Bergamo is a small but very beautiful old city, only about an hour by train from Milan. In particular, the two ancient and modern towns here have made many tourists come back. So, is Bergamo worth visiting, how to visit Bergamo, what to do in Bergamo and how to plan a budget trip to Bergamo for the first-time perfectly? Let’s check out our Bergamo travel blog (Bergamo blog) with the fullest Bergamo travel guide (Bergamo city guide, Bergamo guide) from how to get to Bergamo, best places to visit, best time to come, what to eat as well as top things to do in Bergamo to help you maximize your trip as follows!
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Over the years, Northern Italy has not captured my curiosity. You can’t love Italy without really opening your heart to it. By road, in order to enter Italy, it is almost inevitable to have to somehow cross the Alps. The Alps follow an arc extending over 1200 kilometers along the northern Italian border, as a natural border separating the boot-shaped country from the rest of the Old Continent. When crossing the mountain, the rich Po River delta spreads out in front of you. This is the cradle of the Italian industrial revolution, the regions are famously richer and prosperity than the South. Somehow, those regions, many times driving through Italy, I always just pass by but never stop. The most prosperous and urban is probably Turin, the capital of the Piedmont region, and Milan, the world fashion capital, the center of Lombardia.
Bergamo is truly a hidden gem in northern Italy, about an hour’s drive from Milan. Although this small town is often overlooked due to its proximity to Milan, a visit to Bergamo is sure to leave you spellbound with its beautiful cobblestone streets, exciting weather, and long historic atmosphere. Even better, this beautiful Italian city is also known as the city of art, and it is certainly beautiful in a rare and unique way.
Overview of Bergamo (#bergamo travel blog)
The Celts (people from central Europe) founded Bergamo 2000 years ago. It is recognized by UNESCO on the list of World Heritage Sites as an important historic Italian town. This beautiful little town is full of historic buildings, the citadel (fortress), the church of Saint Maria and the library… A tour of Bergamo is well worth your interesting trip.
Only about 50 kilometers northeast of Milan, both closed in the shadow of Milan and closed at the foot of the Alps is the city of Bergamo. This is the last major city, leaning against the Alps, the gateway to the Po River Delta before stepping into the mountains. The terrain makes Bergamo divided into two separate parts, the old city, also known as the Città Alta (Upper Town). The Città Alta is nestled within the city walls with a circumference of more than 5 kilometers built by the Venetians when they were colonized the city for three centuries. The ancient citadel of Bergamo or more precisely the city walls “Mura venete di Bergamo” has been recognized as a UNESCO heritage site since 2017. Below that, known as the Lower Town (New Town). The Città Bassa is the much larger city, the administrative and economic center is developed in the southern delta.
When entering the upper town, you will be attracted by the high walls, everything is very neat, the feeling of this place is so majestic. The citadel here has also been recognized as a Unesco World Heritage Site since 2017.
The main tourist part of Bergamo is the “upper town” – la “Città Alta”, which is also the main content of this article.
I have a feeling, Bergamo is beautiful in a way that is more organized and neat than the standards of an Italian city. At least that’s the feeling of walking in the old town. Speaking from Bergamo northward was the beginning of the Alps, but close to the city were still only hilltops that were not very high. On it, to protect Bergamo there are often fortresses carrying outpost missions.
When to come? (#bergamo blog)
The best time to visit Bergamo with good weather are April, September and October. The warmest months are June, July and August. The middle of the year has pleasant weather with high temperatures and and little precipitation.
Getting to Bergamo (#bergamo travel guide)
But finding a day to stop at Bergamo is very simple. Surely many of us have had the opportunity to accidentally pass by. Bergamo is only about 50 kilometers from Milan. Legend has it that standing on the walls of Bergamo, on clear days you can see Milan on the horizon. It is located right on the highway from Milan through Verona to Venice, so it is not difficult to plan an itinerary to put Bergamo in it.
In addition, low-cost airlines, especially Ryanair, have chosen the city’s Orio al Serio airport as its hub, connecting Bergamo with most of Europe’s capitals and major destinations. Orio al Serio Airport is the fourth largest airport in Italy in terms of passenger traffic.
