Bergamo is sometimes lumped in with the greater Milan region. That major Italian urban centre may be just 25 miles to the south west, but Bergamo is a fascinating historic city in its own right. If you hire a car in the city, you'll find it stands at the edge of the Alps with the picturesque Italian lakes to the north. The old part of the town stands on higher ground with the modern parts spreading across the flat plain below. Road connections are good – the A4 motorway runs very close by, linking to Milan and Venice. The city's busy international airport is to the south east, alongside the motorway.
The old town, known locally as the Città Alta, stands beautifully intact behind 16th-century stone ramparts on a rocky plateau overlooking the Lower Town below. Hiring a car in Bergamo will make finding it a lot easier – and much more memorable. Park at the foot of this cliff. Then it's fun to take the cable car or one of the footpaths up into the narrow streets of the medieval town where parking is at a premium. Up here you'll find most of the city's ancient landmark buildings, including the Citadel, the Basilica, and various wonderful palazzos and piazzas. This ancient quarter is mostly pedestrianised, so makes a perfect spot for a wander among the cobbled alleys, old houses and pavement cafes. You'll need your car to explore further afield in the city though – the highlights of the Lower City include the bustling Via 20 September, which is Bergamo's main shopping street, the lively GAMeC gallery of modern art and the Accademia Carrara, an acclaimed 19th-century neo-classical gallery of fine art. Further afield, a car is essential to explore the winding roads round the hills on the outskirts of town, where you'll find charming old villas among the trees and astonishing views over the city.
Opening hours: Mo-Su 0800-2400
Address: Orio Al Serio Airport
Opening hours: Mo-Fr 0830-1230 1430-1830, Sa 0830-1230, Su closed.
Address: Via Carducci 9/D