To say that I am enamored with Bergamo is an understatement. There is tranquility, a vibrancy, a friendliness, and a peacefulness in this hilltop town that no one word can adequately describe. Because a university is situated in the upper city – the città alta – the streets in the afternoon are often filled with joyful laughter and a love of life that is, quite simply, infectious. But then, when school is out and the city returns to its familial center, the streets are a calm respite from the more cacophonous città bassa below that welcomes you to stroll, and meander and most importantly relax. And don’t forget: if you don’t want to get too relaxed, Milano is only a 50 minute train ride away!
A new edition to the Design Hotel group of hotels is the Gombithotel (http://www.gombithotel.it/en/) located just in the center of the città alta. This lovely little hotel, that has a passion for all thing Vespa, only has 13 rooms which further adds to the tranquility of this city. Although the windows aren’t the most sound-proofed windows I’ve ever had in a hotel room, the city is quiet enough – except for the tolling of the bells every hour – that I didn’t have a problem getting a restful night’s sleep every night I was there.
If a design hotel with a love of all things Vespa isn’t your style, I had a drink in the Relais San Lorenzo (http://www.relaisanlorenzo.com/) a member of the Small Luxury Hotel group and it looked gorgeous. Whereas that Gombithotel is kind of funky and cool, the Relais is a more laid back, classic type of business hotel that some might prefer. Either way, you can’t go wrong with great accommodations in Bergamo.
For such a small town, the number of options for dining is truly outstanding.
For a quick bite – whether that be a panino, a slice of pizza, or just a dolce – Il Fornaio on via Colleoni 3 was a dream come true for a hungry tummy. Further down the “street” is another place that, around noon, will be slammed with hungry students. I never got in the door, that’s how crowded it was, so I suspect their lunchtime options are just as good.
But it was the dinner I was after and I can recommend with overwhelming enthusiasm the follow three establishments.
Vineria Cozzi (www.vineriacozzi.it) was an absolute gem with the most lovely staff. Decorated in what can best be described as “cottage-like” the pasta was superb and the recommendation of the truffled cheese and egg “soup” leaves my mouth watering as I write.
A second suggestion, and probably one of the most famous restaurants in the città alta is Da Mimmo (www.ristorantemimmo.com), also on Via B Colleoni. Situated on 2 levels, with tables covered in white linen, the restaurant can have the appearance of being overly pretentious but don’t be fooled. This is the home of the first pizzeria in città alta and has its own dedicated menu of pizzas so how pretentious can it be right? Not at all! The staff are outstanding and when the waitress suggested that I should try the house-made mozzarella, I nearly fell out of my chair. (And, yes, once again I am salivating as I write!). And that little welcome drink of prosecco goes miles in my book.
And if you are looking for something a little off the beaten path – but don’t worry, you won’t get lost – I enthusiastically endorse La Colombine (www.trattorialacolombina.it). Upon being seated and after gazing out the huge plate-glass window down to the citta bassa – there’s an outdoor balcony that I can only imagine must be breathtaking in warmer weather! – the waitress asked if I wanted a menu in English or Italian. Since we have only been speaking Italian I jokingly said, “Italian, of course” to which she replied that, because the restaurant specializes in traditional and typical Bergamo cuisine “Italians don’t always understand the menu.” Love it! And yes, the food was outstanding: I’m not a fan of gnocchi but the gnocchi with taleggio sauce was light, airy, and may possibly have made me a convert to the world of gnocchi!
Bergamo doesn’t exactly have the sort of sites that a Rome, an Athens, or an iStanbul has but the one thing that you must do is you must take the funicular up the mountain to San Vigilio. The ruins of the castle are interesting but honestly won’t blow you away. What will take your breath away, however, is the walk down. Your inner billy goat may come out but it is worth the walk.
And with that, I hope that you will plan that trip to Bergamo, if even for just a long weekend. There is truly something medieval about this quiet, yet vibrant little town that has, overnight, endeared itself to me as a place I already want to return to.