Charming towns and cities are a dime a dozen in Italy. But, Bergamo is special and one of the most underrated cities in the country, in my opinion. This is a guide of things to do in Bergamo, Italy – the country’s best-kept secret.
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26 Things to Do in Bergamo, Italy’s Best Kept Secret
The charming city of Bergamo is located in the Lombardy region of northern Italy and for years has been overlooked by tourism until being granted UNESCO World Heritage Status.
This quintessential Italian city is full of fun and delicious wonders that will not fail to tantalize your mind and soul. This guide will take you through 26 of the most amazing things to do, taste, and experience in Bergamo, Italy. If you happen to be in town visiting Atalanta Stadium for a game, this is a great guide to keep you occupied outside of the football match.
About Bergamo, Italy
Bergamo is a stunning city located in the Lombardy region of northern Italy at the foothills of the Alps. The city has an extensive history spanning 2000 years where it has seen rulers from the Romans, Atilla the Hun, Napoleon, and the Austrians since the Celtics first settled there. Finally, in 1859, Bergamo joined the Italian kingdom.
The city is in close proximity to many of northern Italy’s most renowned cities and tourist areas which has caused people to overlook Bergamo for years as most people simply fly into its international airport and jump on a bus directly to Milan or up to the mountain lakes of Como and Garda. Skipping Bergamo is such a shame, in my opinion.
Bergamo is split into two different parts- the old town, referred to as Citta Alta, and then the more modern part of the town which was largely built in the 20th-century. The Citta Alta is perched on top of a hill that overlooks the rest of the city and is connected by a funicular railway.
The impressive old town buildings have influences from the many rulers over its history as you’ll see with Venetian walls and medieval towers being some of the city’s highlights.
The Citta Alta’s Venetian walls gained the city UNESCO recognition in 2017 and as a result, tourism has exploded in the town as people add the picturesque city to their northern Italy itineraries.
This guide will take you through some of the best things to do in the city from the best things to eat and drink to the most amazing sightseeing in Bergamo, Italy.
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What if You Don’t Speak Italian?
I find Italian to be one of the most beautiful languages in the world and I wish I had the opportunity to learn it with ease and use it on my trips to Italy. As someone who goes to Italy frequently and impulsively, having a travel translator would be a huge benefit for me, personally.
Travis the Translator is a great device to tote along with you on your way to Italy… especially Bergamo! They have a variety of electronic translators available and offer over 100 languages, including Italian (and the language I am currently learning… Armenian). The software included is so advanced that it will assist you not only in translation but also in pronunciation.
If you’re someone who fears facing new languages or someone who merely travels once or twice a year and doesn’t have the time to invest in an immersive language course, Travis the Translator is an excellent resource to help you hone your skills or just get by when you’re on the road. It also makes for an awesome Christmas gift!
What to Do in Bergamo, Italy
Visit the Venetian Walls
Bergamo’s Venetian walls are what put this city on the map for tourists. Granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 2017, the walls are strikingly beautiful and are linked strongly with the cultural identity of the city.
The 6km network of walls surrounding the old city has largely stayed the same since the Republic of Venice built them in 1561 to protect the city for any advancing enemies. Thankfully, the walls never went under siege and were able to keep their immense beauty.
Bergamo’s walls are the perfect place for a walk around the city and are considered to be one of the most romantic places in Bergamo, with couples often sitting together on the walls to watch the sunset over the city. The network of walls is made up of more than just the visible exterior walls, with a network of tunnels and chambers spreading under the city (sometimes open for exploration).
See Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica
Santa Maria Maggiore is an impressive church built in the heart of the old town that is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Construction started on the church in 1137 after the town’s people prayed to the Virgin Mary to protect them from the plague that was ravaging most of Europe.
In return for protecting them, they built the stunning church in the ground where a Roman temple dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy had once stood. The exterior of the building is magnificent, although there is oddly no grand entrance to the church- just small entrances on the sides of the church.
The northern and southern entrances are guarded by marble lions- 2 red lions and 2 white lions. The interior of this grand Basilica is truly astonishing with many statues and giant frescos that have been painted over the centuries.
You can find the Santa Maria Maggiore Church at Piazza Duomo in Bergamo. The church can be visited for a small fee of around 3€.
Check out Cappella Colleoni
Cappella Colleoni is one of the most stunning buildings in the whole of Bergamo with red and white marble adorning the front of the building. The interior matches the exterior with its in-your-face beauty. There are plenty of amazing artworks and statues including a statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni, one of Bergamo’s most revered figures.
