s most famous works, Il Martirio di Sant’Alessandro, an oil on canvas in the choir of the Church of Sant'Alessandro in Colonna, was completed in 1623.

Among the other churches with paintings by Salmeggia are Sant’Andrea and Santi Bartolomeo e Stefano in Bergamo, Sant’Afra in Brescia, San Francesco in Lodi, San Vittorio in Terno d’Isola and San Gregorio in Gromo.

The Accademia Carrara in Bergamo has works by Salmeggia, including his Portrait of a Gentleman. The Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco in Milan also has paintings by Salmeggia, including his Madonna col Bambino e santi Ambrogio e Carlo Borremeo.

Salmeggia died in 1626 and was buried in the Church of Sant’Alessandro in Colonna.

The parish church of San
Martino in the centre of Nembro
Travel tip:

Nembro, the suburb of Bergamo in which Enea Salmeggia was born, can be found about 9km (5 miles) northwest of the city of Bergamo, on the right bank of the Serio river. The surrounding countryside is popular with walkers, with many defined paths in the hills above the town, one of which leads to the Santuario della Madonna dello Zuccarello, built in 1374 by the nobleman Bernardo Vitalba. The town itself surrounds the parish church of San Martino, erected in the ninth century but rebuilt in the 18th century, which contains no fewer than 27 of Salmeggia’s paintings.  In recent history, Nembro was notable as one of the areas of Bergamo worst hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with 188 known to have died from the disease, 94 in the first 15 days. On average, every household in Nembro mourned at least one family member.

Stay in Nembro with Booking.com

The Festa di Sant'Alessandro sees the church facade illuminated
The Festa di Sant'Alessandro sees
the church facade illuminated
Travel tip:

The Chiesa di Sant’Alessandro in Colonna in Via Sant’Alessandro in Bergamo is the church of the city’s patron saint.  Outside the church is a Roman column, said to have been erected in the exact spot where Alessandro was executed by the Romans. The column was constructed in the 17th century from Roman fragments and there are various theories about where the pieces came from. The church of Sant’Alessandro in Colonna was rebuilt in the 18th century on the site of an earlier church. Its ornate campanile was completed at the beginning of the 20th century. Over several days each August, the facade of the church is illuminated as part of the Festa di Sant’Alessandro, marking the anniversary of his execution in 303.

Accommodation choices in Bergamo from Booking.com




More reading:

The Bergamo painter who left a visual record of changing society

The Bergamo shoemaker’s son who became internationally acclaimed sculptor

Raphael - the precocious genius from Urbino

Also on this day:

1682: The birth of anatomist Giovanni Battista Morgagni

1707: The birth of Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni

1866: The birth of philosopher and historian Benedetto Croce

1873: The birth of tenor Enrico Caruso

2003: The death of actor Alberto Sordi

(Picture credits: Nembro church by Giorces via Wikimedia Commons)

(Paintings: Il Martirio di Sant’Alessandro, Galleria dell Accademia Carrara, Bergamo; Madonna col Bambino e santi Ambrogio e Carlo Borromeo, Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco, Milan)




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13 December 2022

Enrico Rastelli – juggler

Performer whose juggling record has never been surpassed

Enrico Rastelli practised until he had skills that set him apart
Enrico Rastelli practised until he
had skills that set him apart
Enrico Rastelli, who is thought to have been the greatest juggler of all time, died on this day in 1931 in Bergamo in Lombardy.

Rastelli began his career in the circus ring and practised his juggling skills constantly until he was able to achieve levels of skill beyond those of any of his contemporaries. By the 1920s he had become a star, touring Europe and America, amazing audiences with his skill and amassing large earnings.

Eventually he made the move to performing in vaudeville shows in theatres where he would appear in full football strip and juggle up to five footballs at a time.

Rastelli had been born in Russia in 1896, into a circus family originally from the Bergamo area of Lombardy. Both his parents were performers and trained him in circus disciplines including acrobatics, balancing, and aerial skills. He made his debut at the age of 13 as part of his parents’ aerial act.

He practised juggling diligently and by the age of 19 was performing his own solo juggling act. He started by manipulating sticks and balls in Japanese style. While many jugglers at the time would throw and catch plates, hats, and canes, Rastelli restricted himself to working with balls and sticks and achieved higher technical skills than any other juggler of this period.

