There are 496 named mountains in Bergamo. The highest and the most prominent mountain is Pizzo di Coca.
Bergamo is the biggest and the most productive province of Lombardy. It is located just below Sondrio, between Lecco, Brescia, Milano, and Cremona. The mountainous territory is characterized by steep peaks and deep valleys which gently subsides to the Padania Plain.
The province is blessed by the majestic presence of the Bergamo Alps, which extend for 80km and are divided into two sections: the Bergamo Prealps and the Orobie Alps, separated by the Brembana Valley, Seriana Valley, Camonica Valley.
The main feature of the Orobie Alps is the scarcity of passable routes due to the high elevation of the passes which are provided only with narrow steep trails and mule tracks. The only pass accessible by car is Passo San Marco (1,991m), which lays on an ancient way created by the Venetian Republic to connect the area to facilitate commercial traffic with Switzerland.
The territory is characterized by frequent differences in altitude, in fact, Bergamo city itself is divided into two levels: Bergamo Alta residing proudly on the hill, the historic city centre encircled by walls built by the Venetians, and Bergamo Bassa, which lays on the flatland.
The abundance of water is a strong point. On the eastern and western side, the province is bound respectively by the Oglio river and the Adda river which, together with its tributaries the Serio and the Brembo, constitute the major water supply network of the area. The Oglio river in Cavallina valley enters Lake Iseo and Lake Endine. The only emissary of Iseo lake is a tributary of the Oglio river.
This used to be an area of glaciers, but the only one that survived on the Bergamasque side of the Orobie is the Trobio Glacier between Pizzo dei Tre Confini (2,824m) and Mt. Gleno (2,882m). There are also springs of mineral water and St. Pellegrino thermal baths.
Bergamo also hosts the second highest Italian waterfalls called the Serio waterfalls in Valbondione. Besides that, there are numerous gorges and ravines that create beautiful canyons perfectly fit for canoeing. like the one along the Nero river in Seriana Valley.
Rivers and mountains have played a pivotal role in the development of civilization. Mountains were used as a mining resource for iron and timber from numerous forests was used to produce charcoal and wooden artefacts to embellish the local churches. Textile, metal and paper industries flourished along the major river banks and contributed to the strong development of the province.
Hikers who approach the Bergamo Alps for the first time may feel lost when it comes to planning a trip because they find themselves spoilt for choices. Here there is a brief list of suggestions.
Pizzo di Coca (3,052m) - Suitable for both beginner and expert hikers depending on the scenic spots to be visited.
The major trailhead is in Valbondione. From there, hikers should take trail No. 301 that traverses the Serio River, a rocky corridor and a lush forest. It takes 1h30m to reach Pizzo di Coca hut, 2h10m to reach Coca passage and 3h10m to the mountaintop, through Lake Coca.
Pizzo del Diavolo di Tenda (2,914m) - The highest peak of the Brembana Valley. This route is recommended to expert hikers due to the presence of an arduous rock-wall. Starting the hike from Carona, there are about three different trails leading to the mountaintop. The ascent takes about 4h30m through Via Normale trail. The first part of the trail proceeds to Rifugio Longo hut and goes to Lake Diavolo Dam reaching Selletta Pass and Valsecca Pass. Here there is the spring of the Brembo river. Until this point, the path is quite plain. At this point, there are three trails branching off, and one of them is the Via Normale. Another option is to reach the peak climbing up Mt. Diavolino (2,810m), a minor peak of Pizzo del Diavolo, but it is a risky choice that requires more strength.
Pizzo dei Tre Signori (2,554m) - The name of this mountain means “peak of the three Lords” because it stands at the junction point of the provinces of Bergamo, Como, and Sondrio. It is another stunning mountain of the Brembana Valley. All the trails start in Ornica. Once they have reached the mountaintop hikers can admire the giant cross that stands tall against the blue sky and enjoy a spectacular view.
