Bergamo Mini Guide
What's Bergamo all about?
Much underrated, the city, especially the old part, is stunning. It is renowned for its art and history together with its place in the annals of music where it seems to have more than its fair share of composers. There too, the Bergomask dance referred to in A Midsummer’s Night Dream was created and is still performed.
The city was a Celtic settlement until it was captured by the Romans. In the 5th century it was destroyed by the armies of Attila the Hun. It grew again and the buildings of the old town survive from medieval times. At one point the city gave itself to Bohemia in exchange for protection but was soon retaken. In recent years, the new town has become increasingly industrialised and the environs of Milan are beginning to encroach on the city.
How to get there?
Bergamo Airport is the 4th busiest in Italy
and is served by nearly 100 airline routes across Europe including its main carrier, Ryanair. There are a number of buses that will get you from the airport to Bergamo but the general opinion is that they are unreliable and rarely on time. Taxis are expensive from the airport so the recommendation is to pre-book a hire car to get to your destination.
What to see?
The old part of the city is particularly beautiful and has many treasures for the tourist to search out. We’d recommend the Piazza Vecchia with its stunning Renaissance and Medieval architecture. There too you’ll find cosy cafés and restaurants to sit and while away the hours. Spend some time in the Rocca, a fortified building that now houses an art gallery. Spend more time at the Donizetti Museum to understand the man and listen to some of his works being performed. Finally visit the Accademia Carrara which houses some of Italy’s most important works of art
Take a walk or even the funicular to San Viglio, the hilltop village alongside Bergamo. There you can wander through the timeless streets or enjoy the views out over Lombardy from the ruined hilltop castle. Lake Como isn’t too far away and is great for a day trip on a boat. If you want a less touristy destination try Lake Iseo near Como
. The smaller Lake Endine is a great place to spend a few hours. It's too small to be used for leisure activities so it's left wild and untouched, great for communing with nature.
Things to do
Skiing is the obvious one for winter visitors, the closest resorts are about 40 minutes away from Bergamo. Taking the tram from the new town to the lofty old town is a good experience and beats the energy sapping climb on foot. You can walk the city walls of Bergamo for stunning views out over Lombardy.
Shopping in Bergamo
The city is mainly industrialised these days but there are still a number of fashion outlets spilling out of Milan
. So for reduced price haute couture, trawl through the boutiques near the start of the old town. Local handicrafts are popular too including glassware and pottery.
Bergamo seems to excel in the quality of its pizzas, even if it is some way from the traditional pizza regions. A number of restaurants serve delicious pizzas as snacks or as full meals. For delicious ice cream, try La Siesta and if out and about at night, try the local ‘cocktail’ Lanterna which is Campari diluted with white wine!
Each year the city plays host to the Bergamo Poesia poetry competition which is very popular amongst Bergamaschi. Several classical music festivals take place around the city through the year, celebrating the city’s music history.
Bergamo is a beautiful and much overlooked city on account of its proximity to Milan
. Many arrive at Bergamo airport, get into their hire car and bypass the city completely. We’d recommend spending a few days there at the beginning or end of your break to discover the rich heritage of this old city.
Bergamo old town is particularly photogenic on sunny days when the terracotta roofs seem to glow in the sun, softened by the cream walls of the buildings. There are many charming little cafes and bars throughout Bergamo should you want to take a break.