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Northern Italy’s shining star, Bergamo, is like an old photograph capturing a time from long before. From the overwhelmingly beautiful baroque and Renaissance architecture dominating the city, to the down-to-earth nature of its locals, Bergamo is a classic. The outskirts of the city are just as appealing and travellers who are willing to take on the challenge of doing some independent exploring will uncover Italy’s lesser known natural beauties and even a few great cultural enterprises. Several rental companies are on hand to aid travellers in securing the perfect vehicle.
Who to Book With
The usual rental companies have a presence in Bergamo including Avis, Hertz, Sixt and Budget. The offices of these companies can be found at the airport, at the central railway station and at many other locations throughout the city centre. Car hire in Bergamo is quite popular with travellers, so online booking before arrival is advised to avoid disappointment.
Best time to go
Bergamo’s climate can best be described as subtropical, boasting hot and humid conditions throughout most of the year. Peak season is during the summer, when the weather is most pleasant but travellers should still pack a raincoat as sudden cloud bursts are often experienced. Prices do tend to rise sharply during this time and advanced bookings are highly recommended.
Need to Know Essentials
Travellers will not be given a rental car without the following documents:
- A valid driver’s licence or International Driving Permit
- A valid photographic ID or, even better, a passport
- The credit card used when putting down a deposit
Driving in Bergamo is generally hassle-free. The roads are of a good condition and while the city is quite small, the streets are not overly compact. There are very few restricted areas in the city which makes finding a parking place far easier than in most metropolises. Street parking needs to be paid for but there are also several parking garages at which drivers can pay daily or hourly rates. These rates are often more economical. Driving comes in most handy when embarking on day trips, however, and drivers will find that some parking areas on the outskirts of the city do not require any payment at all.
Navigating between the main sites in the city centre can largely be done by foot but some landmarks and popular areas can be most comfortably reached by using the efficient public transport system. This integrated public transport system is operated by ATB. For ease of travel, visitors can invest in a Bergamo Card which covers all modes of transport in the city including bus, funicular and taxis. The card is valid for periods of one, two, and three days.
The most popular way of getting around the city, with both foreigners and travellers is the ATB operated bus service. There are many routes in the city including ones to the airport and ones connecting the central train station with Colle Aperto. Single journey bus tickets can be bought prior to the journey from ticket counters and machines around the city, and are valid for only 75 minutes from the time of purchasing.
The only way to get from the upper city to even higher areas like San Vigilio is by the public funicular. The funicular is a cable car which runs on a 600-metre-long track and carries passengers up what would otherwise be a terribly steep trek. ATB operates the funicular as well, and the Bergamo Car is valid for these journeys.
Local taxis can be identified by the ‘Bergamo’ sign on their bodies. Taxis are much more costly than other public transport options and travellers generally use their services only when going to or coming from the airport. The services of private taxi companies like RadioTaxi Bergamo can be enlisted for longer journeys and day trips but, once again, this is not the most economical of options.
One of the best things about Bergamo is not simply that it is an enchanting city filled with interesting cultural and historical sites, but rather that it serves as one of the best bases from which to explore the region. Only a couple of hours on the road and travellers will hit such popular areas as the Lake District and Milan.
Donizetti Theatre - Soak up some art and culture at the Donizetti Theatre, known perhaps most famously for its strong tradition of hosting world class opera performances. Travellers in the city at the right time could catch such entertaining events as the Bergamo Jazz Festival held every year. The theatre is located in the lower town and is easily reached by car.
Lecco - Only an hour outside of Bergamo by road is the charming town of Lecco. It is located on the shores of Lake Como and is one of the more picturesque towns in the lake area. Travellers can spend a wonderful day roaming the charming streets of this quaint town and even engage in a few exciting water sports on the lake.
Parco dei Colli - Bergamo is surrounded by stunning examples of natural beauty, one of which is the Parco dei Colli, a national park just outside of the city. Spanning an area of 4,700 hectares, the park literally cannot be missed. It is home to several species of mammal and bird, much luscious vegetation and most popularly, several challenging hiking trails.