This has got to be Italy’s most unsung-but-deserving city! Has anyone heard of it? I’m sure there are people who have heard about Bergamo, but when I think of Italy, it’s not the first (or even fifth) city that comes to mind. Nonetheless, Bergamo is a lovely place that is easily accessible and navigable — you’ll see why this is important in a minute.
The town itself is divided into upper and lower cities, the Città Alta and the Città Bassa. To access the upper part, one takes the bus up to the edge of the walled city. Here one “could” walk up to the very top . . . or one has a ticket for the funiculare (cable car) and enjoys the view as it climbs the slope. There are two cable cars, and I recommend being sure to catch the second one as it takes you to Bergamo San Vigilio, and a spectacular view of both the Città Alta and the Città Bassa.
Starting at the top and working our way down, we walked around everywhere! It was sort of fun to make a random turn and see where we ended up. We arrived in the middle of some fair, as the Piazza Vecchia was filled with booths and tables of information on activities and health. Nearby, the Cappella Colleoni and Santa Maria Maggiore were a sight to see with black, rose, and white marble façades.
The churches were filled with amazing works of art . . . the streets were full of people. The Rocca di Bergamo provided a nice lookout and a resting place. We took the cable car down to the lower city and walked around, saw a sustainability fair (way to go Bergamo!), and then decided to ride the bus back to the Città Alta.
As our luck would have it, there was a traditional music festival in the old plaza. I was mesmerized by the guy playing the ghironda, so when a bagpiper also took the stage I was hooked. The best part was that the people began to dance — all sorts of traditional dances — from the first song to the last. Young and old, whether the moves were familiar or not, the people were having a blast! I couldn’t help but think it a shame that we don’t have a dance like that in the states where everyone can participate. (Or do we? The chicken dance and the electric slide don’t count, but please feel free to offer other suggestions.)
All in all, I had a lovely time in Italy and bid it a fond farewell. Before moving onto the next stage of summer, I leave you with these words of wisdom from someone that continues to learn things the hard way: do not sleep overnight in the airport, as it is neither affords you sleep, nor is it worth the piddly amount of money you saved. You and your travel partner(s) can become grumpy. You’re also sure to be sleep deprived and might kick the other (unintentionally) as you adjust your position on the floor . . . which you share with a mass of people. It’s ugly. Don’t claim a moment of memory lapse and do it again next year. Just. Say. No.
Genova (la Superba) is the second largest city that I’ve visited in Italy. Although it’s a common practice in Europe, it was nice to be able to take the train into Genova and walk around, explore the city, and look at all the details in the architecture . . . and there are many. If it were possible that walls could talk, I would spend whole afternoons with rapt attention.
Genova is credited as the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, and the house where he is said to have been born is right outside the walls of the old city, the Porta Soprana. Passing through we made our way down to the seaside, where the Acquario di Genova as well as all the fancy sailboats are located.
(Of course!) All this walking works up an appetite. We had lunch outside a café and enjoyed the people watching before heading off to sightsee some more and have a caffè macchiato.
In front of the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, the present structure completed during the 15th century, Luisa pointed out a detail that I hadn’t noticed: the architect had carved a likeness of his dog into one of the columns. Apparently he loved his dog enough to immortalize him in marble. I can empathize.
By far, I took the most pictures of the indoor market. Who knew that there were so many types of tomatoes?! For better or worse, going grocery shopping has always been an excursion. Roommates of houses past have declined offers to carpool to the market because I take so long. I can’t help it. I like to take my time looking, touching, smelling . . . it’s a sensory experience and I daydream of new dishes to create with my edible surroundings. But I digress. Perhaps the old adage, “you eat with your eyes,” rings true.
Sometimes I joke about “eating my way through Europe.” As of this moment, I’m not kidding anymore. I had some delicious pizza in Milan, focaccia in Santa Margherita Ligure, and the most amazing artisanal gelato to be found — ANYWHERE — made by Lucy, my friend Luisa’s mom. (Insert a belly-full sigh here.)
Luisa and I are traipsing about her town of Santa Margherita Ligure and buzzing around the surrounding areas. I say buzzing because it’s the closest I can get to the sound of her super-cute moto. We are totally smart badasses in our helmets. Mom, we are always wearing our helmets.
One of the more notable towns next door is Portofino. Immortalized in Petrarchan script and visited by the stars, Portofino is a small harbor on sparkling emerald-blue waters. The restaurants along the waterfront are beautiful and inviting, but be warned that even a small lunch and only water to drink will still pack a punch on your wallet. We decided to walk up to the view at the chiesa di San Giorgio, overlooking the sea. Perhaps you can make out the horizon better than I could?