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.


How Bergamo got its name

Città Alta is known as Berghèm de Sura in dialect
A tribe from Liguria made its home in part of the present day Città Alta (upper town) as early as 1200 years before Christ, and named the settlement Barra.
By 600 BC the city was occupied by Etruscans, but in 550 BC it was invaded by the Gauls.
They changed the name of the city to Berghèm, which according to the Celtic language derived from Berg (mountain) and from Hem (house or dwelling). Today Bergamo is still called Berghèm by local people speaking in dialect. You may hear the Città Alta called ‘Berghèm de sura’ and the Città Bassa ‘Berghèm de sota’ by people speaking the Bergamask dialect.
Over the years the Gauls continued to invade and eventually destroyed the city, which was subsequently rebuilt by the Romans.
In 196 BC the Romans had a definitive victory over the Gauls and Berghèm was changed to the Latin name of Bergomum. The town was built along two axes, which met where the Torre di Gombito stands today. The east-west main road followed the route of the present day Via Gombito and Via Colleoni, while the north-south main road were where Via Mario Lupo and Via San Lorenzo are today.
It is thought that the Forum would have been on the site of the present day Duomo, the Arena was where the Seminary now stands to the north of the Città Alta and the Capitol was on the hill of la Rocca.


Spend time in stunning Sirmione

Le Grotte di Catullo at Sirmione
Within easy reach of Bergamo is the resort of Sirmione on Lake Garda where there is a medieval centre full of interesting shops, bars and restaurants.
The fairytale castle, la Rocca Scagliera, is the first thing you see as you approach Sirmione by boat and you can also visit Le Grotte di Catullo, the ruins of a Roman villa built in the first century BC, that perch on a rocky promontory.
There are stunning views of the lake from different vantage points along Sirmione’s narrow peninsula and you may decide to spend a few nights in the resort to see everything it has to offer.
If a lake view is important to you, consider a stay at the Hotel Belvedere. As its name implies, the hotel looks out over Lake Garda and guests enjoy the wonderful views from its balconies.
The three-star, family run hotel is situated in Via Lucchino in the Porto Galeazzi area of Sirmione, close to a small harbour and a public beach.
The Hotel Belvedere has wireless internet access and all bedrooms have private bathrooms, television and mini bars. For more information visit Hotels.com
If you prefer to be in the historic centre of Sirmione, then the elegant, three star Hotel Luna might suit you.
Situated in the Via Vittorio Emmanuele II, this smart hotel is in a good position for enjoying the bars, restaurants and other amenities, while still being close to the lakeside.
The Hotel Luna has wireless internet access and its own restaurant, which serves a buffet breakfast as well as offering lunch and dinner. For more information visit Hotels.com
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.
A boat service (Servizio di Navigazione) runs regularly between Desenzano and Sirmione from Piazza Matteotti in the centre of Desenzano.



Finding the Key to Bergamo

The Key to Bergamo magazine
Visitors to Bergamo can read about forthcoming events and what there is to see and do during their stay in the Key to Bergamo tourist magazine.
Produced by Turismo Bergamo, the magazine is available free of charge in Bergamo or can be read on line at www.turismo.bergamo.it
As well as interesting articles, with English translations running alongside, the Key to Bergamo carries information about Bergamo’s tourist attractions with opening hours and telephone numbers.
Issue 19, the current edition, features the winter sports facilities in the Bergamo area and also covers the opening of a new tourism centre inside the Urban Centre at the renovated Bus Station in Via Bartolomeo Bono in the Città Bassa (lower town).
Here visitors can obtain information about seasonal offers, events, concerts and exhibitions and use internet stations with free wi-fi connections.
The tourism centre is open every day from 9 to 12.30 and from 2 to 5.30.
When you are in the Città Alta (upper town) you can get help and information from the tourism office based on the ground floor of the Torre di Gombito in Via Gombito, the street that leads from Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe (where the funicular arrives) to Piazza Vecchia.


Rare Bardolino Novello spotted on sale in Britain

Lidl's Bardolino
If you visit Bergamo during November you will have the opportunity to taste Vino Novello, Italy’s new wine, which is bottled shortly after the vendemmia (grape harvest) and made available in the shops, bars and restaurants.
Vino Novello is similar in taste, body and colour to the French Beaujolais Nouveau, which is perhaps more widely known because it is exported to other countries.
A particularly high quality type of Vino Novello is Bardolino Novello, which is produced not far from Bergamo in the area around the resort of Bardolino on Lake Garda.
So, imagine my delight on discovering a Bardolino Novello DOC on sale in a Lidl supermarket in Britain last week.
In the same way as Beaujolais Nouveau, Bardolino Novello is produced using 100 per cent carbonic maceration, which is not the case with all varieties of Vino Novello.
According to the Bardolino wine consortium (Consorzio Tutelavino Bardolino DOC), 100 per cent carbonic maceration is used to ensure the production of an excellent wine.
Because of the cost implication of this, the production of Bardolino Novello tends to be limited to satisfy requests from the larger wine distribution chains and regular clients.
It is not as easy to find Bardolino Novello as other varieties of Vino Novello, even within Italy, so the bottle I purchased from Lidl in Nottingham last week was a rare find indeed.
Rest assured that the wine was delightful, still tasting young, fresh and fruity.
Italy’s Vino Novello is usually launched on 6 November, ten days ahead of Beaujolais Nouveau.
It is recommended that Vino Novello is drunk soon after the bottle is opened and that unopened bottles should be kept only for a few months.
However, the bottle I bought from Lidl for £3.99 was still in perfect condition, despite having travelled and not being opened until 2011. What a great start to the New Year. Salute!   


