Bergamo’s beautiful upper town, the Città Alta (pictured above), is a magical place well worth visiting. Use this website to help you plan your trip to Bergamo in Northern Italy and find your way to some of the other lovely towns and villages in Lombardia that are perhaps less well known to tourists.


Seek out palace in ‘most beautiful corner of Italy’

The terrace at Palazzo Terzi
Said to be the most important baroque building in Bergamo, the Palazzo Terzi is tucked away in a quiet square behind Santa Maria Maggiore in the Città Alta (upper town).
The elegant palace, which is still a private residence, was begun in the 16th century and modified in the 17th and 18th centuries.
From the Piazza Terzi, it is possible to look through the wrought iron gates of the palace’s elegant inner courtyard (pictured), which leads out on to a magnificent terrace adorned with marble statues and balustrading overlooking the plains below.
The Piazza Terzi, with its imposing entrance to the palace, was referred to by German novelist and poet Hermann Hesse as ‘the most beautiful corner of Italy’, when he came across it unexpectedly during a visit to Bergamo in 1913.
The palace has also impressed the many aristocratic figures that have stayed there, including Francis 1, Emperor of Austria.
During the summer some of the rooms in the Palazzo Terzi are open to visitors on Sundays, when treasures such as frescoes attributed to Tiepolo and 16th and 17th century tapestries can be viewed.
For up to date information about opening times, check with the Ufficio Informazioni Turistiche (Tourist Information Office) in Via Gombito or visit www.turismo.bergamo.it


It’s paradise for polenta lovers at Da Ornella

To try traditional Bergamo dishes in the heart of the Città Alta (upper town) go to Trattoria Da Ornella.
Conveniently located in Via Gombito, which links the funicular station with the Piazza Vecchia, the square at the heart of the Citta Alta, the restaurant advertises that Polenta Taragna is their speciality. 
You can try Da Ornella’s version of Polenta Taragna on its own, or served with a mixture of meats.
Although the restaurant looks small from the outside, it is spacious inside with plenty of tables. The décor is simple with check table cloths, plain walls and high vaulted ceilings. There is also a garden for outside dining in good weather.
On the menu there is a selection of antipasti, pasta dishes, polenta and meat dishes.
For my main course I tried stinco da forno with polenta, a piece of pork shin braised in wine with vegetables, which was delicious.
Da Ornella offers a good selection of wines at reasonable prices and the staff are friendly and provide good service.
The restaurant is closed on Thursdays and booking is recommended. Trattoria Da Ornella is at Via Gombito 15 (Telephone 035 232736).

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Unlimited bus travel in Bergamo for five euros

Save money while exploring Bergamo by buying a tre giorni (three day) ticket for use on the local buses and funicular railways.
At five euros it will represent a saving if you use it for just three journeys, as a single ticket costs 1.70 euros.
The ticket can be used for 72 hours after it has been validated for unlimited journeys on the line between Bergamo and the airport at Orio al Serio, all the other urban area lines, the funicular between the Città Bassa (lower town) and the Città Alta (upper town) and the funicular between the Città Alta and San Vigilio.
Validate the ticket on the first journey you make by stamping it in the ticket machine located near the driver on the bus.
You do not need to stamp it every time you travel, but should always have it with you in case you are asked to produce it.
At the funicular stations, where you would normally pass your ticket through the barrier, show it to the driver, who will open the barrier for you.
For more information about travelling on the local buses and funicular railways in Bergamo, visit www.atb.bergamo.it.


Try bar at the hub of the Città Bassa

Sit and watch the world go by from a table outside the Caffetteria del Borgo in the Piazza Pontida in Bergamo’s Città Bassa (lower town).
The piazza is close to a point that for centuries was known as Cinque Vie (five roads), where traffic from Milan, Lecco, Treviglio and Crema would converge.
Piazza Pontida (see map below) was where the goods arriving in Bergamo would be unloaded and bargained for before being sent up to the Città Alta.
Some of the portici (porticos) date back to the 15th century, when farmers and merchants would shelter under them while negotiating over the goods, and story tellers and poets would roam from one inn to the next.
The Caffetteria Del Borgo (pictured), at number 40, has tables both inside and outside and it is useful to know that it serves food all day.
We enjoyed a good pizza in the middle of the afternoon, having just arrived from Milan Bergamo airport at Orio al Serio.
The pizza tasted all the better for being washed down with a particularly good bottle of Valcalepio Bianco, which had been produced to commemorate the recent rally of the Alpini in Bergamo.
For more information about Valcalepio, a wine produced locally, click here.

