Identified thanks to the research conducted by Ciro Caversazzi published in 1924, the home in which Gaetano Donizetti was born is a five-story building dating back to medieval times. Due to the slope of the hill on which Borgo Canale stands, only four stories are visible from the road running across the hill, whereas five above-ground stories can be seen from the road at the bottom of the hill (now Via degli Orti). The Donizetti family lived in the basement, which was initially an open portico, but was later closed in and walled off into living space and service rooms for the entire building: a hallway with woodshed, well and ice house on one side, and on, the other side, facing downhill, a two-room apartment.
Purchased by the Municipality of Bergamo in 1925 using funds raised from the public the year before, in 1926 the building was declared a national monument due to its “historical interest”. Uninhabited from 1929 to the mid-30’s, the building was then used once more for residential purposes until the mid-60’s. On the first centennial of Donizetti’s death (1948), and then again in 1973, the basement was restored and opened to the public. In 2007 the Municipality of Bergamo began restoration and renovation work on the entire building, which was then fully opened in 2009. The Donizetti Foundation was charged with organising the space.
Visitors enter the building from the entrance on Via Borgo Canale, passing through an atrium that hosts the welcome desk. By climbing down into the basement, visitors may see the rooms of historical interest, where the Donizetti family lived, as well as the service rooms, painstakingly restored to reflect the historical reality. There is no furniture: the people who lived here were too poor to have furnishings of any value, and the change of residents did not help preserve what little there was. Returning to the ground floor, the two rooms that face downhill have wall panels that provide an overview of the lives of Donizetti and his teacher Mayr: the view of the hills of Bergamo from the windows is quite a show in itself! Upstairs, visitors will find, on one side, a small room containing a few precious memorabilia, and, on the other, a large room dedicated to the theatre – Donizetti’s main area of activity – conceived as both a building and the creation of shows.
The next floor houses a small auditorium, accessed through an atrium that also serves as a gallery showing portraits of Donizetti. As they return downstairs to the entrance, in the bookshop visitors may purchase books, CDs and DVDs about Donizetti and his works, along with objects reproducing and elaborating on his image or handwriting.
“Impronte Sonore” is an auditory journey into the past, voices, sounds, times and places experienced by the young Gaetano Donizetti. Binaural microphones have been used to record a compelling holophonic narrative capable of bringing to life the day-to-day experience of a humble 19th-century family by immersing the listener in three-dimensional soundscapes.
What sets “Impronte Sonore” apart from a traditional audio guide is its use of hearing, not sight, to guide the user, thus serving two purposes. Firstly, it is suited to the diverse nature of the visitors to the Birthplace, with their different interests, nationalities and age groups, in that it transcends each individual’s specific situation.
The application allows visitors to personalise their itineraries and the length of their stay. Visitors are thus free to move among the contents of the three stories of the Birthplace, namely “The house where he was born”, “The Pupil and the Teacher” and “The Donizetti Theatre”.