Bergamo, also called the gate to Milan is the fourth biggest city in Lombardy region. I didn’t expect much of Bergamo, but how mistaken I was. Once I started exploring it, I realized how beautiful it is. I was stunned to see so many interesting places, magnificent architecture and cozy restaurants. From the bottom of my heart I do recommend a visit.
HOW MANY DAYS?
Most people spend in Bergamo just a few hours on their way to Milan. It’s a pity, because the city has way more to offer, than just a transit spot. It has so many attractions, sight to see and hidden spots to discover that one day is not enough. I suggest spending in Bergamo at least two days if possible. This way you don’t have to rush and can enjoy shopping, sightseeing and dining.
HOW TO GET THERE?
You can get to Bergamo by plane, which is very convenient. Transport from the airport to the city centre is as easy as pie. Number 1 bus from the airport will get you straight to the center, even to the Upper Town and it won’t take longer than 30 minutes. So, don’t bother taking a taxi or a driver, as you’ll be charged huge amount of money, while you can pay just 1,50 Eur for a single ticket. You may also use train, from Milan it’s just 50 minutes in one direction.
HOW TO MOVE AROUND THE CITY?
Again, you may easily take the bus no 1, which can drive you from the Lower town to the Upper one. You may also use the funicular to reach the Upper Town or even more, to the highest point in Bergamo. There’re also certain parts of the city, where it would be the best to just walk. I’ve seen also many bikes around the city, but the hills are quite steepy.
WHAT TO SEE IN BERGAMO?
You may come across the Bergamo signs Citta Alta and Citta Bassa, which are no other than the Upper Town and the Lower Town. It’s the Citta Alta with the ruins of the castle, the Venetian wall, Cathedral and cozy restaurants. While the Citta Bassa is filled with shops, coffee shops, galleries and bars. Both are also spotted with so many churches that If I were local I wouldn’t know which one to choose. But let’s see a full list of what you can see in Bergamo. Let’s start from the bottom:
The Lower Town is a string of busy streets, mostly modern buildings, shops, exclusive boutiques and some interesting sights.
It is a wide gate, flanked by two symmetrical neo-classical buildings built in 1837. It can be reached via Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII.
TOWER OF THE FALLEN
The Torre dei Caduti di Bergamo is located in Piazza Vittorio Veneto. This 45 meter high tower is one of the most emblematic monuments of the lower city, built after the WW1 in memory and honor of the fallen of Bergamo but also to exalt and consolidate unitary nationalism. The work also testifies, from an urban point of view, the development and importance acquired by the lower city.
Sentierone, the so-called salon of Bergamo is one of the most famous avenues in Bergamo. Buildings such as the Donizetti Theater and the Church of San Bartolomeo overlook this pretty tree-lined avenue, built in 1620. In the 1900s, the Sentierone was modernized with the construction of the Quadriportico,. Today the Sentierone is considered the heart of Bergamo Bassa.
FOUNTAIN DELLA FIERA
Located on Piazza Dante, the fountain consists of a basin in which the figure of Neptune dominates, surrounded by tritons and sea horses pouring water from their mouths. This fountain is a hidden gem of Bergamo Bassa. And its surrounding invites to sit down and relax for a while.
LIBERTY SQUARE AND AUDITORIUM
The Auditorium is state-owned, and is managed by Lab 80 film on behalf of the Municipality of Bergamo. This is where the city’s cultural life takes place. Audience can view rich and varied programme of films, theatre performances, concerts and other cultural initiatives.
VIA XX SETTEMBRE
The main shopping avenue in the Lower Town. As well as shops, there are original Italian townhouses.
Housed in a 15th-century convent, it is a gallery of 20th-century Italian art and works by emerging talents.
The Upper Town is the medieval part of the city, surrounded by walls built in the 16th century, during the period of Venetian rule. This is where most of Bergamo’s monuments and places of interest worth visiting are located. The most famous is Piazza Vecchia, the main square of the Upper Town.
Bergamo is surrounded by the Venetian walls and there are several gates that stand today in fantastic condition despite their age. The most remarkable of them all is the Porta San Giacomo – white marble gatehouse, which was constructed in the 16th century
The fortified city of Bergamo in 2017 has been inscribed on the World Heritage Sight as part of the Venetian Works of Defence Between the 16th and 17th Centuries: Stato da Terra – Western Stato da Mar. The walls were built to protect the city from the Republic of Milan and France during the decline of Venice’s control over maritime trade. It’s almost 6 kilometers of wall, where you can walk and admire the view of the lower town
The square is the heart of the Upper Town. Look around and you’ll see the “Palazzo della Ragione”, the oldest municipal seat in Lombardy, as well as the Torre Civica, a bell tower called “Campanone”. In the middle of the square you’ll find the Contarini Fountain, which stand there from 1780. In front of Piazza Vecchia you can see the Palazzo Nuovo (“New Palace”), which served as Bergamo’s Town Hall until 1873, but nowadays it’s the seat of the Angelo Mai Library – one of the most outstanding libraries in Italy with its incredible collection.
