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.


Window shop in vibrant Via Colleoni

Via Colleoni is a fascinating, busy thoroughfare leading from Piazza Mascheroni to Piazza Vecchia in Bergamo’s Città Alta (upper town).
Polenta e osei
The narrow street is lined with ancient buildings and is steeped in Bergamo’s history. It follows the line of the ancient Roman town plan and up to the 19th century was known as Corsarola.
Via Colleoni is usually crowded in the evenings with people enjoying the passeggiata as there are plenty of shops selling food, books and clothes as well as a good selection of wine bars and restaurants.
On your left hand side near the top of the street is the 15th century church of Sant’Agata del Carmine, which contains some important 16th and 17th century paintings.
Further down you will be tempted by the displays of fresh pasta, and cakes in the windows of food shops. Look out for the Bergamo specialities of casoncelli alla bergamasca, a type of ravioli, and polenta e osei, a cake resembling polenta topped with birds made out of chocolate.
A traditional meeting place for Bergamo people since 1848, Vineria Cozzi is behind the red door at number 22 on the right hand side, serving a wide range of wines and traditional Bergamo dishes.
Vineria Cozzi
At numbers 9 to 11 on the left hand side is the house where Bartolomeo Colleoni, from who the street takes its name, founded his charitable institution, Luogo Pio della Pieta in 1466.
At number 4 on the right hand side is the Teatro Sociale, which opened in 1807. At the height of its popularity the theatre could seat 1300 people. It closed in the 1920s but has since been restored and is used for cultural events.
Near the end of Via Colleoni there are some small, independent fashion shops to browse in on both sides of the street.
On the left there is also a take away pizzeria and bread shop, Il Fornaio, with an impressive window display to marvel at.
You will then pass the side of Il Sole hotel and restaurant before you emerge into the dazzling splendour of Piazza Vecchia.
Pizza to take away in Via Colleoni
Main sights



Historic Brescia is well worth a visit

Brescia is a town of great artistic and architectural importance that can be reached by train from Bergamo in just under an hour.
Although it is the second city in Lombardia, after Milan, and has Roman remains and well-preserved Renaissance buildings, it is not as well-known to tourists as other historic Italian cities.
Many people pass through Brescia on their way to Lago di Garda (Lake Garda) or Lago d’Iseo (Lake Iseo) without stopping off to look round the town.
Brescia became a Roman colony before the birth of Christ and you can still see remains from the forum, theatre and a temple.
Brescia's Piazza della Loggia
The town was fought over by different rulers in the middle ages but came under the protection of Venice in the 15th century.
There is a distinct Venetian influence in the architecture of the Piazza della Loggia, an elegant square in the centre of the town, which is the site of the main Ufficio d’Informazione Turistiche (tourist information office) and has a clock tower remarkably similar to the one in Saint Mark’s square in Venice.
Next to the 17th century Duomo is an older cathedral, the unusually shaped Duomo Vecchio, also known as la Rotonda, which is open to the public and worth a look inside.
The Santa Giulia Museo della Citta covers more than 3000 years of Brescia’s history, housed within the Benedictine Nunnery of San Salvatore and Santa Giulia in Via Musei.
The nunnery was built over a Roman residential quarter, but some of the houses, with their original mosaics and frescoes, have now been excavated and can be seen while you are looking round the museum.
It is well worth spending a day in Brescia and there are direct trains every hour from Bergamo’s railway station in Piazza Marconi. 


Casoncelli alla bergamasca

Delicious casoncelli alla bergamasca

Sampling melt-in-the-mouth Casoncelli alla bergamasca, topped with chopped bacon and sage, butter and grated cheese, is an unforgettable part of a stay in Bergamo.
Casoncelli, also sometimes referred to on menus as casonsei, are a type of ravioli, filled with sausage meat, which has been mixed with several other vital ingredients, including finely chopped pears, sultanas and amaretti.
They are believed to have originated in the countryside outside Bergamo, where they were created as a way of using up left over meat, and have found their way on to the tables of the better off Bergamo families and the menus of traditional restaurants. They are now an important part of Bergamo’s proud gastronomic tradition.
You can order them as a primo piatto, but if you don’t want to eat a whole plateful when you try them for the first time, order them as part of the Tris della Casa at Il Sole Restaurant, which is just off the Piazza Vecchia in the Città Alta (upper town), on the corner of Via Colleoni and Via Rivola.
Il Sole's Tris della Casa
Il Sole’s Tris della Casa is available only if two people in a party order it. They will both be served with a dish divided into three compartments that are filled with casonsei, risotto ai funghi and gnocchi al pomodoro.
You can also buy ready-made casoncelli, or casonsei, from one of the shops selling fresh pasta in Bergamo and prepare them yourselves.
Simply add the casoncelli to boiling water, allow them to simmer for five minutes and serve them sprinkled with grated Grana Padano cheese, melted butter and chopped, cooked bacon and sage.
Wash your casoncelli down with a glass of chilled Valcalepio Bianco.
Buon Appetito and Salute!