Colleoni was born in Bergamo to one of the most powerful families at the time and made a name for himself as a brutal mercenary, who fought in many battles throughout Italy. He eventually returned to his beloved Bergamo and lived the rest of his days out in this beautiful city.
After his death, a shrine was built in the Cappella Colleoni, where his remains are kept to this very day. The chapel is free to enter and well worth it. If you happen to be walking past the chapel at midnight, legend has it that if you rub the coat of arms on the chapel gate, good luck will be bestowed upon you.
You can find Cappella Colleoni at Piazza Duomo 5.
Head to the Temple of S. Croce
Tucked away in the midst of much larger buildings is the small Temple of S. Croce, built some time in the 11th-century (or possibly the 12th-century). The Romanesque chapel is octagonal in shape and packs a punch for its size. The inside of the tiny temple contains plenty of medieval frescoes depicting scenes from the life of Jesus.
Given the church’s proximity to the more well-known sites of Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica and the Bergamo Cathedral, this little chapel is often ignored. It wasn’t until the 1930s that anyone even bothered to restore the impressive artwork inside of the chapel.
Visiting the inside of the church is pretty much based on luck as there are no set opening hours or even days, but the outside of the church provides a nice rest from the crowds. You can find the Temple at Piazza Padre Reginaldo Giuliani 25 in Bergamo.
Walk the Streets of The Old Town
Take time to explore the winding streets of Citta Alta where there are plenty of gems hidden amongst the cobbled alleyways. The old town is teeming with cool little boutiques and local restaurants and bars. The magnificent squares each contain their own lovely buildings and monuments making it is hard not to be impressed.
If you are looking to learn more about the city while you walk around, you can take an amazing private walking tour of the old town where your informative guide will talk you through everything you see and take you to the best and most beautiful sites of Citta Alta.
Have Third Wave Coffee at Bugan Coffee Lab
Italy, in general, tends to buck the trend when it comes to specialty coffee, so finding a specialty coffee shop is always a highlight. Bugan Coffee Lab in Bergamo has two locations- one in the modern part of the city and the other in the old city.
Serving an amazing array of coffees from single-origin beans, coffee geeks like me will be blown away. Founded by a brother and sister who traveled the world and discovered amazing specialty coffee, the siblings wanted to bring this coffee culture back to Bergamo and, in the meantime, ensure the farmers and producers they met on their travels reaped the benefits of it.
They have two locations in Bergamo, the original location is close to the train station in the modern city which acts both as a coffee shop and barista academy. The second location is the Citta Alta and is a small coffee shop with a few seats along the edge of the room. The staff are incredibly knowledgeable about all things coffee and will help you select a bean variety that works for your tastes.
You can find the original Bugan Coffee Lab at Via Giacomo Quarenghi in Bergamo. You can find the Citta Alta location at Via Bartolomeo Colleoni 18.
Visit The Birthplace of Stracciatella Gelato
No trip to Italy is complete without eating copious amounts of Gelato. Gelato is delicious and luckily, Bergamo is the birthplace of one of the most famous types of ice cream- stracciatella. The vanilla ice cream with shavings of chocolate mixed through is one of the classics when it comes to gelato.
Originating in the restaurant La Marianna, the idea is based on a soup from Rome with the same name. The name means little shards and the gelato is created by pouring molten chocolate into ice cream as it churns, the chocolate solidifies upon contact and breaks into small shards as the ice cream continues to churn.
If you are wanting to find stracciatella’s birthplace, La Marianna can be found at Largo Colle Aperto 4 in Bergamo.
Ride the Funicular
Although there are now several ways to get up to Citta Alta, the coolest way to get up the old city is to take the funicular railway. There are two different funicular railways but I am specifically talking about the Citta Alta route. The funicular has been operating for over 100 years connecting the lower more modern part of the city with the old town.
Founded in 1887, the original route was powered by steam engines, however, now the route has been modernized but has kept a rustic feel to it. The ride now takes just a few minutes to travel 240 meters and ascend 85 meters, all while providing panoramic views of the modern, new city.
A single journey only costs 1.30€ with a return ticket being 2.60€. There is a ticket machine right next to the entrance where you can buy tickets, however, it is important to note that you need to pay with cash at the ticket office as they do not accept card payment. On busier days, you may have to wait in a queue to get on a funicular because they are small and space is limited.
You can find the funicular’s starting point at the lower station at Via Vittorio Emanuele II in Bergamo.
Consume a lot of Casoncelli
Pasta is prevalent throughout Italy with many regions and cities having their own pasta styles and sauces. Bergamo is no exception and is home to an incredible pasta dish called casoncelli, a stuffed pasta dish finished off in an amazing pancetta, sage, and butter sauce.
