As some of you may already know, I was born and raised in Milan so I have often visited the city of Bergamo over the years because it is less than an hour’s drive from my native city.
The high plain of Bergamo gives way to the last hills of the pre-Alps of Bergamo, midway between the Brembo and Serio rivers. The ancient core of the city was founded right on the hills.
As with all the cities in the region of Lombardy, Northern Italy, the climate is very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter (sometimes it is even colder than Milan), so it is best to visit mid-season, especially in the spring time.
My last visit to Bergamo was in September 2021, when the days were still warm but not excessively hot, so it was very pleasant to walk around the city on foot and discover all the historical sights it has to offer.
Once part of the Roman Empire, at the beginning of the 13th century Bergamo fell under the influence of the Visconti of Milan, who fortified the citadel.
From 1428 Bergamo became part of the dominions of the Republic of Venice. The Venetians rebuilt the old city, erecting strong defensive walls. Venetian rule continued until the Napoleonic era, but with the Restoration Bergamo fell into the Austrian sphere under the Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom. The Austrians were the forerunners of the first industrialization of the Bergamo area, with the planting of textile factories. Bergamo took part in the Risorgimento (Resurgence) by supplying much of the Thousand, who belonged to all social classes except the rural world (nowadays the city is still known as “City of the Thousand”). The place was also fortunate enough not to suffer any bombing during World War II.
Bergamo is characterized by two parts: “Città Bassa” (Lower Bergamo, which is the modern part and includes the city centre and the railway station) and “Città Alta” (Upper Bergamo, the most iconic and interesting part of the city).
I spent the morning exploring Città Bassa, which is home to the city hall and to the headquarters of the prefecture and the Province of Bergamo. Lower Bergamo’s main avenue is called Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII; it connects the railway station to Porta Nuova, adjacent to the city centre, which is very ancient, since it was created in the first years of 1900. The city is also home to a lot of museums, like the Archaeology Museum, the Modern Art Gallery and the Museum of Natural Sciences.
Porta Nuova is a monumental gateway to the city of Bergamo which was built in the Neoclassical style in 1837, on the occasion of Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria’s entry into the city the following year. It is located in what is one of the central areas of Bergamo, along with the Torre dei Caduti (Tower of the Fallen); the tower is part of Bergamo’s History Museum and it is one of the most symbolic monuments in Lower Bergamo, as it was built on the patriotism wave that followed World War I, not only in honor and memory of Bergamo’s fallen soldiers but also to consolidate the idea of unified nationalism. In the city centre, close to the railway station, there is also the Church of Santa Maria Immacolata delle Grazie, which is located on Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII, the main avenue in Lower Bergamo that connects the city to Upper Bergamo.
The new church was built between 1857 and 1875 in place of the old basilica dedicated to Our Lady of Grace and it features a beautiful cycle of frescoes, especially the miraculous fresco of the Holy Jesus.
If you are planning to stay in Bergamo for a couple of days and you enjoy spending some time surrounded by nature, you should definitely visit Parco della Trucca; the park is located about 4 km from the city centre, in the Villaggio degli Sposi neighborhood. It is a very beautiful and fascinating park; the locals enjoy spending time there, especially on weekends, for a picnic with friends. It is the perfect place to engage in various sports activities (if you love running you will definitely appreciate this park because it has many driveways). I visited Parco della Trucca on a very hot summer day so I spent the morning reading by the pond and watching the beautiful animals that inhabit the park, mainly swans and ducks, as there are two non-swimming artificial lakes populated by local aquatic fauna. If you have a dog, there is also a special fenced space where dogs can play freely. When I first got there, I walked all around the park and it was beautiful to see the yellowing trees reflected in the pond. Parco della Trucca is Bergamo’s largest public park and the many outdoor events organized by the city hall make the park one of the most popular venues in the summertime.
I highly recommend visiting it because it is truly a natural oasis not far from the city center!
