Weekend city breaks are one of our favorite ways to maximize travel opportunities while holding down a full time 'day job' and Dublin is an ideal home base for weekend travel. During the October bank holiday in Ireland, we took the opportunity to fly from Dublin to Bergamo in Italy for a dose of sun, stunning architecture plus excellent food and wine. Many people bypass Bergamo as a weekend city break destination in favor of the more popular cities in Italy. With all the amenities of a modern city in the Città Bassa and the old town atop the hillside (Città Alta), we discovered 17 reasons that Bergamo is a worthy destination for a weekend city break in its own right.
1. Shopping for Glasses in Bergamo's Città Bassa
Ever since we moved away from the U.S., the allure of unbridled consumerism has faded. Now, we shop but only if we have a particular goal in mind. Italy is known for style and I was in need of a new pair of glasses. We soon discovered that the streets of Bergamo are lined with several stores selling a wide array of the latest in optical fashion. I picked up a new pair of sunglasses on our weekend city break and can rest assured that I'm unlikely to encounter this pair back home in Dublin.
2. The Twin Dog Phenomenon in Bergamo
The residents of Bergamo seem to love dogs, so much so that they tend to come in sets! We enjoyed seeing pairs of pooches (some dressed as fashionably as their owners) walking the streets and lounging around the local cafes in both Bergamo's Città Alta and Città Basso.
3. Stand-up Coffee and Sweets in Bergamo
Coffee is an institution in Italy and Bergamo features an array of stand-up cafes for a quick espresso combined with something sweet. On a weekend city break in Italy like this one, it's important to stay energized and a quick espresso is just the trick.
4. Bergamo's Art Deco Architecture
Bergamo features a stunning array of Art Deco buildings in the Città Bassa. The post office in particular deserves a peek inside.
5. Ride the Funicolare to Bergamo's Upper Reaches
Getting there is half the fun! A funicular connects the lower and upper parts of Bergamo offering lovely views on the ride up.
6. Explore Bergamo's Piazza Vecchia
Piazza Vecchia is the beating heart of Città Alta in Bergamo. The square is lined with historic buildings and quaint cafes. It's easy to feel transported back in time.
7. Indulge in a Big Midday Meal
The restaurants in Bergamo often feature midday specials even on the weekend. We enjoyed sitting down at Ristorante La Tana for a two course meal (featuring homemade pasta, of course!) and a bottle of wine.
8. Bergamo's Sweeping Vistas
Situated on a hill, the sweeping views over the surrounding countryside make Bergamo's Città Alta a must see destination.
9. Bergamo's Bargain Shopping and Puffy Coats
We were surprised to find numerous stores in Bergamo touting fashion deals where everything in the store cost only 10 EUR. We also discovered that residents of the city seem to favor puffy coats to stay warm. On our weekend city break from Dublin, we had fun counting the number of people wearing puffy jackets. The representative group that we sampled seemed to be about 25% clad in puffiness. Fascinating.
10. Be Serenaded on the Cobbled Streets of Bergamo
Bergamo features pedestrianized cobbled streets. We were delighted to discover a harpist serenading passersby in the Città Alta.
11. Bergamo's Spectacular Church Interiors
Italian churches are generally stunning and Bergamo's churches are no exception. We marveled at the interiors of the houses of worship dotting Piazza Vecchia.
12. Gates to the Città Alta
Bergamo's Città Alta was fortified in the past and the city still features a number of gates leading into town. It's fun to stroll through the gates and imagine what it must have been like for medieval merchants as they approached Bergamo.
13. Aperitivo Time in Bergamo
No trip to Italy is complete without aperitivo taken al fresco on a square. We sat out on Piazza Vecchia with our drinks and light snacks. People watching at aperitivo time is always the best and I really enjoyed watching this frisky bulldog chase a frisbee nearby. So much excitement in Bergamo!
14. Abide the Curfew in Bergamo!
At 10 pm every night in Bergamo, the bell in the ancient bell tower rings 100 times. This practice dates back to the 13th century when the bells would signal curfew time far and wide. Bergamo would be locked up tight when the bells stopped tolling so those outside the town walls needed to high tail it back to the gates or risk being locked out for the night. The bells were appropriately foreboding. I've never heard anything like it.
15. Sunset in and around the Castle Ruins of San Vigilio
The Castle ruins of San Vigilio are easily accessible via another funicular ride up from Bergamo's Città Alta. Arriving at sunset, the ruins were rendered even more atmospheric by the pink and orange October sky.
16. Pizza Cut with Scissors
In Bergamo, they are serious about pizza. We saw huge rectangular sheets with a wide array of toppings. Want to know the most awesome part about pizza in Bergamo? The pizza slices are cut with scissors for maximum efficiency. Genius!
17. A Day Trip from Bergamo to Lecco
Bergamo is located just a short train ride away from the Italian Lakes region. In less than an hour, we had arrived in Lecco. We took time to explore the weekend arts and crafts market before embarking on a stroll along serene Lake Como. This day trip to Lecco is a relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of Bergamo.
Have you also been to Bergamo for a weekend or are you considering making the trip? What would you recommend adding to our list? Bergamo is such an easy weekend city break from Dublin that we can always go back again!