The Upper City, with its monuments and artistic beauty, but that’s not all: here’s what to see in Bergamo in a day and where to eat polenta.
According to the architect Le Corbusier, not only does it have one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, but this city is so perfect that “to move even a single stone would be a crime”. The famous urban planner frequently mentioned Bergamo, an architectural masterpiece surrounded by the Orobian Alps and little known despite its richness.
If you have never been there, you can start with a shorter visit on your first trip – we’re sure you’ll be back! Would you like to know what you can see in Bergamo in one day? Then hop onto its funicular and come with us to explore its wonders, starting right from Città Alta
Bergamo Alta and the city walls
The oldest part of Bergamo is called Bergamo Alta, or Città Alta. It is indeed perched on high ground, surrounded by six kilometers of walls that have protected it since the days when the city was part of the Republic of Venice.
Strolling among the medieval palazzi through the cobblestone streets is a truly inspiring experience, whether on a fine day or shrouded in a wisp of fog.
A stroll towards Porta San Giacomo
You can reach Città Alta on foot by taking one of the 15 pedestrian streets that climb up from the Lower Town to one of the four gateways to the medieval town: Porta San Giacomo, Porta Sant’Agostino, Porta Sant’Alessandro, and Porta San Lorenzo.
If you decide to walk along the steps of Santa Lucia Vecchia and then down Via Sant’Alessandro, you will come to the stately spectacle of the pink-white marble of Porta San Giacomo, the only one of the four city gates that is always open to pedestrians.
Of course, the climb is a bit steep – but no one is in a hurry, and in any case, you can stop to admire the view that extends from your feet. Besides, a little exercise won’t hurt – you’re in for a hearty lunch (more on that in a bit)!
Or take the historic funicular
Feeling lazy and don’t want to walk? To get to Bergamo Alta, you can also take the historic funicular from Viale Vittorio Emanuele II, a twenty-minute walk from the Piazza Marconi bus station.
You will arrive directly at the heart of the Old Town, fresh and rested, ready to explore the sights of Bergamo. Surely, you’ll take a vigorous after-lunch walk anyway, of course you will!
Here we are: the famous Piazza Vecchia, the “most beautiful in Europe” according to Le Corbusier. You have to admit, he’s right. It is Bergamo’s iconic symbol, and this is where all the most important historical buildings are concentrated.
The Palazzo della Ragione with its sundial; the Campanone tower, from the top of which you can enjoy the best view of the entire city (it is open every day except Mondays from 9.30 am to 6 pm). Then there is the Palazzo Nuovo, with its grand white marble porticoes, home to one of Italy’s most important libraries; and the Fountain, which stands out in the center of the Piazza.
Sit on the steps of the porticoes of the Palazzo Nuovo or at an outdoor table at one of the cafes in the square, and soak up the exquisite Renaissance atmosphere of this inspiring setting, which dates back to the middle of the 15th century.
Piazza Duomo, the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and the Colleoni Chapel
A short walk from Piazza Vecchia, and you arrive in Piazza Duomo where you can admire another Italian gem: the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, a true ode to the Baroque style that also houses the tomb of Bergamo’s composer Gaetano Donizetti.
Adjacent to the Basilica is the Colleoni Chapel, with its equestrian statue of the leader of the Serenissima, Bartolomeo Colleoni, and its magnificent bas-reliefs. As you leave, you’ll be asking yourself why you’ve never visited Bergamo before.
Where to eat in Bergamo
If all this walking has made you somewhat peckish, don’t worry: in this city, they know how to fix that! Whereas for Brescia we recommended casoncelli, in Bergamo we cannot but suggest that you have lunch with polenta!
At the Lalimentari restaurant on Via Tassis, an entire page of the menu is dedicated to Bergamo’s Polenta: it is prepared according to the strictest traditional methods, using bramata cornmeal. Creamy to perfection and served piping hot, it is usually served with Taleggio or Gorgonzola cheese. Alternative condiments include meat sauce, sausage, salami, bacon, lard, mushrooms, and even anchovies from the Cantabrian Sea.
If you can’t resist dessert after lunch, stop at La Marianna ice cream parlor to savor a piece of history: this is where the stracciatella flavor was invented in the 1960s.
Getting to Bergamo with Italo
Did you know that you can reach Bergamo with our high- speed trains? We take you there with Italo: convenient, cheap and fast connections from many Italian cities (try Italo for your Santa Lucia trip: Bergamo is full of fun things to do).