The romantic city of Bergamo.
Walking beside Lake Como.
The streets of Bergamo.
Just an hour north of the fashion capital of the world is the romantic and charming old city of Bergamo. You can do more shopping or have a drink at the oldest bar in Italy.
Milan is the Lombardy region’s main city and attracts most visitors, but if you are in the area, it is well worth the drive to see Bergamo and Lakes Como and Orta. Bergamo is in the heart of Lombardy and has two urban centres – Città Alta, the older and upper part of the town standing on a hill overlooking the plain and Città Basse, the lower part which is busy with commerce and industry.
The old city is charming and romantic, one of northern Italy's loveliest cities. It buzzes on Sundays as locals enjoy lunch after church. The game of bocce is widely played here in the 1500s people were addicted to the game and spent so much time playing it security was threatened, the game was banned and law breakers were fined or jailed.
It is obvious that you are close to Milan, the fashion capital of the world, as most people are elegantly dressed. Because Bergamo is off the tourist track, English is not spoken very much, except by some students.
Città Bassa is where you can enjoy Galleria Dell’Accademia Carrara, one of Italy’s most important galleries. It is made up of fifteen rooms in a glorious neoclassical palace with works by painters of the Dutch School and Bergameschi greats. There are works there of Fra Galgario, Boticelli, Lotto, Rafael Tiepolo, Titian, Rubens, Breughel, van Dyck and El Greco.
To get to the old city from the base of town, most people take the five minute funicular ride. The views are well worth it. The alternative is a hike up a very steep hill. The Castello di S Vigilio overlooks the historical centre and can be reached by a second funicular ride.
It is easy to spend an hour or so walking around the old city’s cobbled streets which are full of clothing and shoe shops, bars and cafes which, along with the fountain, are popular meeting spots.
The day’s busiest time is 6pm when people gather for a drink and chat. It is cheaper to drink at the bar, and outdoor tables are usually more expensive than those indoors. The Caffe Del Tasso in Piazzo Vecchia is reputedly the oldest bar in all of Italy.
It seems Bergamo has more bells than any other Italian city. They chime every 15 minutes and the big sessions at noon and 6pm are very loud!
Most shops, supermarkets and bakeries close for siesta at 12:30pm and open from 3:30pm to 7:30pm. You may need to arrange food before 12:30 or you could end up somewhere very expensive. A typical meal usually includes polenta – rabbit and polenta is a very popular meal.
The area has 297 lakes and Como is Europe’s deepest at 410 metres. While the waters are murky and not suitable for swimming, the tiny villages on its shores are beautiful, some accessible only by boat, and the surrounding mountains complete the picture postcard. Como is bustling and a popular playground for the rich and famous – expensive but worth a visit.
A boat ride from Como to Bellagio will take you past the River of Cernobbio, the Grand Hotel Villa D'Este, the island of Comacina and the Villa Carlotta with its superb gardens.
Bellagio is referred to as "the pearl of the lake"; some consider it the most beautiful town in Europe. It is favoured by the Milanese upper-crust, many of whom have magnificent villas there. It is flowery and hilly and features rose-coloured houses with iron balconies looking out onto narrow streets.
Lake Orta is the smallest of the lakes, its waters surrounded by lush woodlands. It is in the Piemonte region, separated from Lake Maggiore by Monte Mottarone. You can get there by rowboat, ferry or motor boat.
The Island of St Guilio is a place of great mysticism and myth. It is said the island was dominated by a huge and destructive serpent and St Giulio, who had command over waves, storms, wild animals and human beings, chased it away. Once it was gone, the exhausted St Giulio decided the island was the right place to build his hundredth and last church, dedicated to the holy apostles.