A Foodie’s Guide to Bergamo
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Nested between Milan and Lake Como, Bergamo is, without a doubt, one of Italy’s most underrated cities.
A small city in Lombardy, it abounds in local specialties, fine dining, and fantastic wines. Boasting superb views of the vineyards all the way to the southern plains, Bergamo is one of the country’s best-kept secrets.
Known in Italian as ‘La Citta Dei Mille’ (“The City of the Thousand”), Bergamo has two parts: Citta Alta (Upper City) and Citta Bassa (Lower City).
Citta Alta is a wonderful medieval city, surrounded by 16th century Venetian walls, with cobbled stone streets dotted with quaint little shops, bars, and traditional restaurants.
Citta Bassa is the modern part of the city and is home to the main shopping streets, the business district, and some of the newer, upmarket places to eat.
The two distinctly different parts make Bergamo an exciting, contrasting place to visit and a mandatory addition to any food lover’s wishlist.
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Italian cuisine in Bergamo
Situated in Northern Italy, Bergamo and the surrounding areas are known for their hearty and rustic home-style cooking.
The food found here is quite different from that in Central or Southern Italy, as the weather is playing a big part.
The Mediterranean cuisine, the staple for the warmer regions in Italy, does not take center stage here. The colder north produces fewer tomatoes, olive oil, and fish. Instead, farm staples such as corn, root vegetables, mushrooms, meat, and dairy are the main ingredients in a lot of dishes.
Although the food here can be heavier and richer than that found in other parts of the country, it is a classic cuisine of its own, with many specialties to try and enjoy.
Bergamo’s food specialties
Photo credit: Pier
Rice is a staple, and the risottos in Bergamo are amongst the best in Italy. Risotto Alla Milanese is the simple, classic saffron-fragranced version of one of the most popular Italian dishes, and can be found on almost every restaurant menu in Citta Alta.
Polenta, however, is perhaps the most well-known food in Bergamo, with delicious variations that pair perfectly with stewed and roasted meats.
Meat lovers are well catered for with Cotoletta (breaded veal or chicken cutlets), Osso Buco, a rich veal shin stew, and the hearty, braised cabbage and pork dish, Cassoeula, found throughout the Lombardy region.
Those with a sweet tooth should try Mostarda, delicious candied fruit in a mustard scented syrup, or the deliciously light cake, Panettone.
Photo credit: -jkb-
Polenta finds its way onto the dessert menu too – Polenta e Osèi is a rich, bright yellow cake made from polenta, hazelnut cream, and rum, topped with marzipan.
The wine in Bergamo
Photo credit: Nonnoant
Predominantly cooler than most wine regions in Italy, Lombardy produces wines of exceptional quality with a distinct flavor profile.
The wine you are most likely to come across in Bergamo is the Valcalepio DOC, which is often served pre-dinner, as an aperitif.
This light and fruity white is made from a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay, and is produced just outside the city.
The red variety, made from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, is usually aged in oak barrels and is a rich, full-bodied wine and the perfect accompaniment to the roasted and stewed meat dishes found throughout the region.
You will also find delicious Moscato di Scanzo, a warm, smooth red, as well as Franciacorta, a champagne-like sparkling wine only found in this part of Italy.
Recommended Restaurants in Bergamo
In Citta Alta:
Hidden away down a little a side street, Il Circolino looks unassuming from the entrance. But step through into the huge terrace area and enjoy delicious pizza, pasta, and Lombardy specialties under the vines.
For amazing views and great local food, try and book a table on the terrace that offers panoramic views of the city. This is a popular old trattoria, located right next to the funicular railway. Their menu includes antipasti locali (local appetizers) as well as local staples based on polenta or various meats.
In Citta Bassa:
Ristorante a Modo
A modern Italian restaurant with a very inventive menu featuring specialties such as fresh gnocchi, homemade pasta, and seafood.
For a real gastronomic treat, try the modern osteria in Citta Bassa run by Tommaso Spagnolo. The seasonal menu changes regularly but you can expect inventive pasta dishes and delicious steak all the time.
Stunning day trips from Bergamo
Just a short train ride away (1h) from Bergamo, Milano is Lombardy’s gem.
Famous for the Duomo, the largest church in Italy, the city is packed with things to do and places to visit.
Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II is one of the world’s oldest shopping malls. Plus, you can also grab some food or coffee at one of the famous cafes located here.
Foodies should not miss eating the legendary risotto alla Milanese – which came into existence because an apprentice working on the Duomo’s stained-glass windows decided to add saffron to the white rice to match the color of the glass. For lunch, do like the locals and get a piadina, an Italian flatbread stuffed with meats, cheese, and vegetables.
Another interesting local dish is Minestrone Milanese. The well-known Italian soup uses rice instead of pasta. The dish is served hot in winter and cold in summer, satisfying your stomach and getting you ready for another round of sightseeing.
Another hour on the road (by car, this time) and in the opposite direction of Milan, there’s Lake Garda. Italy’s largest lake is famous among families that want to enjoy water sports or spend some time relaxing by its shores.
There are a lot of charming places to check out, including castles with stunning views of the area and the ruins of a Roman villa.
The local staples include polenta with various sauces, pasta with sardines (Bigoli con le sarde), and tortellini stuffed with meat (Tortellini di Valeggio).
Hero photo credit: Eric Hossinger via Flickr
Go on a culinary holiday in Italy and learn how to cook these delicious Italian dishes and discover more yummy staples that will soothe your soul.