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To best enjoy Bergamo, Italy, head to the upper town

Citta Alta, or upper city, looms over the town of Bergamo, Italy. The historic area is visible from nearly everywhere in the town. Photo Courtesy Jackie Broome

PHOTO COURTESY OF JACKIE BROOME

By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 23, 2017

If you ever find yourself in Bergamo, Italy, head for the hills. 
 
This is not a suggestion to abandon the city. It’s advice for how to best enjoy it. To truly experience Bergamo’s charms, it’s necessary to make the climb to Citta Alta — the upper city. 
 
As the names suggest, Citta Alta looms majestically over Citta Bassa, the lower city. Citta Alta’s cluster of centuries-old buildings, punctuated by soaring towers and ensconced by an imposing span of protective walls, is distinctly visible from nearly every part of Bergamo, including Orio al Serio International Airport some 4 miles away. The constant specter of Citta Alta creates an irresistible urge to see it up close. 
 
Luckily, that’s not as difficult as it might seem. Citta Alta can be easily reached several ways. It’s a fairly strenuous but manageable 15-minute walk up from the lower city. Pedestrians wishing to dodge that physical exertion can use the funicular connecting Citta Bassa and Citta Alta. There’s even a city bus that drops passengers off at the upper city’s gates. The upper city is also accessible by car. 
 
After seeing Citta Alta as a single, mysterious entity perched above, it’s fascinating to explore the individual sites within it. 
 
The centerpiece is Piazza Vecchia, a beautiful medieval square surrounded by historic buildings. The square has a few shops and restaurants, but it’s managed to resist devolving into a full-blown tourist trap and maintains an aura of old-world authenticity. 
 
Just steps away from Piazza Vecchia is Bergamo’s cathedral. The high city’s cozy layout makes it difficult to get a full view of the building’s exterior, as it’s largely hidden by other encroaching structures. But it’s im-ossible not to appreciate what’s found inside. One could spend hours admiring the cathedral’s art and architecture. 
 
Having seen Citta Alta from below and close up, the visitor should survey it from above. A second funicular ferries riders even higher into the hills to San Vigilio Castle. This remarkable vantage point offers a sprawling view of the Lombardy countryside, the distant foothills of the Alps and, of course, the ubiquitous and magnificent Citta Alta. 
 
 

 

Citta Alta, Bergamo 

 
 DIRECTIONS
 
The tourist information center serving Citta Alta is located at Via Gombito 13 in Bergamo. 
 
TIMES
 
Opening times vary by attraction in Citta Alta. The tourist information center is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. 
 
COSTS
 
There’s no charge to visit Citta Alta, including Piazza Vecchia and the cathedral. Other attractions have admission fees. A 24-hour ticket, good for both funiculars and the city bus, costs 3.50 euros ($4.10).  
 
FOOD
 
Plentiful in Piazza Vecchia and the streets flowing into it. 
 
INFORMATION
 
The city has a thorough website for visitors at www.visitbergamo.net. The site is available in English.  
 

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