Bergamo is a hilltop city located in the Lombardy region of Italy, about an hour drive northeast of Milan. It’s a great city to visit during Europe’s off-season as flights from the U.S. to Bergamo airport (BGY) are very affordable. From main hubs such as New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX) and Chicago (ORD), you can find round trip flights for under $1,000.
Bergamo — Photo courtesy of Luca Venturelli
Bergamo is divided into two parts, the aforementioned hilltop part, which is called Città Alta (Upper City) and another city center located at the base of the hill, referred to as Città Bassa (Lower City). This up-down dichotomy makes Bergamo an interesting city to visit as you’ll experience both modern and historic Italy.
Città Bassa is the modern part of Bergamo and offers many good cafes, restaurants and shopping; however, it’s the hilltop part of Bergamo that often imparts the most awe in visitors.
Città Alta is accessible by road, walking path or funicular cable car. As public parking is extremely limited on the hilltop, most visitors opt for the cable car unless they want a good hike. Visitors tend to love it up the hill because of its old-world feel and the stately piazzas and buildings lining the streets. The duomo (the Bergamo Cathedral) is a must-see as well.
Bergamo isn’t all architecture, cable cars and pretty plazas though. To really experience Bergamo you must put your tastebuds to work – Bergamo is one of Europe's foodie meccas after all.
So what exactly is it you should be eating while in Bergamo?
Bergamo is known for the following dishes:
Casonsei: Ravioli-style stuffed pasta with meat filling mixed with amaretto, pears and other spices. Don’t leave Bergamo without trying this dish.
Casonsei — Photo courtesy of Rowena
Scarpinocc: This unique pasta gets its name from being shaped like pointed artisan shoes that used to be worn by villagers living near Bergamo. The pasta looks a bit like elongated tortellini and is filled with spices, breadcrumbs and cheese.
Polenta: This dish consists of cornmeal cooked into a light paste-like substance – similar to the consistency of mashed potatoes. Polenta is served as a side or a main dish, often topped with meat.
While you can find these dishes in restaurants throughout Bergamo, two acclaimed restaurants rise above the rest.
Ristorante Lalimentari: A wine shop and restaurant located in Città Alta with a rustic setting and cooking made from local ingredients. Try the Burrata cheese as an appetizer and one of their polenta dishes. The restaurant also has a great wine list or lets you buy a bottle from their wine store to drink during dinner for only a €3 corkage fee.
Taverna del Colleoni Dell ‘Angelo: Owned by world renowned chef Pierangelo Cornaro, this sophisticated restaurant in Città Alta is great for nouvelle Italian and a romantic dinner. The menu items are inspired by local tradition and given a modern twist. When making a reservation, ask to sit outside on the restaurant’s gorgeous terrace overlooking a grand piazza.
Polenta e Osei — Photo courtesy of Amandabhslater
Lastly, don’t visit Bergamo without sampling their famous dessert: Polenta e Osei. This dessert consists of a yellow sponge cake, which looks similar to polenta, hence the first part of the name. It’s topped with a chocolate bird or other chocolate decoration (osei means bird) and the middle of the cake is filled with a hazelnut cream.