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Bergamo – Northern Italy’s Historic Jewel

While you might have heard of Bergamo during the Covid-19 pandemic, Bergamo is more than just these unfortunate events. This magnificent city in northern Italy is located less than an hour from Milan. Because of its numerous historic buildings and timeless beauty, it will hold the title of the 2023 Capital of Culture.

Although the city is not exceptionally large, you will need more than one day to explore Bergamo and everything it has to offer. In this article, we will tell you all you need to know about this city as well as the sights you should visit.

Getting to Bergamo

Getting to Bergamo is relatively easy, seeing as the nearby Caravaggio Orio al Serio airport offers many cheap flights from major European cities. From there, simply take the bus that connects the airport to the city center (the ticket costs 2.40 euros and is valid for 90 minutes).

If you prefer getting around the city via public transport, we recommend buying a day ticket (5 euros) or a 72-hour ticket (7 euros). However, we’d recommend traveling by foot, as it allows you to take in the city to the fullest. We will also outline an itinerary for visiting the city that is most compatible with travelling on foot.

An Itinerary between Città Bassa and Città Alta

Bergamo was built on seven hills ─ just like Rome. Therefore, the city is made up of stairs that connect the city’s two levels: Bergamo Alta and Bergamo Bassa. The city’s historic center ─ which was built between 1561 and 1588 ─ is completely surrounded by walls. These walls are approximately five kilometers long and have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since July 9, 2017. 

Bergamo Bassa: Pinacoteca Accademia Carrara and Donizetti Theatre

Once you arrive at the train station, we suggest taking a walk along the lengthy avenue, which leads directly to the center of Città Bassa. The so-called Sentierone ─ a long avenue flanked by trees and arcades ─ begins here and leads to the Donizetti Theatre. The latter is dedicated to the famous composer Gaetano Donizetti. It was inaugurated in 1791. After it was damaged by a fire, it reopened in 1800. Since then, the theater has hosted a variety of events as one of Italy’s most important theaters.  

If you are someone who appreciates Italian art and paintings, then we recommend visiting the Pinacoteca Accademia Carrara in Bergamo. It is one of the top ten Italian art galleries, housing over 1500 works by the most famous Italian Renaissance artists ─ such as Botticelli, Raphael, and Titian.

After touring the museum, stroll through XX Settembre street ─ famous for its shopping opportunities, especially for fashion.

Bergamo Alta: the Old Town

If you continue walking along the main avenue you will reach the funicular (or cable railroad) that will take you to the upper town and Bergamo’s famous walls. If you prefer to walk or take a bus to reach the upper town, then that’s perfectly alright. However, we personally recommend taking the historic funicular that has been going over the walls for 120 years, connecting Bergamo Alta and Bergamo Bassa. During the ride, you can enjoy a magnificent view of the lower town. The ticket only costs 1.30 euros and is valid for 75 minutes!

After a few minutes, you will finally reach Città Alta’s heart. Follow Via Gombito and you will come to the beautiful Piazza Vecchia, which has been the city’s center for centuries. In the square’s center is the Contarini Fountain, encircled by the Palazzo della Ragione and the Torre Civica bell tower. From this tower 100 chimes echo every evening at 10 pm (although some people claim they are not real).

Strolling through the arcades, you’ll find yourself in the small Piazza del Duomo, where the dome, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, the Baptistery, and the Capella Colleoni are located. The latter’s name derives from the famous mercenary leader, Bartolomeo Colleoni. According to local elders, you should not leave Bergamo without touching the so-called “Colleoni Balls”. This refers to the coat of arms on the chapel’s gate which depicts three testicles, and, according to tradition, they bring good luck! It’s up to you to find out!

CableWayRoom – The Perfect Adventure for Every Backpacker.

If you have ever wanted to stay in an old cableway cabin, your time to do it is during a visiti to Bergamo. Just over half an hour drive from Bergamo, the CableWayRoom is located on the plateau of Selvino Aviatico. It is a small gondola with comforts such as a minibar, Wi-Fi, reserved parking, a garden, and a swimming pool for exclusive use.

The bedroom above, which is accessible by a ladder, has comfortable water mattresses and, with its glass walls, offers the possibility to admire the stars and a breathtaking view of the surrounding Alps.

While the prices are quite high, the experience is truly unique. Here, you can enjoy your breakfast on swings instead of kitchen chairs! A stay at CableWayRoom is a truly unique way to explore the beautiful countryside of Bergamo.

Culinary Specialties

Bergamo is not only a beautiful city, but also has some unique and delicious cuisine. There are many typical dishes that all travelers should try.

Every typical meal in Bergamo starts with a cheese and sausage platter. Most popular is Formaggella della Val di Scalve ─ a semi-hard cheese with a slightly sour and sharp taste.

A rather typical dish is casoncelli, or fresh pasta ravioli stuffed with bread, minced meat, and cheese, which is served with butter, sage, and bacon. A fresh and fun starter dish!

Equally popular is polenta ─ either the common version as a side dish with meat or as “taragna” ─ enriched with pieces of cheese and butter.

And finally, we move on to dessert. These include Torta Donizetti and “Polenta e Osei” ─ which literally translates to polenta and birds. The Torta Donizetti is dedicated to the great Bergamo musician, Gaetano Donizetti. It’s a soft ring cake made of candied pineapple, apricot pieces, maraschino, and vanilla sauce. “Polenta e Osei” does not actually contain meat. Instead, it is a sponge cake mixed with cream and rum that is shaped like polenta. It is decorated with chocolate and marzipan birds. This dessert is an extravagant treat!

Conclusion

We strongly recommend adding this beautiful city in northern Italy to your bucket list! The great scenery and interesting history make its nomination as the cultural capital for 2023 completely understandable.  

Surrounded by a five-kilometer city wall, the route to discover Bergamo winds between the Lower and Upper Town. Both parts of the city offer beautiful sights. Among others, we would like to highlight the Donizetti Theatre, the Pinacoteca Accademia Carrara, Piazza Vecchia, and Piazza del Duomo in the Upper Town.

If you want to experience a unique adventure in the stunning surroundings of Bergamo, we recommend spending a night in the CableWayRoom ─ an old cableway cabin with all the comfort of a luxurious hotel ─ perfect for a backpacker like you!

Don’t leave Bergamo without tasting its delicious cuisine, including local cured meats and cheeses, casoncelli, polenta, and desserts like the Torta Donizetti and the so-called “Polenta e Osei”.

What are you waiting for? Pack your backpack and discover Bergamo!

Giulia Rossi

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