Are you planning to move to Bergamo? What is it like to live in Bergamo?
In this Expat Interview, Michela shares her experience and practical tips for newcomers.
You’ll learn useful information to prepare for your new life in Bergamo, such as the cost of living in Bergamo, how to find apartments and jobs, and other practical tips.
What is it like to live in Bergamo, Italy?
When you think of living in Italy, you think of strolling down narrow cobblestone streets, dipping your toes in the Mediterranean Sea, endless dinners of pasta and pizza, and daily gelato breaks.
Add a job and a little apartment, and you’re basically right!
Living in Italy is idyllic, but just like living in any place in the world, you will experience all the highs and lows of normal daily life – just in a fairytale setting.
Bergamo is a one-of-a-kind city at the foot of the Alps in the region of Lombardy in northern Italy. It is distinctly geographically modern and historic.
The Upper Town, or Città Alta, is the ancient hilltop part of the city that holds all the centuries of history within the 16th-century Venetian walls.
Then there is the Lower Town, the bustling by-day city center.
How to prepare for moving to Bergamo, Italy?
You will need to take several steps to formalize your new residence in Bergamo.
After arriving in Italy, you’ll have to notify the Questura, local police, that you have entered the country.
For the rest of the formal processes, like applying for residency, you will refer to the Comune or town government. Many of the forms necessary will be found on Comune’s website.
An important tip is to start practicing your Italian before you arrive.
Bergamo does not have a big international scene, and many speak only Italian or very little English. You will need Italian to survive in Bergamo!
Regarding packing, there is nothing in particular that you would have to bring except an adapter for electronics.
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The cost of living in Bergamo, Italy
The cost of living in Bergamo is mid-range.
It is not cheap like cities in southern Italy, but it is also not expensive like more metropolitan cities such as Milan or Turin.
Prices of every category in the following list can vary drastically due to many external factors, so I have tried to offer an accurate range of what some of the most common monthly costs could be while living in Bergamo.
|Rental price (one-bedroom flat)||€400-€650|
|Utilities (Electricity, Heating, Gas, Water)||€250-€300|
|Prepaid cell phone plan Groceries||€7-€15/month €200-€300/month|
|Transportation||€40-€50/month for a bus pass|
|Average meal/ person||€8-€12 for a first course dish €15-€20 for a second course dish|
What salary do you need to live in Bergamo, Italy?
If you’re living in Bergamo, chances are you won’t be making an extremely high salary.
There is business and industry, but the city is not as metropolitan as others in Europe, and Italy is notorious for low wages.
The country doesn’t even have a minimum wage! Most work contracts are based on a monthly and not a yearly salary.
The average wage in Bergamo on which you can have a decent living is €30k.
Taxes are relatively high in Italy because of national healthcare and other reasons.
This is something to consider when negotiating your salary. But, again, Italy is not the place to move if you want to make a high salary.
Where are the best areas to live in Bergamo?
There are several top areas to live in Bergamo, and all have pros and cons regarding beauty and convenience.
Most would say the best area to live in Bergamo is Città Alta because of how beautiful the old part of the city is.
Part of Città Alta is also Bergamo’s hills, on which many old Italian villas sit. Living here is not as convenient as living in the Lower Town since it takes you longer to get anywhere you want, and it is the most expensive area to live in Bergamo.
In the Lower Town, some of the nicer areas to live in are Via Pignolo, Borgo Santa Caterina, and Longuelo.
Via Pignolo is a beautiful historic street on the way to Città Alta, so you get the old-world charm with the convenience of walking within the city center.
Borgo Santa Caterina is a quieter, less expensive area just off the city center, close to some of the city’s sports arenas.
Longuelo is an outer neighborhood of Bergamo close to the hills, so it is naturally beautiful with more parks and trees. Just a quick bus ride and you are in the city center.
How to find apartments in Bergamo, Italy?
The main way of finding an apartment in Bergamo is online through one of the major platforms, Immobiliare.it or Idealista.it.
Whether or not you need to have a realtor depends on if the apartment is being sold privately by the owner or with a local real estate company.
One of the biggest things about renting an apartment in Italy is having references, so it is important to have proof to show that you are a dependable tenant.
Practical information for living in Bergamo, Italy
You have many options when shopping in Bergamo, from mom-and-pop shops unique to the city to the mall with the most stores in Europe, Oriocenter. And, of course, you can shop on Amazon in Bergamo.
The best phone plan is to get a SIM card from a local provider and recharge it every month when it needs to be removed. TIM, Vodafone, Iliad, WindTre, and ho Mobile are top phone and internet providers.
In the city center, you’ll find small supermarkets for everyday essentials like Carrefour Express and Pam.
But just outside the city, you’ll find large supermarkets with anything you could need, like Esselunga, Iper, and Famila.
The best expat hospital and the main hospital in Bergamo is Ospedale Papa Giovanni XXIII. For any emergency anywhere in Italy, dial 112.
Transportation in Bergamo
Like most of Northern Italy, public transportation in Bergamo is well-connected.
The bus is the best way to get around within the city and outlying towns.
Bergamo also has its train station that offers regional trains for getting around Lombardy and connections to farther destinations in Italy, like Venice and Rome.
Bergamo is also promoting city bikes and scooters, which are cheap and easy to use to get around the city center.
The city is not huge, but it is not the most walkable, especially because the Upper and Lower Town are split.
Weather in Bergamo, Italy
Living in Bergamo, you experience all seasons of the year to the fullest.
Spring is rainy and breezy, summer is hot and dry, fall is rainy and chilly, and winter is cold and dry.
Although the city is at the foot of the Orobie Alps, it does not often snow during winter in the city.
