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Bergamo

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Europe : Italy : Northwest Italy : Lombardy : Bergamo
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Bergamo [1] is a scenic town in Italy's Lombardy region.

Understand

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.

Get in

By plane

Bergamo is the location of the Orio al Serio International Airport [2] (IATA: BGY) (Phone number: +39035326323), an airport oriented around low-cost airlines (Discount_airlines_in_Europe). ATB no.1 bus to the city are €2.10 per trip, €5.00 for 24h ticket and €7.00 for a 3 days ticket. There is a ticket machine at the bus stop or you can buy the tickets at Tourist Information Point office [3]. You can find schedules and route maps on the site of ATB [4] the local mass transit authority.

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).

Note that buses can be both unreliable and not punctual. You'd better take the no.1 city bus 30 or 45 minutes before the time you actually have to be at the airport.

By train

Milan is about 50 minutes away by train. There is no train station at the airport in Bergamo. The 1-airport bus to Bergamo city, taking around 20 minutes, leaves you just in front of the train station. From Bergamo city regular trains to Milan, Lecco and Brescia, on to Verona and Venice. You can check schedules and fares on the website of the Italian Railways [5]. 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 [6]. Alternatively, you can leave them in the airport, but it's rather slow and works just in the daytime. 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.

By bus

Regular buses to Milan. You can check schedules and fares on the website of Autostradale [7]. 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. Here you can found a very interesting service: a Mini Electric car and Electric Bicycle rental that permit to visit the upper town without limitation of traffic circulation and pollution rules. Renting a car is possible for just €5 per hour or €39 a day.(http://www.eco-rent.it)

Get around

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. You can see a map of bus routes, schedules and fares on the website of the local mass transit authority [8] (in Italian). The ticket that you purchase for the funicular is valid for 75 minutes and you can reuse the same ticket for travel on the network, including the funicular to San Vigilio. 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.

See

  • The Piazza Vecchia - the heart of the old town, displaying a mix of medieval and Renaissance architecture. Piazza Vecchia is the genuine heart of the city. Its beauty and the balanced proportion of volumes and lines that make it unforgettable are not the result of the genius of some architect, but are due to its shaping by generations of Bergamask people, in a succession of art and history. Your eye is immediately drawn to the beautiful white marble Contarini fountain in the centre, and the alignment of the buildings along the two sides directs your sight towards Palazzo della Ragione (Palace of Reason) at the end of the square. The facade of this twelfth century building is dominated by the symbolic lion of Venice, a reminder of the centuries of historic, cultural and economic relations between the two cities. Standing tall in a corner is the Civic Tower, known also as the “Campanone”, or big bell, a landmark infused with civic meaning, as demonstrated by the 180 times the large bell tolls each evening to mark the ancient curfew. This square was the seat of political and administrative power until the nineteenth century, and is overlooked by Palazzo del Podestà, the residence of Venetian rulers, and the Town Hall, which can be identified by its impressive marble façade and which today houses the Civic Library.
  • The church of Santa Maria Maggiore - With its rich historical and artistic heritage the Basilica is the most important building in the city, and it was once held in such esteem that it was known as the “Chapel of the city”. When it was decided to build the church, partly to fulfil a vow made during an outbreak of the Black Death, the people of Bergamo chose a centrally located and easily accessed position on the site of the small church of Santa Maria. Work began in 1137 according to the project of a little-known “Master Frido”, whose effigy it is thought is represented by the bust of a bearded man which appears above the apse. The church, once used for baptisms, also served as a hall for civic assemblies. Towards the middle of the fourteenth century, Giovanni da Campione was given the task of building a monumental portal on the north side. He designed a porch supported by red marble lions, completed by a three-sided loggia featuring a statue of St. Alexander on horseback, to which a cusped tabernacle was added at the end of the century. The south porch is instead supported by white marble lions. The magnificent Romanesque interior was later transformed by sumptuous Baroque decorations.
  • The Colleoni Chapel (Cappella Colleoni) - The Colleoni Chapel (as the mausoleum is called today), built between 1471 and 1475, is a real gem which, although erected in rather a cramped location, delights and charms with its refined interplay of polychrome marble and façade decorations. With references to his life and personal features, the visitor is invited to discover the glory of Bartolomeo Colleoni. The interior is dominated by an equestrian statue of the condottiere atop two sarcophagi, one above the other. Bartolomeo Colleoni holds a baton of command, the original of which lies alongside his body in the tomb. The magnificence of Amadeo’s sculptures and the frescoes by Giovan Battista Tiepolo should not distract attention from the very beautiful tomb of his daughter Medea, on the left wall, who accompanies her celebrated father in his eternal sleep.
  • The Rocca - a walled stronghold which houses a museum
  • The Archeology Museum (Museo Archeologico)
  • The Science Museum (Museo Civico di Scienze)
  • The Donizetti Museum (Museo Donizettiano), Via Arena 9. Devoted to one of Bergamo's most famous sons, the composer Gaetano Donizetti
  • The Accademia Carrara [9], one of Northern Italy's most important collections of medieval, Renaissance and Baroque paintings.
  • GAMeC [10], the city's gallery of modern and contemporary art, which usually hosts several interesting exhibitions.

