It was a warm, sunny, beautiful Wednesday that found us on a bench in the center of the Italian city of Bergamo, admiring the surroundings and thinking how unlikely we were to be there.
It was the last day of a longer holiday, where we visited Milan – the capital of fashion, the charming Swiss city of Lugano and some fairytale localities on the shores of Lake Como in Italy. We were in Bergamo just because we were flying back home from there, and we had never thought of visiting the city.
Fortunately, we did arrive here in the morning, and our flight was only in the evening. So we decided to take a tour through the city to see how it presents itself.
Although a single day is far from enough to visit a city that has so much to offer, it was a nice day for us and we’ll tell you how we spent it, hoping that it will maybe motivate you to take a tour after landing or before taking off from there.
The city of Bergamo is in the Lombardy region of northern Italy and is the capital of the homonymous province. Being at a distance of 40 kilometers from Milan and about 30 kilometers from the border with Switzerland, it is well positioned as a starting point to visit the area.
Proof are the nearly 13 million tourists landing annually on the international airport here – Orio al Serio (the official name of the airport is Il Caravaggio, but it is widely known as Orio al Serio, after the name of the commune where it is located, and on the list of airline destinations, this airport appears under the name of Milan Bergamo).
Like many other European cities, Bergamo is divided into the old town or the upper town (Città Alta) and the new, modern town. The difference here is that the old town isn’t the classic “historic center” of the city, but it is a structure separate from the modern urban area, set up on the hill.
Although most of Bergamo’s tourist attractions are in the old town, the modern part of the town has many beautiful areas worth exploring, such as Piazza Matteotti on Via Roma, not far from the foot of the hill where the impressive medieval fortress rises.
Surrounded by the Alps, with a surface of 40 square kilometers and a population of over 120,000 people, Bergamo is the fourth largest city in Lombardy.
We are very glad that the Universe (and the flight schedule) brought us here and that with just one day at our disposal, we didn’t hurry to visit as many sights as possible but chose to walk, relax and discover small parts of a new place. We made for you a list of 7 things you can do if you have one day in Bergamo.
1. Climb the hill by funicular
Once you get to the city by train or by bus (most likely both will leave you near the railway station), take a stroll along the avenue leading towards the old town and from there, embark on the over 120 years old cable car that takes you quickly 240 meters uphill to the fortress and offers spectacular views of the city during the ride.
The Bergamo funicular runs roughly every 15 minutes, a return ticket costs only 2.5 euros and can be bought at the entrance.
2. Visit the old town
The medieval, baroque, and renaissance styles blend harmoniously in the old town on the hill and convey visitors into the old times, amid hundreds of merchants and shopkeepers in the central square (Piazza Vecchia), amidst the people who lived there centuries ago, dressed in their vintage clothes, having concerns so different from us today.
The cathedral of Bergamo (in Italian: Duomo di Bergamo) is an important, not-to-be-missed landmark here, a temple dedicated to the patron saint of the city, Alexander of Bergamo, with impressive architecture.
Cappella Colleoni is an extremely beautiful 15th century addition to the cathedral, a wonderful example of Renaissance architecture that is a delight for visitors’ eyes.
The narrow streets with cubic stone pavement, the impressive architecture, the small shops with traditional products, the sun-bathed terraces and the medieval air will keep you in the old town for at least a few hours, so if you have to catch a plane the same day, look at your watch from time to time. 🙂
3. Admire the new town from above
The old town is surrounded by the over four-kilometer-long Venetian Walls, interrupted by four gates of entry into the city, the most famous being Porta San Giacomo, which was built in the 16th century and was part of the city’s defense walls.
Walking along the walls, you can admire from above the new city and not only – on clear days, the view opens up far away, encompassing much of the beauty of Lombardy.
4. Taste local goodies
Get courageous in the many traditional stores that appear in your path as you explore the city. Taste something of everything that catches your eye – the famous Italian cheeses, a slice of original prosciutto, fruits harvested from the sunny hills of Lombardy or local sweets that are luring you from the shelves.
Alternatively, for a full meal visit a traditional restaurant with dishes prepared after local recipes with local ingredients. Ask the waiter what locals order most often or what is the specialty of the house or the cook for an authentic culinary experience.
5. Relax on a terrace
Italians love coffee and are very good at making it. They also love to spend hours at terraces telling stories, speaking loudly, expressively and gesturing a lot (yes, they actually do that, it’s not just a stereotype 🙂 ).
Have a seat at a nice, sunny terrace and notice their exciting habits while enjoying a vero coffee or, why not, a cold beer or a glass of aromatic wine.
6. Go on a quick shopping session
We are not passionate about shopping, but if you are, we have good news: a significant part of the new center of the city is occupied by dozens of stores of well-known brands or local producers, the most famous shopping street from here being Via XX Settembre.
You will surely leave this area with a beautiful memory of Bergamo. Some tourists buy fridge magnets as a souvenir, and others buy… boots! And this is so cool! 🙂 Another good part here is that prices are not as high as in Milan – the European capital of fashion, shopping and …bling.
7. Get lost on the charming streets
If time allows, leave the map and the camera aside and simply walk the streets.
Observe the beautiful architecture of the buildings, the monuments and statues, the urban furnishings and the vegetation arrangements, the flowers in the windows and the balconies of the local citizens, the chic windows of the traditional products stores, the wide boulevards and the narrow cobblestone alleys, the interactions between local people – all these will offer you the opportunity to truly taste the specific and charm of the city.
How to get from Bergamo to the airport
Super happy for having the opportunity to discover another wonderful place on this trip, we didn’t even notice how our flight was approaching and it was time to head for the airport.
From Bergamo to Orio al Serio Airport, located at a relatively short distance, just about 4 kilometers from the city, you can take the bus number 1, which runs quite often (the traffic timetable is displayed at the bus stops and on the public transport company website). The price of one ticket from Bergamo to the airport is 2.3 euros.
Tickets can be purchased by credit card at the ticket machine on the bus, from some bus stops or from authorized distributors.
A sort of conclusion
We thought about this and debated a lot whether to write this article or not. Our readers got used by now with comprehensive guides for the places we visit, with dozens of sights to discover and many days to explore them all. We thought that nobody would read this post, that it would not be useful for anyone. And for us, this is precisely the purpose with which we write: to offer useful information for our audience, to help them make their holidays more beautiful and enjoyable by sharing our experiences and things we learned.
We have decided, however, to write about Bergamo – it is a nice city that we really liked and visiting it made our day better. And if we were in this situation where we only had one day to discover it, there will certainly be others, too. If only one person, or five or twelve people find useful what we have written here, we are happy and pleased.
So, if you read the article and found it useful, we’d be happy if you would tell us that in a comment.
Would we’ve been sorry if we didn’t visit Bergamo? Probably not. And not because it was not beautiful, because it was very beautiful, but for the simple reason that we never knew what we lost.