Bergamo is a city in Lombardy, a region of Italy, and the capital of the namesake province. One of the most scenic cities in Italy, it is located on and around a steep hill, green in the summer and white in the winter, complemented by pastel-coloured architecture, against the backdrop of nearby Alps. Its appeal to tourists is enhanced by the nearby Orio al Serio airport. Looking at its beauty, it is hard to believe Bergamo is also one of Italy's most industrialized cities, from which it derives its relative wealth.
Bergamo is a pretty town of some 120,000 people nestling in the foothills of the Alps. Widely acclaimed as a city of rare beauty, Bergamo is famous for its wealth of artistic treasures and enchanting medieval atmosphere. It is a real life tale of two cities: Città Bassa, the busy and modern lower city, and Città Alta, the upper city with its rich heritage of art and history.
Bergamo Orio al Serio Il Caravaggio International Airport ( IATA: BGY), phone: +39 035326323, at Bergamo is the 4th busiest airport in Italy, serving a wider area than just the province of Bergamo. It mostly hosts low-fare airlines, many of whom market it as an alternative to Milan's Malpensa and Linate airports, and thus call it "Milan Bergamo". Many passengers get on a coach to Milan right after arrival, skipping Bergamo entirely.
Airlines serving Milan are either point-to-point low-fare carries like Ryanair or Wizz Air, as well as holiday charters going either to Italy from other European countries, or from Bergamo to warmer holiday destinations in the Mediterranean. If you would rather travel on a major airline, your only choice are the two daily flights to Munich Airport, operated by Air Dolomiti, where the Lufthansa-owned carrier connects to the Star Alliance network of European and intercontinental flights. Note that Munich is denoted Monaco in Italian when searching for the flights.
From the airport to Bergamo
Bus line 1 operated by the city's public transit authority ATB runs between the airport and important points within the city, such as the train station or the lower station of the funicular. Tickets are €2 per trip, €4.50 for 24h ticket and €7 for a 3 day ticket. There is a ticket machine at the bus stop. You can find schedules and route maps on the site of ATB, the local mass transit authority.
Buses can be both unreliable and not punctual. You may want to take the no.1 city bus 30 or 45 minutes before the time you actually have to be at the airport. Cabs will take about 15 min but are quite expensive given the length of the journey - cost around €15 (€21 after 21:00 in the evening)
If you are at the airport and your destination is Milan or Venice, just take one of the regular coaches. However be warned that the autostrada connecting Bergamo and Milan carries a lot of trucks and gets easily congested - do not therefore rely on the 'stated' journey time especially on weekdays. An alternative is to take the bus into Bergamo (see above) and take the train.
Bergamo's train station ( Stazione Bergamo FS - FS stands for Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, the state-owned Italian railway company operating from the station) is at the southern end of the lower city centre. There are regular trains to Milan (50 min), Lecco and Brescia, where you can change to trains towards Verona and Venice. There is no left luggage office at the train station but you can leave your bags just 50 metres outside in the automatic left luggage behind URBAN CENTER and behind McDonald's. Alternatively, you can leave them in the airport, but it's rather slow and works just in the daytime.
The bus no. 1 from the airport to Bergamo city, taking around 20 minutes, leaves you just in front of the train station. You can check schedules and fares on the website of the Italian Railways.
Regular buses to Milan. You can check schedules and fares on the website of Autostradale. The trip takes approximately one hour, depending on traffic conditions. The bus stop in Bergamo is located near the train station and there is a counter where inquiries can be made. Alternatively, you can take advantage of the direct bus connections to the Orio Al Serio airport from Brescia, Milan, Milan Rho fairgrounds, Milano Malpensa Airport and Turin.
When travelling on the bus down the Autostrada A4 just south of Bergamo, you cannot miss the long red wall of Kilometro Rosso, a uniquely designed industrial park housing in.al. the headquarters of Brembo, the world-renown brakes manufacturer.
The town is not large, and most of the sights can be seen comfortably on foot. To get from the Città Bassa up to the Città Alta can be quite tiring on foot, though, due to the steep and winding streets, but there is a funicolare (or cable railway) linking the two parts of the town.
By public transit
The city's public transit authority is called ATB (Azienda Trasporti Bergamo) and provides a comprehensive website in English. ATB operates a number of bus lines, two funiculars and a tram line.
