Bergamo is a beautiful city in the Italian region of Lombardy. Sadly, it is often not at the top of a traveller’s bucket list, they are much more likely to head to its close and more famous neighbour, Milan. This is such a shame as there are so many wonderful things to see in Bergamo!
The city nestles below a stunning mountain range, so it is built on several levels. I loved exploring the pretty cobbled streets on foot and taking rides on the funicular railways. Bergamo Alta is the part of the city that perches on the hill. It is packed with historic buildings from both Renaissance and medieval times.
Bergamo Bassa lies on flatter ground and is no less gorgeous. Historians and lovers of magnificent architecture will be walking around in a state of bliss.
Visit the historical attractions of Bergamo
The Piazza Vecchia in the Old Town is the perfect spot to watch the world go by while enjoying delicious Italian coffee and sumptuous pizza and pasta. The buzz of the city is addictive. Listening to energetic Italian voices, the cars hooting, and watching the birds peck pastry crumbs from between the feet of fellow customers.
Bergamo, as a smaller town, is not as expensive as her big sisters Milan and Rome. The restaurants and cafes in Bergamo take pride in serving fresh, local food. One of my favourite meals while visiting was Casoncelli, an indulgent delight consisting of pasta parcels filled with pork and a buttery, bacon sauce. If I lived in Bergamo, I would get fat very quickly!
Next door to Piazza Vecchia, in the middle of the Old Town you will find Bergamo Cathedral. Italian Catholic churches are always magnificent, and this is a fine example of its type. Gold leaf shimmers down from the roof, grand frescoes and intricate decorations are a delight to gaze upon.
There are a couple of must-see treasures within the church. The ceremonial Papal tiara of Saint John XXII and the remains of Saint Alexander lies in an urn on the altar.
The Cathedral was built in the 15th century as a tribute to Saint Alexander of Bergamo. The Bishop of the city leads worship here, so it is the religious heart of Bergamo’s catholic population.
Bergamo Venetian Walls
Bergamo is protected by fortifications and the 16th-century Venetian walls are a testament to the turbulent days of the past. The 6km loop is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the walls are remarkably well preserved.
I adored taking a walk along the walls. It’s a great way to see and soak up the atmosphere of the city. It’s amazing to touch the stone and imagine the defenders wearily watching the land beyond.
The Rocca Museum is one of the most interesting things to see in Bergamo, it is within a 14th-century fortress and tells the story of Bergamo and explains the history and function of the military in the city.
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Bergamo City Gate
The walls that encircle the city have beautiful but imposing gates set into them. Porta San Giacomo was the gate that locals travelling from and to Milan used.
It is a dazzling white marble structure that stands out proudly from the grey stone surrounding it. A pretty viaduct has replaced the original wooden drawbridge and as you pass underneath a carved lion watches to make sure you are not planning to cause trouble in his city.
In modern times, Bergamo City Gate is used as a backdrop for celebratory coloured lights such as the Italian flag on national holidays.
The views from San Giacomo Gate are fabulous. You can see the whole of Bergamo Bassa and across to the Apennine mountains. I visited at night, taking the funicular railway, and enjoying the city’s lights twinkling below.
The chapel of Colleoni was constructed in the 15th century to commemorate the lives and deaths of Saints Mark, Bartholomew, and John the Baptist. It also houses the tomb of Bartolomeo Colleoni, a famous Italian military man.
The decorative red and white marble façade is a splendid example of Renaissance architecture and is said to be the loveliest in Northern Italy. Artistry is in abundance in Colleoni Chapel both outside and in.
Photography is not permitted inside the chapel but that simply means a visitor really concentrates on the beauty before their eyes.
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Art is one of the main reasons that travellers flock to Lombardy. The region’s galleries and collections are exquisite and the oldest of these is the Academia Carrara in Bergamo.
The collection was donated to the city by Giacomo Carrara upon his death in 1796.
Visiting the Academia Carrera should be top of your list of ‘things to see in Bergamo’. The entrance fee is ridiculously cheap when you consider that your eyes are about to feast upon over 1800 paintings including treasures by Botticelli, Raphael, and Bellini.
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