Originally a Celtic settlement, in 49BC it became a large Roman municipality but was destroyed by Attila in the 5th century. From the 6th to the 11th centuries, Bergamo was the seat of the Lombard duchies. It then became an independent commune, latterly under the rule of Milan. In 1428 Bergamo fell under the control of the Venetian republic until 1797, and was fortified against Napoleon: hence the magnificent Venetian walls surrounding the old medieval city that you can still see today. In 1815 Bergamo was assigned to the Austrian Empire; it was freed in 1859 during the Second Italian War of Independence when it became part of the Kingdom of Italy. Industrialised via the lower city in the 20th century, the historic heart was one of the few Italian cities to escape major destruction during World War II. With so many rich influences over the centuries, Bergamo has a prominent place in music history: music was taught at the Romanesque church of Santa Maria Maggiore for more than 800 years, attracting many significant progressive composers.
This is a town of two parts: Città alta (upper city) is a hilltop medieval town, surrounded by 17th century Venetian walls; Città bassa is the lower modern city, connected by footpaths and the cable car. The beautiful historic heart is famous for its wealth of artistic treasures and enchanting medieval atmosphere. Bergamo is also known for its spectacular choral and ensemble music. It has also spawned many famous painters, a legendary juggler and the tradition of folk dancing. Bergamo is the ideal choice for cultural Italian city breaks.
With such a wealth of treasures, it's easy to work out what to see in Bergamo. The Piazza Vecchia in the heart of the old town features both medieval and Renaissance architecture. Make sure you see the church of Santa Maria Maggiore; the Colleoni Chapel; the Rocca - a walled stronghold which houses a museum; the Archeology Museum and Science Museum; the Donizetti Museum - devoted to one of Bergamo's most famous sons, the composer Gaetano Donizetti; the Accademia Carrara - one of Northern Italy's most important collections of medieval, Renaissance and Baroque paintings; and GAMeC, the city's gallery of modern and contemporary art, which usually hosts several interesting exhibitions.
Located in Lombardy, 40km northeast of Milan. The foothills of the Alps begin immediately North of the city.
Bergamo is full of fascinating architecture, testifying to its turbulent history. There are Roman walls as well as Venetian walls built over a millennium later. Buildings of particular note include the Sant'Agostino in the gothic style; the neoclassical Accademia Carrara; and the Renaissance Baptistry and Colleoni Chapel.
Bergamo is served by the Orio al Serio airport, connected to Bergamo with a bus service. Milan is under 40 minutes' journey by train. A funicular railway takes you up to the medieval town from the modern city. As Bergamo is not large, it's easy to see all the main sights by foot.