Say “Bergamo”, and there’s a strong likelihood that only the initiated will know where it is located and the many marvels it has to offer. Situated just an hour’s drive or train journey away from Milan, this medieval walled city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of only five Italian cities, along with Ferrara, Grosseto, Lucca and Padova, to be entirely surrounded by Venetian fortified walls. It is also quite simply one of the most beautiful places on earth.
There’s every chance that Bergamo will not even feature in some of the best-selling guide books as being worthy of a visit, and there is a theory that the Bergamaschi themselves are secretly quite protective of their home and keen to keep it under wraps. Historically, the city was under Venetian rule in the centuries leading up to the unification of the country, keeping the locals very separate from all things Milanese, and it is only in recent years that tourism has taken off in this extraordinary town, which also has its very own Orio al Serio airport conveniently just down the road.
Visiting this hidden gem for one day will certainly not do it justice, but if you are staying long enough in Milan to slip away for a short trip to Bergamo, this is the place to go. From untouched medieval streets, to indescribably heart-stopping visions of wonder (stepping inside the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore for instance is guaranteed to take your breath away) … from riding in the funicular from the lower to the upper part of the town, to gazing at the mind-blowing vistas at the top of the higher cable railway which overlooks the Parco dei Colli hills at San Vigilio … from tasting local specialities like Casoncelli pasta at Mimi’s and trying the psychedelic Polenta e Osei cake … to sitting on the green lawns by the fortified walls with a luscious picnic basket provided by Vineria Cozzi …
As if that weren’t enough, there are some simply magnificent sights to behold within striking distance of the city: art buffs can revel in the extraordinarily rich artworks to be seen that have been unspoiled for centuries and can still be visited today, by prior appointment. It’s virtually impossible to describe the singular sensation of stepping inside the privately owned Suardi Oratory at the nearby Trescore Balneario, for instance, to witness this fully frescoed and preciously conserved chapel painted by Lorenzo Lotto in 1524: it is quite simply miraculous.
It’s virtually impossible to do this marvellous town justice, and that’s even without mentioning the cultural possibilities of being able to go off that well-trodden and beaten pack and visit some of Bergamo’s dimore storiche in the neighbouring areas, as well as enjoying wine tastings, gastronomic cooking classes, lessons in Italian culture and even conversational courses as you take in all the sights.
Almost certainly winner of the “Most Underrated City in Italy” award, Bergamo is definitely one to watch for over coming years. Visit it while it is still a well-kept secret: email [email protected] for details on planning your day trip or creating an itinerary for a longer stay. We’ll be very glad to assist you with your stay and help you discover what goes on behind closed doors.
Featured photo of Villa Vitalba Lurani Cernuschi & Convento San Nicola with thanks to Carola Moretti.