ATB's ticketing system is a complicated zone-based affair, with single-ride tickets starting at €1.25. Basically, the city centre is all in Zone 1 (24h ticket for the entirety thereof is €3.50), but if you plan to get or from the airport the best what you can do is the get the "All Zones" ticket (€5.00 for 24h and €7.00 for 72h). Those tickets also include both funiculars and allow you to travel with luggage.
Tickets can be purchased from automated or manned points of sale throughout the town - most importantly, at the train station, the airport, Porta Nuova and the lower station of the Citta Alta funicular.
Bus line 1
The most important bus line for tourists is #1, as it connects the airport with the railway station, the Citta Alta and several other points of interest. The important stops are:
- Aeroporto for airport
- Orio Center for the shopping centre opposite the airport
- Stazione FS for the main railway station
- Porta Nuova for the centre of Citta Bassa, some buses stop there and don't go to Citta Alta
- Stazione Inf. Fonicolare for the lower station of Citta Alta funicular
- Stazione Sup. Fonicolare for the upper station of Citta Alta funicular
- Colle Aperto northwestern terminus for buses doing the full route, at the lower station of the funicular to San Vigilio
The journey from Aeroporto or Orio Center to Colle Aperto takes not more than 25 mins (unless there is major traffic congestion), and within the city all of the stops are not more than 15 mins from each other. Buses leave the airport three times an hour from 6AM until midnight, which is complemented by two hourly departures from Orio Center on the other side of the Autostrada. Within the city, the intervals are 10 mins at daytime. On Saturdays ("Sabato") and holidays ("Festivo") the schedule is slightly less intensive, but still workable.
Do note that the route has a few variants, not always including the airport. Check the schedule and look for buses stopping at "Aeroporto". If you end up on a bus heading to Grassobbio, get off at "Orio Center", the shopping centre opposite the airport, and head to the airport via an underground passage under the Autostrada. The stop called "Orio al Serio" is for the village and is on the other side of the airport, from where you cannot get to the terminal, so make sure you do not get off there (wait for "Orio Center"). Buses to "Scanzo" and "Torre de Roveri" do not go anywhere the airport at all.
Lines 2-11 can be useful for getting around between other localities. Lines with numbers over 20 only run during weekdays and are mostly structure to handle peak hour traffic. Do take a look at the pretty extensive and exhaustive information at the ATB website, where you can find maps and schedules for all lines.
Tramway to Albino
There is a tram line denoted T1 which extends from the railway station northeast along the river Serio all the way to the city of Albino, bringing you closer to the Alps. It can also be used to get around Bergamo, but does not stop close to major attractions.
Walking from the train station to the Città Alta funicular station is pleasant and takes about 20–30 minutes. You can also walk from Città Alta to San Vigilio instead of taking the funicular, which will afford you great views of the surrounding areas, as well as the quaint narrow streets and houses along the way.
By public bike
Bergamo has a public bike system called La BiGi. It is run by Bicincittà and features 22 stations. It appears to be usable only after paying the yearly fee of €20 and between the hours of 6 and 23, so it might not be the best option for short visits.
- Piazza Vecchia. The heart of the old town, displaying a mix of medieval and Renaissance architecture.
- Santa Maria Maggiore. A 12th century church with later alterations.
- Colleoni Chapel (Cappella Colleoni).
- Rocca. A walled stronghold which houses a museum.
- Archeological Museum (Museo Archeologico).
- Science Museum (Museo Civico di Scienze).
- Donizetti Museum (Museo Donizettiano), Via Arena 9. Devoted to one of Bergamo's most famous sons, the composer Gaetano Donizetti.
- Museo Storico della Citta (San Francesco di Bergamo). A former convent now housing the museum of the history of the city of Bergamo
- Bergamo Cathedral (Duomo di Bergamo, Cattedrale di Sant'Alessandro). The surviving one of the two cathedrals once existing in the city, dedicated to Saint Alexander of Bergamo. Incidentally, this cathedral was originally devoted to Saint Vincent, but once the original Saint Alexander cathedral was torn down by the Venetians, the dioceses were merged under Saint Alexander's name. The cathedral has a classic Latin Cross layout, and has seen many renovations and refurbishments, the latest being the addition of the 19th century neoclassical facade.
