Bergamo is a historic city in the northern Italian region of Lombardy, situated about 40km northeast of Milan and at the foothills of the snow-capped peaks of the Bergamo Alps. The town (map) is composed of two distinct parts: the medieval Citta Alta (or Upper Town) perched on a hill-top and surrounded by 16th century walls, and the Citta Bassa (or Lower Town). A funicular train, buses and footpaths connect both parts. It was my first time in Bergamo and after the first day, I was totally captivated by its beauty and charm. As I soon discovered, there are lots of things to do in Bergamo but simply strolling around this gorgeous city will make you fall for its charms in an instant.
Things to do in Bergamo
Bergamo Upper Town
My exploration of Bergamo started in the Upper Town. Once inside the medieval walls, built by the Venetians in the 16th century, I discovered a compact town, with atmospheric cobblestone streets and imposing buildings. Walking down the main thoroughfare, Via Bartolomeo Colleoni, was like taking a step back in time. The street is packed with lovely restaurants, pasticcerias and guesthouses.
I soon reached Piazza Vecchia, the centre of the Citta Alta. This beautiful square (and the adjacent Piazza Duomo) is home to some of Bergamo’s most iconic landmarks such as the Biblioteca (Library), Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, the Cathedral, Capella Colleoni and the 12th century Campanone or Civic Tower.
After a quick visit to the Biblioteca, I headed up to the top of the Civic Tower. You can take the stairs or the elevator to reach the top, and once above, the 360-degree views are simply astounding!
My next stop was the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. Standing side by side with the Capella Colleoni, you might be drawn to the grand Renaissance entrance of the Capella (like I was) but the Basilica’s relatively unassuming entrance is deceiving. Built between the 12th and the 15th century, the interior of this magnificent Gothic church is absolutely mind-blowing wherever you look. The elaborate frescoes and tapestries are particularly impressive.
After leaving the Basilica, I stopped for a cappucino at the lovely Caffe del Tasso before continuing my stroll around the Citta Alta. There are many other places to visit such as the impressive Accademia Carrara (which houses one of the first Renaissance art collections in the world), the Donizetti Museum (for those who love opera) and the gorgeous Parco dei Colli (with its Castle of San Vigilio and Botanical Gardens – take the second funicular from the Citta Alta to reach the castle) but a slow stroll around the picturesque streets of the Citta Alta is the best way to truly soak up its charm.
Bergamo Lower Town
The Citta Basso (Lower Town) is also definitely worth exploring. More contemporary and criss-crossed by broad boulevards, the Lower Town is a maze of streets lined by grand buildings, offices and shops. You’ll also find most Bergamo hotels in this part of town.
I recommend purchasing a Bergamo Card if you’re staying in the city – and I recommend staying for at least a few days to truly enjoy this city! The Card offers free access to public transportation, museums and other attractions.
Where to eat in Bergamo
There are lots of fabulous restaurants in Bergamo which serve excellent local fare. In the Citta Alta, you can’t miss Da Mimmo. Try the hearty local specialties like polenta taragna (buckwheat polenta), casoncelli or casonsei (ravioli stuffed with meat and sage) or a pizza (the Pizza Margherita is one of the best I’ve ever had). For a great meal with a view, head to the Caffe della Funicolare in the funicular station.
In the Citta Basso (Lower Town), one restaurant I can highly recommend is Ristoranti Giopi e Margi. I had my best meal in Bergamo in this restaurant! I especially loved the casoncelli and the risotto with porcini mushrooms (the risottos at Giopi e Margi are perfection on a plate!).
For a simple (but no less delicious) meal, head for Cantiere Cucina. This tiny place in the Lower Town is short on space but big on taste! A board shows the daily specials. Order away… everything’s good!
Find out more about what to see and do, and where to eat at Visit Bergamo.
Note: my visit to Bergamo is part of the #inLombardia365 project, a collaboration between iambassador and Lombardy Tourism. As always, all views expressed above are mine, and mine only.