Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Taking a Break from the Desert -- to Italy!

A couple of months ago I was e-mailing a friend of mine from Bermuda and he said he would be in Italy in June on a business trip. It turned out that over a weekend he would be near Milan. Since Qatar Airways flies directly from Doha to Milan I decided to get a ticket, meet up with him, and briefly tour the Italian countryside. I had enough miles to get a ticket so it wasn't going to cost me too much.

So when am I leaving? Surprise, I'm back from Italy now!

I had a great time and saw three different areas: Bergamo, Monte Isola, and Verona. No, I didn’t stay in Milan. My friend said these three nearby areas would be more impressive.

Years ago I used to do a photo gallery slideshow that I would e-mail to friends but I stopped doing that once the website I was using was charging. I think I'll restart the tradition by posting photos and commentary here.

So let's begin with part one -- Bergamo

Bergamo is an old Italian city, surrounded by walls on top of a steep hill for protection. I believe it dates back to Roman times but most of the architecture is from the Renaissance and later periods. I spent my time in the old portion of the city on top of the hill, called the Citta Alta.

We stayed in Agli Orti B&B in a narrow street in Citta Alta. Check out the photo of the street:

When North Americans picture what Italy is like their ideal would be something like this. This street looks like something out of an old movie. All of Citta Alta looks like this which was great for touring around.

It turns out that the owner of the B&B, Ada, is a travel author specializing in traveling in northern climates. She's toured more of Canada than I have!

So I headed over to the main square, the Piazza Vecchia

Here's a view from the other side

And you had better believe that this was a good place to have lunch

I am trying to lose weight but, I'm sorry, I'm on vacation in Italy. You're damn right I ate pastas in creamy sauces, pizzas, gelatos, pastries, and pretty much anything else I could get my hands on! You would too. (No, I don’t regret it. I’d do it again!)

Speaking of which, Italians really love ice cream. There were gelato places everywhere and if you were watching TV it seemed like every third ad was for some type of ice cream or another. I think I was averaging three scoops of gelato every day (it was my friend's fault, he's an enabler). I was thrilled when a gelato place in Bergamo had this available:

Licorice gelato! I haven't had licorice-flavored ice cream for years and I really missed it. That was a treat. It's not for everyone though, my friend accidentally ordered one a few days later at another gelato place and he didn't like it.

I was also introduced to a common Italian aperitif that my friend loves, Spritz. We were having these everywhere -- after a while I was joking to my friend that he's always jonesing for a Spritz. I guess you can't get them in Bermuda.

But I digress. After lunch I went to a nearby church, the Cappella Colleoni

Luckily an English-speaking tour group was walking by so I tagged along with them to hear about the church. The inside was really nice, pretty much what you would expect from an ornate Renaissance church. We then went next door to the Santa Maria Maggiore, which was even more impressive with a completely different style of architecture (I think the guide said Baroque, though the wiki article says Romanesque)

Afterward we wandered the streets:

And went to a café/bar overlooking the city that had been recommended by an American friend of mine who once studied here (and we had our first of many Spritzes during the trip).

For dinner we ate at a local pizza parlor, also recommended by my American friend, near the Piazza Vecchia. The next morning it was back to the train station to go to our next destination.

To be continued.


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