- Palazzo Medolago.
- San Vigilio. A small hilltop village that can be reached on foot or by a second funicolare from Città Alta. It offers walks with spectacular views, and a ruined castle. Entry into the castle is free, and is part of a public park. Climb all the way to the top of the castle for more views.
The upper town is surrounded by stone walls, built in the 16th century by the Venetians, which survive to a large extent to this day. The four gates that led through the walls to the city do survive as well.
- Porta Sant'Agostino.
- Porta Sant'Allessandro.
- Porta San Giacomo.
- Porta San Lorenzo.
- Accademia Carrara. One of Northern Italy's most important collections of medieval, Renaissance and Baroque paintings.
- GAMeC. The city's gallery of modern and contemporary art, which usually hosts several interesting exhibitions.
- Piazza Vittorio Veneto.
- Santa Maria delle Grazie.
- Santi Bartolomeo e Stefano (San Bartolomeo). Baroque church built in the 17th century adjacent to the convent of the same name. Its interior has had many lush decorations added in the 18th century, as well as the chorus of the former church of San Stefano, which itself was torn down in the same period and by way of that merged into one parish.
- Teatro Donizetti.
- Teatro Sociale.
- Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia.
- Ride a mountain bike in the beautiful Parco dei Colli just behind the old town. You will feel as if you are riding in the mountains.
- Cafe della Funicolare, Via Porta Dipinta, 1 (In the city Alta Funicolare station.). For snacks, a drink or simply the great view.
- Da Franco Ristorante Pizzeria, Via Colleoni 8, ☎ . Closed Mondays. Try it for lunch or an evening meal.
- Da Mimmo, Via Colleoni 17, ☎ . Closed Tuesdays. More than just a pizzeria. Indeed ! Worth a visit for the quality of food and service.
- Il Sole, Via Colleoni 1 (on the corner of Piazza Vecchia and Via Colleoni.).
- Antica Trattoria dei tre Gobbi, 20 Via Broseta. A very good place to eat.
- La Bruschetta (in the Citta Bassa, just off Porta Nuova). A good value restaurant/pizzeria in the cellar of a building and worth a mention.
- La Ciotola, Viale Papa Giovanni XXlll, 86 (in the Citta Bassa area). A good restaurant/pizzeria near the Mercure hotel.
- Giopi e Margi, Via Borgo Palazzo 27 (in the residential area just a short walk from city center). Traditional restaurant serving lomabrdy cuisine is worth a visit if you fancy having an Italian meal not just pizza and pasta. Family run business is a well kept secret between locals.
- Il Circolino (right around the back of the Biblioteca Angelo Maj). Locals here play bocce and drink lanterna (a huge drink made of white wine and campari rosso).
- Bobino, piazza della Liberta. 7AM-02AM daily, except Sundays. is a cool bar/restaurant with a long wine & cocktail list (including Champagne).
- Ristoranti dei Mille... saporti. A selection of restaurants by the local Chamber of commerce offering a typical menu. Refer to the site to know dishes and prices.
As Bergamo is not as popular as some other destinations of Northern Italy, while being a major business hub and domestic tourism destination, it has a well-developed accommodation base at reasonable prices compared to e.g. Milan. The latter, being around 1.5 hrs away, can be a target of a day trip - a convenient option if you arrive on a flight to Orio al Serio airport.
Città Alta (Old Town)
- Bergamo Charme B&B's. A selection of B&B's in historical homes in Bergamo and its province. The quality mark is awarded by the Bergamo Chamber of commerce.
- Relais San Lorenzo (member of Small Luxury Hotels), Piazza Lorenzo Mascheroni 9/A. Begamo's #1 luxury hotel is a blend of modern design and historic remnants. Its highlight is the terrace, but the large and airy rooms earn a mention as well. That said, it can fall short of the luxury experience you may expect when it comes to service.
- GombitHotel, Via Mario Lupo 6. This design hotel is squeezed into a tall stone building. The simplicity of the design may not be to everybody's liking, especially when the design surprisingly gets in the way of practicality, and it turns out that the owners' idea of simple design is IKEA. Still, it is perhaps the most centrally-located hotel in the Citta Alta.
