Bergamo is a small town in Lombardy to the east of northern Italy’s big hitters, Milan and Lake Como. Pressed up against the southern foothills of the Bergamo Alps, the town is laid out in tiers: the upper, older città alta, and the lower, modern città bassa. Take a look around and you’ll find a rich variety of architecture and some great food. If you find yourself in the north of Italy, a short stop in Bergamo is a must.
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The Venetian Walls were built in the 16th century by the Republic of Venice, when Bergamo belonged to the state. They mark the old town, also called the upper historic centre, the città alta. The walls were built to protect the city from the Republic of Milan and France during the decline of Venice’s control over maritime trade. Nowadays, the walls are a symbol of Bergamo’s history and enclose a fairytale-like town devoid of modernity. You can walk alongside the walls and through the parks that constitute a large part of Bergamo’s città alta.
Bergamo is one of the rare towns where you can walk on an ancient Roman road, or even two – namely the traditional, main streets called cardo and decumano, the first leading north-south, the latter east-west. These two streets were a stable and fundamental component of every Roman city; found now in many cities in Italy, Croatia, Bulgaria, Syria, Jordan and Israel. These oldest elements of Bergamo intersect where the 52m (170ft) medieval Gombito Tower stands.
If you like shopping and modern surroundings, you do not have to leave Bergamo. The so-called lower city, the città bassa, will provide you with a variety of vibrant cafés, boutiques and shops. Via XX Settembre, named to celebrate the last steps in the creation of modern Italy in 1870, is the most enchanting and busiest street in the modern part of Bergamo. If you find yourself on it, walk to Feltrinelli, a large international bookshop where you can find anything from contemporary Italian novels to world classics to guidebooks.
This panoramic spot will provide you with the best view of Bergamo and beyond, including several mountain ranges and the nearby towns. To get here, take the tiny funicolare railway one level above the rest of the upper city. Once at the top, it will take around three minutes to reach the San Vigilio panorama spot. Look out for the map that explains what – and how much – you are seeing.
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