With its 120 thousand inhabitants, the accessibility of any means of transport (the Orio al Serio airport is one of the most important international airports in the country) and the perfect mix of history and modernity , marked by the perfect division of the city in the upper area and lower area, Bergamo is configured as one of the most interesting Lombard destinations for couples, families, groups of friends.
1 – Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore
Sumptuous, opulent, well cared for. The reviews on the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, located near the Bergamo Cathedral, on the main travel search engines and themed communities are more than positive. The reason is soon clarified: the building, whose works began in 1137, has some gothic peculiarities on the outside (how not to notice the beautiful lions located near the side doors of the Basilica) and inside capture the eye- catching tapestries dating back to the 16th century. , located in the side aisles of the building and on the area set up for the choir.
A peculiar feature is the lack of an entrance door on the central facadecompensated, however, by four splendid side access doors. On the left opens the door with porch of the red Lions and on the left of this, close to the apse, the secondary entrance. The other two doors are those of the White Lions and the Porta della Fontana next to the Fountain of Antescolis.
Admire the wonderful ceiling : as soon as you enter be sure to look up, you will see a wonderful ceiling decorated in gold and frescoes (be sure to take pictures without flash). Inside you will also find the funeral monument of Gaetano Donizetti and that of Simone Mayr, his teacher.
2 – Colleoni Chapel
To the right of the facade of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is the Colleoni Chapel, where Bartolomeo Colleoni rests , a mercenary captain who worked mainly in the service of Venice and who, before his death, wanted to have this chapel built as a sepulcher. Built between 1470 and 1476 by Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, it is one of the finest examples of the Renaissance in Italy and is dedicated to Saints Bartolomeo, Marco and Giovanni Battista.
An entrance staircase, bordered by a wrought iron gate, protects a triumph of red and white marble columns with biblical symbols and stories around them. Inside, the Colleoni Sarcophagus stands outwith the equestrian statue of the leader in gilded wood. On the left wall is the funeral monument of Colleoni’s beloved daughter, Medea. The frescoes on the pendentives, the lunettes and the dome are by Giambattista Tiepolo . So much beauty and grace is interrupted by 3 testicles on the opposite wall: they were the name and symbol of the leader’s family .
Look for your luck : on the entrance gate there are 3 golden testicles. According to legend, touching them brings good luck!
3 – Cathedral
Next to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore , here is the Cathedral of Sant’Alessandro, the Cathedral of Bergamo . It’s hard to take your eyes off this ethereal building. As candid externally as it is “loaded” with paintings, tapestries and the suggestive Crucifix Chapel internally.
In all likelihood, the Duomo loses comparison with the nearby Basilica of Santa Maria, but it is still worth a visit. In fact, several architectural layers from different eras have been discovered under the Cathedral, already a place of worship in the early Christian era.
4 – Palazzo della Ragione
The oldest municipal building in Italy . It was built after the Peace of Constance, when the Italian municipalities discovered autonomy and began to equip themselves with their own administrative structures. With the arrival of the Venetians it was transformed into a Court. Destroyed and rebuilt several times, it owes its current shape to the changes made around 1540. The portico on which it is built acts as a “small square” , which divides Piazza Vecchia from the adjacent Piazza del Duomo.
Note the 1798 sundial on the floor by Abbot Giovanni Albrici . On the first floor of the building there is the splendid Sala delle Capriate with the windows and the balcony overlooking Piazza Vecchia. Here is theFresco Museum which preserves about 100 frescoes recovered from the city and the province of Bergamo . The highlight are the frescoes by Bramante which adorned the façade of the Palazzo del Podestà and which represented 7 wise men holding sheets with passages from the works of Seneca.
Discover the center of city life since always : the name refers to the period of Venetian rule, during which the building was used as a court. Here the judges listened to the disputes that arose between citizens and decided using “reason” who, according to the law, was “right”.
5 – Palazzo del Podestà and Campanone
Another great protagonist of Piazza Vecchia is the Civic Tower, better known as the ” Campanone “. With its 53 meters of height it is one of the highest in Europe and a symbol of Bergamo . In the shadow of the Campanone the life of the city took place for 1,000 years. Built as a tower house of the noble Suardi-Colleoni family , it was originally 37.7 meters high. In 1374 it was purchased by the municipality that housed the municipal prisons, then in 500 it was increased in height, the new cell for the bells and the current clock was added, reaching the current 53 meters.
From up there the view of Bergamo is beautiful and to get there you have two choices: 230 steps on foot or a comfortable lift!
