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.


New Year festivities in Bergamo

Piazza Vecchia is a popular place for
 crowds to toast the New Year
New Year’s Eve is known as la Festa di San Silvestro in Italy and families and friends traditionally get together for a special dinner.
There are midnight fireworks displays in many city squares as well as at private parties. A custom that is still followed in some parts of Italy is throwing old, unwanted possessions out of the window to symbolise your readiness to accept the New Year.
The bars and restaurants are usually busy in Bergamo as both local residents and visitors see in the New Year.
Piazza Vecchia in the Città Alta (upper town) and Via Sentierone at the heart of the Città Bassa (lower town) are where the revellers gather just before midnight .
Before that, Il Presidente della Repubblica, Giorgio Napolitano, will have delivered Un Messaggio di Fine Anno -- an end-of-year message -- from his official residence, the Palazzo del Quirinale in Rome, shown on most of the Italian television channels at 20.30.
This will have been followed on Rai Uno by L’Anno Che Verrà, a live programme of pop and entertainment to see in the New Year.
Buon Anno from Best of Bergamo.


Good food and great views at Il Gourmet Hotel in Bergamo

Just outside Bergamo’s Città Alta (upper town), Il Gourmet Ristorante Hotel offers guests a convenient yet peaceful location with stunning views from the terrace and many of the guest rooms.
Il Gourmet Ristorante Hotel
Il Gourmet, in Via San Vigilio, is a short walk from Porta Sant’Alessandro, one of the gates in the walls surrounding the medieval Città Alta.
It is close to the station for the funicular to San Vigilio and is also near Via Borgo Canale, the street with the house where Bergamo composer Gaetano Donizetti was born.
As the name implies, Il Gourmet prides itself on the meals served in its restaurant, which offers Bergamo specialities and Mediterranean cuisine. Il Gourmet’s wine cellar is stocked with many of the top labels from Italy and further afield.
Check prices and availability with
You can either dine on the terrace with panoramic views over Bergamo or in Il Gourmet’s smart dining room.
Il Gourmet’s building dates back to the 17th century when it was once a private residence. It was converted to a hotel at the beginning of the 19th century to accommodate the travellers and merchants that came to Bergamo with their goods.
Set in the green hills above Bergamo, Il Gourmet provides guests with a peaceful relaxing atmosphere while being handy for the Città Alta and the terminus of the bus route to the Città Bassa (lower town), the railway station and Bergamo Caravaggio Airport at Orio al Serio. There is also ample parking for guests with cars.
Il Gourmet has nine double rooms, one single room and an independent apartment with two double bedrooms, a sitting room and a private terrace.
The rooms all have air conditioning, a fridge bar and satellite television.

Map and street view:

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Christmas in Bergamo

Christmas feast traditionally ends
with panettone 
Christmas is very much a family feast in Bergamo, just as in the rest of Italy and many other parts of the world.
After la Vigilia di Natale (Christmas Eve), when traditionally a fish meal is consumed and the adults go to midnight mass, Natale (Christmas Day) is a time for feasting.
While the children open their presents, the adults savour a glass of good Prosecco or uncork a special vintage bottle while they prepare the festive table.
Friends and relatives who drop in with presents or to exchange good wishes will be offered nuts, biscuits and torrone (nougat from Cremona).
Antipasti is likely to include Parma ham or bresaola (cured beef), served with preserved mushrooms, olives or pickled vegetables.
Stuffed pasta is usually served as a first course, either in the shape of ravioli or tortellini, which are said to have been offered as Christmas gifts to priests and monks during the 12th century.
For the main course, turkey or capon is likely to be served in the Lombardia region, with potatoes and vegetables as side dishes.
The traditional end to the meal is almost always panettone, served warm accompanied by a glass of sparkling wine.
Panettone is said to have been concoted by a Milanese baker, Antonio (Toni), to impress his girlfriend at Christmas time in the 15th century. The result was so successful that ‘Pane de Toni’ has become a regular feature of the Christmas season all over Italy and now even abroad.
The feasting and family parties continue on 26 December, the festa di Santo Stefano (Boxing Day).
Buon Natale from Best of Bergamo, Buon Appetito e Salute.


