Soak up Italian culture this autumn, within crowd-free city walls

Monday, 5th October 2020, 5:36 pm
Updated Monday, 5th October 2020, 5:36 pm

Italy and all that it offers could be the best bet for anyone seeking to travel this autumn.

The relatively small city of Bergamo is easy to explore on foot, and the Italian blend of culture, heritage and fantastic food are recommended by many.

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Originally a strategic Roman hill settlement,Bergamo was a thriving industrial town under Venetian rule between 1428 and 1797. Its medieval heritage is beautifully preserved, with the city walls,a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2017.

The city walls enclose the city’s oldest parts known as the Città Alta. Explore cobbled streets and piazzas, where intricately decorated churches share space with cafes, shops and restaurants.

Climb the 230 steps, or take the lift, for spectacular views, and to see the largest bell in Lombardy.

If still in the Citta Alta at 10pm, you will hear the bell chime 100 times as a daily reminder of Bergamo’s struggle during the Venetian rule.

Elsewhere at Piazza della Cittadella, visit the Museum of Natural Sciences and the Museum of Archaeology.

Bergamo has fewer crowds than Venice or Florence, but the Citta Alta can get crowded under normal circumstances. The beauty now is that crowds aren’t there, allowing uninterrupted views of beautiful basilicas and room to explore.

The Città Alta is connected to the lower town, or Città Bassa, via funicular (or a 15 minute uphill stroll) and a second leg will take you to the top of Castel Angelo, from where you might see as far as the Duomo in Milan.

Back in the lower central residential area is the four-star Hotel Excelsior San Marco. It looks out onto a charming square close to exclusive streets. Close to the station and a short hop from the airport, it’s a great base.

The hotel has new protocols to ensure guest safety including enhanced cleaning, social distancing policies and contactless check-in and out, as well as a 24-hour minimum vacancy for all bedrooms between guests. Face masks are compulsory in public areas but these don’t detract from the service and the friendly welcome.

Elsewhere there’s a wide range of accommodation, from guest houses and modest hotels to the five star luxury of the Relais San Lorenzo, part of the Small Luxury Hotels group.

The food in Bergamo varies from margherita pizza at Da Mimmo, to casoncelli alla bergamasca, homemade pasta with a meat filling in butter sauce at La Vendemmia.

There are dozens of restaurants to try. The city is also the birthplace of chocolate chip ice cream, or stracciatella, first served at La Marianna ristorante, and still available.

There’s a thriving drinks scene, with enoteca offering wines from across Italy, with sharing platters of cheese and cured meats. The Elav Kitchen and Beer is one of three outlets to serve beer brewed by the independent Elav artisan brewery.

For anyone keen to travel this year, Omio is donating to Bergamo’s Mutual Aid Fund, which offers support to those directly impacted by COVID-19 in the region, based on numbers travelling to the city up to December 2020.

Direct flights to Milan Bergamo depart from seven UK airports including Manchester, Edinburgh, Bristol and London Stansted, and it’s easily accessible from other airports in northern Italy including Turin, Bologna and Venice.

Visit www.omio.com for more details and the best routes to Italy.

The website www.visitbergamo.net/en/ has useful information about where to stay and what to do.