A quick day trip from Milan, Bergamo is an interesting city that is cleanly divided into two parts: Bergamo Alta and the newer, more modern Bergamo. Bergamo Alta sits back on a hill, overlooking the bustling city center below.
Bergamo Alta can be reached easily by taking a short funicolare ride up to the upper city. A perfect place for a passeggiata, Bergamo Alta is a maze of small streets and window shops.
And many, many pastry shops and bakeries to tempt you along the way.
Ever eaten sweet polenta? No? This dessert is a Bergamasco specialty, and even though it’s called Polenta e Osei, it is in no way actually made of polenta. It resembles a mound of polenta with a little bird (osei) on top of it.
The polenta-like appearance is due to a yellow fondant covering rolled in big crystals of sugar, with a dollop of apricot jam on top. Inside, a yellow cake (pan di spagna) hides a cream center of usually hazelnut. The marzipan birds perched on top range from the very elaborate to more impressionist/abstract art. I won’t tell you what I thought some of the “birds” were on some polenta e osei that I saw, but if a brown marzipan shape gets wilted…. Polenta e Osei mimics its savoury (and real polenta) twin of the same name, yet the sweet version seems to be the more well-known one. Rowena has another Polenta e Osei with a less-abstract marzipan bird.
If Polenta e Osei isn’t to your taste, there were many more pastries to be seen and eaten. Lucky for you, you’re doing a passeggiata at the same time so you can walk off some of those pastry calories! This Torta Millefoglie looks especially interesting and I would love to break it open. I love that they stack everything!
These Cannoli alla Crema aren’t made the traditional way but filled with meringa, meringue instead of ricotta.
Pear and chocolate is a popular combination in Italy. Here they are tucked inside a pastry shell called Sfogliate Pere e Cioccolato.
There weren’t only sweets in Bergamo – here are some fresh pasta and bread – oh wait, there are desserts in this picture, too.
Which one of these pastries would you try? The Polenta e Osei?