Based in stunning Bergamo, one of Italy’s loveliest cities
Three Donizetti Festival operas staged at Bergamo’s Teatro Donizetti
Visits to three private palaces & Bergamo’s excellent picture gallery
Recital at a private villa to the north of Milan
Comfortable four-star hotel close to the Teatro Donizetti in Lower Bergamo
Bergamo is a most handsome, small city. Hovering at the eastern edge of Lombardy, its history has placed this visually impressive place at the political and cultural edge of events, situated as it is between Milan and Venice to west and east, and the Po Plain and the Alps to south and north.
Each November Bergamo hosts an annual celebration of Gaetano Donizetti (1797 – 1848), a Bergamo native and one of Italy’s most engaging and prolific composers. A leading exponent of the Bel Canto tradition, beauty and evenness of tone, together with highly florid passages are his hallmarks, as we shall discover during our three exciting opera evenings at Bergamo’s newly restored Teatro Donizetti. These will include both L’Elisir D’Amor and Medea in Corintho, while to mark the theatre’s reopening, our final opera will be a new production of La Fille du Regiment.
There is much to see in Bergamo, its urban wealth made possible by trade routes long-established by the Romans, criss-crossing the north of the Italian peninsula. In post-Roman times, it became one of the most important Lombard duchies, with a glittering court, in the wider Lombard kingdom of Italy. The nearby Duchy of Milan took the city for its own in the fourteenth century and a century later Bergamo was again re-established at the Western frontier of the Venetian Republic.
These periods of ever changing political allegiances, alternating between civic independence and dominance by outside powers, are reflected in a palimpsest of late medieval and fine renaissance churches, chapels and secular buildings distributed about the Upper and Lower parts of Bergamo. Indeed, under Venetian dominion; trade, civic and artistic life flourished as never before - the fine Venetian walls and gates garlanding the upper town are but one of the most obvious parts of Bergamo’s cultural heritage.
One of the great smaller art galleries in Italy, the city’s Accademia Carrara, is rich in Venetian and Lombard paintings and sculptures. The highly regarded religious works of the Venetian painter Lorenzo Lotto can be seen throughout Bergamo. His near contemporary, the local painter Giovanni Battista Moroni, is one of Italy’s greatest sixteenth century portraitists and we shall see his works in one of a number of impressive palaces we shall visit privately, most still owned by Bergamo’s mercantile and noble families.
We shall stay in the well-located 4* Excelsior San Marco in Lower Bergamo, a short walk to Teatro Donizetti, the principal shopping district and the funicular to Bergamo Alto’s historic centre.
Day by day
- Day 1: Thursday 18 November
- We fly from Heathrow to Milan Linate, arriving mid-afternoon. We transfer to Bergamo and the 4* Excelsior San Marco for four nights. Later in the evening we have dinner in our hotel – water, wine and coffee are included with all group lunches and dinners.
- Day 2: Friday 19 November
- The city’s old historic medieval centre is raised upon a hill (Bergamo Alto) joined to its lower, newer counterpart (Bergamo Basso), via a panoramic funicular which we shall take! Our day begins with the handsome buildings in and around Piazza Vecchia. The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is a very fine Romanesque church whose many highlights include intarsia panels set into the choir screen, designed by Lorenzo Lotto. The adjoining Cappella Colleoni, named after the fifteenth century condottiero, Bartolomeo Colleoni, is a renaissance addition to this marvellous architectural composition. After coffee and a visit to the Duomo, we end our morning with the first of a number of private visits to some of Bergamo’s noble and mercantile palaces. Palazzo Terzi was extended from its original sixteenth century nucleus into one of the city’s finest eighteenth century palaces. Its gilded and frescoed reception rooms give an indication of the ambition of Bergamo’s great and good. Following lunch (not included), we end our activities with a visit to the small, yet informative Museo Donizettiano which outlines the work, life and personality of the composer through scores, letters, portraits and personal possessions. We return to our hotel where the remainder of the afternoon and early evening will be free. Our first opera L’Elisir D’Amor at the nearby Teatro Donizetti begins at 8.00 pm after which we walk the short distance back to our hotel.
- Day 3: Saturday 20 November
- We make a leisurely start and begin with the nearby Church of SS Bartolomeo e Stefano, a fine Baroque church containing one of Lorenzo Lotto’s most important altarpieces. We continue to Bergamo Alto via the convenient funicular and after a coffee break visit the restored Church of San Michele al Pozzo Bianco. Retaining its medieval plan, fine fresco cycles from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries include important works by Lotto. We continue to the splendid Palazzo Moroni which has some lively early seventeenth century fresco cycles and a most enchanting walled garden. The highlight is a group of fine portraits by the sixteenth century Lombard painter from Bergamo, Giovanni Battista Moroni. Following a group lunch, the remainder of the afternoon and early evening will be free. Our second opera at the nearby Teatro Donizetti will be Medea in Corintho.
- Day 4: Sunday 21 November
- This morning we visit two sites in Lower Bergamo. We walk to the newly arranged picture collection at the Accademia Carrara, rich in Venetian and Lombard pictures, where we shall see some real gems in a thoughtful and engaging display. After coffee, we continue to a private visit at Palazzo Agliata where a member of the owning family will guide us through this fine eighteenth house, rich in gentle baroque and rococo decoration and a charming terraced garden. Lunch (not included) and the remainder of the afternoon and early evening will be free. Our third and final opera at Teatro Donizetti will be La Fille du Regiment.
- Day 5: Monday 22 November
- We leave Bergamo and drive to the north of Milan to the Lombard village of Briosco, where we visit privately Villa Medici-Giulini. Built in 1643, the estate has had many owners and Fernanda Giulini and her family restored the villa in the twentieth century. It is where Signora Giulini displays some of her extraordinary collection of historic keyboard instruments: harpsichords, organs and pianos. Surrounded by formal Italian gardens, the villa’s many reception rooms (including an impressive saloon painted by Zuccarelli) houses the historic pianos, some of which will be played. After our lunch in the villa there will be a concluding recital in the estate’s charming theatre. We continue to Milan’s Linate airport and our return
- Price: £TBC per person
- Price without flights: £2,165
- Deposit: £3,025
- Single Supplement: £95 (Single Room)
£255 (Double Room for Sole Use)
- Tour Manager: James Hill
4 nights with breakfast at 4* Hotel Excelsior San Marco, Bergamo
Couples and those sharing will be allocated a Deluxe Room. Single travellers will be allocated a Superior Room with a French Bed (140cm wide). If single travellers would like to upgrade to a Deluxe Double for Sole Use, the single supplement is £255.
Outward: BA562 Depart London Heathrow (Terminal 5) 1140 arrive Milan Linate 1445
Return: BA569 Milan Linate 1855 arrive London Heathrow (Terminal 5) 2000
1 dinner and 3 lunches with wine, water & coffee, stall seats for 3 operas, all local transfers, entry fees & gratuities, City tax, services of Tom Duncan & our local tour manager, James Hill
Travel to/from Heathrow, 3 dinners & 1 lunch
We do expect a reasonable level of fitness. For full details see our frequently asked questions.