The filling has humble roots and is traditionally filled with bread crumbs, eggs, a type of ground meat and parmesan. The addition of parmesan is a newer development in an attempt to try and elevate this traditionally working-class dish. Casoncelli is available in most restaurants in Bergamo and is a must-try during your stay in the city.
Indulge on Polenta
Polenta is commonplace across most of Italy and many other parts of Europe and trust me, after spending any amount of time in Romania, you will be sick of the stuff. However, polenta in Bergamo is almost like an art form. It comes with nearly every dish and is available even as a side order just in case you felt like your dish lacked polenta.
Polenta in Bergamo is smooth and creamy and to be honest- delightful. I wish Italian breakfasts had such flavor. If you have a sweet tooth, check out polenta e osei, a delicious cake made from polenta that is very famous in the city. The prevalence of polenta is what makes Bergamo a great day tour from Milan!
Old Town Eats – Mimì • La Casa dei Sapori
Exploring the old town is guaranteed to cause you to become super hungry- a hunger that gelato alone can not satisfy. Mimi – La Casa dei Sapori is the perfect place to enjoy a bite for lunch or dinner. Serving a range of classic Italian dishes along with traditional dishes from Bergamo, there is something for everyone at this charming restaurant.
The staff are attentive and will do everything to make your meal special. The cold cuts and cheese platter is a great starter and really highlights the local specialties. For main courses, try out the rabbit with polenta or the stuffed cabbage rolls- both regional specialties that are delicious!
You can find Mimi – La Casa dei Sapori at Via Bartolomeo Colleoni 26 in Bergamo.
Modern Town Eats – La Taverna Valtellinese
If you are staying in the modern part of Bergamo, La Taverna Valtellinese is one of the best spots to eat in town. Decked out like a rustic lodge, you will instantly feel like you have been transported to an alpine skiing village.
The food is truly delicious, with daily rotating specials along with an incredibly robust standard menu. The staff is friendly and will help you select the best dishes. The restaurant also has a popular, unique dish of beef cooked on a pine stick that looks as aesthetically pleasing as it does delicious.
The restaurant also serves amazing casoncelli which was truly the highlight of my northern Italy trip. For wine lovers, the staff is all trained on which wines go best with each dish and will recommend the best wines possible.
You can find La Taverna Valtellinese at Via Gerolamo Tiraboschi 57 in Bergamo.
Have a Drink at Elav Kitchen & Beer
Despite Italy’s reputation as a wine powerhouse, there is an amazing beer scene that has risen out of the vines and is shining brightly. The Elav Kitchen & Beer is the brew pub of the Birrifico Indipendente Elav craft brewery and is located in the heart of Citta Alta.
They serve great beers along with tasty, traditional Italian food, in addition to common bar food. They have a rotating selection of draft beers and plenty of their own bottles of beer for you to drink your way through. For those who are looking to try a good range of beers, I recommend ordering a flight of four draft beers on tap.
My personal favorite beer from the brewery is their Techno Cybotronic Double IPA, a hard-hitting IPA at 8.9%- it really hits a sweet spot. You can find Elav Kitchen & Beer at Via Solata 8 in Bergamo.
Enjoy Coffee and Crepes at Bergamo Bistro
Close to the train station is an old-school, local bistro that is open all day. I visited the bistro in the morning and had a really good coffee as well as a tasty Nutella filled crepe. The interior of the bistro is slightly dated but the staff was friendly and extremely helpful.
If you are not feeling coffee and crepes, they sell a range of standard Italian dishes and have a well-stocked bar. The store also acts as a little convenience store with plenty of snacks and drinks available to take away. You can find the Bergamo Bistro at Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII 17 in Bergamo.
Check out the Campanone – Civic tower
Dominating the Piazza Vecchia is the Civic Tower, also known as the Campanone. Built somewhere between the 11th and 12th century, the tower stands proud at 56 meters high. It offers amazing panoramic views over the old town and the lower modern town and is home to the largest bell in Lombardy.
The bell rings daily at 10pm to pay homage to its old function as a way of reminding the town’s people to close the city gates. The tower is open to visitors for a small charge and to reach the top, you will need to either test your knees and endurance and climb the 230 steps to the top or there is a lift that will take you up in a bit more comfort.
You can find the Campanone, or Civic Tower, at Piazza Vecchia 8A in Bergamo.