Vetta della Presolana (2,517m) - This peak is called ‘the Orobie queen’ for the majestic shapes and the unforgettable view hikers can take from its top, but as every queen, it is not approachable for all the ordinary mortals, at least if they do not have specific skills. The normal trail (CAI 315) that goes directly to the peak is an experience for expert hikers only. The first part of the trail until Savina Chapel can be substituted with another trail, easier than the standard one, but after the Chapel, the path inevitably takes the shape of an alpine trail of moderate difficulty with rocky walls and dangerous spots. Making a stop at Grotta dei Pagani is mandatory. Numerous huts along the way like Bivacco di Clusone (2,050m) right behind the Grotta will give you the chance to take a break until you reach the top where a huge metal cross stands out in the clear sky.
Orobie Trail is a set of several trails crossing the Orobie Alps high and low. It is divided into two big routes, each including several trails: Western Orobie trail which extends through Brembana valley, and Eastern Orobie Trail which goes through Seriana Valley for a total of 14 stops that progressively lead the visitor into the wildest and most fascinating nature of the province where vegetation is pristine and animals like marmots and mountain goats live wild and free. Despite the fact that the average height of the hiking routes is around an altitude of 2000m and usually reaches higher peaks, the tracks do not present particular difficulties, at least during the summer season when they are not covered in snow, and even well-trained beginner hikers should find it quite easy to walk them. There are only a few spots that can be handled by expert hikers only, like the railroad of Sentiero della porta, that can be easily avoided taking alternative routes. Ideally, this is a multi-day hike. Accommodation won’t be a problem thanks to the presence of several mountain huts at each stop. Nonetheless, it is possible to travel along only the single sections of the trail, enter the trail from villages located on the valley floor.
Colli di Bergamo Park – A green area to refresh body and soul without moving too far away from the city. In fact, one of the park entrances can be reached by bus from the city centre. You can visit the Benedictine Monastery that hosted a community of nuns. Also, in the woods, it is possible to find the traces of the ancient charcoal kilns. Numerous trails lead to sanctuaries where wood carving crafts flourished producing wooden furniture of high-quality, visit Astino Monastery or Sombreno Sanctuary to get that authentic feel of unique craftsmanship. The majority of the trails are feasible in 1-2h and don’t present particular difficulties. Sombreno Sanctuary is the ideal starting point for a walk in the nature. From here, take Ilaria’s trail that leads to Colle dei Roccoli from which vantage point you can have a staggering view over the Bergamo plain.
Flower Trails – three trails that branch off Rifugio Capanna 2000 in the Serina Valley at 2000m altitude, provide ample opportunities to enjoy the blossoming alpine flower species, like the rare Allium insubricum with its red hanging flowers, the lilac Aquilegia einseleana or the amazing Athamanta cretensis. Despite the altitude, the difficulty level is quite low. The first itinerary starts at the above-mentioned mountain hut and leads to the Arera Valley and Gabbia Pass, on the way you will go through some majestic scree passages, so make sure your boots are sturdy. The second itinerary calls on the following stops: Mt. Mandrone – Bocchetta di Corna Piana – Branchino Pass where you can see Gentiana clusii and Linum alpinum. The third itinerary is divided into three stopovers: Branchino Pass, the Vedra Valley, Rifugio Capanna 2000, Branchino mountain pastures (called malghe), you can chat with the shepherds and pick up arnica flowers.
Via Priula is the stark evidence of the past Venetian domination in Bergamo. The path was created by the Venetian merchant Alvise Priuli in the XVI century to connect Venice to Milan, France, and Austria. Unfortunately, not everything went according to the man’s initial plan, but at least now we can have some glimpses into the history of this area. Via Priula is a 36-km trail that connects Morbegno and Bergamo, it is feasible in 2-3 days, some parts are suitable for beginners and some tolerate only expert hikers. The things to see are many, among attractive sights is Passo San Marco which still hosts a station house and a peculiar architectural object called Chiavi di Botta which consists of a set of arches anchored to the walls with chains so that a street could have been built on them to make accessible places that were once isolated.
Forra dell’Adda is an itinerary of unrivalled natural beauty, it also has an important artistic legacy. In fact, the three glacial erratic rocks that shape one of the most spectacular spots of this canyon located on the river are also one of the so-called ‘scorci leonardeschi’; places that inspired Leonardo DaVinci’s famous painting ‘The Virgin of the Rocks’.
