The 12 best sights of Bergamo – description, photos, map

12 sights in Bergamo worth visiting

Bergamo sights - Italy

The sights of Bergamo, which is located in Italy, have long attracted tourists from all over the world. We will tell you about what to see and where to go first when you come to this magnificent city. So, let’s go.

The topography is the first thing those who come here for the first time pay attention to. The completely flat topography of the lower town contrasts sharply with the ancient bastions of the old city, situated on a hill. The contrast is heightened, in part, by the neoclassical and modern buildings that line the straight streets of the lower town, while the narrow streets of the old town meander chaotically among Romanesque and Renaissance architecture. It is the sights of the old upper town called Città Alta that traditionally attract the main masses of tourists.

The two parts of Bergamo are connected by a funicular railway, which is much easier to use than climbing the steep and winding roads at either end. The monumental fortress gate through which these roads pass is definitely worth a look, though. You can see the lion of St. Mark on them, a reminder that Bergamo, like much of northern Italy, was once part of the Republic of Venice.

Citta Alta District

Città Alta district.

Citta Alta neighborhood.| Photo: Alex / Flickr.

Most of Bergamo’s main attractions are concentrated in Citta Alta, a special area of the old city that consists of medieval and Renaissance buildings closely adjoining on top of a cliff. The most convenient way to get there is to take the funicular to Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe.

This modestly sized square overlooks the narrow, stone-paved Via Gombito, on which stands the medieval patrician tower Torre di Gombito, built around 1100.

Just below, in Via di Porta Dipinta, one finds the lovely churches of San Michele Pozzo Bianco and Sant’Andrea (inside the latter there is an altarpiece by Moretto depicting Mary on a throne surrounded by saints). Surrounded by old buildings with small stores on the first floors, Via Gombito faces the beautiful Piazza Vecchia.

Piazza Vecchia

Piazza Vecchia

Piazza Vecchia. | Photo: Bas Wallet / Flickr.

This square is considered the “heart” of the old city. It is surrounded by beautiful patrician houses and the Palazzo della Ragione (city hall), built in the 12th century. The stone staircase of Palazzo della Ragione and its balcony with its three Gothic arches (which were rebuilt around the middle of the 16th century) occupy the northern part of the square. Nearby you can also find the majestic Torre del Comune.

On the south side you will notice the Palazzo Nuovo, a new late Renaissance palace, which now houses the municipal library. In the center of the square stands the Contarini Fountain, decorated with lions. Another Lion of St. Mark looks out at the tourists from the town hall building. Settling into a cafe on the north side gives you a great vantage point to view the entire square.

Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore

Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore

Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. Photo: Alex / Flickr.

Piazza Vecchia is adjacent to Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square) and together they form one of Bergamo’s most impressive architectural tandems. The Church of Santa Maria Maggiore was originally conceived as a Romanesque basilica, its foundations laid in 1137. The church is characterized by a presbytery separated from the main aisle with a crucifix above it and a richly decorated wooden choir.

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The portals on either side of the church are guarded by lions supported by ancient Gothic columns (1353 and 1360). Inside are wonderful Renaissance choirs, Baroque stucco and 16th-century tapestries on the nave walls in the far corner of the basilica. Locals still leave fresh flowers on the tomb of the great Bergamo-born composer Donizetti, who was buried there.

Address: Piazza Duomo, Bergamo, Italy.

Cappella Colleoni

Colleoni Chapel

Colleoni Chapel. Photo: Alex / Flickr.

Adjacent to Santa Maria Maggiore is Capella Colleoni, a grandiose early Lombard Renaissance building with a sumptuously decorated façade of colorful inlaid marble. Construction of the chapel began in 1470 and took six years.

Its architect, Giovanni Amadeo, designed the chapel to house the tombs of condottiere Bartolomeo Colleoni and his daughter Medea. The ceiling paintings were painted in 1732 by Giambattista Tiepolo.

Address: Piazza Duomo, Bergamo, Italy.

Accademia Carrara Art Gallery

Accademia Carrara Art Gallery

Art Gallery of the Accademia Carrara.

Walking down the stepped road from the Porta Sant’Agostino gate, we stumble upon the palatial building of the Accademia Carrara.

It is an art museum housing works by such Italian masters as Lorenzo Lotto, Jacopo Palma, Giovanni Battista Moroni, Vittore Carpaccio, Jacopo and Giovanni Bellini and Andrea Mantegna, Girolamo Romanino Romanino, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Titian, Paolo Veronese, Raffael Santi, Sandro Botticelli, Luca Signorelli and Carlo Crivelli, as well as works by Albrecht Dürer and Anton van Dyck.

Address: Piazza dell’Accademia (Via San Tommaso), Bergamo, Italy.