Taste Local Bergamo Cheese
Cheese is one of the most wonderful foods in the world even though my intolerance to lactose hates me for writing this. I love nearly all types of cheese unless someone decides to be sacrilegious and ruin it with truffles. Not sorry at all for writing that.
For cheese lovers like myself, you will be happy to know that Bergamo is home to nine protected types of cheese… that’s right NINE. You will see places to buy cheese everywhere and for ridiculously reasonable prices.
I picked up a sizeable wheel of cheese for 4€ from a shop close to the Funicular station in Citta Alta. Most restaurants offer delicious cheese platters where you can try a range of local cheeses such as Bitto Dop, Agrì di Valtorta, or Formaggella della Val di Scalve. Bergamo’s rich cheese production is owed to the fact is located so close to lush pastures in the mountains which helps the production of palatable milk all year round.
Visit the Museum of Natural Sciences & The Archaeology Museum
Caffi Natural Science Museum and the neighboring Archaeology Museum are a great way to spend a rainy day or seek some shade from the scorching Italian summer. The Natural Science Museum is the perfect place to explore and learn all about the history of nature both locally and worldwide.
As you walk into the museum, you will be greeted by a giant wooly mammoth and as you journey through the museum, you will see and learn about many of the animals that have graced the earth from dinosaurs to more recently extinct species. Interestingly, most of the artifacts the museum owns are not on display and are used for research purposes.
Next door to the Natural Science Museum is the Archaeology Museum where you will learn all about the history of Bergamo and the surrounding area through this extensive museum. The collection has largely been donated over the centuries and due to the number of relics received, the museum had to keep upgrading in size in order to display many of the items.
For just 3€, you can visit both of the museums combined and children under 18 have free entry, making it the perfect place to visit if you are traveling to Bergamo with children.
Addresses for the museums: Natural Science Museum- Piazza della Cittadella 10 in Bergamo and Archaeology Museum0 Piazza della Cittadella 9 in Bergamo.
Go to Castello di San Vigilio
Bergamo is a city of many levels with the modern town on the lowest level followed by Citta Alta. Overlooking it all is Castello di San Vigilio. The hill has been fortified since at least the 7th-century although it is possible that due to the strategic location, it may have been fortified much earlier.
After centuries of housing the rulers of Bergamo and experiencing plenty of sieges, the castle has become a popular place for tourists to visit because the spacious grounds provide the perfect panoramic views over the old town along with the surrounding area.
The castle can be reached either by a steep walk or using the Funicolare S Vigilio. There is a secret underground tunnel that can be visited that links the castle with the San Marco fortress. You will need to do this via a specially arranged guided tour. To arrange this, it is best to inquire at the Bergamo tourism office in the old town.
Explore the Orto Botanico di Bergamo “Lorenzo Rota”
Orto Botanico di Bergamo is a small but beautiful botanical garden located above Citta Alta. Only accessible by stairs, 141 of them in total, you will climb above the old town and enjoy panoramic views along the way.
The gardens are home to an impressive array of plants. There are about 1200 different species of plants on display in three different sections: alpine, Lombardy and exotic. The gardens opened in the 1970s and were mainly used to display various examples of alpine plants.
In 1989, the gardens (in collaboration with the Natural Science Museum) expanded their range to what is in place now. You can find them at Scaletta Colle Aperto in Bergamo.
See the Tower of the Fallen
In the heart of Porta Nuova stands the glorious Tower of the Fallen, a tower built as a monument to remember those who died in World War One. The tower houses a six-story museum that takes you through this history of the lower half of Bergamo.
Starting from the ground level, the museum takes you up the building until you reach an observation deck where you can look out over the modern half of Bergamo and up to Citta Alta. The building itself is beautiful on the outside and has become the symbol of the beauty of the lower parts of Bergamo over the years.
You can find the Tower of the Fallen at Piazza Cavalieri di Vittorio Veneto in Bergamo.
Explore the Modern Half of Bergamo
Although the Citta Alta has many stunning and amazing sites, the modern part of Bergamo is just as worthwhile and there is plenty to see and do. Take some time just to wander through the streets around Porta Nuova, where you can discover green parks and churches.
There are also plenty of local business and cool little shops to pop into and peruse the items for sale. If you are looking to learn a little more, then you can take a private walking tour of the new part of town and explore the museums and sites with an informative tour guide. It will help you gain further appreciation for this amazing city.
Peruse Through Fondazione Museo di Palazzo Moroni
Palazzo Moroni is a fantastic 17th-century, Baroque-style palace located on the edge of Citta Alta. Inside the building, you will find incredible paintings by some of the region’s most renowned artists and painters. The collection is truly outstanding.
