Take A Walk On Historic Italian Streets At This Underrated Tourist Destination

Italy, the land of amore, pasta, and art, is a dreamscape. With famous cities like Rome, Milan, and Venice attracting millions of tourists every year, some hidden gems remain overlooked. One such underrated tourist destination is the enchanting city of Bergamo in the northern region of Lombardy. Nestled in the foothills of the Alps, Bergamo offers visitors a chance to traverse historic streets and experience authentic Italian charm. Andiamo!

Bergamo is divided into two main parts: the lower modern city (Città Bassa) and the upper historic city (Città Alta). This unique characteristic has led to it being described as a city of two levels. To move between these two sections, you can take the funicular through a scenic route operating since 1887. Funicular rides depart every 5 minutes and cost $1.50. Città Alta is a historic time machine with cobblestone streets, centuries-old buildings, and medieval walls. At the heart of this city lies the lively Piazza Vecchia, an iconic square surrounded by historic buildings like the Palazzo della Ragione.

Close by is the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, with its ornate interiors, frescoes, and tapestries dating back to the 12th century. It also houses the tomb of Gaetano Donizetti, a Bergamo native and renowned composer of over 70 operas. Adjoining it is the Colleoni Chapel, with its impressive Renaissance façade and intricate marble work. The Venetian city walls have been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The panoramic views of the lower city and the surrounding countryside along these walls are a sight to behold.

From Città Bassa to Città Alta

A trip to Italy is incomplete without trying regional food. Sample Bergamo dishes like casoncelli bergamaschi,  and polenta. Stracciatella, a gelato made of milk-based ice cream with chocolate shavings, was actually invented in Bergamo in 1961 at Ristorante La Marianna. Bergamo also has nine Michelin-star restaurants. Da Vittorio Brusaporto boasts three Michelin stars, over 2,000 Google reviews averaging 4.8 stars, and is world-renowned for its exceptional cuisine.

The beauty of Bergamo doesn't stop at Città Alta. Down in Città Bassa, visitors will find a blend of the old and new. Wide avenues lined with shops, modern buildings, and parks coexist harmoniously with historic structures. For some shopping, stroll down the vibrant and enchanting Via XX Settembre. Not to be missed is the Accademia Carrara, an art gallery housing 1,800 works by renowned Italian artists like Botticelli, Raphael, and Bellini. The gallery offers reduced-price tickets to seniors, people under 25 years old, 6:30 to 11:00 PM evening entries, and complimentary tickets on your birthday.

Nature lovers can head to the nearby Parco dei Colli, a vast green space perfect for exploring, picnicking, and relaxing. The park is home to 14 mountains, the highest of which is Canto Alto at 3,753 feet. Hike the ten-mile-long "Road of the Benedictine Monasteries" trail, which guides visitors along four monasteries and beautiful landscapes. Moreover, given Bergamo's proximity to the Alps, it serves as an excellent base for those wanting to venture out to the mountainous region.

Why visit Bergamo?

So, why should one choose Bergamo over other Italian destinations? For starters, its relatively lesser-known status means fewer crowds, giving travelers an opportunity to experience the city at a leisurely pace. Moreover, Bergamo offers a blend of everything Italy is known for — history, culture, cuisine, and nature — all within its confines. Bergamo is busiest between July and October (the peak season) and at its quietest between the months of January and March. In general, spring and autumn is the best time of year to visit Italy to avoid big crowds.

Additionally, being located just 40 kilometers from Milan, Bergamo is easily accessible. Almost too convenient! Lake Como, Lecco, and Varenna are just an hour's train ride away. The city's airport, Orio al Serio, serves numerous international flights, making it a great entry point. And guess what? The airport is only a 20-minute bus ride from the city. Many sights within the Bergamo walls and beyond can be explored during a two-day, one-night stay — a getaway that can be brief yet remarkably eventful.

For those seeking a genuine encounter with Italian heritage beyond the usual hotspots, Bergamo is a compelling choice that promises both discovery and reflection. Its blend of preserved history with contemporary vibrancy offers a rich, multi-layered experience of the old and new (or, the alta and the bassa!). Consider including this Lombardy gem in your next adventure — this underrated destination might just become the highlight of your Italian journey.