In 1917, Rastelli married Harriet Price, a highwire artist, and they had three children. They frequently toured Europe with his act and established a permanent home in Italy, building a large Liberty style villa in Bergamo, 

Rastelli's routine often involved performing with footballs
Rastelli's routine often involved
performing with footballs
While on tour in Europe in 1931, Rastelli contracted pneumonia and had to return home to Bergamo quickly. Sadly, his condition worsened and he died in the early hours of the morning of 13 December of anaemia, aged 34.

When his funeral took place in Bergamo, it was attended by thousands of people. He was buried in the Cimitero Monumentale in Bergamo and a life-sized statue of him was erected at his tomb, showing him spinning a ball on his raised finger.

The February 1932 edition of Vanity Fair magazine included a full-page photograph of Rastelli, captioned: ‘One of the most sensational attractions in the international world of vaudeville.’ The magazine said Rastelli had elevated juggling to an art, ‘due not only to the amazing agility and complexity of the juggling itself,’ but also ‘to the incredible ease of his execution, and the visual impression made on the audience.’

The Juggling Hall of Fame website says Rastelli was ‘the most famous and in the opinion of many, the greatest juggler who ever lived.’ They say that as well as his work with large balls, he could also juggle up to ten small balls, which is generally considered to be the record.   

The beautiful Piazza Vecchia is the focal point of Bergamo's mediaeval Città Alta
The beautiful Piazza Vecchia is the focal point
of Bergamo's mediaeval Città Alta
Travel tip:

The Lombardy city of Bergamo, where Enrico Rastelli’s family had their roots and where Rastelli himself built a house for his family, can be found approximately 50km (31 miles) northwest of Milan. It is a beautiful city with an upper and lower town that are separated by impressive fortifications. The magical upper town - the Città Alta - has gems of mediaeval and Renaissance architecture surrounded by the impressive 16th century walls, which were built during the time the city belonged to Venice. Outside the walls, the elegant Città Bassa, which grew up on the plain below, has some buildings that date back to the 15th century as well as imposing architecture added in the 19th and 20th centuries. While the Città Alta, with the enchanting Piazza Vecchia at its heart, is the draw for many tourists, the lower town also has art galleries, churches and theatres and a wealth of good restaurants and smart shops to enjoy.

No 9 Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, the former home of juggler Enrico Rastelli and his family
No 9 Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, the former home
of juggler Enrico Rastelli and his family
Travel tip

Enrico Rastelli’s home in Bergamo was a beautiful villa on the edge of the Santa Lucia neighbourhood of the Città Bassa, at No 9 Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, where it can still be admired. He had it built in Stile Liberty, the Italian variation of Art Nouveau that was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which had influences of the Baroque architectural style but also incorporated elements that had their roots in Japanese and Far Eastern art. With ornate arches over the upper floor windows, balconies and an extra floor forming a tower in one corner, it is a good example of the style. The villa is thought to be owned now by the Praderio family, well known locally for their historic fabric shop in nearby Via XX Settembre, one of Bergamo’s main shopping streets.




Also on this day:

1466: The death of Renaissance sculptor Donatello

1521: The birth of Pope Sixtus V

1720: The birth of playwright Carlo Gozzi

La Festa di Santa Lucia


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17 October 2022

The founding of Atalanta football club

Bergamo institution started by students of local high school

An historic picture of the Atalanta team that competed in the 1913-14 season
An historic picture of the Atalanta team that
competed in the 1913-14 season
The football club now known as Atalanta Bergamasca Calcio - generally known as Atalanta - was founded on this day in 1907 in the Lombardy city of Bergamo.

The club was the idea of a group of students from the Liceo Classico Paolo Sarpi, one of the city’s oldest and most prestigious high schools.

They gave it the rather long-winded name of the Società Bergamasca di Ginnastica e Sports Atletici - the Bergamasca Society of Gymnastics and Athletic Sports - to which they attached the name Atalanta after the Greek mythological heroine famed for her running prowess.

For the first seven years of its life, the new club had no home and played friendly matches on whatever open space was available, but in 1914 found a home ground in Via Maglio del Lotto, adjoining the railway line just outside Bergamo station.

The ground had a small grandstand housing 1,000 spectators. It is said that the drivers of trains approaching the station on match days would slow down in order to enjoy a few moments of the action.

The club badge depicts Greek heroine Atalanta
The club badge depicts
Greek heroine Atalanta
In the event, after Italy was drawn into World War One, the club remained in Via Maglio del Lotto only two seasons. With so many young men going off to fight, the club suspended its activities and sold the ground.

When the club was reconstituted before the start of the 2019-20 season, they established a new home, named the Clementina Stadium, on the site of a former racecourse to the southeast of the city centre.