Next to the tower is the Palazzo del Podestà, which belonged to the same family. Today it houses a multimedia museum on the history of the city . On the facade of the building, which overlooks Piazza Vecchia, Bramante painted his 7 philosophers, of which only the fragments preserved in the Sala delle Capriate in the Palazzo della Ragione remain.
Listen to the tolling of the bells : every evening, at 10pm, the bells continue to perform their centuries-old function. 100 chimes sound to warn of the closing of the gates of the Upper Town.
6 – Piazza Vecchia
The heart of the Upper Town has only one name: Piazza Vecchia. The great architect and urban planner Le Corbusier considered it one of the most beautiful squares in Europe . In 1949 he wrote: ” You cannot touch a stone, it would be a crime “.
Piazza Vecchia is divided from Piazza Duomo by the portico of the Palazzo della Ragione. This evocative area of the city with its “retro” charm contains in its perimeter some of the most evocative sculptural and architectural masterpieces of all Bergamo: the ” Campanone “, the civic tower of the city; the Palazzo della Ragione , the oldest existing municipal seat in Lombardy; the Palazzo del Podestà and theAngelo Mai Library , with its 600 ancient volumes.
It can be reached with the Città Alta-Stazione Inferiore funicular or by bus. From V.le Papa Giovanni XXIII station, take bus line 1 direct to Piazza Mercato Scarpe stop, then on foot (300 m, 3 min). It can be reached on foot from Porta San Giacomo (600 m, 7 min) –
Take a picture in front of the Contarini Fountain : donated by the Podestà of Venice to bring water to the center of the Upper Town and make it available to everyone. The sphinxes with the fountains have four lions on the sides, the symbol of Venice.
7 – Venetian walls (city walls)
The Venetian Walls were built in the sixteenth century by the Republic of Venice, with the aim of defending the city from enemy attacks; today they offer a breathtaking view not only over the whole of Bergamo, but also over the “nearby” Milan. Along the way, binoculars are installed to admire the horizon.
They can be reached by bus from the center of Bergamo Bassa. Take bus n ° 1 from V.le Papa Giovanni XXIII station, stopping at Viale delle Mura 40 S.Giacomo (15 min). Alternatively, the Città Alta-Stazione Inferiore funicular (included in the bus ticket, 75 min from € 1.30)
Discover the most beautiful place on earth : admiring the view from up here, the French writer Stendhal defined Bergamo ” the most beautiful place on earth “. It is also one of the most instagrammable places in all of Bergamo, especially at sunset! From here the view is visibly lost on all the surroundings.
8 – “E. Caffi” Civic Museum of Natural Sciences
The Civic Museum of Natural Sciences “E. Caffi” is especially designed for the little ones, where it is possible to live interactive and sensory experiences in the true literal sense of the term, touching every artefact present in the structure: from the stuffed animals to the various fossils of different species present inside the museum.
The structure is divided into different “branches” of scientific knowledge, from mineralogy to archeology. The undisputed symbol of the civic museum is the stuffed mammoth family that will welcome you to an “other universe”. It is also advisable to visit the botanical garden a stone’s throw from the museum, hosting various Lombard and exotic floristic species.
Visit with children : it is a very active institution that participates in local, national and international cultural initiatives and events. Interactivity and innovation are the foundations on which the museum is based. Inside it is possible to use microscopes, read books and use tactile display cases.
9 – Donizetti House-Museum
The city of Bergamo was the birthplace of the famous composer Gaetano Donizetti , paid by the Lombard community with monuments and museums that celebrate his inspiration and talent every day.
To get to know the master in more detail , you cannot fail to visit the Donizetti Museum: you will be greeted by the notes of the most famous works by Donizetti, observing documents, photos, any kind of testimony on the life and work of the Bergamo musician .
Discover Donizetti’s story : the Maestro was born here and lived with his parents who were tailors. They belonged to that humble segment of the population who earned their living by working for the lords of the rich palaces of the Upper Town
10 – Lorenzo Rota Botanical Garden
It is located on the Colle Aperto of the Upper Town, and can only be reached on foot by a ladder of 141 steps from Colle Aperto , near the seventeenth-century powder magazine, at the north-west end of the seventeenth-century Venetian walls (bastion of Castagneta). It is a small naturist laboratory where the passion and art of the employees make exotic plants coexist with indigenous ones. It is named after Lorenzo Rota , physician and botanist who first described the flora of the province of Bergamo. The 10,000 samples he collected are kept in the herbarium of the Botanical Garden made up of about 50,000 exiccata.
