Bergamo is a perfect one day trip from MIlan. Spending one day in Bergamo will allow you to discover its lovely city center and lots of art and culture, on top of its delicious food specialties. Here is a one day trip itinerary from Milan to Bergamo, including a Bergamo Alta walking map.
Why a day trip to Bergamo, Italy? Well, you have spent some days in Milan, enjoyed the bustling life, the glamorous atmosphere, fashion, design, and all the Milanese typical excitement. If you are now looking for something completely different, closer to the “Italian” cliché of history, art, nature and traditional food, then spending one day in Bergamo, Italy is the best option for you.
Bergamo is a delightful small town, perched on a steep hill side and surrounded by impressive walls. Actually, there are two Bergamo: Bergamo alta (“upper Bergamo”), the historical center, and Bergamo bassa (“lower Bergamo”), built in more recent times. In this Bergamo in one day post I will focus on Bergamo alta, but if you have time Bergamo bassa is worth a visit as well. If you plan to spend one full day in Bergamo you will have enough time to visit both.
What is striking about Bergamo Alta is that you don’t feel in Lombardy at all. Maybe because it’s built on a hill, while most Lombardy towns are located in the plain, hence are rather flat. Or because of the colors: light ocher plaster, red bricks walls, grey stone portals, similar to Florentine Pietra Serena. Oh, and let’s not forget the green hills and mountains in the background. Well, put that all together, and you could easily pretend you’re in Tuscany or Umbria, rather than Lombardy. With, on top of that, some Venetian detail in the windows or in the wells. Quite astonishing, believe me.
Bergamo alta is a maze of of characteristic narrow winding streets, and you can easily get lost (which is actually quite enjoyable!). In case you belong more to the structured traveler kind, here is a Google map with an optimized Bergamo alta walking itinerary (just click on the map to open it).
Getting to Bergamo alta is quite straightforward: you get out from the railway station and take Bus #1 (here is the link to the schedule), which will take up to the old town in less tahn 15 minutes. However, in my view the best way by far to get to Bergamo alta is to go to the top of Viale Vittorio Emanuele and take the little funicular railway (there a bus stop in front of it). The funicular trundles up past terraced gardens and smart 18th-century villas, ﬁnally disappearing under those thick Venetian walls to emerge in the old town.
Before getting out from the funicular station, pay a look at the Caffè della Funivia terrace and enjoy the beautiful view on the plain.
Bergamo in one day – stop 1: Santa Maria Maggiore and Piazza Vecchia
Out of the funicular station turn left, walk up via Dinizetti and, suddenly and rather unexpectedly, burst into Piazza del Duomo (cathedral square). Here you will will find two churches: the rather unimpressive cathedral, the astonishing Santa Maria Maggiore and the cappella Colleoni. On your right, the 1340 baptisery completes the square.
Bartolomeo Colleoni, a captain under the Venetian Republic, chose this prestigieous side for his tomb and demolished the sacristy of S. Maria Maggiore to get space for his own mausoleum. This explains the fairly particular look of S. Maria Maggiore façade.
Step into S.Maria Maggiore and – wow! – you will be astonished by the contrast between the Romanesque outside and the opulence of the interior. Notice Gaetano Donizzetti tomb and the 18th century wood carved confessional.
Visit the two curches and the Colleoni chapel, then cross the Palazzo della Ragione arches and get to Piazza Vecchia. 19th century writer Stendhal said this was ‘the most beautiful place on earth’: you may not necessarily agree, but this old square still is a really enjoyable place to rest, maybe while sipping a coffee or an aperitivo at the historical caffè del Tasso.
Piazza Vecchia is exactly like you would imagine a medieval Italian square, with its old fountain, the fancy arches and columns of the civic library on one side and the Palazzo della Ragione (with a nice tower to climb) on the other.
Bergamo in one day – stop 2: lunch planning
If you are tired or if it’s already lunch time (or both…), you may sit under the Donizzetti restaurant loggia, and enjoy tasty Bergamo cuisine. Local delicacies include:
- Casoncelli (aka Casoncei), sort of ravioli served with butter-fried sage and garlic
- Polenta Taragna, a mixture of cornmeal and buckwheat flour, which gives it the characteristic dark color, mixed with butter and casera cheese.
- In case Polenta Taragna is not enough for your appetite, you can top it with sausages (salsiccia), local funghi porcini or rabbit stew.
- Polenta e Osei: the Bergamo signature dessert, of course inpired by Polenta and invented in relatively recent times. It is made from sponge cake, chocolate, butter, hazelnut creams and rum.
Otherwise, if weather is nice, you could get a pic-nic basket (a real one!) at the Vineria Cozzi, in via Colleoni, left from Piazza vecchia, and have a lovely open air lunch at the Rocca or, even better, in Piazzale Sant’agostino park.
Bergamo in one day – stop 3: via Gombito and torre del Gombito
Once you are done with your aperitivo or lunch, walk down via Gombito until the 50 meters tall Gombito tower. Turn right to have a look at the delightful lavatory and its nice hidden square, then continue to piazza del mercato delle scarpe (shoes market square). Yes, you’ve already been there, this is the funicular arrival.
Two options here: if you still want to walk (or if you are having your pic-nic in Piazzale Sant’Agostino), walk down Via di Porta Dipinta, otherwith head left to Via alla Rocca
Bergamo in one day – stop 4: San Michela al pozzo vecchio and convento di Sant’agostino
Very few tourist walk down this way, which is indeed a good reason to go! The first church you will find on your right is San MIchele al Pozzo Bianco. It dates back to the 8th century and hosts amazing frescoes, including some by Lorenzo Lotto.
Continuing on via Porta Dipinta you will get to the 14th century Augustin Monastery (now Bergamo University) and the lovely piazzale san’Agostino, with its large meadow and beautiful views on the Rocca (Bergamo fortress).
Bergamo in one day – stop 5: the Rocca (Bergamo fortress)
Continue on via della fara, with nice views from the Venetians city walls over the valley, and then left to Via San Lorenzo, Piazza Mercato del Fieno and via Solata. This will bring you to the Rocca, Bergamo fortress. It’s a relaxed place, now an open air first WW museum, with nice views over the town and the mountains.
Bergamo in one day – stop 6: via Colleoni and Cittadella
Back to via Gombito, walk straight to via Colleoni, the busiest street of upper Bergamo. It will lead you to Piazza della Cittadella, once part of a second, bigger fortress, built by the Visconti in the 14th century.
This could be the end of your tour. Just outside the Citadella you will find your bus back to the station.
However, if you still have energy you can walk along the city walls and walk down to porta San Giacomo, which will lead you to lower Bergamo. It’s an enjoyable but rather long walk.
Savy traveller tip
Bergamo is a lovely city, and it deserves a relaxed visit. Unfortunately the upper town gets fairly crowded over the week ends and, often, in the afternoons.
So if you manage to get there early (around 9:00 AM in Summer time is fine) you will enjoy Bergamo is the most appropriate way. Alternatively, what about spending a night in Upper Bergamo? Enjoy the Sunset from the city walls, sip an aperitivo in piazza Vecchia, dine in one of the night restaurants and sleep in an upscale hotel… at half the price you would pay in Milan!
Two really nice hotels worth considering are:
- Relais san Lorenzo: top end hotel, recently opened just outside the Cittadella. Great SPA and gorgeous views. Click here to get more info.
- Gombit hotel: gorgeous hotel adjacent the Gombito tower. You can’t find anything more central! Modern design and old stone walls create a really original and pleasant atmosphere. Click here for more info.
Hope this was helpful.
Enjoy your One Day trip to Bergamo!