Charcoal kilns and Iron trail - The history of Bergamo province and its development are closely connected to the proround use of mountain resources. The traces of iron extraction go back to times immemorial. Mining activity on the Orobie Alps was started by the Celtic and Gaul populations and flourished until recent times. A bequest of this past has been left in the Iron trail, a 25km trail feasible in 7h-8h. On the whole, the walk is not particularly rugged. It starts in Mezzoldo, then it traverses along a mule track located in the middle of broadleaf and conifer forests, it goes through small boroughs, each hiding unimaginable architectural treasures.
The widely extended forests have been an inexhaustible source of charcoal production that, together with iron extraction, was far more profitable than livestock and agriculture. It is possible to retrace it walking along the Charcoal trail, just beside the Presolana Valley. The trail leads to Mt. Scanapà (1,669m) and, especially during the summer season, it is quite busy because of the presence of hikers and bikers who walk on this trail that once connected the numerous charcoal kilns, providing a way to move the product to the Scalve Valley nearby. Is a ring trail suitable for hikers of any level and the 8km are feasible in about 3h. Sentiero del Castagno is a 1h30 ring trail in Corna Imagna. Technically, this is not an ancient way, but a trail created ad hoc to relaunch the chestnut cultivation and evaluate the history of the area. In fact, this trail unfolds on easily walkable mule tracks through picturesque boroughs, meadows and chestnuts forests. The only negative aspect is that this trail is not particularly well marked and the risk of getting lost is quite high.
The popularity of outdoor activities is constantly growing, so making the mountains accessible to people with disabilities is a real must. In Bergamo, this is possible thanks to the efforts made by the local CAI association. Most of the accessible trails are located in the Colli di Bergamo Park or the areas nearby, like the Greenways trail, a cycle and pedestrian path running along the Morla River, a stream that springs in the Baderem Valley and traverses Bergamo running away towards the plain. It is feasible even in a wheelchair because it is all paved in concrete. It gives access to the North-Eastern side of Colli di Bergamo. Both standard visitors and visitors with reduced mobility have not only the chance to enjoy the mountains remaining inside the city but also to discover lesser-known spots of this beautiful city as well.
Monte Isola has been named the third most beautiful European destination of 2019. Monte Isola is a lake island of extreme beauty in the middle of Lake Iseo. The trails branching off from the mountain slopes are numerous and suitable for hikers of any level, leading to panoramic views and historical spots. It goes without saying that some of them are accessible to people with disabilities as well. In particular, Madonna della Ceriola Hike is recommended to people with moderate ambulatory disability. From the municipality of Cure, the paths pop into a traditional mule track, then join Via Crucis that leads to the sanctuary in less than 1h. From the sanctuary’s terrace, you can see Piramidi di zone, also called “the fairy’s chimneys”, a particular rock formation in Brescia, visible at the distance when the ski is clear.
Sensole trail is an alternative route for wheelchairs. The path is riddled with bars, restaurants and a picnic areas. Even the usual large number of tourists cannot dwarf the beauty of the natural landscape. The path lays out among olive trees and is dominated by the presence of an ancient fort.
Shifting to Presolana Pass in the Scalve valley, there is an interesting accessible trail leading to Orsetto Castle, suitable for people with moderate ambulatory disability. Accessibility isn’t the only peculiarity of this route; in fact, it is also famous for some legends and curious facts happening here. ‘The couple Jump’ is a panoramic balcony encircled with an iron fence. Here, in spring of 1871, a young couple of Polish artists disappeared for a few days only to be later found dead for unknown reasons.
The Orsetto Castle is surrounded by other mysteries and legends. Its name derives from a legend telling about the presence of a bear that spread fear and terror in the valley. A young man attempted to defeat him, but died trying and his soul came back in the form of a white squirrel prompting his friends how to defeat the bear with a spell. It takes 1h30m (one way) to complete the trail from Albergo Franceschetti to the Orsetto Castle.
These accessible trails are not only suitable for people whose mobility is more or less reduced, but they are also a valid alternative for parents who want to share their passion for hiking with their children. Among other trails recommended to families, there is the Passeggiata dei Laghetti delle Valli trail, a 2h trail on Vivione Pass in the Scalve Valley. The first part of the hike follows the trail No. 416 first and then No. 415. The trail ends on Mt. Busna (2,135m) slopes where hikers can enjoy the view on the two Valley Lakes while doing a picnic with the whole family.
