bergamo citta alta | this city life
City break ideas,  Travel

The locals’ guide to Bergamo

It honestly feels like yesterday, but it’s coming up to a year ago when me and my friend Faye jetted off to Bergamo to stay with our friends Katherine and Joe. I hadn’t heard of it until they moved there for a couple of years, but the time we spent there was truly lovely. If you like your cities small and historical, Bergamo is somewhere you should definitely pin on your map. I asked Katherine to suggest a locals’ guide to Bergamo, so here’s what she thinks will make the perfect weekender in the city.

Where to eat in Bergamo

Ok, it’s Italy so the food is obviously out of this world. Both me and Faye are obsessed with pizza, so we made sure Katherine knew exactly where to take us before we booked our flights!

She took us to Trattoria Caprese, which is a real family-style restaurant. “It’s a great pizzeria with a fantastic Southern Italy atmosphere,” Katherine says. “And, you get free limoncello for afters!” Who can say no to that, really?

trattoria caprese bergamo | this city life

Albergo Del Sol is in the heart of the Città Alta, the upper part of the city. Katherine told me, “their steak is the best I’ve ever had, and they serve all the must-try Italian classics – polenta, braised beef, and (of course) casoncelli alla bergamasca pasta.”

Another great place is Pizzeria San Vigilio, which is pretty close to the bottom of the Alps. We didn’t make it there but Katherine says it has the most stunning views she’s ever seen, and wonderful pizzas – North Italy style.

vigilio bergamo | this city life

vigilio views bergamo | this city life

bergamo citta alta | this city life

Where to shop

We’d only been in Bergamo about an hour when I made everyone next to me jump with fright as I shrieked at the sight of a Sephora. Katherine thought I’d tripped or something! Alas, I was just so bloody excited to see a real life Sephora and promptly spent nearly all of my spending money in one go.

There are plenty of other great shops though. Via 20 Settembre is a gorgeous high street with loads of shops and weekend markets. Katherine recommends the Christmas markets when the season is right (we just missed them as we visited in February). The stalls are super cute and the lights make the whole market look so pretty.

bergamo christmas market | this city life

There’s also the Oreo Centre, which is the biggest shopping centre in Milan! We spotted it as we got on the bus to leave the airport, and it did look pretty massive.

Where to get your drink on

Katherine recommends all the gorgeous outdoor Italian bars in Piazza Pontida, which I imagine looks absolutely beautiful in the summer. And Giardini on Piazza della Repubblica has, according to Katherine, “the best aperativo and cocktails in Bergamo!” Wherever you choose to go though, make sure you order the Prosecco and Aperol Spritz.

Read more about the Italian aperativo tradition.

Something different to do in Bergamo

I would say that Bergamo is a pretty different place anyway, certainly different to my usual city break choices. It’s big enough to spend a whole weekend exploring, and small enough to not feel overwhelming like other Italian cities. Katherine’s favourite off the beaten track thing to do is walk from Cita Basa (lower city) to Cita Alta (upper city) by the winding Via St Alessandro.

bergamo views | this city life

We actually did this when visiting and it really was wonderful. The snow was still a couple of inches high on the walls and we got the most amazing views of the Alps. It’s quite a steep walk, but the ancient cobbled streets are really pretty and the little city square at the top is worth the climb. There’s also a bridge you can walk up and snap pictures from.

Somewhere to go with the kiddies

I’m sad we didn’t get to visit here, but Katherine loves Bergamo Zoo. It’s just outside the centre of town and the perfect place to take the kids. The zoo is dedicated to the protection of animals and they have loads to look after! Lions, alpacas, ducks, cheetahs, vultures, crocodiles, kangaroos, snakes, tortoises, elephants, flamingos, seals, giraffes, bats and even bears! The list is endless…

bergamo zoo | this city life

Hotel hot spots

Katherine says, “Hotel San Marco is the best location for exploring the whole city (upper and lower town) and has lovely friendly staff. My family and friends all stayed here when visiting and loved it and mum has stayed many times.” It’s so good in fact, Elijah Wood stayed there last year!

Thanks Katherine for sharing your tips on a locals’ guide to Bergamo! Have you got your own tips for a weekend there? Tell me in the comments.

Charley is a professional copywriter and tea-lover currently living in Leeds. She writes about city living and city travel (with a few cats thrown in).