Italy’s Capital of Culture 2023 will see lovers of the arts flocking to the Lombardy region of Italy, to enjoy music, art and other cultural events in the host cities: Brescia and Bergamo.
These two cities were jointly nominated to become Italy’s Capital of Culture 2023, during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. The Italian Parliament supported Brescia and Bergamo’s proposal to work together towards this goal, to help create hope, pride and renewal to two cities that had suffered great loss. It became a symbol of brighter times to come, during the dark days of the pandemic.
Bergamo and Brescia for culture
Together the two cities have a wealth of culture, including five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, two of Italy’s leading art museums, galleries hosting international artists, theatres and an array of traditional products that sell across the world.
Over the years the events and festivals of Bergamo and Brescia have traditionally been hosted in the prestigious theatres, churches and numerous piazzas. This year events will also make use of more unusual venues such as gardens, museums, monasteries and castles.
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Capital of Culture 2023 Events
Now 2023 is here, “Bergamo Brescia” can finally share the programme of events they have been organising. They are presenting a full year of wonders, ranging from an open-air exhibition of gorilla sculptures to a concert by the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine.
The Accademia Carrara art gallery will present the first art exhibition ever devoted to Cecco del Caravaggio (1580 -1630), the most mysterious of Caravaggio’s direct pupils. The Museum of Santa Giulia will host Brescia’s Photo Festival, with the main exhibition entitled “Mountain Light”. Four local choirs will perform at the Church of San Francesco d’Assissi in Brescia. There will also be dance, orchestras, opera, science and plays. A list of events can be found on the Bergamo Brescia website.
So many people fly in to Milan Bergamo airport and then immediately head to Milan, the Italian lakes or the ski resorts. And who can blame them, they are all stunning and receive a lot of publicity from holiday companies as the highlights of the Lombardy region.
However, Bergamo and Brescia are certainly worth looking at. They are in a great central location and within commuter distance to Milan. If you have a morning flight, it can also be useful to have a stopover in Bergamo, as from the city you can reach the airport in about 20 minutes.
Local cuisine in Bergamo
Why not spend the day before your flight exploring the city of Bergamo. There are a great choice of restaurants, trattorias and bakeries to tempt the taste buds. Casoncelli alla bergamasca is a traditional Italian stuffed pasta dish originating from Bergamo. Also, Polenta, is a traditional side dish in these parts. Surprisingly, Bergamo bakeries even use polenta in a special cake, often filled with a light chocolate mousse.
Even if you opt to buy a countryside property it’s good to have a sizable town nearby. One thing I have learnt while living in Italy, is to explore towns and villages outside the main tourist hot spots. These places can be just as beautiful, more authentic Italian and the price of food and accommodation is generally cheaper. Often these towns also feel like a place you could really live in. So, let’s take a look at Brescia and Bergamo.
Brescia has got to be one of Italy’s best kept secrets. You will be amazed to discover roman ruins right in the city, that are free to walk around. There are towering columns and the ruins of a theatre, right next to elegant renaissance houses. It’s a city you will want to walk around, discovering little shops and cafes down cobbled streets, beautiful balconies, fountains and clock towers in the piazzas.
Brescia’s Grand Theatre
If you have the opportunity to see a performance at Teatro Grande, be prepared to be totally in awe at its beauty. With five tiers of golden boxes all around, and beautiful frescoed ceilings, this is a real jewel. In addition, the magnificent Sala Grande, the 18th century Foyer, and the Statue Room are just as stunning and have welcomed the greatest opera singers. It is inside Teatro Grande that Puccini’s masterpiece Madame Butterfly obtained its first success on 28th May, 1904. Fitting then, that it will be Madame Butterfly that opens the Brescia Opera Season in 2023.
Brescia Vintage Car Race
Another claim to fame is the annual vintage car race from Brescia to Rome and back. Called the “Mille Miglia” the race is reserved for cars built between 1927 and 1957. Every year, it attracts thousands of car lovers from all over the world. This year it runs from 13th to 17th June with 405 historic cars expected at the start. You can also see vintage cars on display at the Mille Miglia Museum, which is at the monastic complex of Santa Eufemia della Fonte.
Brescia sights and attractions
If roman remains, prestigious theatres and vintage cars weren’t enough, Brescia also has a castle. Even Brescia castle has a few surprises for the visitor. One of the largest European collections of arms and ancient armour is hosted in Mastio Visconteo tower and on the first week of June the Castle hosts a Medieval Festival with the historic re-enactment of the siege of Frederick II.
Thanks to the Associazione Speleologica Bresciana, it is also possible to join an excursion into the water reserves, oil storage rooms, and various towers of the fortress. However, most visitors prefer to relax and enjoy the view from the ramparts or from July to September they can take a seat for cinema under the stars.
