With Lake Como and Milan just around the corner, many tourists unsuspectingly ignore the northern Italian city of Bergamo. And that's a shame, because the citta dei mille has so much to offer.
Piazza Veccchia is almost too Italian to be true on this summer morning: on the terrace of Pasticceria Del Tasso, an elderly couple is enjoying their daily caffè e cornetto, a businessman standing at the bar drinks a quick espresso and strides across the square. a priest in habit to the Campanone, the bell tower that casts its long shadow over the heart of the Città Alta.
Bergamo is the capital of the province of the same name and is located 50 kilometers from Milan, on the foothills of the Alps, more or less wedged between Lake Garda and Lake Como. Although the city is closer to Munich than to Rome, the medieval hilltop town center in particular is unadulterated Mediterranean with its many squares, winding streets and ancient palazzos.
The best way to reach the historic center is by funicolare, a funicular that climbs steeply up the hill from the Città Bassa, past backyards with swimming pools and under bridges with geraniums. When the train comes to a screeching halt, you are just short of the top of the hill.
It is occupied by the Citadella and it is from the walls of this 16th century fortress that the Città Alta unfolds in all its glory. The casemates no longer have a military function for a long time. Today they house a number of museums, and where cannons once thundered, flowers now grow, children play and students bend over a book.
Wandering through streets, past religious murals and splashing fountains, tourists almost automatically end up in Piazza Vecchia, the most beautiful square in the city with the imposing Palazzo della Ragione, the Bergamo Cathedral and the Santa Maria Maggiore.
In the latter church is buried the famous Italian opera composer Gaetano Donizeto, whose work is regularly performed in the square on summer evenings. Plenty of culture, but people watching and tasting the atmosphere is also possible, for example from one of the many terraces on the square with a delicious cappuccino or a refreshing Aperol Spritz.
If you still have energy after a day of strolling, you can leave old Bergamo through one of the 4 city gates (the most beautiful is the southern Porta San Giacomo) and walk down to the lower part of the city. As a reward, you will be treated to a beautiful panorama of Lombardy.