Buy casoncelli to cook at home


Neoclassical gateway marks the centre of Bergamo

Porta Nuova's twin Propilei
Porta Nuova is the hub of Bergamo’s Città Bassa (lower town), in the same way that Piazza Vecchia is the heart of the Città Alta (upper town).
This wide gateway was made in the medieval walls in the middle of the 19th century, flanked by i Propilei (the Propylaea), two buildings that look like temples.
The columned atrium at the front of each of the buildings acted as a customs and excise checkpoint until the beginning of the 20th century.
The city’s original old walls were later demolished to provide better access to the Sant’Alessandro fair held in August each year.
The nearby thoroughfare, il Sentierone, a wide street which links Via Tasso with Via XX Settembre, became popular with the Bergamaschi for the daily passeggiata. Smart public buildings such as il Palazzo della Provincia, la Prefettura and the Teatro Donizetti were constructed in the area.
The new centre of the Città Bassa was completed by 1927 and the rest of modern Bergamo developed around Porta Nuova. But it is still only a short walk to the narrow streets with churches and building dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries that lead up to the Città Alta.

Main sights


Who was Bartolomeo Colleoni?

Colleoni Chapel
Visitors to Bergamo will notice the name Colleoni in several places.
Via Colleoni is one of the main streets in the Città Alta (upper town) and the Cappella Colleoni (Colleoni Chapel) in Piazza Duomo is one of Bergamo’s finest buildings. There is also a Ristorante Colleoni e dell’ Angelo in Piazza Vecchia and a Caffe del Colleoni in the Città Bassa (lower town).
All are named in honour of an influential man in Bergamo’s history, Bartolomeo Colleoni, a military leader who defended his home city on behalf of the republic of Venice in the 15th century.
Colleoni is thought to be one of the most honourable condottieri (mercenary leaders) of his era, carrying out charitable works and agricultural improvements when he was not fighting.
He was born in Solza, just outside Bergamo, in 1400 and began his military career at the age of 15.
After Bergamo passed from the control of the Visconti to Venice, he was entrusted by the republic with commanding the armies deployed to defend the city.
When Venice and Milan made peace, Colleoni went over to serve the Milanese, but they were suspicious of him and imprisoned him at Monza .
On his release he served Francesco Sforza for a while, but the Venetians persuaded him to return to them and made him captain general of the republic. He was to serve Venice faithfully for the rest of his life.
In 1456 Colleoni acquired a castle at Malpaga to the south of Bergamo , where he settled down to live peacefully with his wife and eight children and carry out works to benefit the area.
In later life he commissioned the architect Antonio Amadeo to design a chapel where he could be buried with the insignia of a captain of the Venetian republic. The sacristry of Santa Maria Maggiore was demolished to make way for this in 1472. Amadeo designed the Cappella Colleoni to harmonise with the adjacent Santa Maria Maggiore and it is now considered one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture in Italy .
Colleoni died on 2 November, 1475 and his body was placed in a sarcophagus inside his own chapel, where it still rests.
He left money to Venice, with a request that an equestrian statue of himself be erected in Piazza San Marco. The statue -- a detail of which is pictured, right -- was made by Andrea Verrocchio, but as there was a rule that no monument was allowed in the piazza, it was placed opposite the Scuola di San Marco in Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo. 


