History of Bergamo


See Bergamo guide for highlights and historic monuments

Bergamo is a city of a very ancient origin, perhaps even pre-roman. According to an ancient legend, Bergamo was founded by Cidno, son of Ligure and a descendant of Noah.

In reality we know that in Bergamo there were human settlements already in prehistoric times, the Ligurian and Umbrian, who in the 6th century B.C. were conquered by the Etruscans.

Bergamo owes its name to the Gauls, who founded it once again after its destruction, and called it "Berg-hem", literally meaning the "House in the mountain". In Roman time the name was Latinized as Bergamum.

Under the Roman domination, Bergamo was a city of great importance and was surrounded by mighty walls. The city flourished from agricultural and commercial activities, and according to Polybius and Cicero it had a fruitful soil.

During the medieval period the city met with numerous achievements and challenges. It was occupied by Attila's Huns and then destroyed by the Geiserics Vandals (5th century AD). It was subsequently occupied by the Longobards and afterwards it became a Byzantine city.

It was also an important city under Charles the Great, when it became centre of a large region reaching as far as Brescia.

In the Communal Age, Bergamo, together with Cremona, Mantua and Milan signed the famous "Oath of Pontida" (1167), whereby the various cities committed themselves to give mutual aid against the demands of the Emperor Barbarossa (1123-1190). At that time the Abbey of Pontida, where the oath was signed, was in the possession of Bergamo.

More recently Bergamo became subject to the Viscounts of Milan, then fell to the Venetians by 1428. It also became a cultural centre of considerable importance, where some very important people lived and worked - for example Bernardo Tasso, the father of the famous Torquato Tasso.

Between the 18th and 19th century the history of Bergamo merges with that of the rest of Italy: Napoleonic then Austrian domination, and participation in the struggles of the Italian Risorgimento , then becoming part of Italy in 1860.