Bergamo: a medieval marvel

While visiting the Lombardia I wanted to see some of the smaller towns. So off we went to the beautiful medieval town of Bergamo. It is less than an hours drive by car (or train) from Milano, so it’s a perfect day trip outside of the big city. There is also an airport in Bergamo, which is about 20 minutes from the city center.

Bergamo can be divided into two halves, Alta città (upper city) and Bassa città (lower city). The upper city is the older part, which dates back to around 49 BC. They have quite an interesting history and if I could go back (without a toddler) I would do a historical tour. The local cuisine is also amazing, so make sure you arrive hungry.


When we first arriving into Bergamo I wasn’t blown away by its beauty. After visiting the tourist office in the Città Bassa (lower city),  I quickly realized that we to go up to the Città Alta (upper city) to see the city’s antiquated roots.


To get up to the Città Alta (upper city) we needed to take the Funicolare (funicular). This is a mode of transport, similar to a tram. It runs on a track and can travel up steep inclines. Funiculars are commonly used in Italy and Switzerland, to reach mountain top towns.

We drove to Bergamo and found it hard to get parking near the Funicolare. We could only find street parking for two hours. If I visited again would prefer to catch a train. The ticket for the Funicolare is also only valid for a couple of hours. So to avoid rushing and racing back down the mountain, it’s probably best not to have to worry about parking tickets.


The Funicolare took us to Città Alta (upper city). From the station, we had to walk up narrow streets to get to the churches, squares, and shops.

The  Duomo di Bergamo is very beautiful and I’m sorry I didn’t get any photos inside. It was originally constructed in the 15th century and the white walls are adorned with gold detailing and frescos. Outside there is the octagonal Battistero (Baptistery). We were not able to go into this building. The gate surrounding it has a crest with three testicles, which stand for the virility and strength of Bartolomeo Colleoni. You can rub it for good luck. 


The Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica (13th century) is directly behind the Duomo. The entrance has two beautiful red marble lions guarding its doors. It is really quite stunning inside and is much larger than the Duomo. The style is largely Baroque and is adorned with paintings and tapestries. The life of Mary is featured on the tapestries and The Last Supper and the Tree of Life are depicted in frescos.  There is one extremely large canvas of the recently restored, The Great Flood by Pietro Liberi.


Beyond the churches is the Piazza Vecchia (old square) which is the core of Bergamo and the was the heart of its political sphere. It is surrounding by medieval and Renaissance civic buildings, including the Palazzo Ragione, Torre Civica and the Palazzo Nuovo. In the center is the Fontana di Piazza Vecchia, where you can quench your thirst from the sphinxes’ mouths. Here you can find many restaurants and cafes. You can also get a 360 degrees view of Bergamo from the Torre Civica.


On the corner of the piazza is the long narrow road, Via Bartolomeo Colleoni. This main street is known to the locals as Corsarola. Here you can find the many restaurants, bars, bakeries and artisan shops. You can find so many amazing Bergamese specialties, including the Polenta e Osèi (polenta cake). Unfortunately, we didn’t get to try this cake. It was such a hot day that we planned on buying one in Lower Bergamo to take home, but we couldn’t find the any. Along the street, we also found the quaint little church, Chiesa di S. Agata nel Carmine.


Along Via Bartolomeo Colleoni we came across an amazing bakery we couldn’t just walk past. Il Fornaio is a fast-food bakery that specializes in the most amazing variety of focaccias, pastries, and sweets. They also have plenty of seating both upstairs and downstairs. We had the focaccia with prosciutto and porcini mushroom and they also gave us some freshly baked olive bread to try.


With full bellies, we discovered more medieval and ancient parts of the city. We walked to the Piazza Cittadella, through Torre della Campanella and Passaggio Torre di Adalbero and visited the public garden. This has many nice shady places to sit and a playground. From here you can see the Torre di Adalberto and underneath is the Porta S. Alessandro.


Across the road from the Porta S. Alessandro we found another Funicolare S.Vigilio. From the top, we got to see more spectacular views of Bergamo. Up here is the ancient Castello di San Vigilio and Parco Del Castello Di San Vigilio. Unfortunately, there is not much that can be seen here, but the park is nice and peaceful. There are also nice restaurants up on Via San Vigilio.


For lunch, we went back down to Corsarola (Via Bartolomeo Colleoni). I had already spotted Mimi La Casa dei Sapori early and was eager to go back. This lovely little restaurant offers slow regional cuisine. They also offer vegan options, which are listed on their menu. Inside the restaurant is their DaMimmo store where you can also buy local and other specialty food goods from all over Italy.

For lunch, we ordered a few dishes to share. We had to try the local specialty, Casonsèi with pancetta, butter, sage. This pasta is delicious and definitely not enough to share between three. We also ordered the slow cooked Pork neck with vegetables and Pizza with lardo and mozzarella. Everything tasted so amazing and really authentic. The staff were also really helpful and friendly.


Since our funicular tickets had run out we decided to walk back down to Città Bassa (lower city), via the Porta S. Giacomo. On either side of the gate and wrapped around the Città Alta is the Le Mura Veneziane (the Venetian Wall). This wall was built in 1561 and is over 6km. The wall offers amazing views of Lower Bergamo and the walk down from Porta S. Giacomo is not a hard walk. However, the trail has many large pebbles which are a bit uncomfortable if you have thin soled shoes.


We decided to see the Città Bassa (lower city) of Bergamo before we left. We found parking under Piazza della Libertà, which was reasonably priced. We walked through the Piazzale Vittorio Veneto to the shopping strip, Via XX Settembre. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to shop and explore futher. Many of the shops were closed so it probably is somewhere to visit a bit earlier in the day.


I hope you enjoyed visiting Bergamo with me. If you plan on visiting you can find plenty of information on the Visit Bergamo website or you can get a map and some information at the tourist office in both Lower and Upper Bergamo.

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