Getting from the airport to the old town is too simple, bus number #1 only takes half an hour to connect the airport via Bergamo train station before going to the old town. So, the opportunity to visit Bergamo is actually very simple.
By plane (#bergamo travel guide)
Bergamo’s main international airport is Orio al Serio airport (IATA code: BGY). The airport also has another commercial name, Milan Bergamo Airport to add the name Milan, which attracts a larger number of passengers. As mentioned above, major low-cost airlines such as Ryann Air or WizzAir choose Bergamo as their main hub for Northern Italy, so it is currently the fourth-ranked airport in Italy in terms of passenger traffic. From the airport to Bergamo is relatively simple. Bus route #1 takes only half an hour to connect to the airport via Bergamo train station before going to the old city. Ticket price is €2.7/way, you can buy a €5 day ticket valid within 24 hours.
The ticket is valid for 90 minutes so you can use the same ticket to catch another bus to the Cítta Alta funicular that takes you to the old town. You can also take a train or bus from Milan, which takes about an hour to come.
Pro tip: Right next to bus #1 in the citadel at Largo Colle Aperto stop, in the Passaggio Torre di Adalberto alley, there is a place to store your things, allowing those who only visit Bergamo for a few hours to visit. Easy to put things there to go out without fear of getting entangled.
By car (#bergamo travel blog)
The entire area of the central old town of Bergamo (“la Città Alta”) and a number of other streets are located in a restricted car zone (zones referred to as “ZTL” – “ Zone a traffic Limitato”). Only local cars are allowed to enter. Vehicles of passing visitors are prohibited from entering and parking. If you have a network, you should use navigation apps like Waze or Google Map to automatically find your way around ZTL zones.
Pro tip – free parking – the way we chose: I chose to park on the hill of San Vigilio. Anyway, I intend to come here to see the old city of Bergamo. San Vigilio Hill is a luxury residential area with little traffic, so finding a parking space is relatively easy. I found a free parking lot at Via S. Vigilio, 46, 24129 Bergamo (GPS coordinates: 45.711380, 9.647350), just walked a few hundred meters to the mountain funicular station “Funicolare di San Vigilio” .
Bergamo railway station is located on Piazzale Guglielmo Marconi square. As written above, the city of Bergamo has strategic bus route #1 connecting three main points of interest: Orio al Serio airport – Bergamo FS train station and the “Città Alta” upper town. The city’s main bus station is also directly opposite the station. In Bergamo, regional trains are operated by Trenord (www.trenord.it) and interregional trains are operated by Trenitalia.
Some information about railways in Italy:
The Italian national railway company is Trenitalia (www.trenitalia.com). In addition, there is a private railway company Italo (www.italotreno.it) that operates a number of high-speed train lines from Venice directly to Florence, Rome or Naples. Italo’s train is relatively new and comfortable, with wifi on board. It takes about an hour and a half to Florence, 3 hours to Rome. Italo tickets are usually cheaper than Trenitalia tickets.
Follow Italo’s Facebook page to receive promotional codes as well as notifications about special discounts. Usually every weekend, the company releases a promotional code. But this is really just a marketing tactic. Every weekend the firm sends a promotional code, but every weekend it also increases the ticket price.
With Trenitalia’s train system: high-speed trains (Frecciarossa – Frecciargento – Frecciabianca) and intercity trains (IC), on tickets with number of seats, there is no fixed fare but the fare changes change up and down, there are also promotions such as air tickets. Track fares and buy tickets directly on the site (www.italotreno.it).
With the regional train system “Regionali” traveling short distances. With this type of train, the ticket does not have a fixed number of seats, you can sit on any seat when you see an empty seat. Usually the fare is fixed, no need to book in advance, just go to the station and buy it.
The main bus station of the city is located right at the door of the train station on Piazzale Guglielmo Marconi square. In addition, to cater to the number of passengers coming to Bergamo to fly, there are many bus routes (such as flixbus.com or buscenter.it) connecting the airport directly with major cities in Northern Italy.
Getting around Bergamo (#bergamo travel blog)
Walking around is quite pleasant, walking from the train station to the funicular station takes about 15-20 minutes. So, try walking for a more enjoyable experience. If you don’t want to walk, you can take bus #1 from the train station to the funicular that takes you to Cítta Alta (old town).
