Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 2, 2019

Bella Bergamo Alta

I visited Bergamo Alta, the historical centre of Bergamo, briefly many years ago and vowed to return. It has taken 14 years or more, but finally I revisited this gorgeous place. Bergamo is in Lombardy 40 kilometres northeast of Milan.

We parked the car in the city below and took the 128 year old funicular up the 52 degree slope to the Centro Storico. From the funicular station it is a short walk to Piazza Vecchio, the stunning heart of the town.

Built on the site of the Roman Forum, it is the original medieval square. It took its current layout after the Palazzo Ragione was built in 1100, separating it from Palazzo Duomo nearby. Palazzo Ragione is the oldest municipal seat in Lombardy. Beside it is an impressive staircase in the building with the bell tower.



At the centre of the piazza is the Contarini Fountain, built in 1780.

Facing the fountain from the opposite side from the Palazzo Ragione is Palazzo Nuovo, which was Bergamo’s town hall until 1873 and is now the home of Angelo Mai library. (Full of treasures to be discovered on another visit)

I recommend sitting in this gorgeous piazza as often as you can. It is surrounded by cafes and restaurants where you can have coffee and a snack, lunch, aperitivo or dinner under the stars while taking in the magnificence.

Take the time to find the 18th century sundial in the open area in front of the Palazzo Ragione. Look up to see the face of the sun with a hole in the centre. At midday the sun hits a certain spot on the floor below. It was cloudy when we were there so we missed seeing the track of the sun.

The Piazza Duomo is the home of the cathedral, the Colleoni Chapel,  Santa Maria Maggiore and the pretty octagonal baptistery.

The baptistery was built in 1340 inside the Santa Maggiore church where it remained until 1661. It was pulled apart and remodelled twice before it was relocated formthe last time between 1898 and 1899 on the western side of the Duomo.

The Colleoni Chapel is an authentic Italian Renaissance masterpiece. The exterior is stunning  and the interior beautiful, but I can’t show you because no photos are allowed.

It is the chapel of Bartolomeo Colleoni, a famous Italian mercenary captain who spent most of his life fighting all over Italy. He was born in Bergamo and returned to the city at the height of his power. He was a brutal man. Legend has it that when the Santa Maria Maggiore clergymen opposed the building of the chapel Bartolomeo solved the problem by sending his soldiers to destroy the old sacristy to make room for it.

Santa Maria Maggiore was begun in 1137 on the site of another church from the 8th century which has been erected over a Roman temple of the Clemence. The bell tower was built from 1436 – 1500.

Included in the facade is Giovanni da Campione’s porch, supported by columns on the backs of lions in Veronese marble. The arch has a frieze with hunting scenes.

The interior is sensory overload. It is fun to watch people with goggling eyes and gaping mouths trying to take it all in. The church is filled with painted ceilings, beautiful statues, frescoes, enormous tapestries…to much to take in on 1 visit.

A walk around the church is a delight. There are stunning details from every angle.

Beside the church is the very cute 11th century Capella di Santa Croce in Romanesque style.

The Cathedral is dedicated to Alexander of Bergamo, it was built at the beginning of the 17th century. A major renovation was undertaken in the 19th century, culminating in the completion of the Neoclassical west front in 1889.

The interior is largely from the 17th century Baroque renovation.

We found sections of the 6 kilometre Venetian walls, built from 1561 by the Republic of Venice to face enemy attacks. We didn’t see them, but there are 14 bastions, 2 armouries, 4 gates (we found 2) and underground tunnels…next time.

There are remnants of original Roman walls still visible in Via Vagine.

Climbing the bell tower, also called the Campanone is an excellent thing to do. It is 52.76 metres high with 230 steps to the top. There is a lift almost to the top and another short set of steps to the very top. The bell is the largest in Lombardy. At 10.00pm every night the bell chimes 100 times as a reminder of the closure of the city gates along the Venetian wall.

The view is marvellous, don’t miss this. It is the best way to see the buildings below and the gorgeous surroundings.

There are some great looking food shops.

We stayed in a lovely apartment called Colleoni 20 which is in Via Colleoni at number 20. It was great, with a spacious bedroom, great bathroom, living room and a kitchen. It would be a great base for a few nights…I’m going back to discover more of bella Bergamo Alta.


We had a delicious dinner at L’Alimentari. They have an entrance in Piazza Vecchio and around the corner in Via Colleoni.

Bergamo Alta is small and built to make you want to wander all over the historical centre. There is an enormous number of things to see. There are great restaurants, cafes and shops. You really need some time here to take it all in.

Here are a few more random photos.

Visit Bergamo Alta soon, you won’t be sorry.


  1. The interior looks amazing!! I love the colour scheme and the opulence.

    • The church is incredible. I particularly loved the enormous tapestries.

  2. Bergamo is such a beautiful and underrated place to explore. By now, we have visited a few times and absolutely loved every minute of it 😀

    • It is! We were there many years ago for a very short time and I fell in love with it then. It is a place I want to return to.

  3. Stunning and spectacular post. True, sensory overload. Amazing!!! Thank YOU for giving us THIS!

    • I love Bergamo! We were only there for a day, but I will definitely return to stay for a few days.

  4. Freakin’ gorgeous!!

    • It is! You could visit when you stay in Florence next year.

  5. Just wonderful. No doubt you will be back…

    • Definitely! I would love to stay for a few days and really wander those streets.

  6. Oh, that is a must. Great photos and research Debra.

    • It is a beautiful place to visit!

  7. Beautiful. I can see why the city is a delight for you. Thank you for sharing these.

    • We really enjoyed our time there…I will return.

  8. Beautiful pics .this town is on my list! Xx

    • It should be, it is great.

  9. Thank you so much Debra for this wonderful homage to the city where I was born!

    • Lucky you, to be born in such a gorgeous place.

  10. […] autumn last year I visited Bergamo Alta and the winemaking areas of Franciacorta, and Langhe. It would be fun to go back in spring to see […]

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