After you have finished exploring the inside of the house, take time to appreciate the lush gardens at the back of the house which is also home to an impressive 14th-century tower. There are often many cultural events held at the palace and it is classed as one of the cultural hubs of Bergamo.
You can find the Palazzo Moroni at Via Porta Dipinta 12 in Bergamo.
Have a Taste of M’Oro
M’Oro is a special Bergamo dessert created to honor the Venetian walls that surround the Citta Alta. The dessert is made from chocolate, hazelnuts, almond paste, and rum and is shaped like a brick wrapped in a delicate, golden wrapper.
Its creation also plays on the traditional dessert made from polenta called polenta e osei, using largely similar ingredients. M’oro is a pretty new creation that has come to existence in the early 2000s for the Milan Food expo.
Despite its young age, the dessert has grown in popularity and can be found in pretty much all of the bakeries in and around the old town and it makes a great little treat to take back from your time in Citta Alta
Check out the Torre del Gombito
You will notice that the Citta Alta skyline is a mix of random towers and turrets. Torre del Gombito is one of the most dominating of those towers. Standing at over 50 meters, the tower was built sometime in the 13th-century as a sign of military power during a period of instability in Bergamo.
Located at the crossroads of two of the main thoroughfares of the old town, its interesting name derives from a Latin word that either meant crossroads or numbering, with the old numbering system of the streets starting from the tower. The tower is open to the public, however, it is only open on Mondays and you must book in advance even though visiting the tower is free.
To book a visit to the tower you will need to call +39 035 242226. Groups are limited to a maximum of 10 people and you will need to be physically fit enough to climb the 263 steps to the top. However, once you reach the top, you will be gifted some of the most spectacular views over the city.
You can find Torre del Gombito at a Via Gombito 13 in Bergamo.
Guzzle on San Pellegrino Water in San Pellegrino
Probably the most famous brand of water in the world, San Pellegrino spring is located just outside of Bergamo. Prior to World War One, this little spa town was one of the most fashionable places to visit in Europe with Europe’s elite heading there in droves to enjoy the thermal baths and gamble the night away in the casino.
The town of San Pellegrino is full of many grand buildings which were built during its opulent heyday. Sadly, with the outbreak of war in Europe, the visitors stopped coming and the town fell into disrepair, despite the water bottling factory’s ability to thrive. The town has recently resurged thanks to the popularity of its water and many of the grand buildings that have been restored and the thermal baths have been improved with a luxury spa and wellness center.
There are more plans to bring this town back to its hedonistic years with the casino being refurbished to its former glory. To reach San Pellegrino you can take a bus directly from Bergamo, which takes just under 45 minutes.
Go on a Tasty Bergamo Food Tour
If you are wanting to experience the highlights of the Bergamo and its food world in a more organized fashion, I highly recommend taking a food tour of the city. Sure, there are many food tours in Milan, but there are also so many amazing and delicious specialties from nearby Bergamo that it’s hard to know which ones to try and where is the best place to get them from.
The tour organized by Do Eat Better Experience lasts for three hours and will take you to five of the best traditional food places. You will enjoy a range of dishes from casoncelli to stracciatella, along with classic Italian espresso and thirst-quenching wines. As you walk from place to place, you will learn all about the history and local culture of the city.
Where to Stay in Bergamo
There are many fantastic places to stay in Bergamo. I stayed in two different apartments while there. These are my recommended places to stay in Bergamo:
If you desire to stay somewhere near the airport and not in the city center, Foresteria Giulia is a wonderful option. There are a lot of local bars and restaurants in the vicinity of the apartment and the bathrooms are clean, spacious, and the beds are extremely comfortable. There is free coffee at the entrance.
While it is located outside of the city and closer to the airport, there is adequate public transportation available or it is a 30-minute walk into the Bergamo city center. A taxi to the airport is around 20€ if you flag one down.
–> For current rates and availability click here
Located near Porta Nuova is Donizetti Rooms, a wonderful budget hotel with spacious rooms and extremely comfortable amenities. The hotel has four bedrooms, two shared bathrooms, and a large living area with a balcony that is the perfect place to enjoy your morning coffee.
It is not located in the Old Town, but rather in the modern town but is accessible from most of the sights by foot. There are so many amazing restaurants and shops nearby. I really loved staying here simply for that fact!
Click here if you’re seeking Milan accommodation instead.
There are so many amazing things to do in Bergamo, Italy. It definitely is one of the most underrated places in Italy, without a doubt, and we hope that this guide will help you plan your trip a little bit better. Please leave us a comment or drop us a line if you have any additional questions.