Bergamo celebrates start of Christmas

Banks and offices in Bergamo are closed today and special masses are taking place in the churches as residents and visitors celebrate the official beginning of  Christmas.
Christmas lights in Città Alta
Il Giorno dell’
immacolata concezione (the day of the immaculate conception) has been celebrated for centuries in Italy on 8 December.
It is an official festa (feast day) when the immaculate conception of Jesus is celebrated in the Christian calendar. It also marks the start of the Christmas season when the lights and trimmings go up.
Although the banks and public offices are closed, all the shops in Bergamo are open as usual with many people not at work and taking the opportunity to do some Christmas shopping.
As in many other countries across the world, Christmas shopping actually starts much earlier than 8 December in Italy, with Christmas trees, lights and decorations going up during November.
Via XX Settembre in Bergamo’s Città Bassa (lower town), which is known to locals as ‘the shopping street’ will be thronged with activity from now until Christmas Eve.
Buona Festa!


Where beautiful music was born in Bergamo

Not to be missed in Bergamo’s Città Bassa…


Via Borgo Canale
Opera composer Gaetano Donizetti was born 214 years ago today in a house in Via Borgo Canale, a street that is just a few metres outside the walls of Bergamo’s Città Alta (upper town).
A prolific composer of operas in the early part of the 19th century, Donizetti was a major influence on Verdi, Puccini and other famous Italian composers who came after him.
You can visit the Casa Natale, where he was born on 29 November 1797 . His birthplace, at number 14, is in the middle of a row of characteristic, tall houses and is marked by a plaque.
Leave the Città Alta through Porta Sant’Alessandro and go past the station for the San Vigilio funicolare. You will find Via Borgo Canale is the next street on the right.
Donizetti was the fifth of six children born to a textile worker and his wife. He once wrote about his birthplace: “…I was born underground in Borgo Canale. One descended the stairs to the basement, where no ray of sunlight had ever been seen. And like an owl I flew forth…”
Donizetti developed a love for music and despite the poverty of his family benefited from early tuition in Bergamo . He went on to compose works that have been acclaimed as the greatest lyrical operas of all time such as Lucia di Lammermoor and L’Elisir d’Amore.

Donizetti Museum

After a magnificent career Donizetti returned to Bergamo and died in 1843 in the Palazzo Scotti, where he was living as a guest, in the street now named Via Donizetti in the Città Alta.
Donizetti's birthplace at No 14
There is a museum dedicated to his life and career in the Città Alta, housed in the former Palazzo Misericordia Maggiore in Via Arena.
Donizetti’s tomb is in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Piazza Duomo in the Città Alta.
A monument dedicated to him was erected in Bergamo in 1897, 100 years after his birth, near the theatre that was renamed Teatro Donizetti in Via Sentierone in the Città Bassa (lower town.)
Casa Natale is open to the public at weekends only. Check the opening times with the Tourist Information Office in Via Gombito in the Citta Alta.


Winter flights to Bergamo from UK airports

Ryanair flies to Bergamo from five UK airports
During the winter months, there are currently direct flights to Bergamo's Caravaggio Airport, otherwise known as Orio al Serio or Milan (Bergamo), from five UK airports. All are operated by budget airline Ryanair. 

Here is Best of Bergamo's updated flights schedule for UK departures. The times quoted are reproduced in good faith but should be seen only as a guide.  All times are subject to change, so it's always best to check with the airline to confirm a particular flight.

From Bristol
Ryanair flies twice a week from Bristol.

Until March 24
Tuesday, Saturday: 0825 (no flight Dec 24; 0815 on Dec 27, Jan 3, Jan 10)
Flight time: 2hrs 20m

From East Midlands
Ryanair flies twice a week from East Midlands, increasing to three times a week in spring 2012.

Until December 18 and From March 8
Tuesday, Sunday: 1840
From March 25
Sunday, Wednesday: 1220; Friday: 1150.
Flight time: 2hrs 20m

From Liverpool
Ryanair operates a service from Liverpool on three days per week.

