A WINTER WEEKEND IN ITALY, PART III. BERGAMO
If you are travelling to Milan and flying with a low-cost airline, you may arrive at the Orio al Serio International Airport (also known as Il Caravaggio International Airport). Situated 50 km from Milan, it is only some 5 km from Bergamo, an enchanting city perched on a hilltop with artistic treasures and medieval atmosphere. Bergamo makes for a great day trip, so I decided to spend a few hours here before my afternoon flight back home.
How to get here: There are multiple trains a day leaving from Milano Centrale, and it takes 45 min to get to Bergamo. You can buy a ticket at the train station, on the website (but you will still need to print it out) or on your phone (no need to print it then). I took the train at 09:05, the ticket was €5.50.
I arrived in Bergamo at 09:53. Again, For navigation, I used my old favourite Triposo, an app that helps you generate a city walk based on your current location. By the way, the whole city - 1,3 million square meters, to be precise - is covered with a free public wifi network, Bergamo WiFi, which you can access just by texting a 'Hello' or 'Ciao' at +39-3424035035.
Bergamo is divided into two parts - Città Alta, the ancient upper city with a wealth of medieval Renaissance architecture and historic heritage surrounded by 16th-century defensive walls, and Città Bassa, the modern lower city developed between the 19th and 20th centuries. You can walk to Città Alta via two of the four gates along the Venetian Walls, which will provide great views of the city, but can quite tiring on foot, because of the steep streets. The most popular path - and also the steepest one - is through Porta San Giacamo that leads directly to the Old Town. The path through Porta Sant'Agostino doesn't offer the most breath-taking views, but it's lovely for just wandering around aimlessly and discovering cute shops and cafés along the way.
Otherwise, you can take the funicular (€2.60 round-trip) that takes only a couple of minutes or you can take the Line 1 bus from the train station via Porta Sant'Agostino to Colle Aperto (€1.25 single fare). Being short on time, I had to go for the funicular.
In Città Alta, whatever corner you turn and whatever path you take, there is something interesting awaiting. This part of Bergamo is founded on the site of the ancient town of Bergomum, a Celtic settlement of the Cenomani tribe. In 49 BC, it became a Roman municipality.
Many cobbled streets go to Piazza Vecchia - a great place to take a coffee break and soak up the atmosphere of the Old Town before continuing with your tour. The arch on the this square leads to Piazza Duomo, a smaller square with three (!) churches - Duomo (Bergamo's cathedral), the Basilica di Santa Maggiore, Capella Colleoni, and the Baptistry. It almost feels like they were built on top of each other, just in different eras.
The quaint streets of Città Alta are full not only of aesthetic treasures. Bergamo is also famous for its culinary traditions as locals do cherish their old recipes. Nine cheeses with the Protected Designation of Origin status, cold cutes, delicious wines - it is all here. That calls for a proper gastronomy adventure!
Back in Città Bassa, ditch the map and see where the streets take you. There is no chance you will miss Porta Nuova in the heart of the Lower Town. Head east along via Sentierone until you hit via Tasso. Here, you will find Parco della Scultura, a small sculpture park in the gardens of the Palazzo della Provincia. The park has 11 sculptures on display, including one of a sitting Caravaggio by Giacamo Manzú.
Having spent in Bergamo just over 2 hours (and wishing I had at least a few more!), I headed to the airport to catch my flight to Moscow. The Orio al Serio Airport is a 15 min busy ride from the train station (€2.30 single fare).
Liked what you've just read? Check out my previous posts about how to spend a winter day and where to stay in Milan and how to spend a day by Lake Como.