My Dear Friend,
For sure you know the Italian beauties of Florence, Venice or Rome and you also remember historic town like Siena, Urbino or Perugia, but maybe you do not know Bergamo.
The lovely tiny town of Bergamo isn’t famous like other historic italian towns, but it’s a real jewel and a charming perfectly preserved walled city.
There’re two Bergamos: a Lower Town and a medieval Upper Town (Città Alta). The Lower Town is modern and visitors can find restaurants, cafès, shops and confortable hotels. The most impressive monument is Accademia Carrara, Museum displaying paintings of Giambattista Moroni, Lorenzo Lotto, Andrea Mantegna. In front of Accademia Carrara you can find the Gamec, Gallery of Modern Art. The Upper Town and the Lower Town are connected by a funicular railway.
When you enter the rare walled gem of Upper Town though one of its gates, you step into a different age. Bergamo used to be the last outpost of the Serenissima at the time when Venice was in fight with Milan. The defensive walls built by Venetians to protect the city from enemies, are still preserving medieval town from modernity.
The heart of Upper Town is Piazza Vecchia (Old Place). Three major religious buildings face the place: the Duomo, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and the Colleoni Chapel.
The preciously ornamented Colleoni Chapel houses the tomb of Bartolomeo Colleoni, 15th century commander. The Chapel is more impressive outside than inside. Legend tales that Colleoni had three testicles. That is the reason why they are on his coat-of-arms, represented on the entrance of the Chapel (somebody rub them for luck). Near the Capel there’s Santa Maria Maggiore, sandstone from outside, exuberant beauty from inside.
Facing the Piazza Vecchia there are civil buildings as well, such as Palazzo della Ragione, surmounted by the Saint Mark Lion to remember that Venice won and ruled over Bergamo for 350 years. The Campanone overlooks the Piazza Vecchia. Since centuries, every night at ten o’clock, the big bell beats 100 chimes meaning that who’s outside the walls has to rush back to the Upper Town before the great gate closes. Nowadays, when the evening comes, the sound of the big bell is magic.
Via Colleoni, the main street, is a narrow one, with little beautiful shops and tiny restaurants, where to taste casoncelli, tipical ravioli filled with meat and raisins, glazed with sage butter and draped with bacon or polenta (flour with maise) another tipical food of the region. You can taste polenta with mushrooms or creamy branzi or taleggio cheese. If you prefer, you can taste a stracciatella ice-cream at “La Marianna”, where the ice-cream, flecked with splinters of dark chocolate, was invented.
I think, my dear friend, that this lovely city will not disappoint you. Bergamo is beautiful in all seasons. If you come by Spring the air is fresh and clean. You can walk along the walls and you can see the plain of Lombardy and, if you are lucky, even the highest buildings of Milan and the Alps. By Summer, along the wall you can enjoy open bars and restaurants for a dinner or a beer and some music: everything is vibrant. By Autumn the leaves fall and the landscape is filled with warm colors. By Winter the ancient town emerge from the mist like in a fairy tale.
Bergamo is really easy to reach. Its international airport is only 4 kilometres away from the city center. Ryanair has here one of its major hubs. From all over Europe you can reach Bergamo with a cheap flight. When you land, a bus departs in front of the Airport and takes you to the train station of the Lower Town (Porta Nuova), to the city center and finally to the Upper Town. 20 minutes and few euros take you to your final destination.
Bergamo is perfect for a week-end or a short break. If you have more time, just keep in mind that Bergamo is close to the Alps, 35 kilometres away from Milan and is in the heart of Italian Lake district. Near Bergamo there is Iseo Lake with Montisola, the biggest lake island in Europe and in an hour you can reach the charming Como Lake, the lively Garda Lake or the elegant Lake Maggiore.
Did I get you? Trust, come here and see: it is impossible to resist its charms.
I’m sure, you’ll love this town, my litte town, like I do.