When you are in Bergamo it is a must to visit Città Alta (Upper Bergamo), which is perhaps the most interesting and distinctive part of the city; it is accessible either by car (except on summer weekends and on Sunday afternoon year-round) or via the historic funicular railway (for the more athletic, it is also possible to walk the entire route). Also, if you wish to take the funicular when leaving the upper part of the city, you can stop for coffee at California Bakery, which is right next door.
Città Alta is a medieval city surrounded by ramparts erected in the 16th century during Venetian rule. Piazza Vecchia (Old Square) is probably the best known and most popular part of Città Alta, with the Palazzo della Regione (the Region’s Palace), the Contarini Fountain and the Civic Tower. The alleys in proximity of the square are full of stores selling typical products and there are also some notable clothing stores, such as Fumagalli and Tatum. The latter finds itself on Via Colleoni, which connects Piazza Vecchia to Piazza della Cittadella in what is the heart of Upper Bergamo. The Cittadella Square is home to the Museum of Natural Sciences and the Civic Archaeological Museum.
The main historical sites to visit in Città Alta are the Cathedral of Saint Alessandro, the Colleoni chapel realized by architect Giovanni Antonio Amedeo, the baptistery erected by Giovanni da Campione and the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, along with other places of religious architecture. Città Alta also houses a botanical garden and is home to the Foreign Language Faculty of the University of Bergamo.
The most interesting place I have visited in Città Alta is the Bergamo medieval fortress, which nowadays houses the Museo dell’Ottocento (Museum of the 19th Century), part of the Bergamo History Museum network. The construction of the medieval fortress started in 1331 and it was probably built from a pre-existing Roman-era fortification. New fortification works were carried out in 1428, when Bergamo belonged to the Republic of Venice. The fortress maintained its military function even during the Napoleonic period and under the subsequent Austro-Hungarian rule; it was in fact the Austrians who fortified it.
Museo dell’Ottocento, which is basically the Historical Museum of Bergamo, tells the story of 19th- century Bergamo, from the arrival of French troops to the Unification of Italy; the museum displays a variety of objects, paintings and videos so I highly suggest you visit it whenever you have the chance to be in the upper part of Bergamo.
The outside of the fortress allows a 360-degree view of the city, including some stunning views of Upper Bergamo. I visited the fortress both in the morning and late afternoon so I was very lucky to be able to see the sunset from there and it was a breathtaking sight.
While in Bergamo, I stayed at Best Western Hotel Cappello d’Oro and I recommend it because it is a very modern facility, equipped with all the amenities that will make you feel comfortable and will help make your stay in the city pleasant and relaxing. The hotel is also perfect for business travelers and it is popular with people attending the many conventions held annually in the city of Bergamo.
As for food, there are many options to choose from; if you want to eat pizza, Mòrso, located in the historic centre of Lower Bergamo, is one of the best restaurants and pizza places in the city (if you visit in the summertime you can also have pizza in the courtyard, which has a very peaceful atmosphere) and their selection of beers is pretty great, too.
For people who prefer sushi, I suggest you have dinner at Kura, a Japanese restaurant that is a short walking distance from Porta Nuova, right in the city center. The people working at the restaurant are very professional and the food quality is amazing; I particularly recommend matcha tiramisu for dessert!
If you are traveling to Bergamo by train I recommend VOX for lunch because it is located about 300 meters from the railway station and I had a great experience eating seafood linguine. Since Bergamo is an Italian city, aperitivo is very popular, especially in the summertime, when you have a wide choice of venues in the main streets of the city center and bartenders will prepare you handcrafted cocktails.
I haven’t been to any of the eating places in Upper Bergamo yet, but I was recommended Pizzeria Da Mimmo, which I hope to try when I return to Bergamo to buy some vintage pieces at Glamourevintage, one of the best vintage clothing stores in the city.
What I am wearing in Bergamo:
La Semaine Paris top, Topshop jeans, Celine sunglasses, Hermès Birkin bag, Veja sneakers (picture 1).
“Vivre d’Amour et de Champagne” T-shirt from a vintage thrift store in Menton, Le Temps des Cherises denim shorts, Valentino Rockstud sandals and Chanel Graffiti bag (picture 2).
All pictures are my own.
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