Thanks to its proximity to Orio al Serio Airport, Bergamo is well connected to national destinations and other European countries. For this reason, tourism is constantly growing not only among the Italians but among foreigners as well, especially the Russians, Germans, and the British. There are 55 ski resorts in Bergamo, each provided with at least 35km of ski runs, which makes the province a good choice for winter sports lovers. Colere, Lizzola, and Presolana are the most popular ski resorts.
Also, there are plenty of mountain huts and camping sites to spend the night and fully enjoy a multi-day hiking experience without worrying about the accommodation.
For any further details about Bergamo, you can visit the official website of the province or one of the numerous outdoor association's websites, like CAI Bergamo (Italian Alpine Club) or VisitBergamo.
Bergamo is a starting point for many trails, hikes, and climbs. Understandably, some of the most prominent modern day climbers have chosen this area as there home.
Italian climber Simone Moro (b.1967), born and bred in the borough of Valtese, is a highly skilled alpinist whose passion has taken him to some of the most remote corners of the globe. Among many other achievements, Moro has summited Shishapangma, Lhotse, and Everest (four times), opened a new route on Nanga Parbat, and speed-ascended Broad Peak in 29 hours. His expeditions, he says, “combine the concepts of altitude, difficulty, solitude, uncertainty, adventure, and the unknown into a unique mountaineering project.” Moro is also an experienced helicopter pilot.
In 2013, Moro and two other rescue experts carried out the world's highest long-line rescue operation on a helicopter, on Lhotse, at 7800m. On 12 November 2015, he set a new flight altitude world record in a turboshaft powered helicopter (Category E-1a Max Takeoff weight less than 500 kg).
Moro is also deeply into charity. In 2009, he bought a helicopter with his own money to carry out SAR (search and rescue) operations in the Nepalese Himalayas for Nepalese people. He has been piloting the helicopter several times to rescue alpinists, sherpas, trekkers and people in remote areas. He also built a school for 396 Sherpa children in the Nepalese village of Syadul in 2003.
Denis Urubko (b.1973), also the unofficial holder of a “snow leopard” title, is a Russian-born alpinist-rescuer who loves toying with death, but judging by his successes, the risks are well calculated. He is the world eighth in rank for conquering all 14 world 8000ers over 9 years (2000—2009), all of the ascents were without oxygen! Given that Urubko suffered from asthma in childhood, that makes no-oxygen climbs even more fantastic.
He also climbed all five 7000ers of the former USSR in just 42 days, which must have been hell-of-a-summer in 1999. Urubko was awarded the Golden Ice Axe of Asia prize four times and holds various other awards for his illustrious sports career. He teamed with Simone Moro to climb Lhotse, Everest, Marble Wall (in the Tien-Shan), the Pamir mountains.
His extensive experience gave plenty of material for many articles and books on mountaineering. In 2016, he opened an international Urubko Camp to encourage young man do proper climbing. The camp welcomes people from Europe (Italy, Poland, Spain), Russia, Middle Asia and others. Urubko is training the sportsmen, sponsoring some of them, and organising joint trips to the mountains.
As to some fun facts about the man, once he was travelling in the Kodar mountains in 1991 and just made a mistake about the route to the pass (which just proves how blessed we are with modern apps, PeakVisor especially) as it was not clearly marked on the map. Urubko was unaware about the mistake, he climbed up a difficult rock wall for about 2600m with a heavy rucksack on the back. Then, when he finally made it to the top, there was nobody from the team. Thus, he called it Sakhalin - a wild, remote, and lonely place.
When it comes to conquering all fourteen 8000ers, there are 18 climbers in total who did that, but only half did so ‘cleanly’ meaning without oxygen supplies. Among them is the first climber Reinhold Messner and Denis Urubko. A famous Spanish climber Inaki Ochoa (1967-2008) used to say: “If you are using oxygen, you are not a climber, you are an astronaut, a scuba-diver, but not a mountaineer.”
It is interesting how Urubko evolved spiritually. In his early years, climbing was an adventure, an exploration of the world around. Then he entered a ‘sport’ stage mainly devoted to testing his limits as a man. Now, Urubko is preaching climbing as art - you climb and explore the human soul and creative spirits inherent in any human. But mind you, this art intertwines with the first two stages, otherwise it is nothing but rant.