By that point, club members were eager to join the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and compete in their league but Bergamo had another team with similar ambitions, called Bergamasca, which had evolved from a club started by Swiss emigrants in 1904.

The FIGC would allow only one team from Bergamo to compete in their Prima Categoria, as their first division was then called. To decide which of them would represent the city, in 1919 a play-off was arranged, which Atalanta won 2-0.

In the event, the two clubs agreed to merge in 1920, forming a new club which at first was called Atalanta Bergamasca di Ginnastica e Scherma 1907 - scherma being fencing. It was soon shortened to Atalanta Bergamasca Calcio, which remains its name today. 

The club now plays at the Gewiss Stadium on Viale Giulio Cesare in the northeast of the city, a short walk from the centre of the Città Bassa - Bergamo’s lower city - and visible in the panoramic view available from vantage points on the eastern side of the mediaeval Città Alta, the elevated old part of the city.

Atalanta BC play their home games at the Gewiss Stadium in Bergamo's Città Bassa
Atalanta BC play their home games at the Gewiss
Stadium in Bergamo's Città Bassa
The stadium has been their home since 1928. It was built during the Fascist era at a cost of 3.5 million lira and originally named Stadio Mario Brumana after a Fascist official, which was common practice with public buildings at the time.

After the Fascist regime was overthrown in World War Two, the ground was renamed Stadio Communale and gradually expanded to allow more than 40,000 spectators to attend matches. It became the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia in 1994 and in 2019 adopted the Gewiss name after the club signed a sponsorship deal with the Swiss electronics company.

At the same time as Atalanta moved into the ground in 1928, the Italian championship was restructured with the top division renamed Serie A, as it is today.

Atalanta were initially placed in Serie B but within a decade had been promoted to Serie A. 

Nicknamed variously La Dea (The Goddess), Glo Orobici (after the Orobic or Bergamo Alps) or I Nerazzurri (the Black and Blues), Atalanta have never won the Serie A, yet have the proud record of having spent 62 seasons in the top division, 28 in Serie B and only one in Serie B, which is the best record of any team not based in a regional capital.

The current team, managed since 2016 by Gian Piero Gasperini, are enjoying one of the most successful spells in the club’s history, having qualified for the Champions League three seasons in a row and twice reached the final of the Coppa Italia.

The imposing walls around Bergamo's Città Alta go back to the time of the Renaissance
The imposing walls around Bergamo's Città 
Alta go back to the time of the Renaissance
Travel tip:

Bergamo, the fourth largest city in Lombardy, has an upper and lower town that are separated by impressive fortifications. The magical upper town - the Città Alta - has gems of mediaeval and Renaissance architecture surrounded by the impressive 16th century walls, which were built by the Venetians, of which Bergamo was a dominion at the time. Outside the walls, the elegant Città Bassa, which grew up on the plain below, has some buildings that date back to the 15th century as well as imposing architecture added in the 19th and 20th centuries. While the Città Alta is the draw for many tourists, the lower town also has art galleries, churches and theatres and a wealth of good restaurants and smart shops to enjoy.

The neoclassical facade of the Liceo Classico Paolo Sarpi in Bergamo
The neoclassical facade of the Liceo
Classico Paolo Sarpi in Bergamo
Travel tip:

The Liceo Classico Paolo Sarpi, the high school whose students started the club now known as Atalanta BC, is an historic institution in Piazza Rosate in Bergamo’s Città Alta, opposite the rear entrance of the city’s cathedral. Identifiable by its neoclassical facade designed by Ferdinando Crivelli, the Liceo has its roots in the first public school of Grammar, Humanities, and Rhetorics established by the Republic of Venice in 1506 under the name of Accademia della Misericordia. It was renamed after Paolo Sarpi, a Venetian polymath, in 1803, by Napoleonic decree. The building that houses the modern school was built between 1845 and 1852 under the auspices of the Austrian Government, when it was known as Regio Liceo. In 1860, the academy contributed to the Italian Unification with 70 students joining Garibaldi's Expedition of the Thousand, aimed at annexing the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies to the embryonic Kingdom of Italy. Today it is one of Italy’s leading elite academies, with 100 to 120 students graduating every year and a curriculum based in classical subjects such as Greek, Latin, Philosophy and History.

Also on this day:

1473: The birth of Renaissance sculptor Bartolommeo Bandinelli

1797: Venice loses its independence

1810: The birth of operatic tenor Giovanni Matteo Mario


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