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Arriving at our destination in upper Bergamo, we were dropped street side at the tall, narrow Gombit Hotel. With only thirteen rooms built into what was a thirteenth century tower house, Where is Mongolia? its bright, contemporary furniture mandated by designer Gio Pozzi contrasted dramatically, as we reached our room from an open walkway, with the weathered vertical stone dropping to a small courtyard.

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And just beneath our window was a monument to the nineteenth century emergence of sanitary science: a roofed-over, communal wash house (for clothes). The tubs of this 1881 lavatoio are supplied with clean water and a drainage system designed to minimise the possibility of a cholera or typhoid outbreak. No doubt accommodated more comfortably than the traditional owners, the twenty-first century transients who occupy the tower today enjoy central heating, ensuite bathrooms and the usual continental breakfast of fruit, breads, preserved meats, cheese and coffee.

Pretty much any place of interest in old Bergamo was only a few minutes walk away. During the day, the narrow streets were full of tourists, who seemed to be mostly Italian. Some were there for the science festival, but it also seemed that many were people of faith visiting the various religious sites. Intended to warn the citizens that the gates were closing, Mongolia Map the nightly 10 pm sounding of a hundred bell peels from the twelfth century Il Campanone reminded us that this is a city with a deep ecclesiastical history. Like the muezzin call from mosques in the Arab world, what had been the work of energetic devotees was now a recording.

The next day we took it easy and wandered around, as there wasn’t much to do until I gave my lecture the following day. This was to be held at the Teatro Sociale, about two minutes walk from the hotel. Completed in 1808 and influenced by the design of Milan’s much larger La Scala Opera House, the Teatro served as both a theatre and a home for community events, then it fell into progressive disuse from 1929 and was almost demolished. My sense was that the Teatro had been founded to provide a public meeting place that had no measure of church control and then, since Mussolini’s 1922 elevation to power, it lost its relevance as the fascists strangled open debate. An enormous effort was required to bring it back after eighty years of neglect -much of it, especially the tier-on-tier wooden boxes, had become very unsafe. It was sensitively restored and, in 2009, the Teatro returned to general use.

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