Day 4: Bergamo
From Monza or Milan, taking a day trip to Bergamo is completely realistic and incredibly worth it. It's a 2-part city: High city (Città alta) which is the old town, and new Bergamo, Low city (Città bassa). If you're there for a day, be sure to purchase a yellow day pass ticket for about 4 Euro at the bus station, just caddy-corner from the train station. It will allow you to ride the bus up to the old town, as well as take 2 funiculars which will lead you to a striking fortress ruin with this view (pictured below).
Getting there from Milan is easy by train with beautiful views of the Alps off in the distance. 45 min. and 8 Euros later, and you'll arrive at this charming town, lined with cobblestone walking streets. The old town (Alta Bergamo) contains beautiful old squares, quiet, narrow pathways, a spectacular church, as well as delicious/relatively inexpensive cuisine. There's nothing not to love about Bergamo. Just be sure to not waste time in the new portion so that you can spend as much time as possible in the town's historical charm.
It is also easy to walk from the train station to the funicular to the old town. I ended up missing the right bus, and decided to walk, which allowed me to enjoy some of the beautiful homes in the area.
Places to visit:
During the month of August, bear in mind that not all of the stores will be open. Many shop owners have headed to the beach, a wise decision during the hottest month of the year. Cinque Terra or other coastal towns would be a good idea around this time. Had I not been based near Milan, I would have headed for the Mediterranean.
1. Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
The way this formidable church is set in the square doesn't quite do it justice. It's massive, so wander around it to see some lesser traversed pathways. It's also on the back side that you'll see Santa Maria Maggiore welcoming you in with lion pillars. (You may recognize it from Call Me By Your Name.)
2. Piazza Veccio
This is located just off of the Basilica and is a perfect place to enjoy lunch. After scouring the town for a place to eat with ambiance, I returned to this square for people watching while filling up on the city's traditional ravioli, Casoncelli alla bergamasca. For a full list of restaurants in Bergamo, check out the city's tourist page.
If you choose the day pass, your second funicular is included in your transportation ticket. While you're not missing out on too much if you don't do this, you will be missing the expansive views from the top of the city. Much of this town is easy to navigate, and there are signs that will lead you to the second funicular.
If you're into hiking or walks, here are a few ways to enjoy the city and area by foot. I spent most of the day walking through the town, appreciating the history, simplicity and elegance that make Italy...Italy. If I had more time or was better prepared, a long walk would have been a great way to work off that pasta!
Polenta e Osei
This dessert is unique to Bergamo, so if you're not too full from the large lunch portions, this is a local specialty. Food is so connected to culture, that I love to try whatever originated in the region.
Casoncelli alla Bergamasca
This is Bergamo's unique ravioli, which is absolutely delicious and incredibly rich. You will most likely want to split this dish as to not offend the restaurant when half of it is taken away because you simply can't finish it. If you are vegan or vegetarian, this is not your dish.
Bergamo is a relaxing, beautiful place to visit. The setting is cozy in the old town, yet expansive considering the new town and views you can appreciate from the top. If you are in the area, be sure to pay this unassuming town a visit.
Day 5, I toured famous Verona to see Juliette's balcony and grand piazzas.
Day 6 landed me back in Milan for the Duomo and trip back to the States.
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