You can buy a day pass, where you can travel on all the buses and funiculars you like for the whole day (24 hours from your purchase). The price is no more than a one-way ticket, so chances are this is the best deal.
You can also buy a variety of other tickets, such as a 3-day pass or a 1-day pass that includes the airport bus. Or you can also buy these tickets at the Bergamo airport ticket office, bus station and from ticket machines.
Bergamo has a public transport system managed and operated by ATB (Azienda Transporti Bergamo) (www.atb.bergamo.it). Single ticket in the city (1 zone) is €1.3/one way, 24h ticket is €3.5. Tickets that can go to the airport (5 zone) cost €2.7/way, a day ticket is €5. If anyone stays in Bergamo longer, there is a 72h (5 zone) ticket for €7.
Where to go and what to do in Bergamo?
Bergamo is divided into two parts – an old part, Cítta Alta (upper town), and a new, more modern part, Cittá Bassa (lower town). The old part of town is really a must-see during your Bergamo tour. So make sure to give yourself the right amount of time to explore all that this place has to offer.
Upper Town – la “Città Alta”
To get to the upper town – la “Città Alta”, in addition to the roads leading up to the four city gates, there are also two mountain funicular routes “funicolare”. One from the lower town to the upper town (“Funicolare di Città”) and the other from the hill of Saint San Vigilio (“Funicolare di San Vigilio”).
Linea FUN.C (Funicolare Città Bassa – Città Alta): The line connecting the lower city – la “Città Bassa” with the upper city – la “Città Alta”. The station is below Città Bassa to pick up and drop off passengers on Viale Vittorio Emanuele II. In the citadel, the station of the line is on Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe. One-way ticket price is 1.3€/way. Tickets are valid for 75 minutes. There is also a ticket for 24 hours/person with a price of 3.5€, which means that you only need to go three times to make a profit.
Linea FSV (Funicolare di San Vigilio): This is a mountain funicular route from the holy hill of San Vigilio to the ancient city of “Città Alta”. On the hill of San Vigilio, the station is on Via al Castello. At the other end, the train stops at the gate of Porta San Alessandro.
We reached Bergamo from the hillside of San Vigilio rather than cutting through the city. At the top of the hill is the Fort of the same name “Castello di San Vigilio”, which serves as a gateway to protect the city. The fortress is now a ruin, converted into a beautiful garden, which provides a 360° viewing point of Bergamo and its surroundings.
There are many shooting angles from the holy hill San Vigilio to the ancient citadel “Città Alta”, but the “most popular” angle on Instagram is from the terrace of the funicular station “Funicolare di San Vigilio” (GPS coordinates: 45.708389, 9.650697 ). If you are not in a hurry, before catching the train from here or walking to the upper side of Bergamo, you can wander more around the streets on the hill. San Vigilio is definitely Bergamo’s upper-class residential area, the mansions on the hill are extremely beautiful and majestic.
The best way to appreciate the beauty of Bergamo is to simply walk along its streets. The old town is quite small, so you can see everything just walking around. The buildings look old but are very well preserved. It’s a cozy feeling walking around the narrow, winding cobblestone streets, peering into the little chocolate and cheese shops, wineries and cafes selling their own specialties.
Anyone who comes to Bergamo wants to visit the upper city. The reason for this name is because this ancient city was formed on a hill, from here visitors can see the whole new city – the city below. This place still retains the same old ruins: the central square with the lion fountain – a popular Italian architectural style, the old theater, the ancient church with sculptures tinted with the time.
What I like most is the winding cobblestone streets that have been preserved almost intact through the centuries. Although there are no modern house styles, each house is unique because it is hundreds or even thousands of years old and very well preserved. The streets in Bergamo are narrow and steep. The one-story houses with red flower pots hanging on the side windows look really fancy. Although only a small mountain town with a few thousand inhabitants, but Bergamo has many famous churches thousands of years old, built between the 10th and 15th centuries.