There are no particular storm seasons, and the climate is temperate.
What are the good things about living in Bergamo, Italy?
There are many positives to living in Bergamo. For one, you get to live history to the fullest just doing the simplest of things, like walking in Città Alta.
Bergamo is also extremely conveniently located in northern Italy, just a few hours’ drive away from famous Italian places like Lake Como, Venice, Florence, the Dolomites, and countries like Switzerland, France, and Slovenia.
Another fantastic thing about living in Bergamo is, of course, the food! The traditional plates like Casoncelli and polenta give the city its character and identity.
What are the bad things about living in Bergamo, Italy?
One of the potential cons of living in Bergamo is that the city is quite sleepy compared to others in Italy.
Once it hits 9 pm on a Friday night, you won’t find many people hanging out in the city center.
What are the best things to do in Bergamo, Italy?
One of the best things to do in Bergamo is to explore the historic Upper Town, Città Alta, surrounded by 16th-century Venetian Walls, set upon a collection of hills overlooking the Lower Town, Città Bassa.
In Città Alta, the top spots to visit are the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, Cappella Colleoni, and Duomo in Piazza Vecchia.
Another unique thing to do in Bergamo is riding the cable car from the Lower Town to the Upper Town and another cable car from the Upper Town to the Castello di San Vigilio, a castle at the highest point of Bergamo’s hills.
There are also several beautiful sites to visit around Bergamo, like Lake Iseo, the town of San Pellegrino, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Crespi d’Adda.
Did you experience any difficulties when you first moved to Bergamo?
Besides homesickness, the biggest difficulty I faced when moving to Bergamo was overcoming my fear of speaking the local language with locals and making personal connections.
I struggled to find confidence in speaking and relating to people to make friends and connections with colleagues.
The way I realized was best to increase my confidence was taking little steps on my own to put myself out there: take the bus to the city center for the first time by myself, order a meal by myself, start a conversation with a sales clerk, etc. Simple and small actions made a huge difference in my ability to face new challenges.
Is it easy to make new friends in Bergamo?
Bergamo is not known as an expat city, and Italians tend to keep to themselves and their friend groups.
Making friends is not easy here, but there are opportunities like expat Facebook groups that organize outings and meet-ups.
Where to meet new people in Bergamo, Italy?
The best way to meet people in Bergamo is to get involved in the city through school, groups, or work, as locals are more likely to open up after they have spent quality time with you.
Where are your favorite cafes in Bergamo?
Some of the most picturesque cafes in Bergamo are Caffè del Tasso and California Bakery, both in Città Alta. The Caffè del Tasso is incredibly charming and perfectly positioned in the Piazza Vecchia, the heart of the city. The California Bakery sits above the cable car stop, overlooking the entire Lower Town.
Where are your favorite restaurants and bars in Bergamo?
Bergamo has lots of its typical food like Casoncelli and polenta with braised beef, which you can get at nearly any osteria or trattoria in the city.
The best gelato is at La Marianna in Città Alta or La Romana in Città Bassa. Fun fact: the gelato flavor stracciatella was invented at La Marianna!
If you go just ten minutes outside Bergamo to Seriate, you’ll find fun varieties and specialty gelato cups at Pierrot.
The best pizza in Bergamo is at Da Mimmo in Città Alta. In the summer months, Da Mimmo opens a temporary outdoor location at the Val d’Astino monastery, which is the most beautiful setting for a summer dinner.
And when you simply crave a burger, head to Goss for the biggest and best in town.
Do you have any tips for finding a job in Bergamo?
It is difficult for natives to find a job in Italy because of limited movement and activity in the job market, so being an expat can be either a great asset or a great challenge.
Employers greatly value mother-tongue English speakers, which is a huge asset in the job search. However, knowing Italian, at least at an intermediate level, will also be a requirement.
Much of getting a job in Bergamo is like getting a career in the United States: it is a lot about who you know, not what you know.
I encourage you to make connections when you arrive here because you can secure a good job through mutual connections and the good word of others.
You can also obviously submit applications using traditional online platforms like LinkedIn and Indeed.
Another way to get a job, which is popular in Italy but not the United States, is through an employment services company. Agencies will play the middleman in helping to connect candidates to companies.
If you are applying for a job through an online platform, know that a resume, called a CV in Italy, differs from a resume in the US. It includes a photo, can be more than one page, and have more than just work experience, like a personal description, skills section, hobbies, etc.
Is Bergamo a kid-friendly city?
I do not live with kids, but Bergamo can be a good city for families.
I would not say it is the top city for families or expat kids because it has less international influence.
The city could also use more green areas and parks. But there are many positives to living in Bergamo with kids, as there are many good schools, and the city is conveniently located in northern Italy, close to lots of different places for kids to explore.
What have you learned from living abroad?
The most significant thing I have learned about living abroad is taking the first step to get outside your comfort zone.
Moving abroad is often challenging and lonely, and if you don’t actively put yourself out there, you will continue to feel the
Bergamo is not the perfect expat city. But that is also what makes it worth betting on.
You’ll be fully immersed in authentic local culture, which most well-known expat cities lack because they have their own expat/international culture scene.
You’ll still get many glimpses and pinch-me moments of Italy we romanticize from films, but you’ll also get to know the real, everyday Italy.
About Michela Sieman
Michela is a travel blogger and photographer based in Bergamo, Italy. On her blog, She Goes The Distance, she helps women make their travel goals a reality, whether living abroad, taking that scary solo trip, or perfectly capturing those priceless vacay memories on camera. You can also follow her adventures on Instagram and Facebook.
The opinions expressed here by Expatolife columnists are their own, not those of Expatolife.