The city of Bergamo is particularly known for its two urban centres: "Citta' Alta", an ancient village situated on a hill surrounded by the venetian walls, and "Citta' Bassa", the lower town set at the foot of the hill, which is the modern part of the city.
These two parts of Bergamo have been linked since 1887 by a funicular railway, which was originally built to save the upper town from isolation and economic crises, after the lower part of the city was further developed and the principal administrative activities were transferred to the area of Sentierone.
The funicular, which has been modernized several times over the years, is still the most popular means for inhabitants of Bergamo and numerous visitors to reach the upper town. Bergamo also has another funicular, which links the ancient village with the hill of San Vigilio. Built in 1912 in the aim to develop residential areas there, this funicular was mainly used by visitors.
In 1976 the service was suspended for renovation and safety works, but this proved to be too
expensive and the funicular closed down, In 1991, however, the city council and ATB decided to restore the service and make the necessary investments.
Citta' Alta funicular
From 1880 onwards, many projects were presented to Bergamo city council, in search to link Citta' Alta with the lower town. After lengthy discussions, the Emilian engineer Alessandro Ferretti came up with the most suitable idea, which was to build a funicular that linked Viale Vittorio Emanuele
with Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe. The funicular's first journey took place on the 20th September 1887. Until 1907, the service was run by the engineer himself, who already managed the horse-drawn tram service, in the lower town. That year, after a referendum, the management of the system was handed over to the council, which led to the creation of ATB, known at that time as Amfete in 1921, this city-owned enterprise decided to modernize the entire system; two coaches were replaced and both stations were completely rebuilt. More work was necessary in 1954 and again in 1963-64.
The last improvement was in 1987, one century after the first journey, when the funicular took on its
San Vigilio funicular
The funicular leading up to the hill of San Vigilio was opened on the 27th August 1912. The company that originally managed the service ran into financial difficulties, so the city-owned enterprise, which already managed the Citta' Alta funicular, took over the system and kept it running.
It took over the service permanently in 1918.
The system operated until 1976 when the service was suspended, and in 1984, ATB decided to restore it. A radical restoration project began in 1987 and the works by the Milanese company Ceretti Tanfani went on until 1991. The San Vigilio funicular was and still is mainly used by tourists, the most famous of which was Hermann Hesse, Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1913.
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