Cinta Muraria (city walls) and gateway

Bergamo Walls and Gates

The city walls and gates of Bergamo. Photo: Francisco Anzola / Flickr.

The old city is surrounded by a wall more than 4 kilometers long, which was once built by the Venetians. The Viale delle Mura begins at Porta Sant’Alessandro and goes past the Donizetti Museum, Porta San Giacomo (perhaps the most beautiful city gate of all) and the Church of Sant’Agostino to Porta Sant’Agostino.

From here, bypassing the funicular station, you can go down via Viale Vittorio Emanuele II to the very center of the lower town.

St. Alexander’s Cathedral

St. Alexander's Cathedral

The Cathedral of St. Alexander. Photo: Ralf Steinberger / Flickr.

At one end of Piazza Duomo, at right angles to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, is the Cathedral of Sant’Alessandro, built in 1459. Note its neoclassical front façade and dome, erected later, in 1889. Inside you can see paintings by Tiepolo, Previtali and Moroni and a beautiful Baroque choir.

Among the major cathedral treasures are the silver reliquaries and the tiara of Pope John XXIII, decorated with pearls, diamonds, rubies and emeralds. The tiara, the chalice and a number of other items that belonged to him are on display in the Chapel of St Vincent and St John XXIII.

Address: Piazza Duomo, Bergamo, Italy.

Baptistery

Baptistery

The Baptistery. Photo: Terry Clinton / Flickr.

To the right of the Cappella Colleoni is the Baptistery, an unusual octagonal building built in 1340. Originally inside the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, it was dismantled in 1661 and reassembled only in 1856. It was then dismantled again and rebuilt in 1898.

The statues erected on its corners in the fourteenth century symbolize the main virtues: faith, hope, mercy, fortitude, justice, prudence, self-control and patience. At the altar at the back of the Baptistery there is a marble statue of John the Baptist.

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Address: Piazza Duomo, Bergamo, Italy.

Archaeological Museum

City Museum of Natural Sciences.

City museum of natural sciences.

The narrow Via Colleoni stretches from Piazza Vecchia to the northwest to the Citadel, where there is an excellent museum of natural history, ethnography, paleontology and archaeology.

At the entrance you will see a large mammoth figure, inviting you to look at the large fossils of prehistoric animals found in the early 20th century in the nearby plain of Petosino. The mammals hall presents various ancient finds from the region.

In addition to the archaeological exhibits, the museum houses more than 1,000 ethnographic artifacts, most of which are borrowed from the collections of the early conquerors of Africa and the Americas. These artifacts are grouped by artistic and cultural characteristics. Tactile signs throughout the museum are arranged specifically for the convenience of visually impaired visitors. There is also audio in English.

Address: Piazza Cittadella 10, Bergamo, Italy.

Piazza Matteotti

Piazza Vittorio Veneto

Piazza Vittorio Veneto. Photo: Elliott Brown / Flickr.

The center of the Lower Town (Citta Bassa) is usually considered Piazza Matteotti with its wonderful gardens, parks and monuments. Nearby is Piazza Vittorio Veneto with a war memorial called Torre dei Caduti (Tower of the Fallen).

Opposite you can see the two twin porticos of Porta Nuova, from which starts the wide Viale Papa Giovanni XXII that runs south to the train station.

Together with Viale Vittoria Emanuele II, which runs from Piazza Vittorio Veneto to the upper town, this street forms the main transportation artery of Bergamo. To the east of Piazza Matteotti, on the lively avenue called Centierone, is the Teatro Donizetti, and to the east of Piazza Cavour you can find a monument to Gaetano Donizetti.

Rocca Museum

Rocca Museum.

Rocca Museum.

To the right of Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe runs the Via alla Rocca, which goes up to the Rocca di Bergamo, a 14th-century defensive bastion that now houses the Museum of Liberation and Resistance.

The museum contains documents and exhibits about the period of the struggle for independence in Italy, when the city of Bergamo was liberated from Austrian rule by Giuseppe Garibaldi’s army.

From the castle fortress and the adjoining Parco della Rimembranza (Remembrance Park) you can enjoy stunning panoramic views of Bergamo sights, photos with descriptions of the most famous of them you have already seen in our article.

Address: Via alla Rocca, Bergamo, Italy.

Donizetti Museum

Donizetti Museum

Donizetti Museum | Photo: museodellestorie.bergamo.it

Music lovers can see memorabilia of Bergamo native Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848) and other Italian composers and musicians, including Rossini, Bellini and Verdi.

The palace, which houses the museum, is noteworthy in its own right because it is richly decorated with frescoes by Borromini. Concerts are held in the (modern) style in the Pietti Hall.

