If you are eager to get experiences off the track from the classical Milanese galleries and walkways, here are our proposals for a tailor-made trip to the hidden sights of the Lombardy province and city of Bergamo.
History and Passion
Bergamo is the pearl of Lombardy, witnessing the times of the Celts – who named it “the town of hills” – of Romans, Venetians, Napoleon and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Indeed, bizarre are the surrounding hills, hidden by the Upper Town with a special landmark –6km walls and four gates leading to the merchants’ roads towards Venice, Milan, the valleys of Seriana and Brembana and the river Adda.
Amongst the four town’s strongholds, most famous are the castles of Rocca and Cittadella. Contrasting to the stone fortifications are bright and flourishing renaissance paintings and frescos of villas. Some still belong to famous Italian families such as the fashion brand Trussardi. But the city is well-known also for the Italian opera composer Gaetano Donizetti, born in Bergamo, and Lorenzo Lotto who painted St. Bartolomeo church in the Upper Town.
The bustling commercial area of the Lower Town, including “made in Italy” shopping venues such as via Tasso, via Settembre and via S. Orsola, is connected to the old part by two cable railways or funiculars displaying a splendid panorama.
The first funicular takes you to the square of a shoe market and the cobble streets meandering to the Old Square famous for the chapel of the army leader Colleoni and the Tower Bell of Campanone, playing musical pieces reminding one of the blown by times of the previous centuries.
Small squares hide snug restaurants or yard terraces, where each drink is served with free snacks. From the Upper Town, the second funicular takes you to the hill of San Vigilio. It is really an exclusive place for evenings in love when the funicular station’s terrace and the nearest streets are filled with people coming to delight in tasting the charm of Bergamo.
Founder of post, tax and taxi
Do you know that the post, taxes and taxi services in Europe owe their existence to the 32 horse-riders in the area of Bergamo? Evidence shows that the family of Tasso made the first ever post delivery in 1251, and later this enterprise became the monopoly of the papal and imperial postmaster. Expanding to Germany, Tasso’s started moving people and taxi services were born paid by taxes.
The yellow horn of Tasso’s business is a sign of most of European post offices and it can be seen at the birthplace of the family – Cornello de Tazzi, a medieval village with preserved stone houses and merchants’ workshops.
Another recommended stop is the village of Lovere, hiding medieval charm washed by splendid houses, the basilica of S. Maria Assunta and the parish church of St. Georgio overlooking the coast of Iseo Lake.
Wine tasting in a castle
One unique 12th century castle is perched on top of the hill of Grumello, a village witnessing knights and wine processing from the Roman times. Today, the castle offers accommodation (55 euro/day), party facilities and wine tasting every Sunday from 15.00 to 18.00. Curious visitors follow the history of wine pressing, see a cask for 15,000 litres of wine and taste the elixir with a fruity, peppery and rosy taste. If you feel like buying the best out of the 100,000 bottles, annually produced here, ask for Moscato Passito.
Harlequin and Burattino Gioppino
Evidence trace the birth of Harlequin back to Brembana valley, and he is an allegory for the mad and clumsy servant character which was played in Venice for the first time by Alberto Ganassa from the village of Oneta. He always wore a vest of colourful rags, in fact faded and worn out clothes sewed together.
Less popular than Harlequin is the puppet (burattino in Italian) of Bergamo’s Gioppino with 3 swellings of the lymphatic glands. A range of puppets is exhibited in the museum of Tino Sana (go to village of Almenno), also a good place to explore Italian woodcarving.
Take the best leisure package
Better choices for a trip in the valleys of Bergamo – Seriana and Brembana, are packages offering discounts throughout the region. For those who prefer an active holiday, there are the steep hills over the river Brembo hiding more than 200 lakes, myriad of paths for trekking, and possibilities for canoeing, free climbing and biking. The farmhouse of Ferdy includes cheese tasting and horseback riding. Cultural lovers visit the town of San Pellegrino, famous for its Liberty style casino and curable mineral waters.
Castione della Presolana in the Seriana valley is the place for golf, archery and bob-sleighs, alternatively trekking or touring the neighbouring valleys and lakes for a week-horse-safari (ask at Monte Pora farm). In the area of Presolana you can take accommodation in Alpine huts, family houses or in luxury places, topped by the fashionable wellness services of Hotel Milano.
Boat cruises, windsurfing, swimming and sailing are popular attractions for visitors of Iseo Lake with Europe’s biggest lake island. The lake of Endine is more quiet and preferred by tourists for water biking and fishing.