Santa Giulia Museum is a former monastery turned into a museum, hosting a collection from Prehistory to the present day. Together with the Capitolium archaeological area and the San Salvatore monastery complex, Santa Giulia Museum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Accademia Carrara is one of the main Italian picture galleries. For more than two-hundred years it has been home to masterpieces. It has now reached the impressive amount of 1,800 works of art.
Bergamo is a city of two halves. The medieval city on the hill is referred to as the “Città Alta” and the city below with its wide boulevards is “Città Bassa.” It’s fun to reach the upper city by funicular railway, and the view is spectacular. The locals are very proud of their funicular, which has been connecting the two parts of the city since 1887.
Bergamo Citta Alto
The “upper” village is a maze of cobbled streets encircled by a perfectly intact Venetian wall, dating back to 1561. The wall is over three and half miles long and is the perfect place for a stroll, while enjoying panoramic views of the city and mountains beyond. Since 2017 it has been a UNESCO world Heritage site. In addition, the churches here are incredibly beautiful and the opulently gilded Santa Maria Maggiore cathedral has a real wow factor when you step inside.
The Grand “Teatro Donizetti”, also in the lower town, will stage an Opera Festival this year dedicated to the great composer Gaetano Donizetti, who was born in Bergamo. There will also be Festivals of Jazz, piano and science.
If you want a view from a greater height, hop on the funicular railway up to Torre Castello San Vigilio. As well as the castle and tiny village, there is a lovely quiet park. The San Vigilio hill on which it stands, has two lovely restaurants, considered one of the best places to have a romantic meal.
Bergamo Città Basso
Tourists usually spend most of their time in the “Città Alta”. However, the programme of openings and events this year should persuade them to also explore the lesser-visited Città Bassa, too. Here you’ll discover tree-lined piazzas, sweeping porticos and shops. For art lovers, there is the Accademia Carrara which has just reopened after a stunning makeover.
Getting to Bergamo
Ryanair currently do four daily flights from London Stansted to Milan Bergamo airport (BGY), at amazingly low prices. They also do flights to Bergamo from Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Bristol, East Midlands, Newcastle, Dublin and Belfast. In addition, Easyjet do flights from Gatwick.
You can fly to Bergamo from many other countries too, and there are domestic flights from twelve Italian airports, including Rome. The city bus gets you from the airport into Bergamo in about 20 minutes, and costs just €2.60.
Travelling from Milan and the Lakes
Both cities are a train ride from Central Milan. The train to Bergamo takes 48 minutes and Brescia just over an hour, or the fast train (Frecciarossa) takes 36 minutes. Lake Como and Lake Garda are about an hour and a quarter drive from Bergamo. The lower end of Lake Isio is even closer as it is roughly between Bergamo and Brescia, and only 30 minutes by car from Bergamo airport.
It takes only about 35 minutes to drive from Bergamo to Brescia. The train takes about an hour, but only costs from €5 each way. All train details can be found on the Trenitalia website.
Walking from city to city
If you want to walk between the two cities, to fully immerse yourself in the beautiful surroundings, there are special routes mapped out especially for the Capital of Culture year. The “Via delle Sorelle”, is a route which meanders through valleys and hills with stunning views. At certain points there will be art installations and performances. It passes vineyards where you can enjoy tastings of the local wine. This path also heads down to the shore of Lake Iseo, a lake often overlooked for its larger neighbours Garda and Como.
The “Ciclovia”, a 76-kilometre route, takes cyclists through the lush nature reserve of Torbiere del Sebino. It also winds through the vineyards of Franciacorta where you can spot peaceful stone villages and ancient castles.
Why Lombardy is a great region to buy property
For work, rest and play Lombardy has everything you need. It offers vibrant cities, picturesque lakes, stunning landscapes, art, culture, food and wine tours, and a huge choice of sports activities.
Whether you enjoy skiing in the mountains, hiking in the hills, water sports on the lakes or a round of golf at one of 41 golf courses, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Spectators can experience cheering on Milan’s football teams, or Formula 1 at Monza. In fact, the Lombardy region holds many high level sports tournaments, and in 2026 it will host the Winter Olympic Games.
Lombardy is a great place to live or own a holiday home and is very easy to get to. With over 37 million visitors to the region each year, the potential to rent out your holiday home is good too. Plus, in some areas you can achieve a long rental season, with winter sports and summer hiking. Check out the Lombardy Tourism website to discover what this great region has to offer.
Property Prices in Lombardy
From January to December 2022 the asking price of properties for sale in Lombardy went up by 3.21%. At the end of December the average asking price was € 2,189 per square metre. The city of Milan is the most expensive place to buy property in the region, with an average price of €3,462 per m², followed by Como (€2,041 per m²). In comparison a short train ride from Milan and you can buy property in Brescia province for an average of €1,943 per m² and Bergamo €1,466 per m² (source: immobiliare.it).
To see a selection of Properties for sale in Lombardy, visit Your Overseas Home Property page. There are several properties for sale around Como for less than €200,000.
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