Aug 30, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Declared by Lonely Planet to be “one of northern Italy’s most beguiling cities,” Bergamo is located just an hour’s drive northeast of Milan in the Lombardy region. Wondering what, specifically, makes Bergamo so spectacular -- particularly as an international studies destination? Consider these five reasons.


1. It’s a unique fusion of the past and the present.

Continues Lonely Planet of Bergamo, “The city's defining feature is a double identity. The ancient hilltop Upper Town (Città Alta) is a tangle of tiny medieval streets, embraced by 5km of Venetian walls.  It lords it over the largely (but not entirely) modern Lower Town (Città Bassa). A funicular connects the two.” Among all of Italy’s cities, meanwhile, Bergamo is one of the few which has maintained its historic center over hundreds of years thanks to its Venetian-style walls, built in the 17th century. The walls of the Upper City are a Unesco World Heritage site and are a major attraction for both visitors and academics.

Echoes former University of Bergamo engineering student and Russia native Anna Kharina, who is now employed for a leading industrial company in the bustling city, “It is impossible not to like ancient Venetian Walls which divide old Upper Town and the lower part of Bergamo. And every time I pass it I still admire this beautiful view like the first time.”

2. It’s centrally located for easy travel.

Home to 120,000 people, this cozy yet cosmopolitan city is tucked into the scenic foothills of the Alps. But this doesn’t mean it’s inaccessible. In fact, in addition to adjacent bus and railway stations, Bergamo even has its own airport. Also known as Orio al Serio, Il Caravaggio International Airport is now one of the busiest stopovers in Italy. This makes it an amazing home base for international students looking to travel during their studies.


3. It’s a city of rare beauty.

The architectural and artistic treasures of Bergamo are widely touted. From an enchanting mix of medieval and Renaissance architecture in the heart of the old town, the Piazza Vecchia, to the small hilltop village of San Vigilio, astounding views can be found everywhere you look. The church of Santa Maria Maggiore, the Rocca, the Cittadella, and the Donizetti Theatre are just a mere handful of the abundance of breathtaking things to see in Bergamo.

But the city’s natural beauty is also remarkable. Continues Kharina, “As a nature enthusiast, I was surprised to find numerous naturalistic paths and mountain itineraries not far from Bergamo.” In other words, both in and out of the city, a diversity of beauty abounds.

4. Lombardy is having a major moment.

The European Commission recently heralded the important role Lombardy has played in promoting scientific and technological progress through a commitment to research and innovation. This has made it one of Europe’s premier manufacturing regions, as well as a leader in many other industries, including agri-food, aerospace, life science, living environments, smart communities, mobility, green chemistry, energy, environment, construction, and smart factories. If you’re looking to study and live in a dynamic culture at the forefront of innovation, think Bergamo.


5. It’s home to a world-class university.

The University of Bergamo claimed a coveted spot in Times Higher Education’s “Young University Rankings 2017.” This state-supported university has three main campuses comprising seven departments: The Campus of Economics and Law and the Campus of Humanities are located in central Bergamo and the medieval Upper City, respectively, while the Campus of Engineering is situated in the nearby industrial area of Dalmine.

What makes the University of Bergamo a standout? For starters, there’s its multidisciplinary curriculum, welcoming environment, and affordable living costs. Factor in English coursework and an array of international partnerships, and the University of Bergamo lays claim to a uniquely international nature within a smaller university setting. A student-centered ethos, impressive student-professor ratio (55.5), connections with the area’s global industries,  and emphasis on research positions University of Bergamo students to succeed in today’s intensely competitive global workforce.

And speaking of research, the University of Bergamo also ranks among Italy’s best research universities, with four departments out of seven having recently been awarded the highest marks and extra funding from the Italian Ministry of Education and Research.

Said Kharina of University of Bergamo studies, “I appreciated very much that there was an individual approach and attention for every student….Moreover there are a lot of international programs and opportunities to participate in different projects.”

One of the most amazing things about Bergamo? Despite all of its allures, it’s still managed to hold onto its sense of undiscovered-ness. Wrote The Daily Mail of the tourists who bypass Bergamo for Milan, “They are missing a treat, because this little walled city, in the foothills of the Alps, is Italy in perfect miniature: a walk-through gallery of Italian culture, with thrilling buildings cheek-by-jowl with terrific restaurants and the strains of classical music throbbing in the background.”  In other words, if you’re ready to step back into history while simultaneously stepping toward a bright future, look no further than Bergamo.










Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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