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See over the city from La Rocca

Città Alta's towers from La Rocca
One of the best places to take photographs in Bergamo’s Città Alta (upper town) is the Parco delle Rimembranze (park of remembrance) which surrounds the imposing circular tower of La Rocca.
The park provides one of the most extended views from the Città Alta over the surrounding countryside, and, at its highest point, you can see over the roofs of the buildings in the Città Alta and have almost a bird’s eye view of the top sections of the Campanone and other towers.
To reach the park, walk up the Via Rocca, which leads off Via Gombito opposite the Torre Gombito, which houses the Ufficio di Informazione Turistiche (Tourist Information Office).
The park was originally the site of a Roman building that was followed by an early Christian church.
Construction of the majestic circular tower known as La Rocca was started in 1331 by Giovanni di Boemia. It was continued under the Visconti family and then under the Venetians, who both ruled Bergamo later.
In the 19th century La Rocca was used both as a barracks and a prison, but it now houses the Museo del Risorgimento (Risorgimento museum), which contains documents and exhibits relating to the unification of Italy.

Language point

Il Risorgimento, which literally means revival or renewal, is the term used to describe the period in Italian history that led to the unification of the country in the 1870s and the political, social and artistic movements that took place at the same time.


Lovely Lecco – immortalised by novelist Manzoni

Lago di Lecco
The town of Lecco on Lago di Lecco (Lake Lecco) is an easy day trip from Bergamo.
There are regular, direct trains, which take 40 minutes, and good road links.
Lago di Lecco is an arm of Lago di Como and is surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery so stunning that it is said to have inspired Leonardo da Vinci.
Lecco is also famous for being the childhood home of novelist Alessandro Manzoni, who set his great work, I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed) here.
Manzoni died aged 88 on 22 May 1873. But 137 years later, fans of the novel are still visiting Lecco to see the buildings and settings he described.
Manzoni’s novel was the first major work to be written in a modern Italian that could be understood by everyone, causing a sensation when it was first published in 1825. It looked at Italian history through the eyes of the ordinary citizen and sparked pro-unification feelings in many Italians who read it.
I Promessi Sposi is now considered to be the most important novel in Italian literature and is still required reading for Italian schoolchildren.
If you visit the Ufficio Informazione Turistiche (Tourist Information Office) in Via Sauro, the staff will give you a free map of Lecco with places mentioned in the novel marked on it, such as Lucia’s house, Don Rodrigo’s castle and the marriage church.  For more information visit www.turismo.provincia.lecco.it.
Manzoni was born in Milan and spent the later years of his life living there, in the house pictured below. He died after suffering a fall on the steps of the San Fedele church. His tomb is in the Cimitero Monumentale in Milan.

Manzoni's house in Milan

Language point          I Promessi Sposi

I Promessi Sposi created expressions, quotes and names that are still commonly used in Italian today, the most famous being: “Questo matrimonio non s’ha da fare…” (This marriage is not to be performed...).
This famous quote from the novel is still regularly used by Italians ironically when they are talking about weddings.



Best location for Cappello d’Oro

What was once an old inn in the heart of the Città Bassa (lower town) in Bergamo is now a stylish Best Western hotel with every modern comfort.
The Cappello d’Oro in Viale Papa Giovanni XXlll, near Porta Nuova, first became a hotel at the beginning of the 20th century.
A hundred years later it was again refurbished, and now provides guests with four-star accommodation and the latest amenities.
Last weekend I had a very comfortable stay in the hotel, which was quiet and relaxing, even though it is close to the shops, bars and restaurants of the Città Bassa.
The reception area is modern and spacious with a marble floor, white statues and potted palms, and the helpful staff are smartly dressed in tail coats.
My room was very well decorated and furnished and had satellite television, a minibar and tea and coffee making facilities. The immaculate bathroom was well laid out.
An extensive buffet breakfast was served in the hotel’s Ristorante del Moro, which also offers a lunch and dinner menu, including traditional Bergamo dishes.
All 89 bedrooms have wi-fi connection and there is also a computer provided free of charge for the use of guests, just off reception.
The location of the Best Western Premier Hotel Cappello d’Oro is ideal, within walking distance of the railway and coach stations and the funicular to the Città Alta. It is also on the main bus route that links the airport at Orio al Serio with the railway station and the Città Alta.
Just round the corner from the hotel at Porta Nuova are some of the best shops and restaurants in the Città Bassa. And a short walk away is the Sentierone, with its smart bars and the Teatro Donizetti.

