The beautiful city of Bergamo is located just a few miles from Bergamo airport. A local bus connects the airport to the city of Bergamo with just a 20 minute ride. Sadly, many people just associate ‘Bergamo’ with its airport and only see the airport before continuing their journey. They catch the coach to Milan or jump in their hired car to get to other places in Italy. Don’t be like them and visit the awesome Bergamo before you go somewhere else. The city of Bergamo is divided into two parts: the upper part of the city known as ‘Citta Alta’ and the lower part of the city known as the ‘Citta Bassa’. The upper part of Bergamo is the old city.
Citta Bassa of Bergamo
The lower part of the city ‘Citta Bassa’ is the modern and more commercial part of Bergamo. When you arrive in Bergamo, you have to pass the lower city before getting to Citta Alta. In the heart of the lower city at Piazza Vittorio Veneto, there is a monument in memory of those who died during the First World War, the tower of the Fallen. Since 2015, after restoration, it’s open to visitors.
Citta Alta of Bergamo
After a short walk, you will approach the funicular station at Viale Vittorio Emanuele. Bergamo Citta Alta is linked to the lower city by both road and Funicular. The experience starts when you get on the Funicular. This small steep uphill tram was built at the end of the 19th century. It has several advantages: it saves you the walk; it lets you see the landscape of Bergamo Citta Bassa and it costs about as much as any other urban transport. The ride up the Funicular just takes a few minutes. Once you reach the Funicular station at the top and walk through the exit doors into the Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe, it is like stepping into another world. The Citta Alta, or Upper town, was built in the 17th century on the hill with a large Venetian fortress built by the Serenissima Republic of Venice. The old city was under Venetian rule from the 15th Century to the 18th century, and the architecture of the buildings in the city surely reflects that. The city was guarded by several strategically located lookout towers. The Upper City has many historic buildings that boast their original medieval structures and architecture. After a short walk from the funicular station, you will reach Piazza Vecchia.
The Piazza Vecchia is the main square in the heart of the Citta Alta, dating back to the 12th century. The square has often been referred to as one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. Palazzo della Ragione and Campanone is in the centre of the square. Marvel at the three arches of the 12th century palace. It now houses paintings from the Accademia Carrara but it was originally the seat of the Administration of the city of Bergamo. The Angelo Mai Library in the palace has a vast collection of ancient books even from the early 16th century. Another highlight on the square is the Podestà Palace housing a museum. The Palazzo Nuovo, the new Palace, designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi in the 17th century, is located at the Northern end of the Piazza Vecchia. Climb the 12th-century Campanone (Bell Tower) or Civic Tower for the best views of the plaza and the rest of the historic centre. Palazzo del Podestà was the home of the Venetian Governor and Governors of Bergamo. Originally it served as the living place to the powerful Suardi and Colleoni families. One of the centrepieces of the Piazza Vecchia is the ‘Contarini’ fountain, donated to the city by the Venetian Governor in the late 18th century. There are several restaurants around the Piazza Vecchia, and it is a lovely place to stop and have a drink or have a meal while soaking in the wonderful view. Then head to the nearby Piazza Del Duomo – Cathedral Square where several marvels of architecture can be found. One of them is the Colleoni Chapel.
With its red and white marble and Italian Renaissance façade, the Colleoni Chapel is one of Bergamo’s most stunning structures. It is known as ‘The Mausoleum’ and was designed by Giovanni Antonio Amadeo to be the tomb of Bartolomeo Colleoni, who was a Commander of the Venetian Republic Army in the 15th century. The interiors are a fantastic collection of artworks: the equestrian statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni, the marble sarcophaguses, the exquisite tomb of his daughter Medea, the inlaid wooden desks.
Basilica di S.Maria Maggiore
Basilica di S.Maria Maggiore is regarded as one of the most historic and finest buildings in the old city of Bergamo and the whole of Lombardy. It was built in the 12th century and the construction continued for over 200 years. The interior of the basilica is stunning and leaves a long lasting impression.
The building of Bergamo Cathedral (Duomo) began in the middle of 15th century and changes to it were made as late as the 19th century. It is dedicated to Saint Alexander of Bergamo, the patron saint of the city, and it serves as the seat of the Bishop. After admiring the architectural marvels of Piazza del Duomo, get out of the city walls.
Bergamo city walls
Bergamo wouldn’t be the same without its impressive Venetian Walls. The Walls consist of 14 bastions, 2 platforms, 100 embrasures for cannons, 2 armouries, and 4 gates, not to mention the underground structures. From 2017, the Walls of the city of Bergamo have become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, described as: “Venetian defense works between the 16th and 17th century: The Mainland State – the Western Sea State”. The imposing walls around Bergamo Alta stretch for over 6 kilometres and reach a height of 50 meters. The Walls completely surround the Città Alta. The walls are equipped with four gates allowing access to the historic centre.
Rocca di Bergamo
Then take another funicular to the highest level of Bergamo to get to the Rocca di Bergamo, castle, dominating Bergamo from the hill of Sant’Eufemia, with superb views of the town and the surrounding areas. Built on the site of Roman and Celtic ruins, the castle has long been a landmark of the city. Today the central structure of the castle is made up of a quadrangular keep with square towers on each corner.
Now you are ready to walk down the winding streets and admire city views from different points on your way. Say goodbye to Citta Alta when you reach Porta Sant’Agostino gate featuring the Lion of Saint Mark. It’s a symbol of the city of Venice and its millennial Serenissima Republic, appearing in all the cities that have been part of its territory. In Bergamo, as in all the cities where the Serenissima built a defence wall, the symbol was placed on the gates of access to the city. Then get back to the lower city again.
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Author: Anita Sane
About the author
Anita is a part-time traveller, passionate photographer and a retired career woman from Latvia, travelling mostly solo for more than 15 years. She is a skilled travel planner who plans and executes her travels by herself. Anita wants to show you how to travel the world and open your mind to new experiences. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Bloglovin.