Until March 24
Sunday: 0830 (1130 on Jan 1); Wednesday: 1820; Friday: 2000.
Flight time: 2hrs 15m

From London Stansted
There are services with Ryanair three times daily and up to four times daily during the Christmas-New Year period.

Until March 24
Sunday: 0625, 1355, 1915; Monday to Friday: 0630, 1355, 1915; Saturday:  0630, 1205, 1915.
Extra flight at 1425 on Dec 18, Dec 20, Dec 27, Jan 3, Jan 8.
Extra flight at 1235 on Dec 23, Dec 30, Jan 6.
No flight on Dec 25
Dec 26: 0935, 1355, 1910; Jan 1: 1355, 1425, 1915; Jan 2: 0630, 1355, 1915.
Flight time: 2hrs.

From Manchester
A daily Ryanair flight from Manchester serves Bergamo.

Until March 24
Sunday, Wednesday: 0840; Monday: 1900; Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday: 0625; Friday: 1645.
No flight on Dec 25.
Dec 26: 1005; Jan 1: 1145.
Flight time: 2hrs 15m.

To book, or check times, go to www.ryanair.com


Bergamo birthplace named after popular Pope John

Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXIII
Sotto il Monte near Bergamo was the birthplace of the much loved Pope John XXIII 130 years ago today.
You can visit the house where he was born in the hamlet of Brusicco and the summer residence at Camaitino that he used when he was a cardinal, now a history museum dedicated to him.
This scattered rural commune, which is a short bus or car journey to the west of Bergamo, has since been renamed Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXIII.
Pope John was born Angelo Roncalli on 25 November 1881, the third of 13 children in a farming family.
He was tutored by a local priest before entering the seminary at Bergamo at the age of 12. He went on to study theology in Rome and rose to become Cardinal Patriarch of Venice before being elected Pope in 1958.
His religious studies were interrupted by a spell in the Italian army but he was ordained in 1904. He served as secretary to the Bishop of Bergamo for nine years before becoming an army chaplain in World War One.
After the war he worked in Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece on behalf of the church helping to locate prisoners of war.
In 1944 he was appointed nuncio (envoy) to Paris to help with the post war effort in France. He became a Cardinal in 1953 and expected to spend his last years serving the church in Venice .
But when he was elected Pope by his fellow cardinals in the conclave of 20 October 1958 it was a turning point in the church’s history.
Although he was Pope for less than five years, he enlarged the College of Cardinals to make it more representative, consecrated 14 new bishops for Asia and Africa, advanced ecumenical relations and worked for world peace
Since his death on 3 June 1963 his birthplace and the museum set up to commemorate his life have become popular destinations for pilgrims.
There is also a permanent reminder of him in Bergamo’s Città Bassa (lower town) where the main thoroughfare from the railway station to Porta Nuova has been renamed Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII.

Opening hours: Casa Natale (birthplace) at Brusicco 8.30 am to 5.30 pm (winter); Museo di Papa Giovanni (Pope John Museum) at Camaitino 8.30 am to 11.30 and 2.30 pm to 6.30 (all year round).


Neoclassical gateway marks centre of Bergamo

Not to be missed in Bergamo’s Città Bassa…
The twin Propilei of Porta Nuova


One of the most distinctive sights in Bergamo’s Città Bassa (lower town) are the two Propilei di Porta Nuova, buildings that look like small temples, which were designed by Ferdinando Crivelli in the mid 19th century.
Porta Nuova (New Gate) is the hub of the Città Bassa in the same way that Piazza Vecchia is the heart of the Città Alta (upper town). It was built on the site of one of the gates of the muraine, the name for the old city walls that used to run through the Città Bassa.
At one time gates were fixed between i Propilei, which were locked at night to keep out criminals, and the columned atrium at the front of each of the buildings acted as a customs and excise checkpoint.
The building on the left, near the Torre dei Caduti war memorial, contains a flower shop and the one on the right houses a ticket office for the ATB transport services company (open seven days a week from 7.20 am to 7.15 pm).
Behind Porta Nuova lies il Sentierone, a wide street that links Via Tasso with Via XX Settembre and is popular with the Bergamaschi for the daily passeggiata. Smart public buildings such as the Palazzo della Provincia, the Prefettura and the Teatro Donizetti were built nearby.
The new centre of the Città Bassa was completed by 1927 and the rest of modern Bergamo has developed round it. But it is only a short walk to much older parts of the Città Bassa, where narrow streets with churches and buildings dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries lead up to the Città Alta.