In 2,400 square meters, the Garden welcomes over 1,200 types of plants, most of which are located in micro-habitats that reproduce or evoke natural environments. From here you can also admire a unique panorama that sweeps over the roofs and monuments of the Upper Town and the first offshoots of the Bergamo Prealps.
11 – Gardens of the Rocca
Taking and crossing via Rocca, uphill, you reach Colle di Santa Eufemia, dominated by the Rocca , a 14th-century fortress that has been modified several times and enriched with defenses . Tradition has it that the Capitol stood here, a very important building in the structure of the Roman city.
The path of the Decumano offers the pleasure of a nice walk between shop windows, bars, restaurants and ancient buildings, starting from Medieval Bergamo (do not neglect the adjacent streets). In the narrow space of the hill it was demolished and built several times and the remains of the first city are underground. Every time a somewhat large excavation takes place, traces of Bergamo from the age of Julius Caesar or Augustus emerge. And it was on the occasion of one of these excavations that the foundations of huts from the Iron Age were also identified , the first sign of a settlement on the Bergamo hill.
In Bergamo Alta. It can be reached with the Città Alta-Stazione Inferiore funicular or by bus. From V.le Papa Giovanni XXIII station, direct bus line 1 to the stop at Viale delle Mura (25 min). It can be reached on foot from Porta San Giacomo (600 m, 9 min) –
12 – Carrara Academy
It was established in 1794 and is one of the most important artistic institutions in the city . It is located in Bergamo Bassa, in an area rich in history, shops and sociability.
It collects 1,793 paintings from the Venetian, Lombard and Tuscan schools from the Renaissance to the end of the 1800s. Some names can do justice to this magnificent collection: Mantegna, Pinturicchio, Ghirlandaio, Bellini, Raffaello, Tiziano, Rubens, Tiepolo, Hayez and many others. Among the masterpieces we must remember the Madonna with Child by Mantegna and that of Titian, the San Sebastiano by Raphael, The memory of a pain by Pellizza da Volpedo. But the whole collection of paintings deserves several hours to visit, together with that of sculptures with works by Bernini and prints with works by Mantegna, Dürer, Piranesi and Canaletto.
Save on the combined visit : if you have already visited the GAMeC (and show your ticket), admission costs € 8.00. Conversely, if you visit the GAMeC after the museum, admission to the museum costs € 4.00.
13 – GAMeC
A completely different artistic style, however, at GAMeC, the Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art which is located right in front of the Carrara Academy. The ideal museum for fans of contemporary art . It is located inside a complex that dates back to 1400, originally used as a monastery.
In an environment of about 1,500 square meters, contemporary art is present in all its forms, with collective exhibitions of international artists and temporary personal exhibitions . The GAMeC is not a museum for its own sake, it recognizes itself more as a multifaceted space in which to give life to the events and activities of a rich calendardeveloped to satisfy different audiences, by age and interests. At the base of the activities promoted by GAMeC, we find the experimentation of contemporary languages and multidisciplinarity.
Visit with children : paths are organized for parents and children, some of which have become “fixed appointments”. This is the case of the workshop “Waiting for Santa Lucia” in December, and “A Night at the Museum” dedicated to children aged 7 to 12.
14 – Sentierone
It is so called the ” Bergamo shopping triangle ” consisting of via XX Settembre, Via Sant’Alessandro and Via Sant’Orsola. The starting point of what was the main access to the city , and which today is located along Viale Vittorio Emanuele which takes you directly to the Upper Town, is symbolized by Porta Nuova , easily distinguishable because it is characterized by the Propylaea: two neoclassical colonnades that once housed the guards demanding the access duty to the city.
Leaving the Propylaea behind, you can cross the Sentierone. Here you can find the Piacentiniano Center, the Gaetano Donizetti Theater and various monuments. The area is very suggestive during the Christmas period. If you happen to visit Bergamo in December, you will notice the presence of many children right in front of the church of Santa Lucia to deliver the letter.
Easily reachable on foot from every point of Bergamo Bassa. By bus, from the Bergamo bus station, board the V bus to Via Zambonate 4 – Largo Medaglie d’Oro; continue for a short distance on foot. Via XX Settembre can be reached in 3 minutes –
Enjoy a break at Balzer : after the numerous visits, and between one purchase and another, stop for a coffee break at Balzer , a historic pastry shop and true institution of the city.
15 – Piazza Matteotti
If the centerpiece of the Upper Town is Piazza Vecchia, its counterpart in Lower Bergamo, the most modern and “worldly” area of the town, so to speak, is Piazza Giacomo Matteotti. There is no shortage of cultural attractions in this area of the city; however, the Lower Town is the other ” half of the apple “, the one in charge of nightlife and shopping .
