Bergamo is the hidden gem of the region of Lombardy, that has either been forgotten or missed, in favor to its famous neighbour – Milan. Bergamo seems to be neglected by the tourists that use low-cost flights and land at Orio al Serio airport and then quickly move on to Europe’s fashion capital. However, if you decide to visit Bergamo try not to miss out on the cobblestoned streets and make sure you enjoy the historical atmosphere and the gorgeous architecture of the Upper and Lower City of Bergamo. I assure you that in the end you will not be disappointed.
The topography of the city is unusual as the Lower modern part of the town (Città Bassa) is completely flat, and at its center is the Old city based on a hill. The Upper City (Città Alta), as they call it in Italian, is the place where most tourist attractions are.
In order to reach it, there are two funiculars, roads, and footpaths, that connect the two parts of Bergamo. Despite that, the city has an ideal size and if the weather permitting, you can take a nice walk, especially if you are focused on exploring the Old city.
Bergamo has a compelling history and a big part of its architectural magnificence is thanks to Venice, and the fact that it ruled over Bergamo from the 15th until the end of the 18th century. The two parts of the city are divided by Venetian defensive walls, which are an object of the UNESCO World Heritage since 9th July 2017.
The Upper City consists of a magical ensemble of narrow cobblestoned streets, medieval houses, palaces, squares, churches, shops, and restaurants, that are fenced by the Venetian walls since the 16th century.
Attractions in Bergamo
Piazza Vecchia is the main square in Bergamo and the heart of the city. Built in the 12th century Piazza Vecchia was an arena for political power. Today, the square is one of the most visited places in the city, for a walk or as a tourist destination. Right in the centre of the square you can see the beautiful Contarini fountain from which you can drink water from the mouth of the sphynx.
Piazza Vecchia is surrounded by other historical buildings such as Palazzo della Regione, Palazzo del Podesta, Biblioteca Civica Angelo Mai and the town’s Clock Tower, from which you can see the view from above.
*Palazzo Nuovo served as Bergamo’s City Hall until 1873, however, today it serves as a headquarters for the Angelo Mai Library.
Civic Tower (Campanone)
In the heart of Piazza Vecchia, Torre del Campanone soars 52m above the city. The Tower (Torre del Campanone) was built between 11th and 12th century. You can climb to the top of Campanone, which offers a breath-taking panoramic view of the old town.
Just a throw away from Piazza Vecchia you will find Piazza del Duomo, where some of the most beautiful buildings of Bergamo are situated. Walk under the Palazzo della Regione’s arches and you will be faced by the basilica Santa Maria Maggiore and the adjacent Capella Colleoni.
Santa Maria Maggiore
Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore was built in 1137 on the site of another church. In the beginning of the 12th century a horrifying plague spread across Bergamo, causing death and desolation. Due to this, the people of Bergamo turned for help to Virgin Mary, asking for protection from infection and thus built this temple in Her honour.
Cappella Colleoni is a church and a mausoleum. Its façade is a real Italian Renaissance masterpiece. It is decorated with a multicolored inlaid marble. It is dedicated to the Saints Bartholomew, Mark and John the Baptist. Built between 1472 and 1476 as a private temple of the condottiere Bartholomew Colleoni, a member of one of the most outstanding families of the city, and his daughter Medea.
Where to Eat in Bergamo?
By recommendation of a few people, Svetlana and I decided to visit Il Fornaio. The restaurant offers a huge variety of pizza with many different flavours. It is located in the centre of the old city, so don’t miss out! They also have fantastic pastries and delicious deserts. It is a self-service restaurant, however, the staff is extremely prompt.
Address: Via Bartolomeo Colleoni 3, 24129
Trattoria Camozzi da Claudio
The restaurant Trattoria Camozzi da Claudio receives a bunch of excellent reviews and responses every year. It specializes in Mediterranean dishes, seafood and deserts, inspired by homemade recipes. The restaurant also offers a range of Italian wines. Don’t forget to make a reservation, especially on the weekend and holidays.
Address: Via Gabriele Camozzi 73, 24121
Where to Sleep in Bergamo?
You can find a range of different places in Bergamo, however, I recommend the following two hotels:
Mercure Bergamo Centro Palazzo Dolci
This hotel is located close to the train station and the bus stop, where you can catch a bus to the airport. It is an elegant historical building, perfect for families or leisure travellers.
Located in the heart of the old city, close to Gombito tower. The prices start from 150 € per night with breakfast included.
Bergamo is a great alternative to all of the more popular cities in the region. If you prefer to stay longer, Bergamo’s surroundings are also not to be missed. You can enjoy picturesque villages, beautiful nature, medieval castles and architecture.