Bed and Breakfast Accademia is close to Città Alta

Accademia's entrance and garden
When choosing a hotel for a short stay in Bergamo, location is important so that you do not have to waste precious time travelling.
If you want to be close to many of the ‘must see’ sights, but stay in a quiet area, consider the Bed and Breakfast Accademia
This small Bergamo B & B is in the quiet cul de sac of Via Francesco Baracca off Via Nazario Sauro.
It is close to Piazza Cararra, where the famous Pinacoteca dell’Accademia Cararra and Galleria d’Arte Moderna are situated.
Although Accademia Cararra is currently closed for restoration, some of its masterpieces can be viewed in a special exhibition on the top floor of Palazzo della Ragione in the Città Alta (upper town).
Check prices and availability at:
From B & B Accademia it is a short walk to Porta Sant’Agostino, which leads into the Città Alta.
Or you could walk down Via Pignolo into the heart of the Città Bassa (lower town) and see masterpieces by Lorenzo Lotto in the churches of San Bernardino, Santo Spirito and San Bartolomeo on the way.
The B & B Accademia has a smart, modern décor and all rooms have free wi-fi and televisions with satellite channels.
A continental breakfast is included in the price and there is free parking for guests.


Try a taste of Vino Novello 2011 in Bergamo

Vino Novello is on display in many shops
One of the pleasures of visiting Bergamo in the autumn is tasting the new wine, which is available after 6 November.
Light, fruity Vino Novello 2011 has gone on sale in the shops and is being served in bars and restaurants. It is enjoyable to drink and would be a bargain buy to take home with you.
According to the newspaper L’Eco di Bergamo, 20,000 bottles have been produced locally this year, considerably fewer than used to be produced ten years ago.
But il Consorzio Tutela Valcalepio, the consortium for the protection of Valcalepio, Bergamo ’s local wine, is quoted as saying the quality of Vino Novello being produced has improved. Three local wine producers, Tallarini di Gandosso, il Calepino di Castelli Calepio and Locatelli Caffi di Chiuduno have put their Vino Novello on the market this year.
The wines have been described by experts as ‘soft, round, intriguing and velvety’.
Vino Novello is similar in taste, body and colour to the French Beaujolais Nouveau, which is traditionally exported to a number of other countries after its release.
Like Beaujolais Nouveau, Italy ’s new wine should be drunk quickly after the bottle is opened. Unopened bottles should be kept for only a few months.
So if you are lucky enough to get the opportunity to taste Vino Novello while visiting Bergamo , make sure you appreciate it. Salute!


Hotel Excelsior San Marco -- a Best of Bergamo recommended hotel

Hotel Excelsior San Marco
The handy position of the Hotel Excelsior San Marco makes it a good choice for a short break in Bergamo.
The four star hotel in Piazza Repubblica is close to the station for the funicular railway that runs back and forth between the città bassa (lower town) and the città alta (upper town). It is also near stops for the number 1 bus service that runs between the città alta and the railway station in the città bassa and Bergamo’s renamed Il Caravaggio International Airport at Orio al Serio.
But it is the unique views that make a stay at the hotel a magical experience, as I discovered during a recent visit.
Guests can linger over the generous buffet breakfast served in the first floor restaurant while looking out towards Bergamo’s 450-year-old city walls, the towers and cupolas of the città alta and the mountains in the distance. 
Whether early in the morning when the walled city was softened by mist, or late at night when Porta San Giacomo is lit up in the red, white and green of the tricolore, there was always a marvellous view from the window of my room on the sixth floor.
The Roof Garden Restaurant on the eighth floor -- accessible via a separate entrance next door to the hotel -- also boasts of panoramic views over the citta alta, although it is an expensive option for dinner that I didn't take.
The Hotel Excelsior San Marco is set back from the main street, Via Vittorio Emanuele II, at a comfortable distance from the traffic. Guests have the benefit of smart bars, restaurants and shops nearby in Piazza Repubblica, but Via Sentierone and Porta Nuova in the elegant centre of the città bassa are only a short walk away.
The hotel has 155 rooms, either standard, superior, deluxe or suites, all with satellite television and minibar. There is wi-fi internet connection and also a computer room free for the use of guests. The bar is handily located on the ground floor and there are comfortable settees in the spacious reception area. I found it convenient that the hotel has three lifts so that there was never any time wasted waiting.
The staff were all very helpful, recommending and booking a restaurant and ordering taxis for me during my enjoyable stay.

