The last few days have been a bit hectic. Since Giorgio passed away, Michele has gone into full productive mode, getting everything organised and sorted in a way that is really quite admirable. I've been trying to imagine how I would feel in his shoes. I can't quite imagine that I'd be able to carry on with as much strength as he has been showing lately.
Now the summer stretches before us and we have a good few weeks that are teasingly empty. Again, Michele is being incredibly practical and thinking of the things that need doing. I, on the other hand, have thrown my to-do list to the wind (ok, which is easier for me to do) and have instead drawn up a travel list that I am getting less and less willing to negotiate over. After the last few months, all I want to do is run away and feel young again.
As there's lots to do at the moment, running away means day trips from Milan. The other day we headed to Bologna and spent a night in the very lovely Starhotels Excelsior near the central train station; more on that trip soon (or given my track record, next year). Another great place to head when you're looking to get out of Milan without a car is Bergamo, the beautiful, ancient walled city.
Getting to Bergamo from Milan takes about an hour on the train and costs around €5 each way. Once there, you walk straight up the road directly in front of the station, all the way to the foot of the hill where you can take the funicular to the old town.
Or, if you're stupid like Martina and I, you can decide to take the stairs.
We had to stop halfway up to catch our breath! Luckily it was the end of September so the weather wasn't too oppressively hot.
Finally making it up to the old city wall was an incredibly exciting moment and we quickly made a note to ourselves to just cough up the fee for the funicular next time.
Like most Italian towns, Bergamo has its fair share of incredible architecture for you to peruse at your leisure.
If you're visiting churches in Italy, don't forget to take scarves to cover your shoulders and knees with during the summer! And look out for relics from various saints, most of which have a decidedly macabre feel.
But Martina and I weren't that worried about visiting the churches back on that September day. Instead we decided to visit the botanical gardens (Orto Botanico di Bergamo) up at the top of the old town.
We had missed most of the incredible flowers that colour the gardens during the spring and summer but as it was decidedly off-peak visiting times, we instead had an incredibly peaceful time wandering around the gardens and looking at all the various plants and insects, not to mention the amazing views from the top.
Martina is a bit of a cat terrorist. I mean, I know cats don't look overly impressed at the best of times but this one really does look incredulous.
But I'm not just chalking it up to this one incident. She came back from Lake Como last year with a new cat which she just happened to find wandering around. It kept coming back to her house for food each day (as cats do) so she concluded it was without an owner and brought it back to Milan with her! In her defence she says the poor thing was very thin when she found him but still, I'm not convinced he was a stray...
After wandering the botanical gardens, we took the funicular up to the top at San Vigilio where we were greeted by these incredible views.
Now, on this particular day, we were waiting whilst Michele was at a course and we seriously overestimated the amount of time we would need to go around Bergamo. It is a beautiful town and perfectly made for leisurely wandering; however the old, walled city is rather small and we had set aside about 8 hours until Michele was due to join us for dinner before driving back to Milan. We had a lot of time to kill and nothing much in particular that we wanted to do apart from chat, walk around lazily and look at the views.
As such, I think it's fair to say that on our descent from San Vigilio to the main old town, we walked down every single road, via and alleyway possible.
Peering into beautiful houses and gardens as we went!
Once we were back down in the main old town, we decided that there was nothing we would enjoy more than taking an aperitivo whilst waiting for Michele.
And every time I go to Bergamo, I cannot resist a drink at the Caffe della Funicolare. It is incredibly conveniently located right at the top of the funicular that takes you from the modern "Bergamo Bassa" to the old town (Bergamo Alta). You don't even have to leave the station, it's right in there with you!
If you sit out on the terrace, you are treated to that view. It's the perfect place to watch the sun go down, the lights twinkling across the expanse of the city whilst the planes swoop in and out of the airport. Whilst I've never actually tried the food (and here, a cautionary note to vegetarians; always triple check that it is actually vegetarian, this is one city that thinks that deli meats count as vegetables), the menu looks delicious with a real nod to traditional Bergamasco cuisine (anyone for polenta?) And with a glass of prosecco setting you back only €4 (!!!) I honestly cannot think of a better place to end the day.
Just make sure you don't go on a completely empty stomach...