Bergamo is a hidden gem of a city in Northern Italy radiating with charm, history and culture. You won’t find Bergamo listed in many guidebooks or typical Italian itineraries, which is exactly why we wanted to go, and oh was it worth it.
This fall, we spent 10 days off the typical tourist path in Northern Italy. (Read my post on our complete Northern Italy itinerary here.) Located about an hour northeast of Millan, Bergamo is divided into two parts- a lower and upper city. The upper city, called the Città Alta, is surrounded by Venetian Walls built in the 1500’s, which were named a UNESCO world heritage site in 2017.
We rented an AirBNB in Città Alta, and spent the weekend exploring the history of the city, the Piazza Vecchia, taking in churches, lots of wine and some amazing food. Bergamo was my husband’s favorite city on the trip, and we would definitely go back.
To do in Bergamo:
QC Terme Thermal Spa at San Pellegrino:
The Bergamo area was the first stop on our Italian itinerary, and we wanted to immediately wash away the international travel grime and stress. Since we arrived in the morning and couldn’t check into our AirBNB until later, we headed to the thermal baths at the QC Terme Thermal Spa in San Pellegrino. The town of San Pellegrino is about a 30 minute-drive from Bergamo, and as you may have guessed, is where they make the famous San Pellegrino sparkling water.
I’ll be honest, I’m not typically one who seeks out spas when I travel to Europe, but this place was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. There’s a reason why I listed this place first on the list, and I HIGHLY recommend a visit. The QC Terme Spa at San Pellegrino is tucked away in the scenic hills of San Pellegrino, and consists of multiple floors of different steam rooms, saunas, outdoor pools, jetted tubs, foot baths, etc. We spent half a day wandering and relaxing through the different water features and still didn’t experience it all. We purchased a day pass with the included lunch, which was also exquisite.
Piazza Vecchia in Bergamo
The Piazza Vecchia is central city square in Bergamo’s Citta Alta, and is really the heart of Bergamo’s rich history, bustling shops and restaurants and the stunning architecture of another century. In the mornings, we’d stroll to the Piazza Vecchia, grab a croissant and a cappuccino and leisurely sip our coffee and watch visitors and residents alike pass through the square.
The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore
The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggioreis located steps away from the Piazza Vecchia in Bergamo. The basilica was constructed in honor of the Virgin Mary in the twelfth century. Spend some time admiring the elaborate architecture and art in one of Northern Italy’s most impressive churches.
San Vigilio Castle
The ruins of the San Vigilio Castle sit high above Bergamo, providing a strategic vantage point over the centuries. Hop on the funicular near the Piazza Vecchia that will take you from Citta Alta, and you’ll arrive at San Vigilio in a few short minutes. Spend a couple hours hiking around the castle ruins and admiring the most breathtaking views that overlook the entire city. Stop in for some pizza at one of the restaurants at the top of the hill, enjoy a glass of wine and linger over your lunch only in the way Italians do.
Opera at the Teatro Donizetti
If it works in your schedule, catch a performance at the Donizetti Theater near the Piazza Vecchia. We did not have the opportunity to attend the opera while we were in Bergamo, but the square was bustling with locals dressed in their opera-best prior to a weekend performance. As we walked through the streets near the theater, we saw older Italian couples walking arm-in-arm toward the theater in their evening dress as an accordion player softly played Italian music in the background. Minus the spaghetti, it felt it could have been a scene straight out of Lady and the Tramp. Bella notte.
To Eat in Bergamo:
It’s not secret that I mostly travel to eat and drink, and for obvious reasons Italy is one of my all-time favorite destinations. Luckily, the food scene is Bergamo does not disappoint.
Da Mimmois one of the most well-known restaurants in Bergamo, located in the Citta Alta. They restaurant has a large patio, and it certainly boasts a great atmosphere and a large menu. I would say the food was great, as all Italian food is, but my hubby’s meal was the shining star. He ordered the calamari, which was absolutely incredible. Strongly recommend!
Antica Trattoria La Colombina
This was my favorite restaurant we visited during our short weekend in Bergamo. The Antica Trattoria La Colombinamenu features some traditional Northern Italian dishes like risotto. Request a table on their outside terrace for some of the best views of the city. We enjoyed a romantic four-course meal and sipped down a bottle of wine as we watched the city lights twinkle all around us.
We popped onto to Al Donizetti’s charming patio for an afternoon appertivo, and we could have spent all day watching the weekend crowds shuffle by on the cobblestone streets. We did not actually order dinner here, but their menu looked divine, and we heard rave reviews.
The historical Pasticceria Cavour in the Citta Alta exude century-old charm and tradition and offers some of the most delectable pastries and sweets. We’d recommend heading to Pasticceria Cavour for your morning espresso, which you can take at the bar with the locals. Select your favorite croissants and pastries to-go and enjoy “picnic style” on the steps of the grand library overlooking the Piazza Vecchia.
To Stay in Bergamo:
If you only have a weekend in Bergamo, I strongly recommend staying in the upper city. It’s easily walkable to almost all of the sites and a great selection of restaurants/bars. The upper city in Bergamo may be one of the most picturesque locations I’ve ever been in my life and is quintessential Italy. There are plenty of affordable AirBNB options, and the one we stayed in was perfect for the weekend and boasted the most beautiful views.
If you have any questions about visiting Bergamo or if you have any experiences of your own from the city, please drop me a note in the comments below. I’m always happy to help when I can, and I love hearing from you.
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