Bergamo might be one of the most beautiful cities in Italy. However, this little city sometimes goes unnoticed. It is located just 60 km from Milan, the financial epicentre of Italy. It is also close to Lago di Garda and Verona. Fortunately, thanks to low cost airlines from Barcelona it is quite easy to flight to the Orio al Serio International Airport. Most people use such airport as a low cost one for visiting Milan and that is what we did one cold weekend in February. But we also decided to visit this medieval jewel called Bergamo.
Most hotspots of Bergamo can be seen in only one day. It is said that when Le Corbusier visited the Piazza Vecchia (main square of Bergamo), he said that it was the most beautiful square in Europe. We’ve already been to some European squares (and have much more in our bucket list!) and the truth is that Bergamo really deserves one day of you time. If you need more reasons for planning a trip to Bergamo, keep reading! 🙂
Bergamo can be easily reached from Milan in a one-day trip. In our case, we moved from Milan to Bergamo by train (the cost of the tickets was €5.50 per ticket in 2016). We left Milan early in the morning and the same day in the evening we had to take our flight back home from Bergamo’s airport. So as soon as we arrived at Bergamo we left our luggage in the train station and took a bus towards the city centre. By the way, I must say that it was Saint Valentine’s Day and we were about to discover one of the most romantic cities in Italy!
And yes, it was Saint Valentine’s Day and we celebrated it with a nice lunch in Bergamo, but the weather was not so nice… Bergamo welcomed us with rain and fog, so we could not take the best pictures of the city, but at least we could explore it without crowds and had a true winter experience.
The first thing we did once we reached the city centre was walking towards the Piazza Vecchia. This square is the heart of Bergamo. It has been for lots of years the centre of the local politics. In the square you will find the Palazzo della Ragione, which is the oldest municipal seat in Lombardy, and next to it the Torre Civica (the bell tower). In the middle of the square there is the Contrarini Fountain, decorated with statues of sphynxes, lions and snakes.
The geometrical harmony of the square amazed Le Corbusier, who said that no single stone could be moved from Piazza Vecchia. In fact, the square and its buildings look really beautiful. Upper Bergamo’s skyline is full of towers that appear everywhere (like it happens in San Gimignano).
If you cross the little bridge that connects the Palazzo della Ragione with the Torre Civica, you’ll get access to the Cathedral and the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. One next to the other in the square called Piazza Duomo (Cathedral’s Square).
And although the Duomo is amazing (as in all Italian cities), in our opinion the jewel of this area is the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiori (which is absolutely gorgeous). The history of the Basilica is quite peculiar. During the first years of 1100 a plague breakout spread across Europe and the people of Bergamo asked Virgin Mary to assist them and promised to dedicate a church to her in exchange for her protection. And that’s what they did in 1137. Nowadays, its Romanesque external profile contrasts with the Baroque decoration inside.
On the façade, the main decoration is the one of the Capilla Colleoni, in the former vestry of the Basilica, a mausoleum for the mercenary Captain Bartolomeo Colleoni and his family. This chapel is a Renaissance masterpiece.
Finally, if you are looking for the best views of the Città Alta (Upper Bergamo), go to ruins of the San Vigilio Castle. It is located on top of the hill with the same name, overlooking the Città Alta. From there the landscape surrounding Bergamo looked incredible. We hope to return someday for a dinner with views!