The houses on the street here are built with a very special stone. Every time the sun shines, the whole row of houses will glow bright white and sparkle like pearls. In the windows and balconies of the house, in addition to growing flowers and vines, people grow beautiful grapes…
As I wrote above, from San Vigilio hill to the upper citadel, you can catch the mountain train “Funicolare di San Vigilio” or walk. San Vigilio hill is higher than “Città Alta”, going downhill from this side is relatively easy. Going down, we enter the city through the Porta San Alessandro gate. The old citadel is called “Città Alta” along a main axis, from “Shoe Market Square” – “Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe”, where the train from the lower city climbs, then follows Via Gombito, passing Piazza Vecchia, where the architect Le Corbusier for a while did not know how excited he was to say this was the most beautiful square in the world.
Continue straight on Via Bartolomeo Colleoni where all the shops are lovely and you will come to la Cittadella. Or explore more Piazza Vecchia as two but one, there is almost no separation between it and Piazza Duomo – “The square of the cathedral”. Not one but three churches have doors that open onto the square. The most impressive is probably the church “Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore”, built in the 12th century, but certainly has been changed many times since then. The exterior of the church is relatively simple in Roman architecture, but inside, even though I have been to many famous churches, I still have to look with eye A and the mouth O. The church is also unique in that it does not have any front door, but only two side doors built of marble, each door has a pair of lions standing guard: Porta dei Leoni rossi and Porta dei Leoni bianchi – “The door of the red lions” and ” The door of the white lions”.
This is the old square, in the heart of Citta Alta (old town). Here you’ll find the 400-year-old library Biblioteca Civica, the 12th-century Venetian Gothic Palazzo della Ragione (Court of Justice) and the 12th-century Torre Civica (Civil Tower).
If you climb 230 steps to the top of the 54m tower, you will have a 360-degree view of Bergamo. The 15th-century bell rings 180 times at 10 p.m. each night to celebrate the town’s medieval curfew.
On this journey, you can climb to the highest peaks of Bergamo, which has dominated the city for centuries. The oldest is the tower Torre di Gombito, free, only open on Monday every week, from April to October. Want to conquer the tower only has stairs with 263 steps, and because the stairs with narrow space, only 10 guests can go up to the tower each turn. Overlooking Piazza Vecchia is the Campanone bell tower, also known as Torre civica. Since it was built in the 16th century, it is still the tallest structure in Bergamo. Going up the Campanone tower is also simple, because for several years now, there has been an elevator that takes us to the top of the tower. Tickets to go up the tower combined with the city history museum is 5€. Every day at 10 pm, the big bell on the top of the tower will strike 100 hours, signaling the closing time of the city gate.
You have probably never seen so many incredible churches crammed into such a small place. Usually a city tends to have a beautiful church and a bunch of boring looking churches. In Bergamo, every church you enter is lavishly gilded, with beautiful ancient paintings and architecture that can make anyone devout.
For those who have abundant of time, there are two more beautiful gardens in the old town. To the northeast is the garden “la Rocca”, an old renovated fortress. To the northwest is the “Lorenzo Rota Botanical Garden”. At the highest points of the two spots above are great places to see the city and its periphery.
As written above, la “Città Alta” is an ancient citadel nestled within the city walls with a circumference of more than 5 kilometers built by the Venetians when they colonized the city for three centuries. The ancient citadel of Bergamo or more precisely the walls of “Mura venete di Bergamo” have been recognized as a UNESCO heritage site since 2017. There are 4 gates that open the upper citadel to the outside world. The most beautiful is probably the Porta San Giacomo gate and the stone bridge connecting it to the lower town. If anyone had the good fortune to be standing here or somewhere on the wall and watching Bergamo at dawn or dusk, watching the sun spread its warm rays down on a few rooftops on this side of the city, it would see a scene that one could copy like that and call it paradise.
If you just want to visit a cathedral, go to lIl Duomo and the university chapel in the old square in the old town. This is an urban church and inside you will find architectural imprints of different periods from the time of construction. They started building a small house in 600 BC, and from there they built more and more and the church got bigger and bigger.
Tempietto di Santa Croce: This is an another 11th-century house that you can easily miss, so pay close attention when passing. Once you get inside, you’ll be greeted by a series of murals. They all date back to the Middle Ages, just be aware that this place is only open at selected times of the year. If you are lucky, you will arrive at the opening time, otherwise you will only be able to visit the outside.
