Situated less than an hour from Milan, Bergamo is a charming, fortified city that’s a popular day trip to see its Old Town, along with its spectacular views and good food to boot. As I wanted to see more of the Lombardy region of Italy besides just Milan, I decided to spend a half-day’s visit in Bergamo during my last full day of the April holidays.
Unlike other day trips I’ve done in which I had an early rise and late return, my trip to Bergamo started in the mid-morning, after I’d spent the earlier part of the day visiting the Milan Cathedral (still an early rise, but different story…). I caught the 9h50 train at Milano Centrale to Bergamo, with the journey taking about 50 minutes.
Upon arrival, I exited the train station and made the 30-minute walk to the Città Alta, which is the Old Town located at the top of the city’s hill. It was a matter of following the long boulevard in the modern part of Bergamo before reaching the foot of the hill, from which I could see the old fortifications. I had the option of taking the cable car to the top, but I chose to take the stairs, which were just off to the side, instead. Granted, the stairs were numerous and uneven, along with it being rather warm at mid-day, but it was a solid workout to get to the Old Town.
After about 10-15 minutes, I reached the Porta San Giacomo, which is the main gate into the Città Alta. It was rather an imposing gate, made even more luminous by the strong sunlight that noon. Just before passing through, I stopped to rest and take photos of the views of the modern part of Bergamo from above, which were quite impressive.
There was still more incline to get to the Old Town’s center, and so I continued the trek in. Plenty of cobblestones and winding roads greeted me, and soon enough, I reached the bustling part of town, where restaurants, boutiques, and people were at. I happened to have gone on a school day and around lunchtime, so plenty of locals and schoolchildren were out on their mid-day break.
Due to the crowds (and my hungry stomach), I opted to hold off visiting the sites and get lunch first to recharge. I’d looked up places to eat at beforehand, and I opted for one that was slightly hidden, off one of the narrow streets of the center. The restaurant had a rustic charm to it, with outdoor seating just next to a garden (which I assume is where they cultivate produce for their dishes).
I ordered a fixed-price menu, which consisted of casoncelli alla bergamasca, which is a local dish– essentially, it’s tiny, meat-stuffed ravioli in a bacon-butter sauce. Personally, I found my particular dish to be rather lukewarm upon being served, but as a pasta-lover, I still found it to be quite delicious. My second dish (secondo piatto) was fish, which was just okay. However, for the fixed-price menu, which included a glass of wine, it was a solid 15€ well-spent!
Stomach full and happy, I headed past the citadel and took the San Vigilio cable car to another hill in town. From there, one could get the best views of the Città Alta. Unfortunately, it became overcast that afternoon, so the clear skies weren’t in the picture. All the same, however, it was a lovely sight of the medieval walls and the old buildings situated inside of them. After taking a gander at the San Vigilio castle (nothing to write home about, really), I took the cable car back to the Città Alta.
While in the heart of the Old Town, I checked out the main square, behind which had the lavish architecture of the Santa Maria Maggiore, the city’s basilica. The exterior was extremely-detailed, and I can imagine that it must be just as impressive inside– sadly, its doors were closed for lunch break, I believe, so I didn’t get the chance to go indoors.
Besides casoncelli alla bergamasca, Bergamo is also known for its polenta e osèi. A massive sponge cake, I’d originally mistaken it for a polenta cake, which would be rather strange. In any case, it looked really lovely, and it goes to show that Italian desserts are phenomenal!
The Città Alta isn’t such a huge part of Bergamo, so I managed to see the sights within a couple of hours. I decided to headed back to the station to take the next train back to Milan– soon enough, I was back by 16:00. Although it’d been no more than half a day’s visit, Bergamo was a pleasant visit, all the while being beautiful and charming.
That concludes my time in northern Italy this past April vacances. Even though it’d been a mere three nights, I got to see a lot of the region’s highlights. From Milan to Lake Como to Bergamo, they were all gorgeous and distinctive from other cities in the country (e.g. Rome, Florence, Naples…). Much of my time was spent enjoying the rich and delicious Italian food, and I’m sure that I gained weight upon returning to France– no regrets, though! Should anyone want to visit this part of Italy, I encourage them to!
More travels to be posted in due time. Thanks for reading!