|The Province of Bergamo currently has about 950 thousand inhabitants, one third of them concentrated in the metropolitan area. |
The northern part of the province, characterised by a mainly mountainous territory, has a fairly low population density and certain areas are completely deserted, corresponding to the highest altitudes.
Density increases in the Municipalities of the Lower Seriana Valley, where there is more industry and in the central part of the province, along the hilly strip.
The Province's main city, Bergamo, is situated where Val Brembana and Val Seriana meet and is one of the most interesting cultural centres of the region.
The city is divided into two parts: Bergamo Alta (Upper Bergamo), the old part on the hills, surrounded by a mighty ringed wall, and Bergamo Bassa (Lower Bergamo), more modern and developed on the plain.
There are several monuments to admire: in the Lower city modern monuments and pictorial works; while the Upper City has its Cathedral, the Colleoni Chapel and the ancient church of S. Michele, where 13th to 16th Century frescos have been preserved.
The name Bergamo comes from various cultural roots:
Ligurian, with the term Barga , meaning hut;
Celtic, with reference to Berginos, God of the heights;
Gallic, with Brig, high ground;
Indo-European, with the term Bherg;
Roman with the name Bergomun, indicating the dominant features of the place: protected, reliable and fertile.
It seems that in ancient times the mountainous zones of the Bergamo area were inhabited by the Orobi (hence the name of the Orobic Alps) and Cenomani Gauls, populations of shepherds and miners who worked extracting iron, blende and lodestone. They used to then come down from the hills to trade in Bergamo, from the Germanic Berg-hem, or a dwelling on the mountain.
Bergamo is in fact a particular city: the upper City, on a hill, is a splendid example of a medieval village enclosed by strong walls built by the Venetians in the 16th Century, when the Serenissima Republic was at the height of its power: over three centuries of well-being and economic development that have left their mark in monuments, institutions and the character of the people of Bergamo, self-effacing and hard-working. A blessed period therefore, shown by well-preserved buildings, churches and squares.
Like the nucleus formed by the Cathedral, the Colleoni Chapel, tomb of the tyrannical mercenary leader in the 15th Century and by the Baptistery. Not far away, in the square, the Palazzo Vecchio or della Ragione (Old Palace or the Palace of Reason), headquarters for government bodies in the 12th Century.
In 1167 Bergamo was one of the cities of the Lega Lombarda, fighting against Federico Barbarossa.
It was also a free city in eternal conflict with Brescia over borders and torn apart by rival families fighting for power.
The Church of Santa Maria Maggiore dates back to this period, one of the few Romanic examples in the city, still well preserved. Again in the upper City, the 15th and 17th Century Palazzo della Misericordia is home to the Donizettiano Museum, dedicated to Gaetano Donizetti, the opera musician who was born here in 1797.
In 1859 Garibaldi freed Bergamo from dominion by the Austrians in Lombardy and the people of Bergamo became his fervent supporters, so much so that the city is also called the "city of the thousand" after his thousand followers.
The Province of Bergamo is closed to the North by the crest of the Orobic Alps and stretches south towards the extreme strip of the Lombardy plain, to the border with the Province of Cremona.
At the mouth of the two main valleys, Val Brembana and Val Seriana, there is the city of Bergamo, crowned by a vast hilly strip at the foot of the mountains reaching from Lake Iseo to the Lecco arm of Lake Como.
The Eastern and Western limits to the Province are clearly drawn by the course of two great rivers: the Oglio to the East, marking a clear border with the Province of Brescia and the Adda to the West that separates the Bergamo area respectively from that of Como, Lecco and Milan.
One of the main characteristics of the Bergamo territory and of its province is the wide variety in the environment, which from the bleak peaks of the Orobic Alps slopes down through green valleys along the hilly strip dotted with vineyards, ending up in the wide expanses of forage typical of its rural area.
This scenario is completed by the Province's two lakes, Lake Iseo and Lake Endine, along whose banks attractive medieval villages can be seen.
The area offers other very interesting settings for a wealth of animals, landscapes and vegetation, now protected thanks to the setting up of Parks and Reserves.
The abundance of water, some of which has healing properties, has also enabled important spa resorts to be set up, among which the famous San Pellegrino Spa.