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The small town of Lombardy, located near Milan, at the foot of the Alps is an attractive place for tourists. It is a corner of the Middle Ages, preserved in the fortress walls, ancient palaces and cathedrals. The picturesque beauty of nature is in harmony with the medieval flavor of the cityscapes. The words of the hero of an old comedy come to mind, proudly asserting: “I am Truffaldino of Bergamo!” He really had a lot to be proud of.

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How to get to the upper Bergamo

A day in Bergamo: sights, ticket prices, opening hours, map

The Bergamo area is divided into 2 parts: the Upper Town and the Lower Town. The second floor of the city is interesting with its ancient sights and architectural monuments, the same age as the Roman Empire, so the main time should be devoted to the examination of the upper part of Bergamo. There are three ways to get to Bergamo: by foot from the railway station for 20-30 minutes; by funicular railway for 10 minutes; or by bus number 1 for 15 minutes.

All depends on your physical condition: if health allows, it is best to walk up the ancient stones, to admire the magnificent natural surroundings, breathe the air of true Italy. But climbing on the cable car, in a comfortable carriage is also a great pleasure of a short trip, when you can see the amazing beauty from above. It feels like you’ve found yourself in a fairy-tale kingdom-state.

Attractions of the Upper Town

San Vigilio Castle

Castel di San Vigilio

The cable car takes you to the narrow, typically medieval Via alla rossa, which leads to the ancient Castel di San Vigilio. This fortress embodies the entire history of not only Bergamo, but of all Italy. Its ancient walls (the first mention of the castle in the 6th century A.D.) remember the Romans and the barbarians, who seized the fortress more than once. Several times the walls of the castle were strengthened, rebuilt. The last reconstruction took place in the 15th century during the Venetian Republic. The castle survived to this day, except for some damage by the Austrians in 1829.

Now tourists have the opportunity to see the gray stones of the castle walls, touch them and feel the distant era. There is a museum that exhibits historical documents, antiquities.

The museum works from 09.30 am to 13.00; from 13.00 to 17.30; Sat – 09.30 to 19.30. Entrance is free.

Castel di San Vigilio

How to get to the castle: the funicular of Upper Bergamo takes you to Di San Vigilio in 5 minutes. The funicular station is in front of the gate of San Alessandro. But note that the funicular doesn’t work during the siesta (12:30-14:30) and it’s convenient to calculate your time. It is not worth to go up on foot to save strength for further sightseeing.

You can come by bus number 1 from the railway station, getting out at the same stop.

The funicular works every day from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm; on Fridays and Saturdays until 01:30; on Sundays from 09:00 to 22:45, except for siesta. Siesta in Bergamo is a compulsory break, a sacred thing, a centuries-old tradition. When planning your next visit, keep this in mind and use it to relax.

Church of the patron saint of Bergamo

Bergamo's Patron saint church

Going down the hill of San Vigilio, you arrive in Piazza Duomo (Cathedral Square), where the architectural gem, the Cathedral of Sant’Alessandro is located (just before the funicular stop), erected on the site of an old temple from the 6th century. This true masterpiece is the work of two architects: Averulino (15th century) and Carlo Fontano (17th century). The interior interiors were decorated in the 18th century and the dome was superstructured in the 19th century.

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The interior of the temple is a real eye-catcher: the masterpieces of ancient painters Giovanni Moroni, Tiepolo and others have found their place here.

The church is open every day from 07:30 to 18:30; the intermission is from 12 to 15:00. Entrance is for 5€, with a discount of 3€ (valid also for the Adriano Bernareqqi Museum)

Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore

Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore

Near the cathedral the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, built during the 11th to the 13th centuries. In the 17th century. It had a reconstruction of the interior interiors in the lavish Baroque style, which are stunning in their decoration. The facade of the church has retained its Romanesque style. The famous 18th-century composer Donizetti, who was born in Bergamo, is buried here.

The Basilica is open: November-March, Mon-Fri, from 09.00 to 12.30, from 14.30 to 17.00, the break is from 12.30 to 14.30, Saturday until 18.00, Sundays, holidays – 09.00-12.45, 15.00-18.45; April-October – every day, from 09.00 to 12.30, from 14.30 to 18.00.

Architectural masterpiece – the Colleone Chapel

Colleone Chapel

Attached to the basilica is the Colleone Chapel, a true architectural marvel whose facade is decorated with an intricate fanciful ajoure, rose windows, and is topped with an intricately shaped dome. The chapel was built as a tomb over the ashes of an important person of Italy – Bartolomeo Colleone in 1476 (later his daughter Medea was buried here). Inside, the chapel is just as beautiful: marvelous frescoes by Tiepolo, an altar with splendid statues of saints; paintings, gilded decorations, all in Renaissance style.

Open: March through October daily, 09h00-12h30; 14h00-18h30; siesta 12h30-14h00; November-February: Tuesday-Sunday, 09h00-12h30; 14h00-16h30; weekend, Monday. Admission is free.