Piazza Matteotti is therefore configured as a meeting point for young people from Bergamo , but also as a reference point for families and tourists. Its perimeter offers numerous attractions to admire with your mouth open, many of which are dedicated to the famous composer Gaetano Donizetti , a true “star” of the city.
In Lower Bergamo. By bus, from the Bergamo bus station, board the V bus to Portanuova, then continue for a short distance on foot, you will reach the square in 3 minutes –
16 – Via XX Settembre
The Bergamo shopping area has a name and is marked with a number. We are talking about via XX Settembre, a lively area located in the Lower Town where it is possible to really buy everything, thanks to the countless and different shops along the entire road section .
The street cuts through the center of Lower Bergamo and, in addition to shops where you can go shopping, it is full of places where you can taste typical dishes and enjoy an aperitif while admiring beautiful views of the city, or full of ancient elegant buildings. In short, a way to live at any time of the day , even in the evening, when it comes alive and becomes a real meeting point.
Easily reachable on foot from every point of Bergamo Bassa. By bus, from the Bergamo bus station, board the V bus to Via Zambonate 4-Largo Medaglie d’Oro; continue for a short distance on foot. Via XX Settembre can be reached in 3 minutes –
Other attractions to visit
An unusual way to get to know the green heart of Bergamo is to explore the protected area of the Parco dei Colli , among stairs and paths that cross woods and terraces that offer unexpected views. Another corner of Bergamo at the foot of the Upper Town surrounded by greenery is the Monastery of Astino which, after years of decay, was recovered and opened in 2015. It hosts various cultural events and manifestations.
Also in the Upper Town, in addition to the Campanone, Torre del Gombito also deserves a mention : 52 meters high, it stands right at the intersection between the cardo and the maximum decumanus of the Roman city (via S. Lorenzo / via Mario Lupo and via Gombito ). Just behind the tower, there is an ancient wash house, built in the late nineteenth century and remained in use until the 1950s.
Finally, Bergamo is in an enviable position . For a trip out of town we suggest the Parco delle Orobie Bergamasche and the Collina della Maresana , ideal for a walk in nature without going too far from the city. The industrial village of Crespi D’Adda is also very interesting , just 20 minutes from Bergamo.
6 things to do in Bergamo
- Touch Colleoni’s balls : a little lucky rite. On the gate of the Colleoni Chapel there is a coat of arms depicting the attributes of the condottiere Bartolomeo Colleoni. There are three of them and … rubbing them is said to bring good luck
- Taste the Stracciatella : here in Bergamo is the ice cream shop where Stracciatella was invented. Then taste it at “La Marianna”, in Colle Aperto
- Take a photo at the Convent of San Francesco : it is one of the most instagrammable cloisters in Bergamo. From some points you can see wonderful views of the city, ideal to photograph during the sunset
- Città Alta with the funicular : for 120 years the funiculars have crossed the walls of Bergamo, connecting the contemporary center to the medieval heart of the city
- It counts the hundred strokes of the Campanone : for centuries, every evening at 22:00, in Piazza Vecchia, the great bell at the top of the civic tower has sounded 100 strokes. It was the notice indicating the closing of the doors
- Shopping at the Franciacorta Outlet Village : just an hour from Bergamo, in this gigantic outlet you will find the best designer clothes with over 70% discount!
Plan your stay in Bergamo: tips, flights and hotels
Bergamo is a city that lends itself to all kinds of visits: a weekend away for those who live in the surrounding area, a day trip for those who are perhaps visiting Milan, but also as a holiday destination. The connections are exceptional , considering that the Orio al Serio airport is 15 km away. The strategic position, among other things, lends itself as a base for visiting the surroundings , such as the Franciacorta wine area, the lakes area, the Orobic Alps and also the Valtellina
For a first approach, the advice is to take a walking tour with a local guide, which also includes the funicular ride. In this way you can identify the landmarks and learn more about the history and curiosities of the city.
For accommodation we recommend the Upper Town because the main attractions are close at hand ( compare the accommodations on booking ); to spend something less you can sleep in the Lower Town and then reach the historic center by funicular, bus or a nice walk (even if uphill). The Upper Town is a wonderful pedestrian treasure chest . In fact, you can discover it by walking through the historic streets. For Bergamo at night, the happy hour takes place in the cafes of Piazza Pontida with cocktails, delicious buffets and DJ sets, and then continues the evening in Borgo Santa Caterina, full of bars and music.