Book with Hotels.com or for more information visit www.hotelcappellodoro-bg.it or telephone 035 2289011.


Bergamo honours Alpini

You could be forgiven for thinking that Bergamo was showing support for the Italian side in the World Cup finals one month early.
At the weekend, while I was visiting the city I saw the Italian flag being proudly displayed from every building, window and balcony.
Even the columns of Porta Nuova in the Città Bassa (lower town) were draped with the colours of the tricolore.
I discovered what had prompted this display of patriotism when I read in the newspaper that the city had welcomed the Alpini the weekend before for three days of marches, concerts and celebrations.
The Alpini, the elite mountain warfare soldiers in the Italian army, had come to Bergamo for their 83rd annual rally.

Big crowds turned out to watch them march through the city and many restaurants put on special menus for the event.
There was also a wreath laying, a mass for the fallen, and a fireworks display. Even the cranes doing work on the city were draped with giant Italian flags.
Although I had missed the parades and celebrations, I enjoyed the carnival atmosphere in the city and some lovely sunny weather during my 48-hour stay last weekend.

I was pleased to discover great enthusiasm for this website from all the people I spoke to in restaurants, bars and shops and from the friendly staff at the tourism information offices in both the Città Alta and the Città Bassa.
Let’s hope the azzurri, the Italian national football team, will give people in Bergamo a reason to celebrate again soon.



See stunning Sirmione

Within easy reach of Bergamo,  the resort of Sirmione lies in a dramatic setting on a narrow, four kilometre peninsula reaching out into Lago di Garda (Lake Garda).
Sirmione has a medieval centre, full of interesting shops, bars and restaurants, and a fairytale castle, la Rocca Scaligera (above) - the first thing you see as you approach by boat.
The castle was built by a powerful family from Verona in the 13th century and the Italian poet Dante is reputed to have once spent the night there, but it is worth visiting la Rocca Scaligera for the views of the lake from the battlements alone.
There are beautiful views of Lake Garda from many different vantage points in Sirmione that have inspired writers over the centuries, from the Roman poet Catullus to Ezra Pound and James Joyce in the 20th century, who are reputed to have once met up in the resort.
You can visit the ruins of a Roman villa (below), built in the first century BC, that perch on a rocky promontory. Although they are known as Le Grotte di Catullo, it is by no means certain that the poet ever lived there.

Born in Verona, Catullus is believed to have lived in Sirmione for part of his life and his poetry singles out the resort for special praise from  ‘…all peninsulas and isles, that in our lakes of silver lie…’
Opera singer Maria Callas also appreciated the beauty of Sirmione, choosing to spend part of her life living in a secluded villa here.
To reach Sirmione from Bergamo by train, travel to Brescia and catch the Milan to Venice express, getting off at Desenzano del Garda. The lake is a few minutes walk from the station.
It takes about an hour to reach Desenzano from Bergamo by car. Leave the A4 Autostrada at the Desenzano exit and head for the centre where there are several car parks.
Un Servizio di Navigazione (boat service) runs regularly between Desenzano and Sirmione from Piazza Matteotti in the centre of Desenzano.

More Day Trips: Desenzano, San Pellegrino, Crema, Sarnico, Lake Garda, Lago Iseo.



Step inside Santa Maria Maggiore

Monument to Donizetti
On a short visit to Bergamo you cannot hope to see everything. You will pass many fine buildings as you
walk around the Città Alta (upper town) but may feel you do not have the time to go inside.
I would suggest you make an exception with the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Piazza Duomo.
The basilica, which dates back to the 12th century, is considered to be one of the finest buildings in Lombardy and its interior, with its richly decorated cupola from the 16th century, does not let it down. There are some fine Flemish and Florentine tapestries and works of art.
At the back of the church is an elaborate white marble monument (above right) designed by Vincenzo Vela, marking the tomb of composer Gaetano Donizetti, who was born in Bergamo and returned to die in the city. The picture below shows detail on the monument. Nearby there is a monument to his teacher Simon Mayr, who was at one time 'maestro of the chapel 'in the basilica.
There is also an elaborately carved wooden confessional designed by Andrea Fantoni in 1704 and an altar rail with wood carvings made to the designs of Lorenzo Lotto.