Pause for a while in Piazza Mascheroni

If you enter Bergamo’s Città Alta (upper town) from Colle Aperto and cross Piazza Cittadella you will pass under an archway into Piazza Mascheroni.
Torre della Campanella
It is easy to walk straight through the rectangular piazza to the top of the fascinating Via Colleoni with its shops, restaurants and bars.
But it is worth taking a few minutes to look round Piazza Mascheroni and savour the wonderful views from it first.
At one side of the piazza there is a particularly good spot for taking photographs. You can see the Città Bassa (lower town) spread out below and the hills above the city, with the mountains a long way in the distance.
At the centre of the square the Torre della Campanella was started in the 13th century but was not completed until the oriental-style spire was added in the 19th century. You will have come through the archway within its base to enter the square
On the walls of the buildings on the other side of the piazza you can see original 16th century frescoes, which were uncovered and restored during the 1990s.
Piazza Mascheroni was known as Piazza Nuova during the period that Bergamo was under Venetian rule in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is believed to have once been the site of the city’s linen market and old documents have revealed that it was also sometimes used to stage games and entertainment. 


Buonissimo Bardolino!

Vibrant, ruby red Bardolino wine is available on the lists of many restaurants in Bergamo and the surrounding area.
The best Bardolino is produced in the Classico region, the area immediately round the resort of Bardolino on Lago di Garda (Lake Garda), and it will have DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status on its label.
Among the best producers are Guerrieri Rizzardi, who are based at No. 4 Via Verdi in Bardolino.
They make their version from Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Sangiovese, Merlot and Molinara grapes grown in their vineyards along the shores of Lago di Garda.
Guerrieri Rizzardi recommend serving their Bardolino slightly chilled to accompany white meats and cheeses.
You will sometimes see Bardolino Novello, which should be drunk as soon as possible after the harvest. Wines labelled Bardolino Superiore will have been aged for at least one year.
In my opinion, Bardolino is a wine that is best drunk young in order to appreciate its characteristic scent of berries and almonds.
It benefits visitors to Bergamo that the wine has not travelled far from the area to the south east of Lago di Garda where it has been produced.
The pretty lakeside town itself can be reached by train from Bergamo, changing at Brescia and taking an onward connection to Desenzano, from which, in the summer months, there is a boat service to Bardolino.

Language point


Wines are graded according to a system that refers to their place of origin, la denominazione.
Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) applies to wines made from grapes grown only in a defined area.
Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita (DOCG) is reserved for wines that have met particularly rigorous standards throughout their production.


Tub was once hub of Bergamo’s Città Alta

Il Lavatoio
In a quiet square behind the Torre Gombito in Bergamo’s Città Alta (upper town) you will see a long marble trough that provides an interesting glimpse into 19th century life.
Piazza Luigi Angelini, which is off Via Mario Lupo on the left, used to be the site of il Lavatoio, Bergamo’s public wash tub.
Now that it has been cleaned and restored, you can see details such as the drain to prevent the water overflowing and the small channel that collected splashes from the washing.
Il Lavatoio was well built from Zandobbio marble and protected with a cast iron canopy. It was constructed on the orders of the Commune di Bergamo to provide inhabitants of the Città Alta with laundering facilities, to compensate them for the lack of running water in their houses.
The tub came into use in 1891, when the square must have become a lively hub where the women of the Città Alta enjoyed meeting up and exchanging gossip while they did their washing.
Il Lavatoio continued to be used well into the 1950s.
Now that everyone does their washing indoors, Piazza Luigi Angelini has become a very peaceful place, coming to life only on the occasional Sunday when an antiques market is held there.


Arli Hotel in perfect position in Bergamo

Arli Hotel
In the heart of the Città Bassa (lower town), the comfortable Arli is a Bergamo hotel that provides an ideal base for exploring the city and surrounding area.
Situated in Largo Porta Nuova, the three-star hotel is about half way between the railway station and the funicolare (funicular station) for the Città Alta (upper town), approximately 400 metres from them both.
It is very close to the stops for buses to the Città Alta and the airport at Orio al Serio and is handy for some of the best shops and restaurants in the Città Bassa.
The Arli Hotel has a bright, welcoming reception area, which leads into the restaurant, La Delizia. The hotel offers WiFi internet access either from your own computer or a terminal for public use in a room on the ground floor close to reception. 
There is a lift to the 66 bedrooms and guests can opt for single, double or king size accommodation.
I stayed at Arli Hotel for two nights earlier this month and it is a hotel in Bergamo I would readily recommend. I was impressed with both the comfort of the bed and pillows and the selection of food offered at the buffet breakfast, which was included in the price of the room.
The Arli Hotel also has a wine bar and guests can use the facilities of its Fit and Well Spa. There is free car parking and room service is available after 10.30pm for late arriving guests. For more information, visit www.arli.net, telephone +39 035 222077 or book with Hotels.com or venere.com.


