Bergamo is at a time a beautiful medieval city (the “Città Alta”, the Upper Town) and a nice, but not frenetic, modern city (the “Città Bassa”, the Lower City) whose centre dates back to the last centuries.
“La Città Alta” or, simply, “la Città” (i.e. the City, as opposed to the suburbs) is a medieval city surrounded by bastions built in the sixteenth century, during the Venetian domination, bastions which were added to the existing fortifications in order to make the city an impregnable fortress.
The most well known and visited part of the Upper Town is Piazza Vecchia (the Old Square) with its Contarini fountain, the Palazzo della Ragione (the Palace of Reason), the Torre civica (the Civic Tower) known as the Campanone (the Great Bell) that still strikes 100 times at 10 pm, which in the past announced the night closing of the gates of the Venetian walls. Opposite the Palazzo della Ragione, stands the imposing large white building of the Palazzo Nuovo (New Palace) which houses the Biblioteca (Library) Angelo Mai. On the South side of Piazza Vecchia are the Cathedral, the Colleoni Chapel, built by Giovanni Antonio Amadeo with memorials to Bartolomeo Colleoni and his daughter Medea, the Baptistery built by Giovanni da Campione and the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore with its beautiful North and South side doors also designed by Giovanni da Campione. Inside this church there are the architectural traces of the various periods that have occurred since its construction. Noteworthy inlays depicting biblical scenes made of wood of various colors (whose designs are attributed to Lorenzo Lotto) and an impressive carved baroque confessional by Andrea Fantoni. The church houses the tomb of the composer Gaetano Donizetti. Via Colleoni, also known as Corsarola, connects Piazza Vecchia with Piazza della Cittadella and it is the heart of Citta Alta. In Piazza della Cittadella are the Archaeological Museum and the 'Caffi' Museum of Natural Sciences; not far away the Flantro fountain (located near the church of San Lorenzo) can be visited. Among other religious architectural structures it must remembered the church of San Michele al Pozzo Bianco, which maintains the frescoes with scenes from the life of Mary by Lorenzo Lotto (1525).
Città Alta, as well as hosting a botanical garden in Via Colle Aperto, it also hosts to the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures whose prestige is recognized at a European level.
To understand how much Città Alta is harmonious it can be remembered what the famous architect Le Corbusier said when, requested by the Municipality what to do to make the city even more beautiful, he gave the advise “non muovere pietra” (don’t move a single stone).
Bergamo Bassa, more often called Città Bassa, (Lower Town), was established by the development of several small villages located along the main roads which from the hills, brought to the plain. Because of this unique urban layout, the old city was simply called 'sità' (i.e. città, the city) and 'Borgh' (Borghi, vil-lages) was called the present Bergamo Bassa which is crossed by the river Morla for 8 kilometers.
In early 1900, the district that is now the center of Città Bassa was created (designed by the architect Marcello Piacentini) and the institutional buildings have been hosted in it. Adjacent to this area is the Sentierone, paved drive-way which, in past centuries, was the station of the horse-drawn carriages. Bergamo Bassa hosts the Municipality of the city, the Prefecture and the Province of Bergamo. The main street is viale Papa Giovanni XXIII (formerly Viale Roma), which goes from the railway station to Porta Nuova. On the Sentierone faces the main theater in the city, named after Gaetano Donizetti and owned by the Municipality. Again on the Sentierone faces the Church of San Bartolomeo and Santo Stefano which houses the table of Lorenzo Lotto called Pala Martinengo. An example of a complete fusion of painting and sculpture is the renovated Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary whose stuccos, dated 1752, are by Muzio Camuzio. In via Sant'Alessandro there is the sixteenth century Monastery of San Benedetto from Norcia, which is still home to an active monastic community. Even in the church of San Benedetto from Norcia there are stuccos by Muzio Camuzio which frame the frescoes by the painter Orelli. Also noteworthy is the monument to partisan Giacomo Manzù.
In the northern part of the Città Bassa is the Carrara Academy (founded in 1796 by Count Giacomo Carrara) in which permanent and non permanent art exhibitions take place. One of them, in the last times, was dedicated to the works of Lorenzo Lotto and had national resonance. Other museums are the Donizetti Museum, the Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art (GAMeC), the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, the History Museum, the Museum Matris Domini, the Archaeological Museum of Natural Sciences, the botanic Garden.