Such a fortified town that takes you instantly into the medieval vibes is a characteristic of Bergamo. Mostly overshadowed by the legendary Milano, Bergamo is a fantastic day trip. As a shy response to the popular Italian destinations, Bergamo will completely surprise you. If you’re in Milano, don’t miss these unusual things.
Stretching in two parts, Citta Alta is the one that owes the most charm. Citta Bassa absorbs the modern vibes while the Citta Alta hides the narrow alleys of the Renaissance style. You can easily switch from one into another in 15 minutes or take a funicular.
Let me emphasize how pretty Bergamo is, which I confirm through the following 10 reasons to visit.
1. Medieval vibes
The medieval vibes dwell upon entering its gates leading you to the architecture that takes you back in time. The cobblestone streets make you feel so cozy as you pass from one square to another.
Venetian Walls and San Giacomo Gate in Bergamo
San Giacomo Gate, the main entrance to the city by foot
Public garden beneath the Venetian walls and the Bridge
Venetian walls in Bergamo, the main entrance to Citta Alta by foot
Bergamo as the fortified town opens up its shell like the pages of the ancient book. Citta Alta feels like another town comparing to Citta Bassa. Walking along the Venetian wall is the most powerful way to feel the spirit of Bergamo. Reminding me of Lucca (amazing city that you shouldn’t miss in Tuscany), in Bergamo you’re still behind the wall.
When you arrive at Piazza Vecchia, the story of Bergamo unveils in hundreds of layers. It’s just so thrilling to feel the medieval shine of Venetian influence.
2. Stunning views
Not only the stunning views, but the sunset that scatters along the Venetian walls is simply marvelous. While entering San Giacomo Gate, the beautiful panorama will capture your attention. Cinta Muraria (or Venetian Walls) were built in 16th century during the Venetian rule. They cover more than 6 km and represent the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Unforuntely, I deleted my sunset photos, but check out the Instagram reel I made of Bergamo.
Venetian walls & amazing autumn colours in Bergamo, it’s here to see the beautiful sunset
Admiring the views becomes already eye-catching from the Citta Bassa to the Citta Alta. Though there’s not a proper viewpoint in Citta Bassa, you can see the glimpses already close to the train station.
It’s about 20 minutes walking to Citta Alta from the train station.
To impress yourself with more splendid views climb the Civic Tower or Campanone. Just above Plazza Vecchia it perfectly fits into the medieval allure of Bergamo. To reach the stunning bell you have to climb 230 stone steps or take the elevator.
Botanical Gardens in Bergamo
You’ll find here the oasis of greenery, but also the enchanting views. Being so small, it covers the rich collection of plants. Several ponds with water lilies are among the cutes.
After passing the funicular, you need to search hidden corners where Lorenzo Rota Botanical Garden takes place. The staircase of 141 steps uncovers the garden paradise in Bergamo. Seeing the panorama of Citta Alta is extraordinary advantage in the city. The entrance is free.
3. Local delicacies
You wouldn’t believe, but polenta is a speciality in Bergamo in salty and sweet versions. Polenta Taragana is an enriched variant that commes commonly here. It’s served with cheese, milk and butter- sometimes also as a main meal. In North Italy polenta is the meal you can expect on your table. Some restaurants prepare Polenta Taragana with fried fish, though meat substitues fish here.
Sweet versions of poPolelenta include mostly cookies.
Polenta sweets, typical in Bergamo
Strangolapreti is another local dish, actually gnocchi made of bread. Casoncelli is a kind of pasta with beef or pork feeling and butter sauce. I would love to try in the vegan version.
Do you known that stracciatella ice-cream is invented in Bergamo? More precisely, the restaurant La Marianna took the idea according to the Roman soup.
4. Discover its historical meaning
Even the name of Bergamo has a scenic meaning. According to Celts who found it, Bergamo signifies hill town. Its ancient roots pull back even to the pre-historic times. Attila Huns shaped the medieval period of the city before it became the Byzantine city. The rule of Lombards and their German heritage defined the city for almost two centuries.
The agriculture and trade dominated during the Roman times, when Bergamo had the highest power.
The Visconti family from Milan rised up Bergamo to its throne untill the 1428. Venice became the following ruler untill the 1797, together with Brescia, Lake Garda and Iseo. The architecture of Bergamo highlights the importance of Venice.
5. Amazing architecture
Bergamo sends the message of being the historical museum as you stroll along its lovely streets. Citta Alta is the testimony of the medieval time, starting with the majestic walls.
Piazza Vecchia unveils the magic of Bergamo as the central point of attraction. This vibrant square is a place to enjoy the cozy coffee or just admire the ambience.
Piazza Vecchia & its coffee room in Bergamo
Fontana Contarini at Piazza Vecchia in Bergamo
Venetian architecture at Piazza Vecchia, Bergamo
Torre del Commune at Piazza Vecchia, Bergamo
Colleoni Chapel behind the Piazza Vecchia, Bergamo
Torre del Commune from 12th century grabs your attention immediately taking you at the threshold of history. The bells that ring every night at 10pm announce closing of the Bergamo’s gates.
Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore simply delights with its Romanesque style and soft appearance. Colleoni Chapel from 1487 is the highlight of Bergamo, dedicated to its most prominent citizen. Red and white marble that intertwine at facade plus free entrance pay the honour to Bartolomeo Colleoni.
Museums of Bergamo
Bergamo offers the rich collection of museum where art scatters its joy.
Academia Carrara Museum will delight you with the private collection of art from 18th century. The count Giacomo Carrara united the works from Boticelli, Bellini, Raphael and others with more than 1800 paintings.
Natural Science Museum covers the vast area from paleotology, archeology and more.
Museo Donizettiano is dedicated to the Italian composers, particularly Gaetano Donizetti. Elegant palace from 12th century hosts this exquisite museum since 1906.
6. It’s still pretty undiscovered
Bergamo is such a lovely gem in Lombardy, but most of people only know it due to its airport. It’s so picturesque, yet tourists seem to skip it somehow. To enjoy such a historical place without much crowds is such a priviledge.
Bergamo probably awaits the bloom of tourists in the near future as it bursts with charm. Its hilly position is an advantage that opens up the loads of cuteness. Because it’s isolated on a hill, it’s easy to explore Bergamo by foot. Though pretty accessible by public transport, Bergamo is a world of its own.
7. Artisan shops and lovely bars
The pleasant feeling that lovely bars give to Bergamo is a sufficient reason to visit. Just strolling along the main street intertwines with an invite to visit cute bars and shops. You can even find the specialty coffee bar.
Lovely restaurant in Bergamo
Hair accessory shop in Bergamo
Caffe bar Flora at Piazza Vecchia is a place to enjoy the sunshine and wonderful cappuccino.
8. Easily reachable from Milano & airport
Having a cozy way to arrive somewhere is an invite by itself. Taking a day trip from Milano is the most common option. Leaving your luggage at the train or bus station across offers an additional motivation to visit Bergamo. That’s what I did, for 5€ I chose the bus station as you can put whatever you want in the boxes. Only, it works till 19h but it’s an excellent idea to reach a night bus.
It takes less than 1h to have a train ride from Milano to Bergamo. Bergamo train station is at the threshold of Citta Alta, only 15-20 minutes by foot. For instance, I was staying in a hostel in Bergamo that’s pretty far from the centre itself. Counting 30 minutes with a bus, it’s more convenient and economic to do a day trip from Milano.
From the Airport
Caravaggio Orrio Al Serio International Airport is less than 10 km from central Bergamo. You can come directly to Citta Alta in 30 minutes from the airport with the bus #1.
If you’re coming to Bergamo by flight, you should consider to visit the town itself.
9. Excellent day trips
Taking an advantage to visit its marvelous surroundings sounds so enriching. You’ll get a chance to see Bergamo from the new perspective by deciding to have a base here. Great connections with other places is your major adut.
San Pellegrino is a spa town where famous mineral water is produced. Only 25 km from Bergamo, it’s a stylish town with the mountainous embrace. It’s fascinating to see its elegant Grand Hotel, Casino and Thermal Baths. San Pellegrino will take you in the time of Belle Epoque. You can enjoy the gorgeous spa where marble decor and mosaic take the rule with tranquil views.
San Pellegrino- lovely spa town near Bergamo– Credit: E-borghi.com
Lake Iseo is an underrated gem that you can easily reach with a train. Within 2h from Bergamo you’ll have a fantastic alternative to the popular Como lake or Maggiore lake. It’s full of cute villages like Lovere and Monte Isola is an attractive island.
Lovely villages & castles
Crespi d’Adda is an UNESCO World Heritage Site that cotton manufacturers created as a „company town“. It’s about 20 minutes drive from Bergamo, where cotton mill (ex factory) stands in focus.
Malpaga Castle from 15th century will delight you with its frescoes by Romanino. It was a residence of Bartolomeo Colleoni, who ordered a construction. During the guided tours you can even wear the costumes from 15th century.
Endine Lake is a small lake, popular by locals. Lying in the very proximity of Bergamo, you can enjoy kayaking or windsurfing.
10. Funicular to Citta Alta
Legendary funicular represents Bergamo and offers a fun way to experience the city. Anyhow, you can easily go to Citta Alta by foot in 15 minutes from the train station.
Starting point of the funicular at Citta Alta, Bergamo
The fantastic viewpoint to Citta Alta from above stands at the hill of San Vigilio near the castle ruins. To reach there you need to take the funicular from Sant’Alessandro Gate. Seeing the underground tunnels will enrich your experience.
The rail carts are so cute and small, you will start in Viale Vittorio Emanuelle near the stairs and enjoy their orange shine.
Little alley of Citta Alta in Bergamo
Stairs that lead to Citta Alta in Bergamo
Torre di Adalberto, the second entrance to Citta Alta in Bergamo
Bergamo is such a cute city full of historic meaning. I would never think about it if it wasn’t recommended by a friend. The impressive buildings enrooted at lovely streets and give strong sense of allure. The Venetian walls hold the historic surprise and marvelous appearance. Bergamo is a place to admire its picturesque views and soft way of life.
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