Francesco Nullo - 1863

His was a lifetime spent between the Sentierone and the battlefield. The house in which Francesco Nullo was born, his offices and shop, the recruiting centre for the Expedition of the Thousand led by Garibaldi, even his fiancée – all could be found in the space of just a few hundred metres in the centre of Bergamo. At the tender age of 20, Nullo underwent a baptism of fire during the Cinque Giornate di Milano and, at 30, he fought the Austrians with the Cacciatori delle Alpi regiment. Shortly afterwards, he proved a key member of Garibaldi’s Sicilian Expedition, using the Teatrino dei Filodrammatici in Via Borfuro as a headquarters for recruiting students, craftsmen, entrepreneurs, and adventurers to the cause, as Bergamo became the ‘City of the Thousand’, and launching the decisive assaults on Calatafimi and Palermo to the rallying cry of “Bergamasch, tucc inturen a me!” (“Bergamaschi, to me”). Nullo returned from Sicily a hero. Known as “Il più bello dei mille” (“the most handsome of the thousand”), he had both fame and fortune, but these were not the goals for which he had for 15 years risked life and limb. Freedom was an ideal that knew no national boundaries and, with his Polish brothers suffering under the yoke of Tsarist Russia, he left with his companions of countless battles for a new war of liberation, at the head of a brigade of international volunteers – the Legionnaires of Poland – braving, and eventually perishing under enemy fire. Still today on 5 May, visitors from Poland leave flowers at the foot of his statue on the Sentierone.

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