Book with Venere or http://uk.hotels.com/ho279542/hotel-excelsior-san-marco-bergamo-italy/


Legacy of Bergamo military leader Bartolomeo Colleoni

The statue of Colleoni in Venice
Bartolomeo Colleoni, who is one of the most famous figures in Bergamo's history, died 536 years ago today.
As you walk round Bergamo you will see a chapel, a street, a bar and a restaurant named after Colleoni, a respected military leader who spent most of his life in the pay of the republic of Venice defending Bergamo against invaders.
He is remembered as one of the most honourable condottieri of his era, carrying out charitable works and agricultural improvements in Bergamo and the surrounding area when he was not involved in a military campaign.
He left money to Venice, with a request that an equestrian statue of himself be erected in Piazza San Marco. The statue was made by Andrea del Verrocchio, but as there was a rule that no monument was allowed in the Piazza San Marco, it was placed opposite the Scuola di San Marco in Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo.
Towards the end of his life Colleoni turned his attention to designing a building to house his own tomb in the cittá alta, which was to give Bergamo its most ornate and celebrated building, the Cappella Colleoni (Colleoni Chapel)..
He commissioned the architect Antonio Amadeo to design an impressive chapel where he could be buried with all the insignia of a captain of the Venetian republic and the sacristry of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Piazza Duomo had to be demolished to make way for this.
Amadeo designed the Cappella Colleoni to harmonise with Santa Maria Maggiore using pink and white marble to match the colours of the doorway of the basilica.
Inside the chapel he designed an elaborate two tier sarcophagus surmounted by a golden statue of Colleoni on horseback.
Colleoni died on 2 November, 1475 and his body was placed in the lower sarcophagus following his own instructions, where it remains today.

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Chestnuts are healthy as well as tasty

Chestnuts are in season
in Bergamo

It is the chestnut season now in Bergamo and the city and surrounding countryside will have a plentiful supply to be used in a variety of delicious recipes over the next few weeks.
While I was visiting Bergamo last week there was one day of rain and wind which blew a lot of chestnuts down from the trees. The sun returned the next day and dried up all the rain leaving the chestnuts to be picked up by keen connoisseurs of the fruit.
The chestnuts growing wild in the countryside round Bergamo will be harvested in November and many will be roasted on bonfires before being used to make tasty soups, tarts and cakes.
According to the October issue of il Paniere magazine, chestnuts are rich in vitamin B and C and minerals. You will see two varieties, a small sweet one known as la garavina and larger ones, which are referred to as i marroni di selva.
You can eat them raw, cooked, roasted, in cream, in cakes, as marrons glacé (with icing sugar), in foccacia and in chocolate.
If you want to be able to keep them for a while, leave them in water for three days before drying them in the sun.
While I was enjoying an authentic, Neapolitan meal in Trattoria Caprese in Via Daniele Piccinini in the Cittá Bassa last week, the waiter came round and placed a handful of roasted chestnuts on each table, a complimentary side dish reminding us that outside it was actually autumn in Lombardy.

Here is a quick and easy recipe you can make in your own home:

Roast your chestnuts on a baking tray in a hot oven.
Quickly peel them while they are still hot.
Toss them in a dry frying pan over a high heat without using any butter or oil.
Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle the chestnuts with Grappa and sugar.
Mix and then flambé them. The heated spirit will light with a match.
Eat the chestnuts as soon as the flames disappear.
For a kilo of hot, roasted chestnuts you will need about 70 mls of Grappa and three tablespoons of caster sugar.
Buon Appetito!

