After two days in Milan (including a lot of time visiting the beautiful Duomo), we wanted a quick getaway to get out of the city where there were (too) many tourists. The day trip opportunities are numerous from Milan (after all, the city is located not far from the Alps, and connected by a good railway network to several other major cities of Italy), but we opted for spending part of our day in Bergamo.
Bergamo is located about 50 minutes east of Milan. As we were going to fly from the Orio al Serio airport in Bergamo (most budget airlines, like Ryanair and EasyJet, flying to Milan are transiting through Bergamo), we thought it was a perfect opportunity to explore another city in Northern Italy!
Bergamo is especially well known for its fortified town, whose medieval architecture has been well preserved. Its ramparts, built in the 16th century and still in good condition, have been recognized in 2017 by being added to the UNESCO World Heritage list (with other Venetian fortification systems).
To reach the città alta of Bergamo, you have to take the funicular that connects the upper town with the lower town. As soon as we arrived, we were delighted. The small alleys of the upper town have a lot of charm. And as Bergamo has been under the control of Venice for a few centuries, its architecture is very different from that of Milan.
The central point of the upper town is undoubtedly Piazza Vecchia, a pretty public square with several small cafes, magnificent buildings and access to the old bell tower built in the 12th century. It is possible to climb to the top of the tower, but we continued our exploration of Bergamo.
Just next to it is Piazza del Duomo, the spiritual centre of the upper town. The basilica and its magnificent facade as well as the beautiful cathedral are worth the visit.
What I especially liked about this visit to Bergamo is that there were few tourists compared to the busy Milan. Perhaps because the weather was not great (a light rain that eventually turned into snow), we were often completely alone in the small alleys. We were also alone in the Convento di San Francesco (in which we were almost locked up because no one realized that we were still there).
We finally ended our visit by going for a walk to the Rocca Park. La Rocca is an ancient fortress that now houses the city’s history museum. The park around the fortress offers pretty views of the lower town and its hills, as well as the upper town.
Surely there was more to do and see, but we had a plane to catch, so we eventually had to go down the funicular to take the bus to the airport. But before, we took the opportunity to test a local specialty: polenta. Just about every restaurant in the città alta offers it (we even saw a counter that offered a take-out version).
Buses travel back and forth several times an hour between Milan Central Station and Orio al Serio Airport (the ticket costs € 5). From the airport or Bergamo Central Station, it is easy to buy a 24-hour transit pass (also € 5) that gives you access to the city buses and the funicular. Bus 1 connects the airport, Bergamo Central Station and the funicular to the upper town.