Places to visit in Bergamo
Bergamo Airport, also known as Milan Orio al Serio Airport, is only 5 km away from Bergamo, a town popular for its charming attractions and various museums. Although Milan may have more to offer, Bergamo is an ideal spot for a weekend break, or a relaxing holiday. It is filled with many beautifully constructed buildings and other interesting sights. Visitors could also take a day-trip to the Bergamasque Alps, and explore these nearby mountains.
Bergamo may be described as being divided into two areas, the upper town and the lower town. The Città Alta is the upper town area, and this was the original location of Bergamo’s population, situated on a hilltop. This is the historic part of Bergamo, and is where most of the interesting buildings and tourist sights are located. This part of town is also surrounded by protective walls, which were once used in the olden days. The Città Alta is filled with narrow lanes which are pleasant to wander, and there is very little traffic interference.
More recently, the modern part of Bergamo was constructed, and this area is known as the lower town, or Città Bassa. It spreads out over the plain just below the upper town, and is more modern, as it was built in the twentieth century. Bergamo’s funicular train connects the Città Alta and the Città Bassa. It is fairly simple to travel between these two areas, as well as to explore the towns to their fullest extent. The upper town can be reached by the bus services of ATB as well. They leave from outside of Bergamo’s railway station. ATB buses to this area are yellow, and are marked as either Città Alta or Funicolare Superiore.
The Piazza Vecchia is the heart of the Città Alta, and is a wide open space between buildings of medieval and Renaissance architecture. It features a fountain, and is a favorite spot for a picnic, or refreshments are offered from several bars in the area. From the Piazza Vecchia, the Palazzo della Ragione can be admired. This is a medieval building dating back the 12th century, and connects the Piazza Vecchia to the little Piazza del Duomo. Visitors who enjoy the majesty of fine religious buildings should explore this area in detail, as it houses the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, the Duomo and the Colleoni Chapel and baptistery. The Santa Maria Maggiore is a magnificent building built in the 12th century, and one of the favorite buildings in Bergamo. Its interior is shaped in an octagonal dome, and its most fascinating feature may be a 1705 wooden confessional which was carved by Andrea Fantoni. Later editions to the church included some fine Flemish tapestries. The tomb of the famous composer, Donizetti, can be found at the back of this church. The Colleoni Chapel, or Cappella Colleoni, is a colorful building which was completed in 1476, and is also well worth a visit.
Bergamo has an assortment of museums which include various interesting collections and exhibitions. The Museo Storico is Bergamo’s local history museum, and is housed in the Rocca, a walled stronghold. The Museo Archeologico and Museo Civico di Scienze Naturali are situated in Piazza Cittadella, and are both museums of international quality. However, their display information is only written in Italian. An interesting woodwork museum is located in Almenno San Bartolomeo, named as the Museo del Falegname Tino Sana, and features a restored biplane which has a connection to Antonio Locatelli, who was a local aviator and explorer. Bergamo’s Museo Donizettiano is much loved by music fans, displaying artifacts and musical instruments of Donizetti. This museum is located at Via Arena, 9.
Another popular attraction in Bergamo is the Castello, which was once upon a time a magnificent fortress. The Castello can be found at San Vigilio, which is a small hilltop settlement above the upper town. This is also an area which offers some superb walking opportunities. A map of the short walks in this area is offered on ATB’s leaflet about their funicular transport. Bars and restaurants can be found in San Vigilio for refreshments.
Although a more modern area, the Città Bassa offers a few of its own attractions. The Donizetti Theatre is situated in the Porta Nuova district, and a striking art-deco construction is found up the Viale Antonio Locatelli, called the Palazzo dello Poste. There are four statues which depict Etruscan, Roman, papal and fascist Italy. If you would like to walk to the upper town, the starting point is a ten minutes walk to the left of Porta Nuova, among the surroundings of Largo Rezzana. This part of Bergamo is also well worth a visit, and is actually an original part of the Città Alta. There are some nice restaurants here, ideal for a leisurely break from sight-seeing.
Perhaps Bergamo’s most important attraction can be considered to be the Accademia Carrara, a 200-year-old art gallery. The Accademia is located outside the town walls on Via della Nuca, and features art work by the masters of Botticelli, Fra Angelico, Mantegna and Bellini.
More information about the sights and attractions in Bergamo is offered at the tourist information office on Via Gombito, from Piazza Mercato. The airport also has a tourist information office in its arrivals terminal, which is open every day of the week, from 08:00 to 23:00. This office offers free tourist information, as well as hotel booking services. Promotional material on Bergamo is available as well.