Fancy travelling back to 16th century Italy? Then spend a few days in Bergamo, the wonderfully preserved city in northern Italy.

Here our travel writer Paul Beckett reveals what he loves about the place and his top tips for making the most of your stay.
Bergamo is Milan’s much prettier little sister. But it’s a bit of a secret place. Many visitors skip Bergamo completely – perhaps not even noticing it’s there – and make the 50km journey to Milan. That’s definitely their loss.

Virtually two cities, the Citta Bassa (the lower and newer town) sprawls across the foot of the walled Citta Alta (upper town, reached by a delightful funicular railway), from which Milan’s skyscrapers can be seen in the distance. A further rumbly old funicular takes you to the very small and intimate San Viglio from which you can take in the views of the Lombardy region from the top of Bergamo castle.

This former outpost of the Venetian empire merges Renaissance and Baroque architecture with delicious cuisine, a not too shabby local wine list and very friendly locals – making this a great long weekend location. And with the short flight time (just two hours) from the UK, what’s not to like?

Eat this

Try a starter of matured goats cheese with honey and hot bread followed by the local version of ravioli called Casconcelli alla bergamasca. This is heavenly tasting ravioli stuffed with meat and served in a delicious butter and sage sauce.

Drink this

The Lombardy region is famous for its Valpolicella wine, but try the lesser known Bardolino wine – red or white – which tastes wonderful. Enjoy drinking it in the Bar Flora in the bougainvillea covered Piazza Vechia, which I think is one of Italy’s prettiest and most understated Piazzas. There’s no better end to a perfect day in Bergamo that sitting in the extremely ornate funicolare bar ( sipping a late-night drink and watching the distant lights of Milan.

Splash Out

Treat yourself to dinner with a view in beautiful San Vigliano at the Ristorante Pizzeria Sanvigilio and tuck into a bottle of Villa Sparina Gavi.

Top tips

  • The Bergamo tourist card ( not only gets you reduced entry price to local attractions, but also covers all of your journeys on any of the buses (including the airport buses) and the funiculars for a 24 hour period.
  • Sample Italian tapas in bars in the Citta Bassa – served free after 4pm (earlier on Sundays) when you purchase a drink.

A bit of the unusual

Visit the Colleoni Chapel and read about his strange affliction, which he was quite happy to divulge on his coat of arms.

Stay a bit longer

If you are looking to stay in the area a bit longer, Lake Garda is about 1 hour and 45 mins away and well worth the day trip.

Paul Beckett is Head of IT & Operations at Hillyer McKeown

This article has been published in the latest issue of HM Magazine, available here