VisitBergamo has put together a cultural, delectable and relaxing itinerary for those looking to venture beyond the parameters of Bergamo’s city center.
Are you someone who likes to head off the beaten track? Who likes to visit not just a city but its surroundings? Are you looking for a hidden gem whether it be to relax or to whet your appetite? Here at VisitBergamo we’ve found just the place. By following this flavoursome program you can head out beyond the city limits and discover an exciting new area of the province!
With spring knocking on the door, the sun is warming up and the hills are looking greener than ever. So why not jump in the car, head north-west out of the city and discover the Imagna Valley. We did and loved it, so we know you’ll love it too. Not only is it rich with Romanesque architecture but has a number of delicious pit stops for every moment of the day.
Whoever said breakfast was the most important meal of the day had definitely been to La Pasqualina. Our first stop of the morning is at this award-winning patisserie in Almenno San Bartolomeo. While it’s a little too early for an ice-cream, we might just have to swing by on the way home to try their renowned gelato made with only the highest quality ingredients, instead we opt for a freshly baked custard-filled croissant and a slice of their margherita cake made with extra virgin olive oil and a couple of cappuccinos made with coffee beans that a freshly roasted and ground on site.
IN THE AGROTOURISM
With satisfied tummies, as much as we’d like to stay and savour the infinite assortment of biscuits, it’s time to get back on the road. Only briefly. Before we make our way to visit the first of Almenno’s Romanesque splendours, we decide to stop into Cascinetto d’Agro, a local organic wine and jam producer. While it’s too early for a tipple, we’ve heard that the jam is too good to pass up and so we choose the Orange and Pumpkin jam to try for our breakfast tomorrow.
SAN TOME’ AND SAN NICOLA CHURCHES
Now putting our stomachs aside, we focus on the more cultural part of our journey. Approaching the Church of San Tomè, its round structure makes it stand out in comparison to Bergamo’s many other churches. They say that San Tomè’s peculiar circular plan was probably inspired by the Temple of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Gazing around the columned interior there are traces of frescoes such as the Madonna and Child Enthroned and the Annunciation. After a little longer admiring the pyramid structure of this intriguing holy place it’s time for us to head on up the road to Almenno San Salvatore to the second of the Romanesque marvels.
Entering the Church of San Nicola, it’s hard to believe that the frescoes date back around thousand years, including one depicting St. George on his white horse. Standing before them, it’s now obvious why these frescoes are considered to be some of the most important medieval paintings in the Bergamo area.
Back in the car, we are just a short drive from our lunch destination, La Frasca. One of the most unique locations I think I’ve ever eaten in, set within the walls of the ex-monastery of San Nicola, made even more spectacular by the surrounding vineyards rolling down the hill of the natural terrace we’re perched upon. Our table is situated in the convent’s cloister, overlooking the inner courtyard. We manage to drag our eyes away from our setting just long enough to decide which of the local pasta dishes we’ll order, we opt for tagliatelle with ragu and zucchini and scamorza cheese lasagna.
WINE OR BEER?
After mopping up the last of the pasta sauce and downing an espresso we are ready for our tour of the adjoining Lurani Cernuschi winery. Giovanni, who’s been running the estate for more than 20 years takes us for a stroll through the vines, telling us of their long-standing history and more recent cultivation and production methods, before taking us to the cellar for a degustation amid the barrels. After sampling the rich array of wines, Giovanni takes us into the Church of San Nicola to see the extremely rare and well preserved example of a sixteenth century organ, which after careful restoration is still used today for concerts. While we could easily gaze out over these vines for hours it’s time to get moving. We thank Giovanni and get back in the car to switch from wine to beer, at Birrificio Lemine. After a peek at the production process we decide it’s probably best not to mix our drinks, especially while driving, so we select a couple of labels from the six available beers, all made with water from the surrounding valleys, and decide we’ll try them in the evening after our relaxing afternoon to come.
RELAX AT THE SPA
By no means has it been a stressful day, but who doesn’t love the idea of kicking back and relaxing in a place where the hardest decision you have to make is whether or not you want to start with a Turkish bath, a sauna or a massage?! Unfortunately it’s not quite hot enough yet to make the most of the sun lounges in the garden overlooking the Imagna Valley’s green rolling hills, but the numerous pools and wealth of other revitalising options definitely make up for it.
A hydro-massage, a salt steam sauna and a few hours later we are pretty reluctant to leave and head back to the centre of Bergamo, but we do so as we contemplate a last pit stop at La Pasqualina for the ice cream we missed out on earlier in the day. If you’d prefer to stay however, there’s always the option to book one of their rooms for the night and do it all over again in the morning!
We hope that you liked our tried and tested itinerary throughout the Lower Imagna Valley and would like to give it a go yourselves!