Bergamo’s funicular railways

The Città Alta funicular

Using the two funicolari (funicular railways) is an easy way to move about Bergamo quickly while you are looking round the city.
One links the Città Bassa (lower town) with the Città Alta (upper town) while the other one links the Città Alta with San Vigilio above it. They run every few minutes from early in the morning until late at night and while you are travelling up and down you will see some spectacular views.
The first funicular to be built in Bergamo linked Viale Vittorio Emanuele in the Città Bassa with Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe in the Città Alta. The funicular made its first journey on 20 September, 1897.
The second funicular, which links the Città Alta with San Vigilio, opened on 27 August 1912.
German novelist Hermann Hesse, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1913, was among the first famous tourists to use the service and many travellers have benefited from it since.
To use the funicular, you can buy a single journey ticket, which you pass through a machine before going through the barrier. Or, if you have a one or three-day ticket, just show it to the funicular’s driver, who will open the barrier for you.



Just dessert for composer Donizetti

Torta Donizetti

While in Bergamo you will see many tempting cakes and desserts in cafes and bars and in the windows of pasticcerie (cake shops).
Torta Donizetti
A local speciality you may notice is Torta Donizetti, a ring shaped cake dedicated to the great musician, who was born and died in Bergamo.
One story is that it was whipped up in a hurry by Rossini’s cook when the two composers were dining together and that Rossini dedicated it to his guest afterwards.
It is now part of Bergamo’s gastronomic tradition, and if you enjoy sampling it while visiting the city, you will find it is simple to make at home.
Here is my version of the original recipe, which I adapted slightly to use ingredients easily available in the UK . It makes a large cake, enough to serve approximately six to eight people.

Unsalted butter, 320 gr
White sugar, 135 gr
Egg yolks, 8
Egg whites, 4
Flour, 50 gr
Cornflour, 120 gr
Dried apricots, cut into small cubes, 100 gr
Fresh pineapple, cut into small cubes, 100 gr
Teaspoon of Maraschino (or any fruit liqueur)
Teaspoon of vanilla essence

Method – Whip together butter, 20 gr of sugar and egg yolks. Beat egg whites with rest of sugar till stiff, then add to the mixture. Gradually add flour and cornflour. Then stir in the cubes of apricot and pineapple, the liqueur and the vanilla essence. Maraschino, a clear cherry-based liqueur, is used in the classic recipe but if this is not available another fruit liqueur may be substituted.
Butter a 24 cm ring shaped baking tin and pour in mixture.
Bake in oven at 180 degrees for 40 minutes.
Afterwards leave it to cool before brushing the top with icing sugar.
Buon appetito!


Bergamo remembers Saint Alexander

Lights on Via Sant' Alessandro
Early September is a good time to visit Bergamo.
The city is still celebrating after the festa in honour of patron saint Alessandro on 26 August and it is lit up by decorative lights at night.
Although less crowded than earlier in the summer there is still plenty going on and the weather is warm and sunny.
Sant’Alessandro was killed by the Romans in 303 for refusing to renounce his Christian faith and continuing to preach in Bergamo.
This year for the first time a historical reconstruction of the event took place in Bergamo, with those taking part dressed in authentic costumes.
A procession through the city was followed by a gastronomic celebration in the Piazza Vecchia in the Città Alta (upper town) presided over by the Vescovo (bishop) and Sindaco (mayor). Torta Sant’Alessandro and the local Valcalepio wine were served, followed by musical entertainment.
There was still plenty of live music to enjoy in the streets when I was in Bergamo for a visit at the beginning of September.A single flautist under the archways of the Palazzo della Ragione in the Città Alta provided soft background music as I enjoyed a drink before lunch sitting outside the Caffè del Tasso.
And in the evening there were musicians entertaining people as they strolled along Via Sant’Alessandro in the Città Bassa (lower town) enjoying the lights and festive atmosphere.