The Museo Donizettiano opened in 1906 and is a collection of works commemorating the famous Italian composer Donizetti. The interior of this building is impeccably filled with countless valuable works of art that the museum owns. From the paintings to the frescoes and the courtyard is sure to amaze you.
New city – Lower town
In the new neighborhood, it is said to be “new” to distinguish it from the old town of Bergamo at the top of the hill, but in fact the houses look very old. The house here is built of pale pink stone, hard and iridescent. These fairy-tale houses change wall color every time the light level changes, looking very strange.
The night here is really more charming than ever. Everywhere is lit up in golden light. The lights from cafes, restaurants, squares, and windows sparkled. The steep roads leading to the city center are bathed in dark patches. At night, the weather is cool, the wind from the sea blows in through the canals covering the city.
The central square is also an ideal place not to be missed when visiting this place. This is the oldest and most beautiful square in Italy. Standing on the octagonal bell tower in the square, you can see the whole view of the city. Walking around the square in the evenings, you can shop for anything you want in the stalls on the sidewalk, where locals and visitors are still busy.
Lovely little houses with balconies hanging full of flowers are the charm and highlight of this city. That charm is shown through every street, every street corner, every shopping store. When walking on the old streets and alleys and listening to the Italian love songs coming from the mouths of street musicians with their ccordion from somewhere far away, you will find it difficult to say goodbye this place…
I, like many other tourists, love to sit and sip a cup of coffee in a corner of the city center to look at the old mossy walls that are charming and attractive… to let eyes go along the balconies full of flowers on the beautiful doorways… Romantic scenes make people love and remember more when leaving this place.
What and where to eat?
Food prices in Bergamo are pretty much the same across all restaurants. Margheritas are around 4 euros, and pizzas with a wide selection will cost around 8 EUR. But they are of a quality that totally matches the price you pay.
Da Mimmo Bergamo Alta
Address: Via Bartolomeo Colleoni, 17, 24129 Bergamo BG, Italy
Hours: 12–2:30 PM, 7–10:30 PM/Tuesday: 7–10:30 PM
More than just a restaurant, Da Mimmo is also the story of the dream of Mr. Demetrio “Mimmo” Amaddeo. “Mimmo” is a nickname for Demetrio. The dream of a Messina “boy” from the South of Italy to the North to work as a pizzeria but has a dream of one day opening his own restaurant. After months of working as a hired worker in Milan, “he” had enough money to buy a shop in Bergamo, which he himself called a mountain village. He and his wife rolled up their sleeves and immediately got to work.
The hardest thing is not how to make a good pizza, but how to buy the best ingredients for your pizza. The authentic mozzarella was only available in Milan at that time, so “Mimmo” rode his bicycle every day from Bergamo to Milan to and from Milan to buy ingredients. Then Mimmo convinced Teodosio, a young man from Bari, to open a cheese shop in Bergamo. Dragging Giovanni, a compatriot from Messina to Bergamo to supply seafood… Da Mimmo shop gradually grew with Bergamo, from a micro shop, the whole family of 9 lived in a 1-bedroom apartment right upstairs. Da Mimmo is now a shop more than 60 years old known to the whole Bergamo.
Three generations of the Amaddeo family have continued Mimmo’s dream. The day we came, his wife Lina was still sitting in the reception counter. His two sons, whether strangers or regular customers, still had a few intimate stories for everyone. The decoration of the shop is classic, a large space under stone arches, wooden tables, white tablecloths. Pizza variety, and a two-course menu with wine for a more reasonable price, 15€. Addresses that have existed for three generations and are nearly 70 years old have their reasons.
Caffe’ Della Funicolare
Address: Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe, 1, 24129 Bergamo BG, Italy
Hours: 8 AM–2 AM/Tuesday: 8 AM–8 PM
Every late afternoon, after work, meeting at a bar with friends for a drink was a Milanese tradition, known as “Aperitivo”, before being spread beyond the borders of Lombardy. “Aperitivo” in Italian can be translated as aperitif. Normally, at Aperitivo time, a traditional bar will only charge for wine and not for specially prepared food for the meal. Hardly a bar has a nicer space to sit and have a drink when the sun goes down over Bergamo than at Caffè della Funicolare. The shop is located right next to the funicular station from the lower citadel to the upper citadel. As I wrote, if anyone has the lucky to see Bergamo at sunset, watching the sun spread its warm rays down on a few rooftops on this side of the city, will see a scene like a paradise.