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Top ten sights in the Città Alta in Bergamo

People often ask what the top ten sights are in Bergamo’s Città Alta (upper town).
Colleoni Chapel
I have put together a list of ten places that visitors to Bergamo really must see. Because the Città Alta is compact and easy to walk around it should be possible to cover them all in one day.
There are so many beautiful, historic buildings in Bergamo that it has been difficult to make my choice and anyone who would like to add to the list is welcome to email me with their suggestions.
Don’t miss:
1 – Colleoni Chapel in Piazza Duomo -  a Renaissance gem that was built to house the tomb of Bartolomeo Colleoni.
2 – Palazzo Terzi in Piazza Terzi – a palace considered to be an important example of baroque architecture.
3 – Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Piazza Duomo – a beautiful church that houses the tomb of opera composer Gaetano Donizetti.
4 – Palazza Ragione in Piazza Vecchia – a 12th century stone palace with an open staircase leading to the top floor.
5 – Museo Donizettiano in Via Arena – a fascinating museum dedicated to the composer that is housed in a beautiful, old palace.
Statues at Palazzo Terzi
6 – Il Campanone in Piazza Vecchia – a 12th century tower that houses the big bell that sounds Bergamo’s nightly curfew.
7 – La Rocca -  a distinctive circular tower originally built as a fortress to protect Bergamo .
9 – Il Tempietto – a tiny church that dates back to the year 1000.
10 – Biblioteca Civica in Piazza Vecchia – a white marble palace housing Bergamo’s civic library.


Marble palace in Piazza Vecchia

Not to be missed in Bergamo’s Città Bassa…


Biblioteca Civica
The white marble Biblioteca Civica (Angelo Mai Civic Library) is the impressive building at the northern end of Piazza Vecchia. It was originally built as a town hall for Bergamo at the beginning of the 16th century, based on a design by architect Vincenzo Scamozzi.
Also sometimes referred to by the Bergamaschi as Palazzo Nuovo, the building is a striking contrast to the older, grey stone Palazzo della Ragione opposite. It became the home of a library in the 18th century, whose collection of documents, manuscripts and volumes has grown over the years to reach in excess of 500,000 items.
The Biblioteca Civica houses documents dating back to the 12th century, a 15th century copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy, handwritten scores by Gaetano Donizetti and his teacher Simone Mayr and works by Pope John XXIII, who was born Angelo Roncalli in nearby Sotto il Monte.
The facade of the building was finally completed in the 20th century, still following Scamozzi’s original design, and the library was later named after Cardinal Angelo Mai, a famous palaeographer, who was born in Schilpario north of Lago Iseo.
It now provides a tranquil place to study for writers and scholars in Bergamo and is well worth visitors going in to have a look round the interior.  
The Biblioteca’s opening hours vary according to the day of the week and the season, so check first with the Tourist Office in Via Gombito.


Step inside to see sumptuously decorated interior

Not to be missed in Bergamo’s Città Bassa…


The basilica entrance on
Via Arena
One of the most important and beautiful churches in Bergamo is the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, which has entrances from both Piazza Duomo and Via Arena in the Città Alta (upper town).
The basilica was built in the 12th century in the shape of a Greek cross but was modified in the 14th and 16th centuries.
It has a large interior with a richly decorated cupola from the 16th century and some fine Flemish and Florentine tapestries and works of art.
At the back of the church is an elaborate white marble monument designed by Vincenzo Vela, marking the tomb of composer Gaetano Donizetti, who was born in Bergamo and returned to die in the city. Nearby there is a monument to his teacher Simon Mayr, who was 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 following designs by Lorenzo Lotto.
The Basilica’s sacristry was demolished in the 15th century to make way for the Colleoni Chapel, which was built on the orders of Bergamo’s wealthy and influential condottiero, Bartolomeo Colleoni, to house his own tomb.
The Colleoni Chapel was designed by Giovanni Antonio Amadeo to harmonise with the architecture of the Basilica and has now come to be acknowledged as one of the finest Renaissance buildings in Italy.