Do

  • Ride the funicolare from the Città Bassa up to the Città Alta. Easier than walking, and the views on the way up are spectacular.
  • Visit 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.
  • Walk down the quiet narrow streets of the old town.
  • Walk along the city walls for views across Lombardy.
  • Visit one of the several churches and art galleries.
  • Stroll in one of the pedestrian streets and enjoy shops and cafes.
  • Ride a mountain bike in the beautiful "Parco dei Colli" just behind the old town. You will feel as you are riding in the mountains.

Eat

For snacks, a drink or simply the great view, Cafe Funicolare in the city Alta Funicolare station. For lunch or an evening meal try Da Franco Ristorante Pizzeria (Via Colleoni 8 Bergamo Alta, Tel: 035238565 - closed Mondays) or Da Mimmo [11] - closed Tuesdays - both more than just a pizzeria.

Also worth a look is Il Sole, on the corner of Piazza Vecchia and Via Colleoni.

La Bruschetta, in the Citta Bassa, just off Porta Nuova is a good value restaurant/pizzeria in the cellar of a building and worth a mention.

Also in the Citta Bassa area La Ciotola is a good restaurant/pizzeria near the Mercure hotel.

For great ice cream try La Siesta [12] on Via Sant'Alessandro.

  • Giopi e Margi, Via Borgo Palazzo (in the residential area just a short walk from city center), [13]. 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.


Drink

  • 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. 7.00am - 02.00am daily, except Sundays. is a cool bar/restaurant with a long wine & cocktail list (including Champagne).
  • Ristoranti dei Mille... saporti, [14]. A selection of restaurants by the local Chamber of commerce offering a typical menu. Refer to the site to know dishes and prices.


Sleep

Città Alta (Old Town)

  • Bergamo Charme B&B's, [15]. 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.

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), 00393343841994, [16]. checkin: noon; checkout: 11AM. Bed & Breakfast and residence with confortable double rooms or apartments for 2-4 people.
  • B&B Fragolino, Via Bartolomeo Bono 25 (near town center and main station), 0039-3349038874, [17]. checkin: flexible. B&B/Hostel with great atmosphere, modern and comfortable rooms, courtyard, WiFi, flat screen and Playstation.
  • Mercure Palazzo Dolci.
  • Best Western Capello d'Oro.
  • Mercure Palazzo Dolci.
  • 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 Jolly, Via G. Paleocapa.
  • Hotel Donizetti, Aldo Moro 28, Lallio. Donizetti Hotel is located near Bergamo, and access to the motorway linking Milan and surroundings
  • NH Bergamo, Via Paleocapa 1/G, +39 035 2271811, [18]. Located in the modern area of the city, this hotel prides itself on its top quality services. The rooms are very modern yet comfortable with wifi and family rooms also available. From 90€.

