If you're driving from Milan to Lake Garda, the perfect deviation from your autostrada journey is the lovely medieval town of Bergamo, which is also a wonderful side trip by train from Milan. With direct service from Milan, you’ll be whisked from the restless pace of city life to the medieval grandeur of Bergamo Alta in less than an hour.

From behind a set of battered Venetian walls high on an Alpine hilltop, Bergamo majestically surveys the countryside. Behind are the snowcapped Bergamese Alps, and two funiculars connect the modern Bergamo Bassa (Lower Bergamo) to the ancient Bergamo Alta (Upper Bergamo). Bergamo Bassa's long arteries and ornate piazzas speak to centuries of prosperity, but it's nonetheless overshadowed by Bergamo Alta, whose magnificent architecture has a fairy-tale allure.

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Fodor's Essential Italy 2022

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