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Hotel San Giorgio, Bergamo - our review

Budget two-star hotel in a popular city destination

About the San Giorgio Hotel

San Giorgio hotel, Bergamo

This is a two-star hotel, inexpensive for Bergamo, within walking distance of the rail and bus stations. Apart from the entrance area – which is very smart – the overall impression, inside and out, verges on drabness, like the hotel’s immediate surroundings. You should specify when booking if you want your own toilet/bath/shower (this is a more expensive option), and for breakfast you must walk to a nearby bar, as many Italians do. However, with these exceptions, the San Giorgio does tick the necessary boxes. I booked a single room for two separate nights during May 2008 and found the place clean and efficient. If you’re in the business of saving money on a couple of nights in Bergamo, especially arriving from the airport late or leaving early, this establishment fits the bill. I report accordingly.

Location and arrival

The distances claimed by Italian restaurants and hotels can usually be doubled. It took me 9 or 10 (genuine) minutes to reach the hotel on foot by the quickest and easiest way. That was by turning immediately left from the rail station (ie left for anyone emerging from the exit), which is also where the airport buses stop. Follow this road, with the railway line still on your left and one-way traffic coming in your direction, until you see the prominent sign of the San Giorgio, which is just round a corner to the right. There are a couple of handy snack bars on the way, also on the right. By going up to the front of the shops just before turning the corner I was able to ramp my case-on-wheels the last 40 yards into the lobby without dragging it up any steps.

Arrival by car would be as described in the official details, which is along Via Paleocapa. There is a small car park at the entrance to the hotel.

The entrance area was bright and welcoming, with nice carpet, pictures and potted palms. Reception at the desk was immediate and effective. I had the impression during my two short stays that someone was permanently on duty here until late in the evening, and whoever that someone was could be expected to speak adequate English.

Bedrooms

I had a different single room on each visit, both of them on the first floor. The door opened with a conventional metal key, but I couldn’t manage the lights until shown that the power had to be activated by a separate switch (looking rather like an alarm) just inside the door. There were certainly enough lights, and a light switch by the bed. Both rooms were small, with a washbasin and soap dispenser but no other en-suite facilities. I concluded from the usual hotel floor plans that there were a few such rooms on each floor, these having to share a bathroom-toilet near the staircase. That said, I was close to these facilities and hardly troubled by any competition for their use during my two visits. En-suite rooms can chosen when making a booking, at a higher price.

Each of my rooms was equipped with a small desk/shelf unit, two chairs, wardrobe (plus enough hangers), fan, telephone, and the current edition of Bergamo’s little booklet for tourists. This gave a pretty good listing of the city’s facilities, events and main sights, along with a town map from which I could also identify quite easily the situation of the hotel. I was bothered, on safety grounds, to notice that my windows opened onto a flat roof with fire escape, but the windows themselves and the shutters outside them could both be bolted from the inside. They didn’t provide much of a view anyway. The floor was tiled, and there were pictures of local interest on the wall but the decoration was otherwise plain. The towels, bed linen and room itself were clean.

Given that the San Giorgio is almost sandwiched between two quite busy one-way streets, I was surprised to get a good night’s rest on both visits. Such disturbance that there was came only from a few noisy fellow-guests, heard through the wall between bedroom and corridor.

Shared bathroom

This had a vinyl floor and looked very much like all those bathrooms we used in the years before ‘en-suite’ became general. This one had a toilet, bidet, shower cubicle and short bath, with enough soaps and shampoos to last several visits. You must remember to take along one of your two towels. As far as I could judge, the bathroom was cleaned regularly.

Breakfast

The San Giorgio offers none. There are one or two places back towards the station, while the hotel management suggest following the road immediately opposite their entrance, to any of two or three bars scattered around the next junction. I took their advice. The first such bar looked elegant but was still closed at 8 o’clock. The second – the prettily-named Caffe degli Artisti - had been open for some time, and several people, mostly Italians, were enjoying their first refreshment of the day while catching up on the news and sport in the papers laid out for customers. Breakfast here consists of coffee (white, ie caffe latte, if you prefer) and a sweet croissant. You might possibly get something more, given a bit of effort and a bit of Italian, but it would be simpler if you’re hungry simply to buy a second breakfast. At less than three euros a time it doesn’t come dear.

Getting to town

The San Giorgio is a full mile (1.6km) from Bergamo's upper town. For transport, you should either walk back to the railway station for a bus or ask at reception for the nearest service (or for a taxi). I tried walking to the centre and was pleasantly surprised. There’s a flavour of immigration/unemployment in the immediate area, but within five minutes things are quite different. Take the road opposite the hotel, which leads past a decent school to another junction, where the breakfast bars are. Here turn left and immediately right again past a church. Turn right at the next junction, and the Via San Bernardino takes you in a few minutes to the attractive colonnaded surroundings of the Piazza Pontida with its outdoor restaurants.

A sharp right-hand turn here, along Via Zambonate, leads to the centrepiece of the lower town, Porta Nuova. Total walk 20 minutes. Alternatively, go straight on as I did, to follow the ancient route uphill (see our town guide) to the upper town. Total walk from hotel 40 minutes, but interesting. A compromise is to navigate right before the road becomes too steep, and so utilise the funicular railway between lower and upper town.

Getting away

Checking out, using a credit card to pay the bill, was straightforward. I left my suitcase for picking up later in the day, as many other guests were doing. It was not locked away out of sight, but the arrangement was receipted to cut the chance that a stranger might simply march into the lobby and then out again with my bag.

A good place to stay?

If you need your hotel itself to be part of the pleasure, or like to return to it once or twice during the day to rest and reorganise, the answer is no. Instead, find a base in the upper town, or at least nearer the Porta Nuova or funicular, and be prepared to pay accordingly. But the San Giorgio, at two-star level, is a perfectly respectable choice if you simply want a base near your point of arrival and departure. The well-deserved popularity of Bergamo as a cheap-flight destination has pushed up the price of accommodation in the town. This hotel is comparatively good value and in my experience (May 2008), efficiently run.

Review by AH

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