Bergamo is a small town in Lombardy, the northern administrative region of Italy. It is located not far from popular Italian tourist destinations: lakes Garda, Como and Milan. Bergamo in itself is also interesting and worth a visit. The city is famous for its unusual architecture, delicious cuisine and beautiful views. It is worth a trip here, especially since we can fly here from many Polish cities for as little as a few dozen zlotys. Bergamo will also be an excellent choice for a 2-3 day city break.
The city is divided into two parts: the newer Città Bassa and the older Città Alta. In each of them you will find something interesting, but most of the sights worth seeing are in the old city, in Città Alta. Bergamo is not large - even one day is already enough to visit most of the attractions described here.
In the Middle Ages, Bergamo was the seat of the Lombard princes, a wealthy city where vast treasures were stored. It functioned as an independent city, one of the members of the Lombard League. In later centuries it belonged to the Venetian Republic, the Cisalpine Republic, the Italian Republic, to become part of Austria in 1815. Bergamo part of Italy returned in the 19th century. Today it is one of the most visited destinations in northern Italy.
What to see and visit in Bergamo?
Bergamo offers a mass of attractions and places to visit while in this city. I have described the following noteworthy places and sights in the order of their visit. We visited the following sights and attractions in Bergamo in 1 day. I invite you to read our guide to Bergamo!
We begin our tour of Bergamo in Città Bassa, the more modern part of Bergamo, where the city government is headquartered and business life is vibrant. Busy streets and modern buildings are the hallmark of this Bergamo neighborhood. We arrived here by car and parked near the train station. We headed down the main street Papa Giovanni XXIII towards Porta Nuova and the lower train station. You can definitely feel the atmosphere of a big city here - but that's what Città Bassa is.
Porta Nuova is perhaps the biggest attraction of the lower city in Bergamo and also its centerpiece. The gate is formed by twin buildings built in 1837 to celebrate the arrival of ruler Ferdinand I to the city. From here, a view of the older part of Bergamo emerges: the Città Alta.
Via XX Settembre
To the left of Porta Nuova is the main part of Città Bassa. Via XX Settembre and its surroundings are worth a visit. We went there in search of a lunch bar recommended by many friends (about which later in this guide). The place is overflowing with trendy boutiques and stores of famous brands.
Città Alta is the older district of Bergamo, located on a hill. It is the old town that is Bergamo's biggest attraction and a must-see tour. Bergamo's greatest monuments are located here. You can get there in 3 ways: on foot, by train or by bus. We traveled with our two-year-old daughter, so we chose the latter option. If we were traveling without a child, we would definitely choose to walk up the stairs to Città Alta. At the end of the stairs is the majestic gate of the old city: the Porta San Giacomo. We will talk about the gate itself later, as we got there at the very end of our tour.
Funicolare Città Alta
Continuing the walk from Porta Nuova towards Città Alta, after a dozen minutes or so, you reach the lower station of the cable car: Funicolare Città Alta. The train has two carriages and departs every 8 minutes for most of the day. It can be hot inside, as there is no air conditioning. The trip itself literally takes a while.
A single train ticket costs €1.30 and is valid for 75 minutes from checkout. A round trip for 2 people cost us €5.20. However, if you also want to visit San Vigilio Hill (which I highly recommend), it's more cost-effective to buy a tourist 24-hour ticket, which costs €3.50.
After leaving the train, we exit to the small Mercato delle Scarpe square and head to the central part of Città Alta: Piazza Vecchia. We follow the main route to this place - via Gombito street. The climate of Bergamo gets completely different. It is no longer a busy street full of cars, but a narrow and cobbled street with tall buildings, characteristic of a typical Italian small town landscape. After about 300 meters we come to Piazza Vecchia. It is in this square that the most important monuments of Bergamo and the old town are located: the Cathedral, the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the Cappella Colleoni chapel and the city tower. There are also several bars and restaurants in the square. The shade of the Palazzo della Ragione, which separates Piazza Vecchia from the cathedral square (Piazza Duomo), also provides solace.
The most significant monument in Piazza Duomo is the cathedral building. Bergamo Cathedral is connected to the aforementioned Palazzo della Ragione building. Originally, a church dedicated to St. Vincent stood on its site. Today it is dedicated to St. Alexander - the city's patron saint. It is the stately statue that rises to the top of the cathedral. The cathedral was first rebuilt in the 17th century, and was rebuilt again two centuries later. The facade, dome and interior design of the cathedral date from this period.
