January 12, 2014 § Leave a comment
This is my first long weekend that I am not rushing back to Ancona to gaze at the waves or that Mr. Italian isn’t coming to fill up my days with spontaneous strolls and delicious munchies. I woke up this morning and the sun was shining bright. Tomorrow is my birthday, but there is a threat of dentists on the horizon, so… I decided to play it safe, shake it up, celebrate, and go to Bergamo today.
I had always imagined Bergamo as a mini-Milano, and the closest experience I have had with it was arriving at the Orio al Serio airport with a 2-hour delay at 1 AM on a muggy summer night… and then being stuffed onto a bus that took me to Milano, where I slept with all of the drunk hobos and druggies outside of the central train station while waiting for the doors to open and the first train to get me out of there. Not the most endearing experience.
But, I have repeatedly heard people praise the old portion of Bergamo, so I decided to give it a try. What a pleasant surprise! No industrial areas or tall buildings or modern architecture- just quaint little alleys, gorgeous churches, and a plethora of little nooks all jammed into a generous hilltop:
And soaked up the sun in the streets, piazzas, and endless series of stairs:
And stared, awe-struck, at all of the talented street musicians. And read all of the happy graffiti:
And, after ‘strolling paths’ that have more stairs than the entire population of Bergamo has fingers, I finally reached the castle on top of the hill (‘hill’, hah). Let me clarify: though Bergamo is technically divided into “Lower Bergamo”, the flat part, and “High Bergamo”, the historic city center on top of a hill, there is also a third “High High Bergamo”, which contains the castle and a little garden veranda. To celebrate my climb, I sat down at a little cliff-side restaurant and ordered lobster-stuffed raviolis and a glass of wine:
When I was ready to head out, I went back inside to pay… and the waitress informs me that she brought dessert out to my table. Huhm. I didn’t order this lovely assortment of ten different bite-sized, sweet mouthfuls of deliciousness, but I certainly did not turn them down. And then went on with my stroll back down to the train station.
Already while I was eating, the fog started rolling in and I felt a little bit like I was feasting in a castle floating above the clouds. By the time I made my way down to High Bergamo, the entire city was shrouded in a thick cloud of white, and all the streets (and the panoramic views) disappeared a few feet in front of you. Felt like a completely different city:
Then, one last twirl around the Christmas decorations (I’m gonna thoroughly enjoy them as long as they are still up), and back on the train to Monza:
Between the medieval atmosphere, the surrounding nature, all of the free museums (art and architecture and nature and history and more!), and the endless pasty shops, I do believe that this city ranks on my Top Ten list of favorite Italian cities. Yup, definitely a pleasant surprise today.