In memory of Donizetti – Museum in the Palace of Mercy

Donizetti in Memory - Museum at the Palazzo dei Misericordia

From Piazza del Duomo you should walk along the typical medieval street Via Arena to the building number 9, to see the Palace of Mercy. It is interesting not only as an architectural monument, but also as a museum of the aforementioned Gaetano Donizetti. In it are exhibits – evidence of the life and work of the talented composer, whose operas are still performed on the stages of famous opera houses around the world.

The museum is open: June-September, Tue-Sun 09.30-13.00, 14.00-17.30, October-May: Wed-Fri 09.30-13.00, Sat, Sundays and holidays – 09.30-13.00, 14.00-18.00. Ticket price – 3 Euro.

Archaeological Museum

Archeological Museum

Another place worth seeing nearby is the Archaeological Museum, which has some fascinating antiquities and artefacts from the Lombard way of life.

Address: Piazza Citadella, 9.

The Museum is open Fri, Apr and Wed 09h-12h30, 14h30-18h00, Sat and Sundays 09h-19h00.

Oct.-Apr., Fri-Sun, 09.00-12.30, 14.30-17.30. Not working – Mondays, 01. 01, 25. 12. Admission is free.

The Historical Museum is also not to be missed to get a better idea of the Venetian era in Bergamo, especially since it is located in the former monastery of San Francesco.

The Museum is open: Fri 09.30-13.00, 14.30-18.00, Av. – Admission: 3 euros.

Piazza Vecchia – Old Square

Piazza Vecchia - Old square

From Piazza Duomo, through the arcade of the Town Hall, one can reach the center of the Upper Bergamo – the Old Square, whose history begins in the 14th century and which was actively built up at the beginning of the 15th century. A true monument of the past is the town hall (12th century) of Palazzo della Ragione. The front is crowned by the symbol of the Venetian Republic, a sculpture of a winged lion holding with its paw an open book, a symbol of a peaceful time.

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The Town Hall is open: June-Saturday, 10:00 am to 9:00 pm; Sat, Sat till 11:00 pm; Oct-May: Wed-Fri 9:30 am to 5:30 pm; Sat, Sat – 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.Ticket is 5€, discounted 3€.

Campanone Tower

Tower of Campanone

Opposite the palace-hall there is another more ancient architectural monument – Tower of Campanone (11th century, rebuilt in the 15th century after the fire). If you look down from the top of the tower, you will see a picture that allows you to forget for a moment that it is the 21st century: so strong is the color of the Middle Ages. The bells of the tower strike 180 beats at 10 p.m., as they did in the old days when the city gates were closed.

Open: November-March: Tue-Fri 09.30-13.00, 14.30-18.00, Fri 09.30-18.00, Apr-Oct: Tue-Fri 09.30-18.00, Fri 09.30-18.00, Mon-Fri not open.

Entrance fee is 3€.

New Palace

New Palace

Next to Palazzo Ragione is the New Palace, a classical light building with columns built in the 17th century as an administrative building. It housed city officials until 1873, and now houses the rich library of May, the famous 19th-century Italian philologist and cardinal. If you go around the New Palace, behind it you can see the oldest structure in the square, the Church of San Michele al Arco (857), which now houses the university.

Open: daily, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; 2:35 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., off. – Wednesday.

The sights of the Lower Town

That’s the end of the Upper Bergamo sightseeing tour and a cable car ride down to the Lower Town, which has its own charms.

Carrara Academy

Carrara Academy

One of them is the Accademia Carrara, an art gallery founded by the city’s famous patron of the arts, Count Giacomo Carrara. In this art treasury visitors enjoy more than 2000 paintings of great masters of the Italian brush: Raphael, Botticelli, Mantegna and Titian. We would like to mention the patriotism of Italians: they do not keep masterpieces in private collections, do not make them the object of profit, but willingly give them in museums and galleries.

Address: Academic Square (Plassa dell Accademia), 82 a.

Every day except Mondays from 10.00-13.00, 15.00-18.45; Oct-March every day except Mondays, 09.30-13.00, 14.30-17.45. Entrance – 3 euro.

Gallery of Modern Art

Gallery of Modern Art

Opposite the Carrara Gallery is another temple of creative works, the Gallery of Modern Art (1991). It is a branch of the Accademia Accademia dell’Arte, where the paintings of Italian and Spanish artists of the 20th century are on display.

Address: Via S. Open: Mon-Sun 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Thursdays 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fri.

Easter: 10 a.m. to 19 a.m., and 10 a.m. to 22 p.m. on Jan. 1.

Tickets: post collections – free; temporary – 5 euros.

A day spent in the city is an unforgettable journey that leaves the best impressions.

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