The cathedral is open daily from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.
Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore
Right next to the cathedral is the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. Construction of the basilica began in the 12th century, when Bergamo residents began praying to the Virgin Mary to protect them from plague, famine and drought. Construction was not completed until the 14th century. Interestingly, there is no main entrance - there are 4 side entrances to the basilica. From the outside, the basilica is inconspicuous, but inside it is very impressive. It is worth paying the entrance fee and admiring it from the inside. This basilica is, for me, one of the most beautiful religious buildings I have been to.
The basilica is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., and on weekends from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The entrance ticket costs €3.
The building that first catches the eye in Piazza Duomo is the Cappella Colleoni, not the cathedral as you might think. A beautiful façade of multicolored marble is the hallmark of this monument. Dating to the 15th century, the Cappella Colleoni is a chapel that is a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance.
Cappella Colleoni is open to the public daily from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Admission is free. Please note that taking photos inside the building is prohibited.
City Tower (Campanone) - the best vantage point
A must-see point when visiting Bergamo. Just off Piazza Vecchia is the Campanone, a 12th century city tower more than 50 meters high, which offers an incredible view of Bergamo and the San Vigilio hill. The tower is equipped with an elevator. During our July visit, we were told to take the elevator to the top and use the stairs to descend. The idea was probably to avoid blocking traffic, as the Bergamo City Tower is one of the city's more popular attractions.
A bell tower is mounted on top of the tower. Note: the bell tower works and you should be prepared to ring the bell! This is important especially if you are visiting Campanone with small children. The bell is the largest bell in all of Lombardy.
The Bergamo City Tower is open daily from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm and from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm [update 2022 to verify: the tower is probably closed on Mondays]. The entrance ticket costs €5. The building also houses a museum, which we did not visit, however.
San Vigilio Hill
An attraction that many people overlook is the hill of San Vigilio, with a stunning panorama of the surrounding countryside and Città Alta itself. It's definitely worth the trip, especially since the hill can be reached by the Funicolare S. railroad. Vigilio. The train station is located just outside the city walls of Città Alta, 500 meters from Piazza Vecchia near another city gate: Porta Sant'Alessandro. The station is well marked - in Città Alta just follow the signs.
The ticket is exactly the same as when traveling by train from Città Bassa to Città Alta. A single entry costs €1.3, and the ticket is valid for 75 minutes. If you are planning a longer tour and want to move on both railroads, it's a good idea to buy the tourist 24-hour ticket I wrote about earlier.
The train trip as before takes only a short while. When you get there, it's worth going to the viewpoint right next to the San Vigilio upper station. This point is marked on Google maps as "Belvedere della Funicolare".
On the hill is the castle, or rather the remains of it. To get there after exiting the train, you need to follow the paved road to the right. In our case it was not easy - we were with a baby airplane stroller with filigree wheels. We had to fold the stroller to explore the castle area, and our daughter followed on foot.
The biggest attraction here is the views. There is also a small park, a fountain and the historic Torre Castello San Vigilio tower. With the tower, you can climb up the embankment to the very top and enjoy a panoramic view of the Bergamo area. Although the best view of Bergamo and Città Alta is right at the train station. There is also an atmospheric restaurant called Baretto di San Vigilio at the top station of the cable car.
After returning from San Vigilio Hill, we slowly headed toward the Funicolare Città Alta train station, from where we arrived in the old town. Below this station, however, are two attractions without which a tour of Bergamo would not be complete. If you've reached the old town on foot via stairs, you've probably noticed the massive walls surrounding Città Alta. These are the Venetian Walls - 16th-century defensive walls that protected the inhabitants of Bergamo from the invasions of enemies. They are perfectly preserved. They stretch for about 5 km, and along them is built a beautiful promenade, ideal for walking.
There is an amazing view of the lower part of Bergamo: the Città Bassa. In the evening, the Venetian Walls are illuminated and take on a completely different appearance. This is one of Bergamo's attractions that is definitely worth a visit.
Porta San Giacomo
The end of the pedestrian road to the old city is crowned by Porta San Giacomo - one of four gates to Città Alta. Or actually five - sources say there is an additional one secret gate, which was to be used for evacuation purposes. The St. James Gate was made of white marble and dates back to the 16th century. It is the most imposing gateway to the city, designed exclusively for pedestrian traffic. Together with the Venetian Walls, it forms an amazing structure. The view of Bergamo from here is breathtaking.
