For most people Bergamo is a small lowcost airport close to Milan, where they land and immediately take the bus to the big city. Although being underrated and bypassed, Bergamo is a charming Italian city, which definitely deserves your attention. Spare a day or two there and you will not regret it.
It can be said that Bergamo is divided into Upper and Lower City (Citta Alta, Citta Bassa). The Lower City is more industrial and modern, while the Upper City has preserved the charm of the old times. To reach the Upper City you may take the cable railway (funicular) – it is easier than walking, while the view is incredible.
Piazza Vecchia is the throbbing heart of the Upper City. Sit at one of the numerous cafes and enjoy an Italian espresso in the company of the surrounding historical buildings from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In the centre of the square you will see the white marble Contarini Fountain.
You need only 30 seconds to reach the place with the most incredible view to Bergamo. This is the time in which a glass elevator will lift you to the top of the 53 m Campanone Tower (the bell tower). Its name derives from the fact that for centuries the bell on its top used to serve as fire alarm, summon the people, declare war, and etc. The bell still rings 180 times every night – an old tradition with which every night it used to announce the closure of city’s gates at 10 p.m. While the bell was ringing people had time to go home before being locked outside. The entrance fee is EUR 3.
Santa Maria Maggiore Church
To some extent this church was erected in Bergamo because of an oath take during the plague in the city. The construction started in 1137 and later on it was upgraded and reconstructed in different styles.
Rocca is a fortified wall that shelters a unit of the museum of history. Here you may learn much about the history of Bergamo in the time period between 1797 and 1870. More information about the working hours and the entrance fee of the unit of the museum of history in Bergamo (including about the Campanone Tower) is available here.
Bartolomeo Colleoni was born in 1400 and after he died 75 years later he got his own mausoleum. He was a good trader and donated part of his wealth to Venice (where a monument to him riding a horse was erected).
Botanical garden of Bergamo
If you can see a lotus, bulrush, carnivorous plant, sugar cane and Madagascar palm at one place, you are definitely at the Botanical Garden of Bergamo. The entrance is free.
Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art
Bergamo has preserved much of its mediaeval image until today. Because of its numerous stone buildings, preserved until nowadays, it was called the stone city. This gallery has a small standing collection of Italian pieces of modern art. The entrance fee is EUR 5. It is open from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., while on Thursdays – until 10 p.m. The gallery is closed on Monday. More information here.
This is one of the best places to explore the Italian art. It is located to the east of the fortified walls of the city. More information here.
Donizetti and Bergamo
You will be amazed to learn that you know more people from Bergamo than you think. Italian painter Caravaggio, composer Donizetti (the theater in Bergamo, as well as a museum, are named after him), as well as Harlequin – the prominent theatrical character.
This is a little village that you can reach either by foot or using the second funicular in the Upper City. The view from above is amazing. Here you may also visit the ruins of an old castle (free of charge).