Whenever we stay in Bergamo, in Lombardy, we like to discover new places to stay. In December, we met up with friends from Manchester who had flown over, and so rather than a hotel room for two, or a small apartment, we needed an apartment for four adults, for four nights. There’s lots of choice in Citta Alta, the upper town where we were staying, but because it’s a medieval walled town, many converted apartments, although in large old buildings, are small. Most are beautiful, but most saying they could accommodate four adults, did so by having a shared bathroom and a sofa bed in the living room. We know our Manchester friends well enough to have gone for one of these, but we decided to just try and see what else we could find – and wow, did we stumble upon a stunner!
With quite a strange name – Casa M Charme e Relax – the apartment is located just off the main cobbled road in the old town, Via Bartolomeo Colleoni. An absolutely perfect location. We had a fairly good idea where the apartment is, and as a bonus, it also came with a parking space, at an additional cost of €20 per day. Quite pricey, but invaluable if you are staying in Alta, as most of the streets are accessible by residents only, so with a parking space, you get a permit too, to access the old town and not be liable for a hefty fine. But be warned – driving in Alta, even with a permit – is a hairy experience! Google Maps took us right through the centre, along cobbled streets which, in the past, we had assumed were pedestrianised, and up and down roads which were so narrow we had to pull the wing mirrors in. Suffice to say, when we arrived outside the apartment, we were mightily relieved!
We were definitely not expecting what we were greeted with. In any way. Once through the small metal door, the hallway opened up in front of us, with sweeping stone steps and expansive area outside the first floor apartment, with original frescoes, covering the walls. Astonishingly beautiful – and if back in the UK, probably behind the protection of glass. But these were just there. As they will always have been.
The door to the apartment (bottom left photo above) opened into a vestibule, with another fresco above the door, and freestanding sculptural works of art. A bit of a mini art gallery.
With a reception room, a large living room, a dining room, a kitchen, a laundry room, two bedrooms (one en-suite), a separate WC, a large landing room (with glass doors out onto a terrace) and internal circular stairs down into a second bathroom with a sunken bath/shower, it is an AMAZING space. It is clearly an apartment which is also used by the family, as there are many personal effects, including photographs, books and children’s toys. Normally, I find this very off-putting if we are staying somewhere, but this apartment is just so expansive, it gets away with it. You almost feel as if you are staying in the home of someone you know because everything is so tasteful and absolutely everything is available to make your stay as comfortable – and presumably homely – as possible. The owners have exquisite taste – the furniture is exceptionally high quality and it seems as if no expense has been spared. And, I don’t think it has been, especially as I googled this little guy, as I fancied a white one for our garden. Let’s just say, I won’t be getting one any time soon…
As an extra special touch, because it was December, we also had a beautifully decorated Christmas tree in the reception room. Just another one of those touches which really added to our stay.
The main living room was very large, with a huge L-shaped sofa and two big white plastic armchairs – this makes them sound horrible, but my word they were comfortable and perfect for making you sit properly. The room also benefited from massive windows, covered with drapes to the floor, a very impressive original fireplace, cool, funky lighting and original artwork. The floors are also under heated, so we were warm and cosy without having hot and cold spots – the whole apartment remained at a constant, comfortable temperature throughout our stay.
Our bedroom had an ensuite with a bath and a walk in storage unit. It was a large room, furnished in a minimalistic style, with a splash of red from the floor length curtains. (And the painting of Jesus, which I loved as it was obviously there as an ironic piece of art, rather than I think, an expression of religion)…
The other double bedroom is something of an enigma. It’s got twin beds and is obviously a room used by children, as evidenced by the artwork and the toys on shelves. It doesn’t have an en-suite, but it does have a big surprise. (There is a small toilet room next door so if you get caught short in the middle of the night, you’ll be OK). From this bedroom, stairs lead down onto a large landing space – definitely big enough to be classed as a small room – and from here, there are French doors leading out onto a small terrace/garden. Being December it obviously wasn’t looking its best, but I would imagine it would be very pretty when everything is in bloom. Then, leading off from this space is an internal spiral staircase, which takes you down into the second bathroom, with a large shower which can presumably also double as a bath…
The kitchen is large and well equipped, with a walk-in pantry and a separate small room which houses a washing machine and dryer. A full size dish washer is also available. The dining room has a table that would comfortably sit eight people. With large windows in every room, original wooden, panelled ceilings and frescoes in the kitchen, this is one unique apartment, in the heart of Bergamo Citta Alta.
There were a few minor things which we noticed, which could probably be so easily put right by the owners – but which did not in any way spoil our stay. Our bed (the double) was very low and quite hard. A mattress topper, I think, would make all the difference here. Something to be aware of, is the plug/socket situation for device charging. Even though we have EU chargers and our friends had adaptors, we found that only certain sockets would charge and so we had to share the sockets which would work for us. Also, because of the thickness of the walls – and we have exactly the same issue in our home – even though the wi-fi was good in certain areas, it was pretty non-existent in some, certainly in the double room. Again, absolutely not an issue for us, as we had come away to be with friends, not plugged into phones, but just something to factor in.
One other thinking to really, really be aware of, especially if you have a large car (we have a Honda CRV), is that the secured parking space, behind gate, is a squeeze. My old Smart car would have coped, no bother, but we did struggle reversing in. Again, brilliant to have somewhere to park in Citta Alta, but good to know you will definitely need your driving/parking wits about you – and if your car is bigger than a Honda CRV, you will definitely struggle. You may get the car in, but then you may not be able to get out of it!
good to know
- the apartment is fully self catering, but a small breakfast is provided
- there is a small Conad supermarket about 100 metres from the flat, with everything you could possibly need for your stay
- it’s close to all Citta Alta sights – Piazza Vecchia, the Duomo, the Cathedral, the Baptistry, the theatre, the campanile (which tolls 100 times every night at 10pm – just so you know!), the funicular down to Citta Bassa and the second funicular which takes you to the highest part of Bergamo, San Virgilio
- all restaurants are within a short walking distance of the apartment
- although there are stairs in the entrance hall, and no lift access, the stairs are wide and shallow, so even with limited mobility, the apartment is accessible
- if you don’t have pre-arranged parking, don’t try and enter Alta in the car – restrictions are in place, and if your licence plate is not registered to the address you are staying, which offers parking, you will risk a hefty fine. There are plenty of car parks in Citta Bassa, so I’d advise park down town, if you don’t have reserved parking in Alta and either take the funicular up, or a taxi
We booked the apartment via booking.com and paid the going rate for four people at the beginning of December.