It’s the small irregular square between the Cathedral and Basilica. It was the city’s medieval square, dedicated to St. Vincent, and the centre of the city and political life where decrees were announced, deeds were written and trades and negotiations took place.
SANTA MARIA MAGGIORE BASILICA
The Basilica decorated with frescoes, stuccos, tapestries and wooden marquetry was designed by the artist Lorenzo Lotto. The built of the Basilica started in 1137 as a way of protection by Virgin Mary from the plagues breakouts in Europe. Due to financial troubles, the works dragged for the whole 13th–14th centuries. The bell tower was built from 1436 (being completed around the end of the century), while in 1481–1491 a new sacristy was added . In 1521, Pietro Isabello finished the south-western portal, also known as Porta della Fontana. The edifice was restored and modified in the 17th century. Basilica has no main entrance, only the side ones. The entrance to the Basilica cost 5 EUR, It’s required to be properly dressed, although we were allowed in with our arms not covered. you may wonder whether it is worth paying 5 EUR for the entrance? Yes, I think so. You will be overwhelmed by the amount of detail, precision and decorations inside. The ceiling and arches are covered with gold and colourful breathtaking frescos.
THE COLLEONI CHAPEL
It’s the most beautiful building in Bergamo, decorated with red and white marble. It’s an authentic Italian Renaissance masterpiece. The interiors are a collection of artworks: the statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni, the marble sarcophaguses, the exquisite tomb of his daughter Medea, and many others. Legend has it that touching the coat of arms on the Chapel’s gate at midnight brings good luck.
VIA GOMBITO AND VIA COLLEONI
Gombito and Colleoni streets are the heart of the Upper Town and connects the main square of the Upper Town with the citadel. Both full of interesting shops and places to eat.
There’re two stations for the funicular. If you want to reach the Upper Town, go to the Starting point on Via Vittorio Emanuele II in Bergamo Bassa, it takes just 3 minutes to reach the main station in Bergamo Alta. You’ll reach the Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe (Shoe Market Square), and here you can go on Via Gombito.
The second station that will take you even higher is situated in an area known as Colle Aperto. It again takes just 3 minutes to reach San Vigilio where you’ll find a castle surrounded by a park as well as places to eat and drink. It cost 1,30 to ride the funicular, the ticket is valid for 75 minutes.
RUINS OF THE CASTLE ON SAN VIGILIO
Reach the highest point in Bergamo to indulge in the breathtaking view over Swiss Alps and the villages of the Bremba valley nearby. You can climb the ruins of the castle four massive round towers or tour the underground tunnels. I didn’t find the entrance, maybe you’ll be more lucky?
Bergamo’s beautiful botanical garden is a part of the Museum of Natural Sciences. This nature space used to have only alpine flora, but has now broadened its collection to the local flora of Lombardy, as well as some foreign and exotic species. It’s a perfect spot to take a short break between sightseeing and still enjoy the heart-stopping view. The entrance if free of charge. Don’t trust google maps, as the location there is incorrect. Look for the arrows around the city.
Bergamo is known from polenta, so if you’re into local products that’s definitely one of the things you’ll wanna try here. It’s done as a dessert or a main course, replacing pasta or potatoes. Polenta is not everything obviously. Let me cover few places I’ve visited during my stay in Bergamo.
Murumuru Cafe– it’s one of the top-rated places for breakfast. It’s a cozy cafe with an outside garden. Food is okay, but quite expensive. You’ll pay around 15 EUR for a small breakfast with coffee. If I knew that before, I’d rather grab my cappuccino on the go and buy myself some pastry in one of the pâtisserie in the Upper Town.
Il Fornaio – the bakery with huge selection of focaccia dressed with fresh vegetables and local ingredients. Interior itself is not very welcoming, the place is crowded, but the food is simply mouth-watering.
Il Circolino Citta Alta – It’s a restaurant that’s not that easy to find. It’s hidden in one of the side streets, not far from piazza Vecchia. The interiors of the restaurant is just wow, but there’s also a huge courtyard. The restaurant emphasizes the importance of using local products, so you can expect some home –made cuisine straight from Bergamo.
I also suggest to walk in the Pam supermarket and stuff yourself with the products you can’t find in your country.
As I already mentioned, Bergamo is worth staying for a few days. If not for Bergamo only, you may visit the surroundings as well. It’s cheaper to stay in Bergamo, than in Milan and it’s just a 50 minutes train ride.