A tour around Bergamo: a local’s guide
October 30, 2019
by Margherita Marchesi
When I get asked ‘where are you from’, and I reply Bergamo, Italy, the comment is: ‘upper town or downtown?’ (Respectively, in Italian, called Città Alta and Città Bassa). Maybe you don’t know, but Bergamo is divided into two parts.
The old part is the upper town, surrounded by walls built in the XVI century and listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017. In a warm and autumn day, having a walk around the walls is regenerating. You can admire Bergamo’s downtown and if you are lucky, you can see the skyscrapers of Milan.
How to reach the Upper Town
Bergamo’s walls are the first thing I advise you to visit. If you come out of the railway station, you can see Città Alta in front of you. What you have to do is walk towards them or take the bus (line 1) to reach the top quicker. Use Google maps, you will easily find the bus stop.
If you want to walk for a while, but then you get tired, after 15 minutes walking (just follow the main street, it’s all straight) you can take the cable car for 1.30 Euro. In two minutes, you will be in the heart of Città Alta.
Where to eat in Città Alta
Ice cream shops, bakeries, vintage, and handmade clothes shops, souvenirs shops, restaurants and more is all you can find in Città Alta. Keep walking along the main street of the old town called via Gombito, which is very characteristic and open your eyes.
Bgigi Gusto Italiano
This place will cuddle you with handmade Italian food. If you decide to taste it, you can take a seat outside in the street: the atmosphere will make you feel a real Italian master. You can have a look at Tripadvisor to get you to stay.
This is a restaurant and a bar. It will enchant you with its cocktails and jazz music. This place is all about mixology and good food, perfect for relaxing after a long walk. They serve some Cantucci cookies with an after-dinner cocktail: delicious!
Birreria di Città Alta
If you prefer a beer, you can look at the opposite side of the alley. Dark wood is the main characteristic of this place. You can seat outside on a bench sipping a good draft beer.
Piazza Vecchia, the square
This is the main spot where Città Alta shows its beauty: the Cathedral of Bergamo and the bell tower deserve a visit. In Piazza Vecchia, many restaurants and bars offer Italian specialties. You can enjoy a cup of Espresso or an Aperitivo sat in a table in the square. Aperitivo is an Italian habit consisting of an alcoholic drink, in general Spritz, combined with some snacks, like olives, slices of pizza, cheese, and ham cold platter. It’s the perfect match before dinner.
Take Via Colleoni to continue the visit of Città Alta’s old town. I recommended this place for beers, too. They don’t have a long menu, just a few kinds of beers, but the quality is more important than quantity.
Walk further and you will fall in love with Il Fornaio and its huge baking pans of pizza showcased in its window. Many times I walked past this place, and every time tourists are starring at the steamy pizzas. It has really good recommendations on Tripadvisor, too. This is considered the best window of Città Alta: you can find every kind of pizza!
Bugan Coffee Lab
If you like coffee, walk a bit more and search for it. The place is small and cozy, a real coffee experience for a refined palate.
If you want more sweets, this bakery will steal your heart with delicious sweets showcased in its windows. They recently renewed the place, and put some tables in the middle of the room, but the quality didn’t change.
The next square you find is Piazza L. Mascheroni. If you haven’t tried anything yet, you can enjoy another gastronomic tour. I advise the cheese cold platter there, served with jam, honey, and a Spritz. Now you should know what it is.
You end the walk at Colle Aperto, where you find the most historical restaurant and pastry in Bergamo. Old style and comfortable atmosphere: this place is famous for Stracciatella ice cream, the taste is very particular.
San Vigilio Ristorante Pizzeria
Take S. Vigilio cable car. From this restaurant, you can admire the city from the top in front of a glass of wine and authentic Italian food. On a sunny day, you can enjoy the view from a table on the terrace.
As you can notice, Città Alta has a wide selection of nice restaurants and bars; these are just a few. I didn’t talk about the boutique, but they are unique and suggestive as well. The atmosphere of the old town creates a great contrast with vintage shops and bakeries.
If you still have energy, walk along the walls to reach downtown. It takes 20 minutes to Porta Nuova, the intersection in the main center of Bergamo.
Where to eat in Downtown
Bergamo Città Bassa offers some interesting places as well. I highlight some bars, especially for coffee and Aperitivo.
Walk along Sentierone to find refined bars for coffee and some sweet snacks, like Balzer. In front of you, a beautiful church defines the end of the street.
Ice cream shops
Italy is the country of ice cream. Take via Tiraboschi: you will find shops one after another. Names? La Romana, Gelateria in galleria and Carmen Gelato. Not far from there, Grom brings genuine ice cream taste in the city. Check the map!
Due to its central position, it’s perfect for Aperitivo cocktails. As long as it’s a fashionable place, young people usually get together on Friday and Saturday night, but it’s also the best choice if you don’t want to spend a lot of time looking for a place.
Botega Caffè Cacao
A good choice for every kind of meal is Botega, in via Zambonate. Even if it’s recently opened, customers seem to like it: it’s always full! For breakfast, lunch, afternoon break and aperitivo, this place has a wide variety of choices. They serve a special coffee with chocolate, highly recommended!
A small square with a fountain, small tables outside the bars and people talking: this is the location. It is highly recommended for the view and food quality. Imagine a hot cappuccino and a piece of cake for breakfast in front of the fountain and old buildings: magic!
Another new place is in town! Located in via XX Settembre, the shopping street, this bar is easily recognizable from its tables along the street.
A place for vegans! Keep your eyes opened, because it’s a bit hidden: the door is very small. Besides, it’s located in via Sant’orsola, the narrowest alley in downtown.
Varadero Jazz Cafè
Via Sant’Alessandro is quieter, but it doesn’t mean you can’t find nice places. I repeated many times that bars and restaurants use to put tables in the street, to attract customers. This café does the same. Located in a road uphill, it’s a good place to take a break before a walk until Città Alta walls.
Sant’Alessandro is a multiethnic street as you can find a real pizza from Napoli, dumplings, and noodles from China and an American style burger.
This is a tour of my city. Bergamo has many places to visit, especially for history and many more for food and drinks as well.
Bergamo is not a big city: two days is enough to visit all the main places. After that, you come back home recharged by good food, history, and amazing spots.
Remember that in Bergamo, people don’t speak fluent English. If you ask people for directions, it could be a problem. Google maps and translators will save your life!
Otherwise, enjoy the beautiful city of Bergamo!