What to see in the Bergamo area?
If you are going to Bergamo for an extended period of time and have no idea what to visit and see beyond the city itself, I have some suggestions for you.
Bergamo is a city located near two popular Italian lakes, Como and Garda. They are definitely worth seeing, as in my opinion they are some of the most beautiful Italian lakes. As far as Como is concerned, I recommend going to Lecco - a large tourist town, which is, as it were, the gateway to Lake Como. You can get there by car in less than an hour, or by train in 40 minutes. The ticket price is €3.70. If you want to visit other popular towns on Como such as Bellagio, Varenna or Menaggio, I recommend going there by one of the ferries that run regularly on Como.
The easiest way to get to Garda is to Desenzano del Garda, a picturesque town on the southern shore of the lake. Also nearby is the iconic town of Sirmione, with its castle on the water and ancient Roman ruins. A trip there by car will take more than an hour. You can also opt for the train: a ticket costs €6.80 or €8, and the trip takes an hour and a half.
You should also consider visiting nearby towns. Milan, the fashion capital of the world, is an hour's drive from Bergamo. The easiest way to get there is by bus (which also runs from the airport) or train. Trains from Bergamo to Milan run every hour, and the trip takes 50 minutes. The cost of a ticket is €5.60. Slightly further away are other popular tourist destinations: Verona and Venice.
How to get to Bergamo?
The easiest way to get to Bergamo is by plane. Low-cost airlines Ryanair and Wizz Air offer connections to Bergamo from many cities from Poland. These include Warsaw, Wroclaw, Krakow, Katowice, Gdansk, Poznan and Lodz. Tickets to Bergamo can be purchased for as little as a few dozen zlotys and such prices are not uncommon. This is why Bergamo is a popular tourist destination for a so-called city break. If you book early enough, such a trip can be really cheap.
Bergamo can also be reached by car. We recently reached Bergamo in just such a way, during our trip in northern Italy. Bergamo is located in the northern part of Italy, and the trip from Poland takes several hours.
Public transport in Bergamo
Bergamo is not a large town, so most attractions can be reached on foot. There is a municipal train, the funicolare, that runs between the upper and lower parts of the city and up San Vigilio Hill. Bergamo has a well-developed bus network, for which the ATB carrier is responsible.
A single travel ticket that is valid for 75 minutes after punching costs €1.30 (fare A). It may be worth considering the purchase of a daily tourist ticket, which costs €3.50 (fare G) and includes rail (Funicolare). If, on the other hand, you want to purchase a 24h or 72h ticket including transfers to/from the airport, then the ticket costs 5€ and 7€, respectively. (Q fare). It is also possible to purchase a ticket package for 10 individual rides.
For more information on individual tickets and fares, visit ATB's official website: https://www.atb.bergamo.it/it/viaggia-con-noi/biglietti/biglietti
Bergamo weather. When to go?
If you plan to visit Bergamo in comfort, I suggest avoiding July and August. These are the months with the highest average temperatures. We last visited Bergamo in late July. The temperature at that time exceeded 30°, and the heat was excruciating. August is also the vacation season in Italy, so you can expect a crowd of tourists then. It is best to go there when temperatures are not so high, such as May, June, September or October. A visit to Bergamo in winter will also have its charm.
Cuisine. What to eat in Bergamo?
Both Bergamo and all of Italy are famous for their delicious cuisine, especially their pasta. We, for dinner, chose an amazing place recommended by some of our friends who visit regularly. It's Miscusi, located in Città Bassa, not far from the described via XX Settembre street. I recommend visiting this place before or after exploring the old town. There is a good selection of homemade pasta here at very reasonable prices (about €10 on average). I chose Il Calabrese - a delicious pasta with spicy Nduja sausage.
You can also eat well in Città Alta. One of the most popular and atmospheric places in the old town is the local Mimì - La Casa dei Sapori. This restaurant is located halfway between Piazza Vecchia and the San Vigilio hill railroad.
Overnight stay in Bergamo
Accommodation in Bergamo is not staggeringly expensive, compared to other popular tourist destinations in Italy. However, it is worth booking accommodation in advance, especially if you are going to Bergamo in vacations. A cheaper option is to choose accommodation in Città Bassa. However, if you find accommodation in Città Alta that suits you, this is definitely a better choice. Below I have included a map of accommodations on booking.com: