When you think Italy, what cities come to mind? I already know the answer: Rome, Florence, Venice…the usual go-to cities when your destination is the fabulous Italy. While these are all great cities and are popular for a reason, I was lucky enough to discover a hidden gem of a city that should be at the top of your list when traveling to Italy. Bergamo is by far my favorite city in Italy. If someone told me I could live there, I would have my bags packed in ten minutes (okay, maybe more like three hours, but I have a serious overpacking problem). One of the coolest things to note about this magnificent city is that it has two parts: La Città Alta and La Città Bassa. La Città Bassa, or “low city,” is the part of the city that is at ground level, while La Città Alta, or “tall city,” is that part that is raised above the rest and gives you the most breathtaking views.
So, how exactly do you get from Bassa to Alta? There are buses that take you up, but why do that when you can take the funicolare? The funicolare is an adorable little cable car run by one man throughout the entire day and is honestly one of my favorite parts of Bergamo. As you ascend, the view becomes better and better and if you’re a quick photographer you can snag a few photos on your way up!
Once you reach the top, you can explore this little slice of heaven. If you go on a weekday, preferably in the fall when there are mostly Italians and no tourists, you will find that you never want to leave Bergamo. You could spend hours going up and down the narrow little streets that somehow manage to fit cars, but not without grazing your body as they pass by of course! There is really no right or wrong way to go. I went down as many different streets and paths as I could, though some may have been a little off limits! Anything for the view though, am I right? Some key spots to hit definitely include Caffè del Tasso, Mimi la Casa dei Sapori, and Santa Maria Maggiore. Caffè del Tasso is easily one of my favorite places in Italy. As soon as you walk in, you feel like you’ve gone back in time. I don’t know how else to describe it, so you’ll just have to see for yourself! If you’ve never had European hot chocolate, you’re in for a real treat since it is basically a steaming cup of thick melted chocolate–my mouth is literally watering. If you’re not into that, a simple cappuccino will do. Mimi la Casa dei Sapori is a perfect dinner spot. It’s important to remember Italians like their down time and are firm believers in taking breaks here and there. So when you’re walking around aimlessly wondering why no restaurants are open for dinner until 6:00 p.m. or later, keep this restaurant in mind. This was one of the only places that served dinner a little on the earlier side, but it may have been one of my best meals in Italy. I had the most amazing homemade ravioli with a sage and butter sauce; please order it. Perhaps even order it twice. For one meal.
Santa Maria Maggiore is a gorgeous basilica in Bergamo and is absolutely worth taking a walk around inside. Hopefully you will stumble upon it and be as amazed as I was with the intricate architecture and detailing that is seen in many European countries.
If the pasta doesn’t fill you up, you might notice Bergamo is big on desserts made with polenta, specifically polenta cake. As you pass through the streets and look into store windows, you will see polenta balls of all shapes. They are super tasty so be sure to grab one.
Now for the main attraction: the view. Honestly, my best advice is to just keep walking and exploring until you find a spot with the best view. You’ll know it when you see it. If you are able to go when the sun is setting, I can promise you will not be disappointed with what you see.
The rest is up to you. No matter which stores you stop into or which restaurants you decide to eat at, I can assure you will be glad you put Bergamo on your list of Italian cities to visit.
-Jennifer G. Galvin