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Why You Should Visit the 2023 Italian Capitals of Culture


Why You Should Visit the 2023 Italian Capitals of Culture

If you’re planning a vacation to Italy, you might be considering the famous cities of Milan, Florence, Rome, or Venice. But there’s no better way to experience Italian culture in 2023 than with Bergamo and Brescia.

For the first time, the Italian Capital of Culture designation was awarded to two cities, Bergamo and Brescia, in 2023. The neighboring cities in Lombardy were severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but 2023 marked the year of their comeback.

The Italian Capital of Culture designation is given to the winning city for one year by the Italian Ministry of Culture. Throughout 2023, Bergamo and Brescia organized different events, from the COVID-19 commemorative events held during the spring to the 1000Miglia Roadcar Race during the summer.

Now that the end of 2023 approaches, the Italian Capitals of Culture still have events for the fall and winter months. These cities have a rich heritage and culture with hidden treasures, monuments, and archaeological complexes, making them the perfect places in Italy for a vacation.

Bergamo: Best For Rich Italian Culture

Bergamo is a small city in Italy, divided into two districts. The older upper district is Città Atla, while the lower town is Città Bassa. The walkable city is known for the Venetian Wall, one of the ten UNESCO World Heritage sites located in Lombardy.

The city offers easy commuting, encircled by the Venetian walls, with transportation provided by a funicular railway. Bergamo is known for preserving the history of Italy, from the Duomo di Bergamo to the Romanesque Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. This Italian Capital of Culture is definitely the place to be if you want to enjoy the charm of history, the natural landscape, and the arts.

Eat and Drink

Bergamo is known for its excellence in cheesemaking and is often called the cheese capital of Europe. You can consider sampling some of the best local cheeses, including Strachitunt, Taleggio, and Branzi. You can also explore the lower town for cheese bars, like the popular Bu Cheese Bar. Taverna Colleoni, a historical restaurant opened in 1744, is the best place to end your day trip.

Another excellent local meal is the casonsei, meat-filled ravioli, which is indigenous to the city. Bergamo has good food, with Michelin-starred restaurants and local spots. If you want to drink, consider wine appellations in Bergamo, from the Valcalepio Bianco and Valcalepio to the Moscato di Scanzo, all local to Bergamo.

Things to Do

Enjoy the top sights in Bergamo, as the small and walkable city makes for an exciting day trip. You should consider stopping at The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, which is a Romanesque church located in the Piazza del Duomo. This is not very far from Campanone, a striking bell tower as high as 52.76 meters.

To satisfy your thirst for art, a visit to the Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Bergamo is an obvious choice. This gallery includes an impressive collection of work by Italian artists and organizes regular exhibitions. During your day trip, you can ride the San Vigilo funicular, which would deliver a picturesque view of the Italian countryside and mountains.

Where to Stay

Most people decide to stay in Milan and make a day trip to Bergamo, as the small city can easily be reached by train. But if you stay in Bergamo, you can access different options regardless of your taste or budget. Consider Città Bassa for more budget options, shopping hotspots, and nightlife, while Città Alta is picturesque and has pricey options.

Brescia: Best for Italian Culinary Wonders

Only about an hour away from Bergamo is Brescia, a breathtaking city with the largest archeological area of Northern Italy. The city is highly walkable, so exploring on foot is fun. On the city's eastern outskirts lies San Salvatore, the Santa Giulia complex. This former monastery is a fantastic place to visit, with a rich Italian history.

You can enjoy a rich day of exciting events when you visit Brescia. Visitors can check out its Roman ruins and Lombard monuments, with UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Brescia has a long industrial tradition and is the best place to enjoy the popular Franciacorta sparkling wine.

Eat and Drink

Enjoy a culinary excursion in Brescia, starting with the Franciacorta wine. You can visit Il Colmetto, a 30-hectare family-run farm restaurant with a beautiful dining room, greenhouses and vegetable gardens, an artisan cheese factory, free-grazing donkeys, and more.

Also, look out for the local restaurants that sell some of the indigenous Brescia dishes. Since the city is close to Lake Iseo, Brescia has a lake fish culinary tradition, with specialties like grilled eel, catfish, tench, fried carp, and filleted whitefish.

Things to Do

You can start your exploration of Brescia from Piazza del Foro, the oldest square in the city. This is a short walk from the Roman Theatre, Capitolium Temple, and the Santa Giulia Museum. You can explore the well-preserved and wonderful mosaic floors and the reconstructed fragments of the Winged Victory statue.

You can explore the Brescia sites protected by UNESCO, like Camonica Valley Rock Art, Valle Camonica, and San Salvatore. Plus, you can explore Italian history by visiting the Teatro Grande, a 19th-century theatre for a show. For more of the Italian countryside, visit Lovere, a lakeside town with beautiful mountain views, great restaurants, water sports and cobbled streets. It’s a short drive from either Bergamo or Brescia.

Where to Stay

If you’re considering staying in Brescia while in Italy, consider checking out Relaisfranciacorta, a 17th-century farmhouse designed as a four-star hotel. It offers a vast stretch of mountains, lakes, and vineyards. Depending on your budget, you can also consider other boutique hotels and inns.

Bergamo & Brescia: Worth Every Visit

Unsurprisingly, these hidden gems in the Italian countryside were named the Italian Capitals of Culture in 2023. Both cities have competed with each other over the years and have now combined their forces to become the best places for tourism. Although lesser known than Venice, Rome, and other hotspots, the cities offer picturesque views, beautiful history in cathedrals and Roman ruins, exciting culinary excursions, and more. They are the best places to visit before the year runs out.