La Marianna (Pasticceria La Marianna – Bergamo)
Address: L.go Colle Aperto, 4, 24129 Bergamo BG, Italy
Hours: 7:30 AM–11:30 PM/Sunday: 8 AM–12 AM/Monday: 7:30 AM–8 PM
Here, in 1961, Mr. Enrico Panattoni invented Stracciatella milk cream, which became a classic more than half a century later. Just drop by here to eat a Stracciatella ice cream cone, it’s not because of the fame that the ice cream has lost its taste compared to the original. In the summer, the shop has a super-wide courtyard outside, right next to the Porta San Alessandro city gate. The first floor is a tea-cake salon, you can also try the typical polenta of the region, while the second floor has been expanded into a restaurant.
Circolino Città Alta
Address: Vicolo Sant’Agata, 19, 24129 Bergamo BG, Italy
Hours: 8 AM–1 AM
This might come as a surprise since the site is actually a former prison but that adds to all the unique charm and thrill. If you go around the pedestrian road, you’ll notice a classic wooden door. So walk through it for the best Italian dining experience.
You’ll be served authentic Italian food while the music from the streets hums behind you. There’s also a wide range of wines to enjoy and an impressive dessert memu as well.
Where to stay?
Bes Hotel Bergamo West: A hotel that perfectly suited our needs for a road-trip. In Italy, when stopping in a large city, since most of the downtown areas are located in car-restricted zones (zones referred to as “ZTL”), when you not on the roadway, it’s best to find a stop outside, easy to park and convenient for commuting.
Bes Hotel Bergamo West is such a place, located right on the highway and about 5km west of Bergamo, so it only takes 10-15 minutes to drive to the city center. Of course, this hotel is required to have a car, but it perfectly suits the needs of our group this time. The 4-star hotel, so the rooms are relatively new and spacious (more than 20 square meters). The king size bed is large and has enough room to add a third bed. The hotel has free parking, right next to it is a sports club. The club’s restaurant, which is open until late and reasonably priced, is a great way to fight hunger. And especially, we were able to book for 36€/double room for a 4**** hotel, which in my opinion is a very good price. You can check rates, reviews and book it on Agoda.com or Booking.com.
In addition, we also recommend ‘B&B al vicolo‘, this is like a large apartment with three bedrooms, one with a double bed and the other two with multiple beds. Two very nice and clean bathrooms upstairs and a dining area and TV room downstairs. Plus, you get a delicious local breakfast.
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Hotel Excelsior San Marco (Agoda, Booking)
- NH Bergamo (Agoda, Booking)
- B&B Hotel Bergamo (Agoda, Booking)
- Hotel Piazza Vecchia (Agoda, Booking)
- Hotel Città Dei Mille (Agoda, Booking)
- Best Western Hotel Piemontese (Agoda, Booking)
- Mercure Bergamo Palazzo Dolci (Agoda, Booking)
- Best Western Hotel Cappello d’Oro (Agoda, Booking)
- ALBERGO 900 (Agoda, Booking)
Check out more top and best hotels in Bergamo on Agoda.com or Booking.com
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Milan you can refer to
- Shared Milan-Malpensa Airport Transfers (MXP) for Milan by Terravision
- Shared Orio al Serio International Airport Transfers (BGY) for Milan by Terravision
- Milan Hop-On Hop-Off City Sightseeing Bus Tour
- San Siro Stadium Skip-the-Line Admission Ticket in Milan
- Duomo Cathedral Ticket in Milan
- Duomo di Milano Guided Tour with Fast-Track Entry
- Genoa and Portofino Guided Day Trip from Milan
- Venice Guided Day Trip from Milan
- Cinque Terre Guided Day Trip from Milan
Are you looking for more top things to do in Milan: Tours, activities, attractions and other things? Let’s check it out here. And Italy guide here.