Discover Bergamo in 24 hours
Try for yourself! Step by step between the two cities, there's always something to discover.
Bergamo, a city rich in art and history. This is one of the many definitions we find in guidebooks that corresponds to the truth, but it’s not enough if you wish to get to know a city intimately and not only in terms of what its museums and monuments have to offer. So, for a few hours, let’s put aside the guidebooks that talk about works of art, artists, monuments, personalities and historical dates, or, perhaps, use it later on in our visit, and try to get to know Bergamo by taking a walk together.
9.00 am - Urban Center
We begin our pleasant walk in the morning and, since Bergamo is divided into two (the town on the plain and town on the hill), dedicate the first part to lower Bergamo. After spending time at the new, extremely well-equipped Tourist Information Office in the Urban Center, we walk along the tree-lined avenue that starts at the station and head to Piazzetta Santo Spirito in the lower part of Via Pignolo, a very old street that leads to upper Bergamo. The atmosphere in the square is tranquil, and our eye is drawn to the facade of an unfinished church. Inside, we find the splendid altarpiece by Lorenzo Lotto.
10.30 am - via Tasso
This is the elegant road that leads from Piazza S. Spirito towards the city centre. It is lined with majestic buildings and shops. The left-hand side is dominated by the Provincial Authority building and, further ahead, by the former Town Hall, both built in the second half of the nineteenth century. The road ends at the Church of San Bartolomeo (on the right), which houses the valuable Martinengo Altarpiece, again the work of Lorenzo Lotto.
|9.00 am||10.30 am|
|Urban Center||Via Pignolo||Lorenzo Lotto||Church of San Bartolomeo|
11.00 am - Sentierone
Here, one of Bergamo’s best known areas begins. It is known as the Sentierone (large path) after the ancient path crossing it that connected the district of Pignolo with that of San Leonardo. This light, spacious area is the place where Bergamo’s inhabitants like to meet for their traditional walk. The Donizetti Theatre (on the left) is one of the area’s most important buildings.
11.30 am - Some shopping and lunch! Via Venti Settembre and the surrounding area
Via Venti Settembre, Bergamo’s traditional shopping street, begins after the columns of the Sentierone. The road leads to an open space, which on the left opens up onto characteristic Piazza Pontida, once the heart of intense trading activities, and on the right onto Via Sant’Alessandro, which climbs towards upper Bergamo - there are also many stores in this street and an almost uninterrupted series of shop windows until the upper part of the street.
After admiring the medieval Vicolo delle Torri, on the right, and the Monastery of San Benedetto (an gateway leads to a miniscule frescoed cloister - a small gem) and a beautiful sixteenth-century church, we leave Via Sant’Alessandro by the adjacent Via Botta, which leads into Viale Vittorio Emanuele. We climb for a few hundred metres before arriving, at the end of a wide bend, at the funicular railway station.
|11.00 am||11.30 am|
|Donizetti Theatre||Via Venti Settembre||Piazza Pontida||via Sant'Alessandro|
2.00 pm - The funicular railway and Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe
We take this unique vehicle and, after a few minutes spent climbing the hill and admiring the continuously changing panoramic views, arrive in hilltop Bergamo, in Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe, a pretty starting point for going in discovery of the old city.
The start of Via Gombito lies on the other side of the square and, at the crossroads between Via Lupo and Via San Lorenzo, the very tall Gombito Tower (52 metres) can be seen.
2.30 pm - The history museums
Near the Gombito Tower, we can make a slight detour towards Piazza Mercato del Fieno, which is the site of the city’s History Museum. Another history museum, specialised in the history of the Risorgimento, is found instead inside the Rocca (fortress), a medieval bastion reached by a small road leading from Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe, which offers wonderful views of the surrounding town and countryside.
|2.00 pm||2.30 pm|
|The Funicolar||Piazza Mercato delle scarpe||
3.30 pm - Piazza Vecchia e piazza duomo with their exquisite buildings
After returning to the Gombito Tower and passing the crossroads, the road opens out like a stage-set into magical Piazza Vecchia, an extraordinary place, considered one of the most beautiful squares in Italy.
In the fifteenth-century square, your eye is immediately drawn to the Contarini Fountain in the centre, and the lines of the buildings on the two sides (on the right is the Palazzo del Podestà) converge towards the Palazzo della Ragione (literally Palace of Reason – the old courts of law) with its majestic Venetian lion on the façade, which marks the end of the square. In a corner stands the Civic Tower, known also as the Campanone (large bell tower). The imposing marble façade of the Civic Library, instead, gives this building a distinctive air.
Another area can be seen beyond the portico beneath the Palazzo della Ragione: this is Piazza del Duomo. This square is overlooked by the Cathedral dedicated to Bergamo’s patron saint, St. Alexander; the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, with its austere Romanesque exterior hiding a sumptuous Baroque interior; the Colleoni Chapel, a Lombardy Renaissance masterpiece that Giovanni Antonio Amadeo built for the great condottiero captain Bartolomeo Colleoni, and the Baptistery.
Palazzo della Ragione
5.00 pm - Donizetti Itinerary
One of the two entrances of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore faces Via Arena which leads into Via Donizetti. Both these streets have close ties to the famous composer Gaetano Donizetti. Via Donizetti is where he died, while Via Arena is home to a museum dedicated to his memory. The roads, together with the tomb inside the Basilica and his birthplace in Via Borgo Canale, complete the itinerary of this famous and much-loved Bergamask composer.
6.30 pm - Colle Aperto
After Piazza Vecchia, following the main road of Via Colleoni, you come across the Teatro Sociale (Social Theatre) designed by Leopoldo Pollack, Piazza Mascheroni with its Bell Tower, and the Citadel along with the Civic Archaeology Museum and the Natural Science Museum. This area leads to Colle Aperto, where public transport buses and coaches filled with visitors arrive.
Hill of San Vigilio
|View from the Civic Tower|
Dinner with a view over the Hill of San Vigilio
Before leaving you, we have a final suggestion: continue your visit by taking the second funicular railway, located a few dozen metres from Colle Aperto, up to the Hill of San Vigilio. This hill offers extraordinary panoramic views and unforgettable moments, particularly in the evening when thousands of lights from the plain below flicker in the distance.
And to end your evening? There are many bars in upper and lower Bergamo and the surrounding districts where you can listen to good music while drinking a glass of DOC ValCalepio wine.