Città Bassa (New Town)
There are a number of good hotels in Citta Bassa - many on Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII (The main street from the station to the funicolare).
- B&B Romeo and Juliet, Via Zambonate 47 (in the centre of town), ☎ . Check-in: noon, check-out: 11AM. Bed & Breakfast and residence with cmnfortable double rooms or apartments for 2-4 people.
- B&B Fragolino, Via Bartolomeo Bono 25 (near town center and main station), ☎ . Check-in: flexible. B&B/Hostel with great atmosphere, modern and comfortable rooms, courtyard, WiFi, flat screen and Playstation.
- Best Western Capello d'Oro.
- Mercure Palazzo Dolci. Occupying a beautiful palazzo, the Mercure is a few steps from the train station and is quite modern on the inside despite the historic facades. The rooms are simple and most are painted deep blue, while the bathrooms are large and modern. The hotel generally earns good reviews and provides a good standard for a reasonable price.
- Excelsior San Marco Hotel. Great location offering a beautiful view of the Citta Alta from the breakfast terrace. Not exactly new, yet tons of character. Comfortable rooms, very clean, Wifi, flatscreen and a wide range of services. Great for business travel.
- Hotel Donizetti, ldo Moro 28, Lallio. Donizetti Hotel is located near Bergamo, and access to the motorway linking Milan and surroundings
- NH Bergamo, Via Paleocapa 1/G, ☎ . The NH is hidden behind the Mercure, in a modern building slightly recessed from the street. The rooms are slightly worn and dated, and their windows are small, but this is compensated by the commendable NH breakfast buffet and the location a few steps from the train station. From €90.
- Petronilla Hotel. The boutique hotel earns great reviews thanks to the commitment of the family running it, even if one can find their taste in decor a bit too eclectic.
- Arli Hotel, Largo Porta Nuova 12. A three-style hotel at the Porta Nuova, created by owners having a peculiar sense of style, but if you are looking for a decent and dependable accommodation in the centre of Bergamo, you can reply on the Arli.
- NH Orio Al Serio, Via Portico 75, Orio al Serio. The other NH in Bergamo is an airport hotel across the autostrada from the Il Caravaggio airport, which you can reach via an underground passage. The huge Oriocenter shopping centre is also adjacent. The hotel features simple rooms, large glazed lounge (if you want to pass time watching the cars on the autostrad). Breakfast is usually included in room rates and starts at 4 AM, a shuttle to the airport is available for EUR 5. To get to the city centre, take bus line 1 from the airport. It is a good option for those arriving on late or departing on early flights.
Stezzano is a commune 8 km south of Bergamo. It is very easily reached both by train and by bus. The train takes approximately five minutes and Milan is also easily reachable.
- Art e Hotel, Via Santuario 43, Stezzano (opposite the train station of Stezzano), ☎ . Check-in: noon, check-out: 11AM. Beautiful four star hotel at a price much lower than in the city centre. Modern rooms, television, mini-bar, leisure centre, spacious bathrooms
- Grand Hotel del Parco, Via Galeno 8, Stezzano (close to Piazza Liberta' in Stezzano), ☎ . Check-in: noon, check-out: 11AM. Another quality four star hotel with prices lower than city accommodation. Good decor, well equipped rooms.
Other places of interest around Bergamo
- The Bergamo area is in the foothills of the Alps, and has a handful of Ski resorts within a one-hour drive. Notable is the Brembana Valley which contains the resorts of Foppolo, Carona and San Simone.
- Lake Iseo, one of the smallest and less touristy among the Northern Italian lakes. Go by bus from the Bergamo bus station (opposite the train station) to Tavernola . Then take a ferry to Montisola .
- Crespi d'Adda is a planned industrial village between Bergamo and Milan. It has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List
- Como (one of the main cities at the shores of beautiful Lake Como is also accessible by train, but requires almost travelling back to Milan (you change at Monza). It is worth visiting from Bergamo and vice versa. The journey takes between one and a half and two hours.
- Stezzano At only 6 km from Bergamo, it is perfect for those who may want to visit Bergamo but stay in a more rural and peaceful setting. The town is well-equipped with nice cafes, two pizzerie, shops, two gelaterie and a bank.