She clutched the cake to her heart and smiled. I couldn’t resist. Through a series of gestures I got the gist of what she was trying to communicate, this was her favourite, ‘Turta del Dunizet della Bergamasca’. I really hadn’t counted on there being two signature cakes in Bergamo, as well as a famous ice cream, but hey, in for a penny, in for several pounds of sugar! The best sales lady ever worked at La Marianna, Bergamo’s most revered pasticceria.

 DSC_5899

The cake is named after Donizetti, a famous composer from Bergamo and was created to celebrate the centenary of his death in 1948. The taste is deceptively subtle, hints of vanilla and cherry occasionally accented by a pop of candied apricot. It even has its own national day, April 8th, the same day Donizetti died, but you can buy it year round. Most people visiting Bergamo will have ignored the Donizetti and opted for the legendary Polenta e Osei, i.e. the showy one that steals all the limelight.

Like this post? Subscribe to the Soulful Travel newsletter for Annie’s packing checklist plus travel related advice, news, competitions and more. Sign up here.
If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

This iconic bun is everywhere and screams buy me I’m from Bergamo. You can’t miss it in the shop windows, its bright yellow marzipan is studded with crystals of sugar and adorned with a mini chocolate bird and two fondant eggs. Inside the sponge is sandwiched together with a layer of light hazelnutty chocolate cream. The cake is an homage to a local savoury dish, which features a mound of golden polenta topped with roasted quails. It gives a new meaning to the phrase feeling peckish… However, it couldn’t be more sacchariferous, the sweetness was insane. So much so that I preferred the Donizetti; it was just like the lady who loved it, quietly brilliant, taking a back seat and yet being the better cake!

 DSC_5875

As if that wasn’t enough, La Marianna is the home of the stracciatella gelato. If you have ever tried a vanilla ice cream that has thin slices of chocolate running through it (think of Viennetta) then this is the original version. It’s just how you expect: soft sweet cold clouds, shattered by shards of dark cocoa. Perfecto.

Like this post? Subscribe to the Soulful Travel newsletter for Annie’s packing checklist plus travel related advice, news, competitions and more. Sign up here.
If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

If you don’t want a sugar rush then a hearty plate of Bergamo’s most authentic food is available at the Co-Operative Citta Alta. It is a community initiative with a restaurant in an old prison building serving up traditional fare. This is where the locals hang out, which is always a good sign in any restaurant around the world. The huge plate of polenta mash was slavered in melted Branzi cheese, which is made from the cows that graze in the nearby Brembana valley. This classic combo is great carb load of gooey goodness and delighfully washed down with a pale ale beer. The clientele ranged from a gang of workmen to nuns, perfectly demonstrating that this is where all kinds of Bergamo residents prefer to hang out.

 DSC_5845DSC_5841

Luckily there are a couple of activities you can partake in that help you to work off all those calories. Bergamo city itself resembles a tiered cake; Citta Bassa – the lower city i.e. modern Bergamo, Citta Alta the old town that sits on a hill, all topped off with the castle of San Vigilio. There are funicular railways that connect the different levels and in the afternoon when Bergamo shuts down it is pleasant to take in the views either from the city walls that surround the Citta Alta or from the fortress ruins in San Vigilio.

 DSC_5857DSC_5853DSC_5868

There is plenty of time to accidentally discover Bergamo, whether that is an old monastery that is now a community theatre space or a random archway with frescoes. Either side of the midday break the cobbled lanes of the Citta Alta enjoy a healthy stream of visitors. Pop into the overly ornate Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and the adjacent Cappella Colleoni if you need some divine interior inspiration. The history of Bergamo is kind of explained in a funny museum housed in the Palazzo del Podesta, where you can also climb the campanone (civic tower) for a fab view. Back on the streets, there are plenty of mini stores offering local produce for sale; you can even sniff out a whole shop dedicated to truffle products.

 DSC_5795DSC_5803DSC_5815DSC_5828

DSC_5790DSC_5835DSC_5883DSC_5889DSC_5907

Bergamo, like Rome, has seven hills, which are handy to help work off the town’s smorgasbord of naughty culinary delights. It is a perfect day trip from nearby Milan or a delicious foodie getaway for a few days, just remember to pack the elastic waist banded clothes. And be wary of stepping into La Marianna, the world’s best cake seller will have you sampling the whole store before you even know it, and without speaking a word, a true expert in sweet nothings.

Like this post? Subscribe to the Soulful Travel newsletter for Annie’s packing checklist plus travel related advice, news, competitions and more. Sign up here.
If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.