Stezzano

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), 00390354379300, [19]. checkin: noon; checkout: 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), 0039035591710, [20]. checkin: noon; checkout: 11AM. Another quality four star hotel with prices lower than city accommodation. Good decor, well equipped rooms.

Get out

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 [21]. Then take a ferry to Montisola [22].
  • Crespi d'Adda [23] 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.
  • San Pellegrino Terme The most important spa resort in the area, made famous by the sublime quality of its waters, is San Pellegrino Terme. Situated only 25 kilometres from Bergamo, in the midst of mountain scenery in the Brembana Valley, San Pellegrino became a fashionable and very popular resort during the unrepeatable Belle Époque period. Already by the early twentieth century, San Pellegrino Terme was equipped with buildings and services that amazed visitors and helped to spread its fame. The Casino complex dates back to 1904, and has a spectacular entrance, a monumental staircase and very beautiful rooms, including a ballroom. The Spa building alongside, surrounded by gardens, had rooms and porticos in which the abundance of marble, mosaics and splendid windows was accompanied by state-of-the-art spa facilities and services. The colossal Grand Hotel, built in 1905 and with a façade of some 128 metres, overlooks the River Brembo. The art nouveau style was associated with the taste and joy of living of a cosmopolitan society.Stories of luxury, queens and princes.A holiday destination for high society at the beginning of the twentieth century, San Pellegrino offered the best in comfort and luxury. Artists, politicians, entrepreneurs as well as princes and descendents of the various ruling houses came here from all over Europe. The visitors’ book of the Grand Hotel included some of the most grandiose names of the time, including Queen Margherita of Savoy, who was a guest at the beginning of the twentieth century, and later Queen Elena together with Prince Umberto and Princess Maria. The pretext for visiting was the health cures, but the main attraction was the good life, the entertainment and the gaming tables of the Casino. Amid parties, theatre performances, concerts, country walks, coffee and patisseries, the days of elegance and good living passed in a carefree manner. The Casino remained open until 1917, but was then closed, although it continued to be used for shows and performances. Excellent for combating kidney stones, liver and digestive conditions, the waters from the springs of San Pellegrino have been known since the Middle ages, but it was only in the eighteenth century that their therapeutic properties were recognised and exploited. Towards the end of the same century and at the beginning of the twentieth century, the town became a first-class thermal centre. The Great War marked a decline in the baths, but the excellent springs were developed further, and today Sanpellegrino bottled water can be found on tables throughout the world.
  • Sant'Omobono Imagna The thermal resort of Sant’Omobono Imagna, the largest town in the Imagna Valley, is situated in the heart of the Orobie mountains. The properties of its thermal waters were cited for the first time in a monography dated 1772. They are sulphurous waters, which in the last century were considered among the best known at the time. The thermal centre and springs were relaunched when an elegant late nineteenth-century residence, located nearby, was restored. Today this spa with its wellness centre attracts guests in search of relaxation and better health. The area is characterised by interesting Karst phenomena that have given rise to caves of extraordinary beauty, such as the Tomba dei Polacchi (Grave of the Polish) which reveals traces of occupation dating back to the Bronze Age.
  • Trescore Balneario The origins of another very well-known thermal centre are even older. The springs of Trescore Balneario, situated in Val Cavallina and an important connection between Bergamo and Lake Iseo, were probably discovered by the Romans, who exploited the therapeutic properties of the sulphurous waters that emerged in the heart of the valley. These springs continued to be used even after the fall of Rome. One of the most illustrious visitors to the hot springs was Bartolomeo Colleoni, the famous condottiero, who reconstructed the thermal baths in the medieval monastery on the old Roman road that linked the Po plain to the lake and the Camonica Valley. In the nineteenth-century it was used by increasing numbers of guests, and this was due in part to the fame it acquired due to the presence of the several well-known personalities, including Giuseppe Garibaldi. The thermal complex, situated in the centre of a vast park, is today visited by people wishing to receive treatment for respiratory system conditions and diseases of the circulatory system and skin. A visit to nearby Chapel of Villa Suardi, frescoed by Lorenzo Lotto, is an absolute must.



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