Bergamo is a small town in Lombardy, Italy, very close to Milan. The city is often overlooked by tourists who arrive to Italy with low cost airlines and head straight to Milan or just take another flight to somewhere else.
This was also our case. On the way to Spain we had to spend a night in Bergamo before our next flight, but this time we had a full day to enjoy the charming little city. So, we dropped our bags and headed to the Upper town.
Bergamo offers little treasures like museums, ancient palaces, churches and monuments that can be compared with those of other more important Italian cities. The city is divided into two parts – the Upper Town, or “Citta Alta”, and the newer, Lower City, or “bassa città.”
Main point of interest is the Citta alta, that’s where the whole magic of Bergamo is. Citta Alta can be reached by funicular or a hike, but once there it is a delight to walk the narrow cobbled streets and to enjoy the old-fashioned shops and restaurants.
Once there you should:
Stroll the center of the Citta Alta
The center is completely pedestrian and you can explore the medieval streets that open into squares and plazas, lined with palaces, towers and small restaurants, cafes and bakeries that sell local products as the sweet “polenta e osei” ( a sort of cake made of sugar shaped as a local dish made of cornmeal mush).
Take a walk alongside the Venetian Walls
Upper Town is fenced by the Venetian Walls which were built, when Bergamo belonged to Venice.
They build the walls in order to protect the city from Milan and France. Nowadays, the walls are a symbol of Bergamo and enclose a town full with charm. You can walk alongside the walls, through the parks and you will have an amazing view over the lower Bergamo city.
Don’t miss an Espresso in a Local Café
Experience a freshly brewed, Italian roast coffee in a quaint, local café on one of the narrow streets of the city center.
Explore every corner of Piazza Vecchia
Piazza Vecchia is upper Bergamo’s vibrant center. Full of building and monuments of great importance, as well as great cafes and gelaterias, it can consume your whole day. You can find the famous Palazzo dell Ragione, whose arches are decorated with unique animal busts, or the central fountain with four magnificent lion sculptures. Once on Piazza Vecchia you should also have an ice-cream at Caffé del Tasso.
Visit Cappella Colleoni
The church and mausoleum is just next to Piazza Vecchia and to Bergamo’s cathedral. However, Cappella Colleoni stands out from the multitude of wonderful buildings thanks to its colorful marble façade and curious design.
Visit Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
Near Cappella Colleoni you will see the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. Its complicated history dates back to the ancient Romans, when the site was a temple.
It was then turned into a Christian church, and in the 12th century became a basilica.
Try the famous ice-cream with stracciatella
After World War I, in the Upper town of Bergamo, in a cafe pace named “La Marianna” stracciatella was born. The cafe place is still there, in the same place and they still produce the “real stracciatella” using the very same machinery from 1961.
We couldn’t miss it. It was exquisite.
Go to La Rocca di San Vigilio
This wonderful panorama spot will provide you with the best view of the whole Bergamo and beyond: several mountain ranges and the nearby towns. To get there you will have to have the tiny ‘sky’ train called funicolare one level beyond the rest of the upper city or to walk like we did. It is a tough one. But once you find yourself at the top level of Bergamo, it will take you only around three minutes to reach the San Vigilio panorama spot.
Getting to Bergamo
There are four ways to get to Bergamo:
Plain – Orio Al Serio located in Bergamo, is the quickest option for the international travelers.
Rent a Car – Best option for flexibility and there are various rental companies in and around Bergamo. But if you visit only Bergamo, there is no need for a rental.
Bus – Great for families and groups. Best way to the city center.
Train – Efficient and cost effective way to access Bergamo.
Getting around and about in Bergamo
Traveling around Bergamo is best done on foot so you can take in the sights. But for those who want to travel further than walking distance, the bus is a cost effective option. Or for a fun and unique travel experience, why not try the funicular to get around the city.
You can download the ATB Bergamo App to buy either ticket for public transport or for the toll parking. It’s a useful tool to have all the information about public transport whenever you need. If you don’t want to use the app, the website provides information about all the transport services and helps you plan your trip. Bus – Ticket fare: 1,30€.
Where to sleep
You can find a full range of budget places to stay in Bergamo, from as low as 15 euros per night. But of course, you can fins accommodation for all the pockets and all the taste. We chose am apartment hotel outside the Citta Alta, not far from it but with an incredible view over the city.
Where to eat: restaurants in Bergamo
The number of restaurants in the city is growing fast since the advent of Ryan Air, but I would like to suggest two historical places where to eat well without spend a fortune.
The Circolino Restaurant and Pub in the upper town is a very nice place where students spend their time at lunch. If you like beer, pizza or casoncelli (it’s a local type of ravioli), this is the right place.
Da Mimmo Restaurant is also a famous historical restaurant is in the upper town. It’s a little bit more expensive, but the quality of food is excellent. We had a lovely dinner by the terrace. And the food was very good.
The story of the restaurant and its own it’s fantastic. Mimmo and his wife themselves are still taking care of the restaurant, despite the old age.
What to taste in Bergamo
The cuisine of Bergamo is not light. It was not quite on our taste. But if you want to try something local, then you should try the Casoncelli that are a typical dish similar to Ravioli and the Polenta with cheese (called “Polenta Taragna“). If you like sweets you will find everywhere the Torta Donizzetti (a cake with the name of the famous musician of Bergamo) and the sweet version of Polenta e Osei.
Bergamo it’s a charming city and you should spend at least one full day to be able to enjoy the local atmosphere, peek at every nook and taste the local cuisine.