Bergamo not only has an airport where visitors to Italy land in droves. It’s worth taking a day trip to the city and discovering the beautiful old town.
Our journey to Milan ends and our plane home does not leave Bergamo until 10 pm. We decide to leave before 10 a.m. by shuttle bus from Milan Central Station towards Bergamo and end our little trip here.
Fortunately, lugging your luggage around the city all the time is not necessary. There is a luggage storage at the airport in Bergamo. Although it may sound strange, follow the signs! The baggage storage is not in the airport building, but in a small house in the car park.
On the way to the old town
In the airport building we quickly bought a 24-hour ticket for Bergamo. It costs €5 and is valid for a return trip from Bergamo to the airport and the entire city area, including funiculars and the city railway, on the day of validation. With it, we could travel by bus into the city and later also use the funiculare.
After about 15 minutes of travelling, we got off at Bergamo’s main railway station. From here you can take the bus to the old town or walk for about 20 minutes to the funicular railway that goes up to the old town. We opted for the walk and were thus able to gather some more impressions.
We walk past the Torre dei caduti, which is right on Piazza Vittorio Veneto.
It is one of the monuments of the lower city that were erected after the First World War. However, not to commemorate the victims, as is so often the case, but at Mussolini’s request to strengthen and consolidate unity nationalism.
The tower is built of sandstone and fits harmoniously into the existing building structure. The marble clock, which is surrounded by a square, is striking. Each corner of the square is formed by a wind idol. They are supposed to represent the transience of time. Directly below the clock is a bronze statue and a large window with a balcony.
If you turn right near the tower, you come to the pedestrian zone. This is a great place to shop. A small tip: in the inconspicuous side streets you can find nice shops that don’t belong to the big chains.
Shortly behind the tower, you have the opportunity to take a first look at the old town, which is situated on a hill.
The view promises a lot and we are curious to see if the walk is worth it. I don’t really want to walk up, but there is the funicular that will take us to the top.
Città Alta – the old town of Bergamo
When we arrived at the funicular, I wondered whether we shouldn’t walk up the mountain. The queue was already quite long.
But a ride on a funicular is a “must” for us and so we queue up. It goes surprisingly fast and after 2 rides it is already our turn.
Unfortunately, the tour is quite crowded due to the many people waiting, but I still find it a great experience and am already looking forward to the downhill ride.
Once at the top, we discover the winding streets of Bergamo’s Città Alta. There are small shops, restaurants and cafés everywhere. Especially the main street, which we leave quite quickly, is fully geared to tourists. The narrow and, above all, car-free side streets are more to our liking.
And even along these winding paths, we finally reach the place where everyone flocks – the Duomo of Bergamo.
Santa Maria Maggiore and Duomo
Across the Piazza Duomo, we approach what at first appears to be an inconspicuous church building. Its size can only be guessed at as we walk down the narrow alley.
If you look a little closer, you will discover beautiful frescoes decorating the façade of the church.
We come to a small square (Piazza Padre Reginaldo Giuliani). Here is the entrance to the church of Santa Maria Maggiore.
Construction of the basilica began in 1137 and is still not completed. There is neither a nave nor a west façade.
The Cappella Colleoni, to the right of the entrance guarded by lions, is striking. The façade is so strikingly designed with white, black and red marble stones that at first glance it seems as if you are entering the church here (entrance below the rose window). But you enter a chapel that was created as a tomb of Bartolomeo Colleoni.
The entrance to Santa Maria Maggiore is covered by a porch. It is supported by 4 columns, two lions sit in front and sculptures stand above the entrance. We enter the church and I have the feeling of being overwhelmed by the design of the interior.
Magnificent ceiling and wall decorations, artistic pictures and statues and gold glittering everywhere, a real firework of sensory impressions. As I walk through the church, I ask myself whether the house of God has to be designed like this. Of course the splendour, the wealth and beauty of the church is symbolised. But where is the simplicity and the simple faith in God? Would he like this abundance?
We step out of the church and turn right. Less than 20 steps away is the entrance to the Duomo of Bergamo. Here, too, we enter the nave and stand in a completely differently designed church. Here, the colour white dominates and only deliberately used golden accents draw the eye. It is bright and friendly here.
If you go into the small chapel on the right transept, you will find a kind of “memorial” to Pope John XXIII, who was born in the Bergamo region and is honoured here with relics and a bronze statue.
We leave the two so different churches and continue strolling through the streets of the old town. Our destination another funicular/funicular to take us a little higher above the city.
High above the city with the Funicolare San Vigilio
The San Vigilio funicular has been in operation since 1912, today of course in a somewhat more modern form than over 100 years ago. It mainly brings tourists high above the Città Alta.
When you arrive at the top station, it is best to leave the house on the left. Here you will find a viewing platform from which you have a wonderful view over Bergamo.
If you are still in the mood, you can find small tour suggestions on the funicular flyer that show the beauties of the region. We made our way back to the old town and walked downhill right next to the railway line.
Tip for a snack in Bergamo
Sightseeing makes you hungry. On our last day in Italy, we are in the mood for pizza again and at one shop I just have to stop and take a pizza to go. The bakery Il Fornaio (Via Bartolomeo Colleoni, 3, 24129 Bergamo BG, Italy) offers really great creations at a reasonable price that also taste really good!
If you look into the bakeries of the old town, you can’t miss the typical speciality of the city. The sweet “polenta and birds” made of sugar, sponge cake, chocolate, marzipan is everywhere. It has been on sale in Bergamo since 1910. The dough in a semicircular shape is made of layers of sponge cake with different fillings. They are decorated with a yellow marzipan raw paste and almond-chocolate birds.
The polenta comes in different sizes. We bought the rather expensive sweet temptation in the smallest size and shared it. Delicious, but very sweet, it was really enough.