Enjoy a taste of San Pellegrino

Experience the gentle charm of the spa town where European aristocracy used to take the waters, 24 kilometres north of Bergamo.
The name San Pellegrino has now become synonymous with the bottled aqua minerale, which has been sold all over the world for more than 100 years. But since medieval times, San Pellegrino Terme in the Valle Brembana has been a place people visit hoping for a cure for their illnesses. The waters of the terme -- thermal springs -- are believed to be particularly effective against uric acid and kidney stones.
As a resort, San Pellegrino was very fashionable at the end of the 19th century when impressive buildings such as the Grand Hotel (pictured below), the Palazzo della Fonte and the Casino Municipale were built in elaborate Liberty style.
It is worth a visit, by car or bus from Bergamo, to see the opulent architecture and to take a stroll along the banks of the River Brembo, imagining what San Pellegrino would have been like at the height of its popularity.
There are plenty of elegant bars and restaurants on the main street looking out over the river.
But wherever you decide to stop for refreshment, make sure you order a bottle of San Pellegrino. Salute!

Language point     Le terme

Terme on the end of a place name means that the town has thermal baths or springs, where water gushes out of the ground at a high temperature.
In Roman times elaborate buildings were designed in these places to enable people to bathe in the springs.
A modern example is Montecatini Terme near Pistoia in Tuscany, which is one of the most popular centres for thermal springs in Italy.



Park Hotel in peaceful setting

exterior Hotel Park Hotel
For romantic views over Lago di Garda (Lake Garda) and a peaceful location, consider staying at the Park Hotel (above) in Desenzano del Garda.
This immaculate hotel, furnished in traditional style with some antique pieces, is set in well-tended gardens on the Lungolago Cesare Battisti facing the lake.
The four star Park Hotel has 45 superior and 12 junior suites equipped with satellite television, mini bar and internet point. The hotel also provides car parking, room service, an indoor swimming pool and hydromassage baths.
The restaurant, looking out over the lake, serves a rich buffet breakfast and offers lunch and dinner menus that include Lombardian specialities and local produce, such as fish from the lake.
I stayed at the Park Hotel for a special occasion in a room with a double aspect that had views over the gardens and the lake. It was a relaxing and peaceful holiday, even though the hotel was just a five minute walk from the centre of Desenzano with its bars and shops.
To reach the Park Hotel leave the A4 at Desenzano del Garda and follow the signs to the centre of the town. When you reach the Lungolago Cesare Battisti the Park Hotel is at number 19 near the Piazza Malvezzi.
Book here or for more information visit www.gardalake.it/parkhotel or telephone 030 9143494.



Toast the town!

For a spectacular view of the Città Bassa while you sip un aperitivo in the Città Alta, visit the Caffè della Funicolare.
Located within the funicular station in Via Porta Dipinta (see map below), just off the Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe, the Caffè has a balcony from where you can enjoy one of the best views of Bergamo’s lower town, whether by day, or when it is lit up at night.
The elegant Caffè is popular with both local people and visitors and is open from 8 am until 2 am every day except Tuesday. In addition to snacks and drinks, the Caffè serves meals featuring local produce and some of Bergamo’s speciality dishes.
The funicular station in the Città Alta is housed in a 14th century building that used to belong to the Suardi family, who were influential in Bergamo's history.
For more information about the Caffè’s menu, telephone 035 210091.

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Spend a day in Desenzano

The largest resort on Lago di Garda (Lake Garda) is Desenzano del Garda on the south western shore, which is within easy reach of Bergamo.
Desenzano is a lively town with plenty to see and do and some up-market fashion shops. It is also well served by good restaurants, bars and hotels.
You can enjoy sweeping views of the lake if you walk along Lungolago Cesare Battisti (above) or you can climb the steep streets away from the lake to explore the town.
It takes about an hour to reach Desenzano from Bergamo by car. Leave the A4 Autostrada at the Desenzano exit and head for the centre where there are several car parks.
It also takes about an hour by train, with a change at Brescia, and it is then a short walk, or bus or taxi ride, from the station to Piazza Matteotti in the centre of Desenzano.
A Servizio di Navigazione (boat service) operates from Desenzano to other resorts on Lago di Garda such as Sirmione, Bardolino, Peschiera and Moniga del Garda.
There are plenty of bars and restaurants around the port as well as at the Porto Vecchio (old harbour), which is a short walk away.
Desenzano’s Ufficio di Informazione Turistico (Tourist Information Office) is located there.
The Romans apparently enjoyed holidays in Desenzano and, in 1921, the remains of a fourth century Roman villa were unearthed close to the lake. These are now open to the public and can be accessed from Via Antonio Gramsci.
There is also a medieval castle within walking distance of the lake in Via Castello.
The Duomo, which is dedicated to Santa Maria Maddalena, in Piazza Duomo, off Via Mazzini, is full of art treasures, which includes an 18th century version of The Last Supper by Giambattista Tiepolo.