Bergamo. It’s so hard to understand the pain and fear that that lovely city is going through now, although living in New York City, I fear I will soon know. In better times, when I think of Bergamo, I think of dear friends from there, the times I have visited and the wines I have tasted. Bergamo was the home of Luigi Veronelli, the premier wine expert and author of one of the most famous Italian wine guides of all time.
Bergamo has held a place in my heart for a long time. One of the first Italian movies I ever saw was by Ermanno Olmi, the director of the Tree of the Wooden Clogs.The movie meant a lot to me when I was first falling in love with Italy. I remember seeing it and being entranced with the countryside, nature and Italy. It’s very hard to understand because they speak in the Bergamasco dialect as well.
Bergamo is a jewel of a city and anyone visiting Lombardy should take a day or a few hours and visit Bergamo, when this horror ends. My first dinner outside of Milan when I moved to Lombardy in 1995 from Florence and Bologna was in Bergamo at a restaurant called Trattoria da Ornella. It was the first time I had Polenta Taragna, a typical dish from the Valtellina, another area of Lombardy. It was very picturesque with high ceilings and I ate more meat than I had ever seen in an Italian restaurant. While that was my first experience in the lovely city of Bergamo but over the years I have had many more thanks to good friends who live there and others who would take me to dinner there from Milan.
The most recent visit was this past summer when I took my son to their natural history museum. The have a reconstruction of a woolly mammoth. He was enthralled. They also did a virtual realty simulation with dinosaurs, again right up his alley.
Bergamo also boasts fantastic churches with a number of beautiful paintings by Lorenzo Lotto, a painter that I am a fan of from the 1500s,
Going on a tour of this beautiful city, one would certainly visit the main Piazza del Duomo where the Cathedral of S. Alessandro in Bergamo is located.
I just love this complex of buildings and the way they work together to form a harmonious unit despite the differences in style and age of the monuments and churches.
In addition to my love of wine, food and all things Italian, there is almost nothing in the world that makes my heart sing as much as the architectural and artistic delights that abound throughout Italy. In fact, my initial move to Italy was to become a gold leaf restorer but that is a story for another day.
Back to Bergamo, a dear Bergamasco friend Silvia, took me on an extended tour of Bergamo. According to Silvia or Tata as we call her, no visit to Bergamo is complete without a stop at La Marianna
We walked around Bergamo Alta for a long time before stopping for a caffe at Caffe del Tasso in the main piazza. Our biggest decision was where to go for dinner and what wines to try.
I thought I would repost some of the information I have written about Bergamo and its wines from the Valcalepio, still quite unknown in the US but also in many parts of Italy. The Consorzio Tutela Valcalepio was founded in 1976 by 22 members. Today, the consortium has 80 members. They have three denominations: Valcalepio DOC, Terre dei Colleoni DOC and the Bergamasco IGT
Viticulture in this area has been ongoing since the Roman Era. Pliny the Elder in fact talks about the wines from Bergamo in his works. The Valcalepio Rosso DOC is made from Cabernet Sauvignon (25%-60%) and Merlot. The grapes are harvested and fermented separately. The wine is then blended and aged. If aged for three years, at least one in wood, it can be called a Riserva. Of the 400 hectares that go into making wines in the Valcalepio area, 70% are used for the Valcalepio Rosso.
The Valcalepio Bianco DOC is made from Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay (55% to 80%) and Pinot Grigio (20% to 45%). In addition to the DOC wines, a line of IGT wines are also made including a traditional method sparkling wine.
No post on Bergamo and the Valcalepio can be complete without mentioning the Cantina Sociale Bergamasca. They produce wines using the Terre del Colleoni or Colleoni DOC denominations, a DOC created in 2011. This cooperative was founded in 1957 in San Paolo d’Argon. It has 150 members and 170 hectares of vines. The coop produces some 900,000 bottles annually and exports currently 10% of its production.
On a visit in 2017, I took these pictures. They are a large operation as you can see. I did a project with the Cantina many years ago and have always had a fondness for their wines.
My son was almost three when these pictures were taken and their export manager at the time, took him by the hand and walked him around the winery. Needless to say, they are a warm and kind people.
Valcalepio is an area that runs from the Lago d’Iseo to not far from Lago di Como, about 60 kilometers. These are the pre-alps and can be separated into two parts, one with clay and calcareous soils and the othermore driven by schist. The vines grow on hills of 200-800 meters above sea level.
While this may not be the time to visit, please keep Bergamo in mind for the future. It is an amazing, historic, beautiful, elegant city and one that will need visitors and help in the future. #Bergamo #Molamia
Nice article. Great city. Have not been tere in a few years but will return next time I visit the Lakes
Thanks Charles. Definitely should be on your list again when it is possible to visit.