Bergamo, An Underrated Italian Gem in Lombardy


Ryanair plane, Bergamo Italy
 

Last year, after moving out of our Dublin apartment of 2 and 1/2 years, and ending 6 years of living in Europe, our final trip as residents of the continent was to the Lombardy region of Italy. We chose to fly Ryanair from Dublin to Bergamo because the plane tickets were very cheap and upon researching, we discovered that both the town and region are beautiful. While Sicily was our first choice, the flights didn’t work as well and we wound up throughly enjoying our week in the Lombardia region.

Bergamo Old Town
We stayed 2 nights in Bergamo at a small bed and breakfast called B&B Bergamo Romantica. While the breakfast was very basic, the rooms were extremely cute and comfortable for our money. Each room is themed and without knowing about this website, we were given the Romeo and Juliet room, which featured pretty art work and a sizeable balcony. While the view from the balcony was only OK, for people on a modest budget we highly recommend staying there.

After spending 2 days in Bergamo we took the train to Milan and spent 2 days there before continuing on to Lake Como by train. We stayed 2 nights in the town of Lecco on Lake Como and used it as a base for exploring the beautiful nearby towns of Varenna and Bellagio. The entire week was wonderful and filled with stunning scenery and great espresso everywhere, but the best food we ate was in Bergamo. And we also drank the best Italian craft beer on our trip, though being in Italy we typically stuck with wine (because when in Rome, er, Northern Italy….).

Bergamo Italian Pizza, Tomato, Cheese, Basil, Delicious
 

Italian craft beer, Bergamo
An Italian friend from Milan warned us that we probably wouldn’t get the best food in Milan because we’re tourists. And yes, that would typically be the case anywhere if you don’t do your research to know where to go and what to avoid. But even at a Milanese eatery filled with locals, instead of receiving great food, we were given meals that tasted like they came from a microwave. This was never the case in Bergamo, which isn’t overwhelmed with foreign tourists in May like many other Italian towns are. On our visit to Bellagio it seemed that 50% of the people walking the streets were Americans.

For food, beauty, architecture, art and tranquility you absolutely can’t go wrong spending 2-3 days in Bergamo. You could easily spend an entire day in Bergamo just church hopping. The town has an abundance of stunning churches with ceiling frescoes that are reminiscent of the Sistine Ceiling at the Vatican, painted by Michelangelo. Another fantastic thing about church hopping in Bergamo is that admission to all of the beautiful churches is free and not log jammed with tourists.

Bergamo Italy Church Alter and Fresco
 

Bergamo, the lovely town to fly into to cheaply access the stunning beauty of Bellagio and Lake Como.
 

While some meals were better than others, we never ate a bad meal in Bergamo. We were really impressed with the food, wine and prices at Bar Flora, located in the picturesque Piazza Vecchia. In more popular Italian cities like Venice, Rome and Florence the equivalent meal in a beautiful square would cost a pretty penny (and sometimes, not even be very good). And while Bergamo’s pizzas may not be as famed or quite as delicious as its birthplace in Napoli, the pizzas we ate were still pretty damn good, in a couple beautiful settings like DaMimmo, which has a diverse menu and is perfect for a romantic dinner.

Bergamo consists of a modern lower town and the old upper town. Accommodations in the upper town are understandably more expensive because that’s where the bulk of tourists go. We stayed in the lower town and took the vernacular train to the upper town. But if you spend a few days in the old town, don’t dismiss the lower town as there’s still some great areas to explore.

Bergamo Italy
 

Bergamo piazza lunch
 

Varenna train station
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If we could replicate our week in Lombardy we probably wouldn’t do anything different (asides from maybe stuffing our mouths with even more delicious pizza). For a week in this region we definitely recommend dividing your time between Bergamo, Milan and Lake Como. And while this may seem like a lot for a week, the distances between these places are each around 1 hour apart, and easy to navigate with efficient and easy to understand trains and ferries to have an enjoyable time with minimal stress and hassle. This is definitely an area of the world we’d love to return to someday and on a future trip we may add a different lake to the itinerary, like Lake Iseo, just east of Bergamo and Lake Lugano in Switzerland, both of which would also be fantastic.

Varenna, Italy from the ferry boat

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