So, it’s been a while since I have written a travel post. That’s because, since returning from Italy, I have remained mostly in San Diego. I am from San Diego, so being here doesn’t feel like traveling, but rather like returning to a childhood memory.
Recently, I’ve been pondering the meaning of home. I have had many homes: The Blue Victorian (Maine), Catania, the hotel room in Penang Malaysia, Pannikin Coffee and Tea in La Jolla… What does it mean to be at home? When are we at home and when are we simply passing through or traveling? Why is it that you can live in one place for many years and never call it home, while a couple days in another and it is suddenly “home?” Why do homes come and go? One minute it feels like home, the next moment it’s a stranger. The one conclusion that I can draw is that home is not equated to an amount of time one stays in a place, but rather to an innate sense of comfort, kind of like the perfect fit of your favorite pair of jeans.
I returned three months ago from Bergamo, where I was working for a year. I have been a bit nostalgic for my Bergamasco life lately, and I realized that I never wrote about Bergamo. Although I lived in Bergamo for a year, I don’t think I managed to post a single photo of the city, and I believe it’s because this is a travel blog. I never saw Bergamo as a destination but rather a home, a point of departure. I certainly now view it as a destination, and therefore, dedicate this post to the beautiful, charming, chilly, medieval, hilly city.
An Introduction to Bergamo
Like most medium-sized cities, Bergamo is broken into multiple neighborhoods. The most noticeable distinction is between Città Alta and Città Bassa, the upper city and the lower city.
Città Alta is the medieval city of Bergamo. In the Dark Ages, Bergamo was an important city ruled by the Venetian Empire, and a trip to the upper city is a step back to those times. The upper city is the oldest part of the city, and therefore the main tourist attraction, but don’t let that stop you. Make sure to venture off the main roads and explore the various alleys and hidden viewpoints and parks scattered inside the lion protected gates. Historical tip: the lions that you see guarding gates and on building facades are the signs of the Venetian empire.
Note that Città Alta is the most expensive part of the city, so if you are looking for a cheap place to stay or a cheap meal, you probably won’t find it here.
It sits up on a hill accessible by tram or a 20 minute walk up the ancient walls of the city.
My favorite thing to do in Citta Alta was to run the walls every evening at sunset. Your workout will be accompanied by a brilliant sunset over the hills and lots of cute dogs and families taking their evening walk. Extra special, are the old women who cheer you on as you run up the hill, “Forza! Forza!”
Città Bassa is the lower and “newer” part of the city. By new, I mean that it only goes back to the 17th century, a lot later than Città Alta. The center of Città Bassa is Porta Nuova, which coincidentally is the beginning of the main shopping district, Via XX Settembre. These streets are walking only and house a few of the major designer boutiques as well as more affordable stores and cutesy cafes and gelaterias. Check out these outdoor cafes around 7 PM for apperativo (similar to Spanish Tappas). Order a drink, get your free snacks, and have fun people watching.
San Vigilio can actually be considered a part of Città Alta, but I’ve split it off because it is more of a wealthy hilltop neighborhood than the more central Citta Alta.
The only real site in San Vigilio is the Castle park, which houses the remains of a single tower and spectacular views of the valley and surrounding Pre-alp mountain range.
San Vigilio is also accessible by tram, but I would suggest the lovely hike up a street called Via San Vigilio, sometimes referred to lovingly as la rippa, a fitting nickname for a cobblestone road which seems almost perpendicular to the climber. Hiking from Città Bassa to San Vigilio will give you quite the workout and you can rest and eat at one of the two restaurants at the top. I would suggest, however, the pizzeria as it hosts some of the most spectacular views I have ever encountered.
Parco dei Colli
My all-time favorite place in Bergamo is not Citta Alta or Via XX, but rather Parco dei Colli. Here’s the funny part, I actually didn’t discover this hilly nature spot until more than half way through the year. It’s very popular with the mountain biking and marathoning crew in BG, as its “walkable” from the center of the city. It’s a bunch of dirt paths through the woods that zig zag up the hills behind Citta Alta offering splendid views of the valley. The greatest part, is that you really feel as if you’ve left the hustle and bustle of the city, cause your smack dab in a jungle. Secret spots like these are the best respite from hectic city life.
Here’s a selfie of us post hike. Arrivaderci!