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This is the main cultural destination in Italy this year


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Italy is America’s favorite European getaway when the hot summer winds start to blow.

A storied nation that is home to some of the world’s most iconic landmarks, including the Colosseum, Leaning Tower of Pisa, and Milan Cathedral, it has enough attractions and sights to see. keep you coming back for more year after year.

View of the Basilica of Santa Maria di Maggiore in Bergamo Alta, the upper part of the city, seen from the top of Campanone, Lombardy, Northern Italy

However, now that overtourism has returned to plague Italy, and the country is adopting increasingly restrictive measures to combat the worrying trend, you may be wondering where in Italy you should preferably go next. Somewhere you don’t need a prior reservation to get in, nor do you risk being fined for attempting a selfie.

Trust us; You can pass.

This year, the lesser-known cultural center of bergamo – and its neighboring provinces – await you:

The Italian capital of culture this year

Located just 40 km northeast of Milan, Bergamo is a small city with a population of just over 120,000, boasting incredible views of the Orobic Alps and a rich heritageso much so that it has been named after Italy Capital of Culture in 2023.

Cityscape of Bergamo Alta, a small town in the alpine region of Orobie in Lombardy, northern Italy

The coveted title, awarded to select cities that have historically contributed to the formation of an Italian identity and Italian culture in general, had previously been awarded to other emerging tourist destinations such as Procida, a small island off the Bay of Naples. and the impressive Parma.

This year, it is the province of Bergamo that takes the crown, along with its sister city of Brescia, although it is Bergamo that stands out between the two as the most picturesque settlement perched on top of a hill and surrounded by medieval walls.

An overlooked cultural hotspot

Bergamo has been a budding cultural destination for a while now.

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Bergamo Alta seen from the arched windows of the medieval Campanone tower, Bergamo, Lombardy, Northern Italy

Often overlooked by visitors who travel to northern Italy to marvel at the architectural grandeur of Milan or spend idyllic weekends on Lake Garda or Como, it receives on average 2 million visitors a year only.

This may sound like a lot, but it represents only a fraction of Italy’s staggering levels of tourism, which reached an all-time high of 64.8 million in 2022.

Fortunately for crowd-wary travelers who are still interested in living out their Italian summer fantasy, Bergamo’s overtourism rates are well below the Italian average.

Why is it worth visiting Bergamo?

Divided into two parts, Lower and Upper Bergamo, the city is best known for its ‘upper’ part, or upper towna walled historic core that has attracted a growing number of history and culture buffs in recent years.

This is largely due to UNESCO’s classification of Bergamo’s Venetian defensive systems as a World Heritage Site in July 2017, reaffirming the underrated city’s relevance as a a center of culture and artsrole that has been playing since the Middle Ages.

Upper Bergamo is a fortified citadel where perfectly preserved cobbled alleys are lined with Italy’s famous pastel facades and a towering cathedral with an ornate duomo rising above a center squareflanked by places to dine al fresco and other impressive medieval monuments.

Bergamo Alta view from Bergamo Bassa, a medieval town in Lombardy, northern Italy

Most visitors to Bergamo are quick to consider the city a day trip from Milan, but we highly recommend stopping by at least three days here relishing your way and taking in the views of Bergamo and the province of Bergamo, which are abundant.

The 7 Best Things To See In Bergamo

Some of the main attractions include:

  • He old squaremain meeting point of the Upper Town and beating heart of Bergamo
  • Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiorea 12th-century Romanesque marvel with elaborate stucco and vibrant frescoes
  • The Colleoni Chapela beautifully decorated mausoleum next to the basilica
  • He big bellan 11th century tower that rises 43 meters high and offers a breathtaking panorama of the bergamo horizon and the Alps beyond
  • He porta san giacomoone of the medieval gates of the Upper Town, linked to Lower Bergamo via a stone walkway
  • Castle of San Vigilioa fortified complex located at the highest point of Bergamo, with restaurants and romantic paths dotted along the route that leads to its outer walls
  • The Venetian walls of Bergamoa UNESCO protected monument that surrounds the Upper Town and used to serve as a protection mechanism against invaders in the Middle Ages

A world-class dining destination

Italy is a renowned gastronomic hotspot, with its award-winning, freshly made pasta pizzagentle frozenand abundance of fresh fruit, due to a Mediterranean climate, and Bergamo is no different when it comes to healthy culinary experiences.

Casoncelli in Bergamo is The star dish of Bergamoand a stuffed pasta hand-sealed and boiled before being served in butter, with grated Parmesan on top.

Other regional delights include the creamy texture taleggio cheese cheese, originally from the valley of the same name near Bergamo. According to the locals, it has been produced since roman times – and of course, there is chocolate chips.

Close up of Stracciatella ice cream, Italy

The creation that the Bergamo locals seem to be most proud of. the creamy frozen The milk and chocolate chip flavor was first invented in the city’s old fortifications and is attributed to the restaurant’s owner, Enrico Panattoni.

It became so popular that the concept spread all over the world, but some of the best chocolate chips can still be found in the upper town of Bergamo.

Straight out of a movie scene

Finally, Bergamo recently served as a filming location for the coming-of-age drama starring Timothee Chalamet. call me by your name.

Many people sit outdoors under the shade along the street to eat in Florence Italy

For moviegoers, it’s where the main characters Elio and Oliver escape on their romantic getaway before Oliver’s impending departure.

There are many other movie sets in and around Bergamo worth exploring, including:

  • Bresciaa medium-sized city dotted with UNESCO-listed monuments, including the historic Pegol Tower
  • Creama traditional northern Italian town that also appeared in call me by your name
  • treviglioa lesser-known small town just 12 miles south of Bergamo, best known for its iconic medieval basilica and 14th-century town hall.
  • iseo lakea picturesque lake lined with sleepy fishing villages and fairy tale villas, often overlooked by tourists on their way to Lakes Como or Garda*
woman traveling in Italy with map
*Iseo and Sarnico are two of the most beautiful towns straddling the iseo lake

Bergamo is easy and cheap to get to

Since Bergamo is just 40 miles north of the mega-center that is Milan, getting there couldn’t be easier. In fact, the regional airport markets itself as Milan-Bergamo (BGY), hosting hundreds of low-cost flights from numerous Italian and European destinations.

Intra-European flights to Bergamo airport can be as cheap as $10 booked in advance with low-cost airlines such as ryanairwho use it as a hub.

ryanair plane

Upon arrival at BGY, tourists can take a shuttle bound for Milan or Bergamo, as the airport serves both cities.

Guests arriving at Milan Linate or Milan Malpesa, the Lombard capital’s two main international airports, can travel by bus or train to Bergamo from central Milan for between US$6 and US$11.00 one way.

How long to stay in Bergamo

Bergamo Italy

As Bergamo is a compact city, and most of the attractions are crammed inside the defensive walls of the Upper Town, you can easily see it in a single day, although we suggest at least 3 days in the wider province of Bergamo to truly soak up the atmosphere of the northern Italian countryside and visit a neighboring town or two.

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com