Enjoy a taste of Crema

Piazza Duomo in Crema
While you are staying in Bergamo you may decide to visit the historic city of Crema, just 40 kilometres to the south.
You may wish to spend a night or two in Crema if you feel a day trip is not long enough to see all the fine architecture and art treasures that the city has to offer.
It is important to choose a hotel in a handy location so that you can make the most of your sightseeing time and experience the atmosphere of the historic centre at night.
One hotel within walking distance of the centre of town is the four star Park Hotel Residence. Situated in Via IV Novembre, on the eastern side of the city, it is a 10 or 15-minute walk away from Piazza Duomo, which is at the heart of the city.
If you are travelling to Crema by car, the Park Hotel Residence is worth considering as it has the advantage of a large car park. The railway station is about one kilometre away.
All rooms have air conditioning, minibar, satellite television and internet access.
For more information, visit www.parkhotelresidence.it.
Another four star hotel within similar walking distance of the historic centre is the Hotel Palace in Via Cresmiero, on the western side of the city.
This is close to Via delle Grazie, where there is the 17th century church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, built to house an ancient painting of the Madonna.
All the Hotel Palace’s 45 rooms have air conditioning, satellite television and a mini bar and the hotel restaurant offers dinner at a discounted rate to guests. For more information, visit www.hotelpalacecrema.com.



Bergamo piazzetta was once hub of the city

Piazzetta del Delfino
A charming part of Bergamo that was once an important meeting place lies just outside the Città Alta (upper town).
Piazzetta del Delfino (the little square of the dolphin) used to be at the heart of the city with four busy roads leading into it, before the Venetians built the walls round the Città Alta in the 16th century.
You will come to the Piazzetta if you leave the Città Alta through Porta Sant’Agostino and walk down Via Pignolo towards the modern part of the Città Bassa (lower town).
Off the Piazzetta Delfino to the left is Via San Tomaso, which leads to Piazza Giacomo Carrara where the Pinacoteca dell’Accademia Carrara and the Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (GAMEC) are located.
Off to the right, leading to Viale Vittorio Emanuele II, is Via Pelabrocco, which has two buildings that were used as shops in the 13th century.
The other turning off to the right is Via Masone, which leads to Via Antonio Locatelli, on the corner of which is Bergamo’s distinctive 1930s Poste e Telegrafi building.
Spare some time to sit outside the bar in the Piazzetta and take in your surroundings.
In the centre of the square you will see la Fontana del Delfino, which was designed in the 16th century. This was the period when the city’s fountains, which were so vital to the well being of the residents in each area, began to be less functional and were created in such beautiful shapes that they were eventually recognised as works of art.
The pine cone on the fountain is the symbol of Via Pignolo, which was once just a pathway through woodlands, but went on to become the main route to the Città Alta for travellers arriving from Venice.
Don’t miss the little house with the jutting-out upper storey (pictured above), reminiscent of medieval architecture in Germany, which is the only one of its kind in Bergamo.


Bergamo awaits Befana

An artist's impression of Befana

Children in Bergamo will have been hoping to find that Befana had left them presents when they woke up this morning.
Although Christmas is virtually over, 6 January is the day when a kind witch visits the good children in Italy and leaves them presents. If they have been naughty they are supposed to receive a lump of coal and if they have been stupid they are supposed to receive only a carrot. But many children throughout Italy will have been expecting some good presents from Befana today.
Befana is also sometimes referred to as La Vecchia (the old woman) and La Strega (the witch). But she is supposed to be a similar character to Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus.
It is believed her name derives from La Festa dell’Epifania (the feast of the Epiphany).
Befana is usually portrayed in illustrations as an old lady riding a broomstick, wearing a black shawl and covered in soot because she enters the children’s homes through the chimney.
Lucky children in Bergamo may have already received presents from Santa Claus and wake up today to find another delivery from Befana.


Shopping in Milan

The Duomo from Rinascente's rooftop restaurant

Bergamo is a good base to choose if you would like to visit Milan to do some fashion shopping.
There is an hourly train service from the railway station in Bergamo’s Città Bassa (lower town) to Milan and the journey takes less than an hour.
Rather than pay Milan prices for a hotel and meals you can return to Bergamo in the evening and enjoy the calm of the Città Alta (upper town) and choose from the wide range of good restaurants available.
When you arrive at Milano Centrale, the main railway station, take the Metro to Piazza Duomo where you will find the the magnificent Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II, which has plenty of upmarket shops and bars.
Opposite the Duomo is the department store Rinascente, which has several floors of fashion, cosmetics, jewellery and handbags as well as a restaurant with an amazing view of the roof of the Duomo and its gold statue.
One of the most exclusive streets in Milan for fashion is the Via Monte Napoleone, where the top designers have their studios and showcase their latest collections in their shop windows.
If you leave Piazza Duomo along Corso Vittorio Emmanuele II and walk to Piazza Babila you will find Milan’s famous shopping street goes off the square to the left. 


Bergamo celebrates Capodanno

Città Alta has been a walled town for 450 years
New Year’s Day is called Capodanno in Italy, which literally means ‘head of the year’.
After a late start following the New Year’s Eve festivities, many families will watch the concert of classical music from La Fenice in Venice on television before enjoying another traditional feast together either at home or in a restaurant.
The year 2011 marks a significant anniversary for Bergamo. It is 450 years since the Venetians began work on the sturdy walls to fortify the city against invaders, effectively creating the Città Alta (upper town) and the Città Bassa (lower town).
Buon Anno e Tanti Auguri per 2011 da Best of Bergamo!