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5 things to do in your day trip to Bergamo

Bergamo, my hometown, is, luckily for you, a yet highly underrated destination. Despite its millennial history and huge cultural and historical heritage, Bergamo is still largely ignored and outshined by its big, shiny sister Milan. This is great news for you because you get to enjoy, visit and learn about this incredible city in peace and without having to fight for walking space on its roads like you would in many other popular Italian destinations. 

In complete honesty with you I wish it was more known and visited. It truly deserves to be more known and appreciated for it is an outstanding destination with visible remains of a glorious past from the Roman, medieval and Renaissance era. Even then, when I am being less emotional and more egoistic I realize I should enjoy this peace for as long as it will last before Bergamo will be more widely recognized for its potential and I won’t be able to walk through its center and hike on its medieval walls in such calmness.

With this in mind make sure you put Bergamo on your list of places to visit in Italy and best places to visit in Europe if you are reading from far away and let’s jump onto your 5 things to do in Bergamo. Your day trip to Bergamo should include:

  Walking along the Venetian walls of Bergamo.
  Visiting Santa Maria Maggiore Cathedral of Città Alta.
  Enjoying aperitivo in Piazza Vecchia.
  Getting lost in a maze of ancient Roman Roads around Bergamo Città Alta.
  Riding the funicolare to the viewpoint of Bergamo in San Vigilio. 

Walking along the Venetian Walls of Bergamo

Bergamo was, between the 15th and 18th century, part of La Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia - The Serene Republic of Venice. Signs of this period in Bergamo can be seen everywhere. The easiest way to spot sings of the Venetian ruling is to look for two things: military and defensive fortifications and symbols of a lion with wings (Leone di San Marco), eternal symbol of the Republic of Venice. The most obvious and outstanding of them are the Venetian walls of Bergamo: imposing medieval walls surrounding the old town of Bergamo Città Alta, visible from everywhere and anywhere in Bergamo in their magnificent entirety. The walls offer a great walk with panoramic views. There are four main, historical gates granting access to old town of Città Alta: Porta San Giacomo, Porta Sant’Alessandro, Porta Sant’Agostino and Porta San Lorenzo. Porta San Giacomo is the most visible and panoramic one. To enjoy the best views we recommend you start at Scaletta Santa Lucia Vecchia, type it in on your Google Maps and you will find it very easily. From there follow the long Roman road all the way up to Porta San Giacomo. There you will be faced with a breath-taking view of Bergamo. Walk through the gate and go left. As you keep walking you will enjoy an open-space, green area, perfect for a nice walk along with the medieval walls of Bergamo. Keep walking until you reach the center of Città Alta (Piazza Vecchia) where you will find Santa Maria Maggiore Cathedral. That’s where your day trip to Bergamo will continue

Visiting Santa Maria Maggiore Cathedral of Città Alta 

Following the terrible plague hit Bergamo in 1100, the citizens decided to ask the Virgin Mary to assist them and built this beautifully adorned church. The place picked is no coincidence. This location during the Roman ages was also the site of a Roman temple dedicated to the Goddess Clemenza (Mercy). Once facing the cathedral the first things you notice from outside are (1) the fine details covering the facade and (2) the lack of a main entrance. The Cathedral in fact has only two side entrances adorned with lions at the base of the columns. In this piazza where you stand before entering the Cathedral you quickly realize how much history Bergamo has and how well preserved it is. Enjoy a walk around the Piazza Vecchia before you enter the Cathedral, which is completely free.

When you are ready, as you enter this incredible place, pay attention to walls and ceilings, both are covered with fine details all over the place. Enjoy tapestries, frescoes, stuccos, and wooden marquetry. Everything inside has been carefully designed and added in the following centuries. Most of the planning even involved the famous artist Lorenzo Lotto. After leaving the cathedral you will need some refreshment, which takes us to the next thing to do in Bergamo. 

Enjoying aperitivo in Piazza Vecchia

In the beautiful and inspiring setting of Piazza Vecchia you can’t help but feel history, art and a sense of promise wrap your soul, which set you in the best mood for your aperitivo! 

In Piazza vecchia there are a few businesses but the two main ones are Lalimentari and Caffè del Tasso. Both offer a veranda and the possibility to seat outside and enjoy a cold drink (and dining options as well). This is perfect because you will be sitting right at the heart of the historical part of Città Alta, surrounded by centuries old buildings. Both options are valid and here are a couple of info to help you choose. The Caffè del tasso is a historical business. The first records of the restaurant date as back as to the 15th century. It has seen the city change and it was initially called La Locanda delle Due Spade, The two swords inn, in honor to the piazza where often duels were held. Lalimentari cannot boast such a long history but offers great craft, local beers and a great wine choice to choose from, and that suffice in giving you a hard time choosing. No matter where you choose to take refreshments, make sure to ask for a few snacks to be served with your drink, and if you feel like eating some more, ask for a local tagliere, a wooden cutting board hovering with local cured meats and cheeses. 

Getting lost in a maze of ancient Roman roads around Bergamo Città Alta

As already mentioned Bergamo has a millennial history and part of it has seen Bergamo, or Bergomum as it was known back then, as an important part of the early Roman Republic in its expansionistic period. Signs of the period are still very visible today. At almost every corner small hints of a glorious Roman pasts are visible to the careful eye. Save sometime to grab a gelato and simply wonder around. Put your smartphone away and walk. Let imagination walk with you and enjoy these narrow cobblestone roads make your stay an even better one. 

Take the Funicolare to San Vigilio

Did you think you reached the top? you didn’t. Bergamo Città Alta doesn’t stop there. There is a cable railway that takes you even higher and to even better panoramic views. Get ready for our last thing to do when visiting Bergamo. Make your way to Porta Sant’Alessandro where, if you didn’t get a gelato yet, you can get a great Stracciatella gelato at La Marianna, where this particular gelato taste was invented. Near by Porta Sant’Alessandro you will find Funicolare San Vigilio, a short cable railway. When you take it you go all the way up to the top of Bergamo hill, where you will enjoy one of the best views of Bergamo and, if you are in the mood for more food, the restaurant Il Baretto di San Vigilio where you can end the day with a great dinner at sunset al fresco in a very romantic setting (where we recommend you make a reservation in advance). 

These five are truly only a few of the many things you can do in Bergamo, I left out the Botanic garden, GAMeC the Art Gallery, all the museums, Il Campanone the medieval tower, the medieval Castle of San Vigilio and many others. For a relaxed day trip to Bergamo however, the list will fill up your day very quickly. To reassume, and for time optimization, in the following order, a day trip to Bergamo without rushing through should include:

  Walking along the Venetian walls of Bergamo.
  Visiting Santa Maria Maggiore Cathedral of Città Alta.
  Enjoying aperitivo in Piazza Vecchia.
  Getting lost in a maze of ancient Roman Roads around Bergamo Città Alta.
  Riding the funicolare to the viewpoint of Bergamo in San Vigilio. 

For more things to do, information, activities and fun, the best thing you can do is reach out to locals in Bergamo for recommendations. They are the people who know the place the best and who truly know how to live it to its fullest while having fun. Luckily for you, that’s also who we are here at Garipalli: locals from Bergamo. That’s right! We at Garipalli are locals from Bergamo with a strong desire to share this incredible city with you and anyone coming. We made it our goal to ensure that no one leaves Bergamo without having experienced the best it has to offer and without connecting with its people. And that’s what Garipalli is all about: helping you connect with the locals and getting to know the city through its food and traditions in fun experiences you will love. 

We hope to see you in Bergamo soon. You can continue learning more about Bergamo in our article Why you should visit Bergamo.


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