If you go beyond the instantly recognizable division between Lower Town and Upper Town, you realize Bergamo is best described in its historical and popular essence as a sum of its boroughs. As the Upper Town began to expand, it naturally sprawled out along the hillside, long before the Lower Town centre developed.
The Bergamo's historic boroughs if seen from above recall the shape of an open hand. Borgo Canale, which leads from Bergamo Alta towards the hills and includes the birthplace of Donizetti; Borgo San Leonardo, which extends from Piazza Pontida, a major junction with shops and businesses all the way to the Upper Town along via Sant'Alessandro; Borgo Pignolo, with graceful views of the old noble mansions and finally Borgo Santa Caterina, one of the few places where an old village atmosphere is still in the air, with quaint craft stores and small local shops.
Tucked away in little-known parts of the city, these districts have all preserved features of the past. Almost an “other” city , they are still rich in history and art and reveal traces of traditions and times gone by. Originally, before the walls built by the Republic of Venice enclosed the hill in a mighty circle of stone, the city extended down the sides of the hill towards these districts, which developed along the main thoroughfares.