Bergamo is a hidden gem of a city in Northern Italy radiating with charm, history, and culture. You won’t find Bergamo listed in many guidebooks or typical Italian itineraries, which is precisely why we wanted to go, and oh, was it worth it.
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This fall, we spent 10 days off the typical tourist path in Northern Italy. (Read my post on our complete Northern Italy itinerary here.) Located about an hour northeast of Millan, Bergamo is divided into two parts- a lower and upper city. The upper city, Città Alta, is surrounded by Venetian Walls built in the 1500s and named a UNESCO world heritage site in 2017.
We rented an Airbnb in Città Alta and spent the weekend exploring the city’s history, the Piazza Vecchia, visiting churches, lots of wine, and some fantastic food. Bergamo was my husband’s favorite city on the trip, and we would go back.
To do in Bergamo:
QC Terme Thermal Spa at San Pellegrino:
The Bergamo area was the first stop on our Italian itinerary, and we wanted to wash away the international travel grime and stress immediately. Since we arrived in the morning and couldn’t check into our Airbnb until later, we headed to the thermal baths at the QC Terme Thermal Spa in San Pellegrino. The town of San Pellegrino is about a 30 minute-drive from Bergamo, and as you may have guessed, it is where they make the famous San Pellegrino sparkling water.
I’ll be honest, I’m not typically one who seeks out spas when I travel to Europe, but this place was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. There’s a reason why I listed this place first on the list, and I HIGHLY recommend a visit. The QC Terme Spa at San Pellegrino is tucked away in the scenic hills of San Pellegrino and consists of multiple floors of different steam rooms, saunas, outdoor pools, jetted tubs, foot baths, etc. We spent half a day wandering and relaxing through the different water features and still didn’t experience it all. We purchased a day pass with the included lunch, which was also exquisite.
Piazza Vecchia in Bergamo
The Piazza Vecchia is a central city square in Bergamo’s Citta Alta. It is the heart of Bergamo’s rich history, bustling shops and restaurants, and the stunning architecture of another century. We’d stroll to the Piazza Vecchia in the mornings, grab a croissant and a cappuccino, leisurely sip our coffee, and watch visitors and residents pass through the square.
The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore
The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is steps from the Piazza Vecchia in Bergamo. The basilica was constructed in honor of the Virgin Mary in the twelfth century. Spend time admiring the elaborate architecture and art in one of Northern Italy’s most impressive churches.
San Vigilio Castle
The ruins of the San Vigilio Castle sit high above Bergamo, providing a strategic vantage point over the centuries. Hop on the funicular near the Piazza Vecchia that will take you from Citta Alta, and you’ll arrive at San Vigilio in a few short minutes. Spend a couple of hours hiking around the castle ruins and admiring the most breathtaking views overlooking the city. Then, stop in for some pizza at one of the restaurants at the top of the hill, enjoy a glass of wine, and linger over your lunch only like Italians do.
Opera at the Teatro Donizetti
If it suits your schedule, catch a performance at the Donizetti Theater near the Piazza Vecchia. Unfortunately, we could not attend the opera in Bergamo, but the square was bustling with locals dressed in their best opera before a weekend performance. Walking through the streets near the theater, we saw older Italian couples walking arm-in-arm toward it in their evening dress as an accordion player softly played Italian music in the background. Minus the spaghetti, it felt like it could have been a scene straight out of Lady and the Tramp. Bella Notte.
To Eat in Bergamo:
It’s not a secret that I mostly travel to eat and drink, and for obvious reasons, Italy is one of my all-time favorite destinations. Luckily, the food scene in Bergamo does not disappoint.
Da Mimmois is one of Bergamo’s most well-known restaurants, located in the Citta Alta. The restaurant has a large patio boasting a great atmosphere and an extensive menu. The food was excellent, as all Italian food is, but my hubby’s meal was the shining star. He ordered the calamari, which was incredible. Strongly recommend!
Antica Trattoria La Colombina
This was my favorite restaurant we visited during our short weekend in Bergamo. The Antica Trattoria La Colombinamenu features some traditional Northern Italian dishes like risotto. Request a table on their outside terrace for some of the city’s best views. We enjoyed a romantic four-course meal and sipped a bottle of wine as we watched the city lights twinkle around us.
We popped onto Al Donizetti’s charming patio for an afternoon appertivo, and we could have spent all day watching the weekend crowds shuffle by on the cobblestone streets. We did not order dinner here, but their menu looked divine, and we heard rave reviews.
The historical Pasticceria Cavour in the Citta Alta exudes century-old charm and tradition and offers some of the most delectable pastries and sweets. We’d recommend heading to Pasticceria Cavour for your morning espresso, which you can take at the bar with the locals. Then, select your favorite croissants and pastries to go and enjoy “picnic style” on the steps of the grand library overlooking the Piazza Vecchia.
To Stay in Bergamo:
I strongly recommend staying in the upper city if you only have a weekend in Bergamo. It’s easily walkable to almost all sites and has a great selection of restaurants/bars. The upper city of Bergamo may be one of the most picturesque locations I’ve ever been in my life and is quintessential Italy. There are plenty of affordable Airbnb options, and the one we stayed in was perfect for the weekend and boasted the most beautiful views.
If you have any questions about visiting Bergamo or any experiences of your own from the city, please drop me a note in the comments below. I’m always happy to help when I can, and I love hearing from you.