With its hilly profile and beautiful historical buildings, Bergamo looks like it's hopped out of the pages of a fairy tale. This enchanting city is located in Italy's Lombardy region and there's no end to what you can get up to during a Bergamo holiday. Here are our favourite things to do in Bergamo.
Bergamo is split into two sections: the historical Città Alta and the modern Città Bassa. Serving as a reminder of the days when Bergamo was under Venetian rule, the Città Alta is completely surrounded by tall 16th-Century walls. Nowadays, the 6km walk along these Venetian walls is one of the most popular activities in Bergamo. Visitors will see bastions, cannon embrasures and platforms along the walls, but the four city gates steal the show. The Porta San Giacomo is especially breathtaking, as it's still adorned with the lion of Saint Mark, the symbol of the former Republic of Venice.
Bergamo's Accademia Carrara is a must-see for all art enthusiasts. The extensive collection housed in this gallery once belonged to Count Giacomo Carrara but he generously gifted this to the city upon his death in 1796. Accademia Carrara displays around 1,800 artworks that date from the 15th to the 19th centuries. You can expect to see works by world-renowned artists, such as Botticelli, Raphael and Bellini. And, if you're left wanting more, simply head across the road to see GAMeC, the city's contemporary art museum.
Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
The 12th-Century Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore houses one of the most dramatic reveals in the city. The church's modest exterior serves as a stark contrast to the rich and colourful decorations found inside. Marvel at the intricate details incorporated into the church's tapestries, frescoes and wooden marquetry. However, the architecture isn't the only draw here; the church also has a miraculous backstory. During the 1100s, the citizens of Bergamo prayed to the Virgin Mary for protection against the plague. Unharmed by the disease, the people celebrated by building the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.
Piazza Vecchia is Città Alta's main square and, with so much to do and see here, it's easy to while away a few hours. The piazza is home to Bergamo's most iconic historical landmarks, such as Palazzo della Ragione, Palazzo Nuovo and the Contarini Fountain, which are all worthy of a closer look. Energetic travellers can also choose to climb the 56-metre-tall Torre del Campanone to enjoy views over the city centre. Linger on by taking a seat at one of Piazza Vecchia's outdoor cafes; you couldn't choose a prettier spot for an afternoon coffee.
Castello di San Vigilio
Castello di San Vigilio is the best viewpoint in all of Bergamo. But this castle also happens to provide an excellent excuse to make use of the funicular that connects Città Bassa with the upper reaches of Città Alta. Take the funicular to San Vigilio station, which brings you within easy walking distance of the castle. Make as the locals do and come here just before sunset, bringing along a picnic to make the most of your time at this spot. The sun-soaked views, which take in the city below as well as the surrounding countryside, are guaranteed to become one of your biggest Bergamo highlights.
Museo Civico di Scienze Naturali
If you're travelling with children, set aside an afternoon for Bergamo's Museo Civico di Scienze Naturali. This museum focuses on the natural history of the Lombardy region, from prehistoric times to more recent finds. Kids will love seeing the museum's woolly mammoths as well as the collection of gigantic dinosaur fossils. You can also find displays on human evolution and rocks and minerals, but the interactive room is our favourite area, as it allows visitors to have hands-on experiences of the museum's major discoveries.
While Bergamo has many of its own attractions to keep you busy, the city is also a convenient base for seeing more of Italy. Hire a car in Bergamo and take the two-hour drive out to Lake Como to explore the spectacular scenery of this area. Lake Como is the third-largest lake in the country and has been attracting tourists for hundreds of years. It's easy to see why: the shores of the lake are dotted with impossibly picturesque villages and towns. Our advice? Focus on seeing only a handful of places, such as the trio of Como, Bellagio and Varenna, so that you can explore at a leisurely pace.
Orto Botanico di Bergamo
For those who want to step off the beaten track in Bergamo, spend some time in the stunning Orto Botanico di Bergamo. This compact slice of nature can be found on the steep slopes of the Città Alta. Orto Botanico di Bergamo showcases 1,200 plant species, which are divided into three themes: alpine, Lombardy and exotic. This family-friendly garden feels like it's miles away from busy city life, so take your time wandering around this truly tranquil spot. Just keep in mind that the garden can only be reached on foot and you'll need to traverse 141 steps to get there.
With so many attractions and activities to discover in and around Bergamo, what are you waiting for? Book your flight to Bergamo today!