strivetoengage

Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving

Bergamo in winter

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In July 2015 we moved from Australia to Norway and this is our first northern winter. Amidst reports of 2015 being the hottest year ever recorded we have not had a particularly warm winter in Trondheim.

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We found everything a novelty, from 4 hours of diffuse daylight with no actual sunshine for a couple of months around the solstice to now 8 hours of daylight with actual sunshine in mid February. Every day is different to the last!

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For the winter school holidays our children (6 & 8 years) have a 1 week break and we have travelled to the Lombardy region of Italy. We stayed 2 nights in a wonderful B&B called Botton d’Oro Pelabrocco. It was our first time in a B&B and we all enjoyed it. The hostess is a friendly woman with boundless energy who prepared a wonderful breakfast for us both days and it truly felt that she was taking care of us. We had a very large room with a king size bed and bunk beds and a large bathroom with an actual bath! We took bath salts with us and enjoyed lixuriating in the bath (one at a time!). That was one of my favourite activities in our house in Canberra and we are sad not to have a bath in Norway. A Polish couple were also staying there and I had a strange linguistic experience when the woman greeted me in Italian but the man greeted me in Polish. I never expected to use those 2 languages together!

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After a very early start from Trondheim and a late dinner in Bergamo on our first day our children were unwell on our second day, lacking in energy and with sore throats. We walked slowly through the Bergamo old town admiring the lovely old architecture, sipping from drinking fountains set in gates that used to be part of the medieval town walls, admiring 15th century frescoes and commenting on the Veronese style balconies (think Juliet) and wooden shutters.

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It was cool but so much warmer than home in Norway that we didn’t dress warmly enough and we shivered in the shade. We were charmed to find a barber with a hand written sign set back from the main street, with little patches of the original stone wall on display in gaps in the rendering. He calmly and efficiently cut my son’s and my husband’s hair and chatted amiably about Bergamo. Apparently it’s mostly older people living there now and people who aren’t Italian are discouraged from living or running businesses in the old town because they want to preserve the tourist appeal of a genuine Italian village.

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Afterwards we wandered slowly, resisting the many temptations in the shops with inflated old town prices to the main square. In need of a toilet we sat in the sunshine at a bar and enjoyed coffee while taking turns visiting the facilities. A beautiful chocolate labrador was behind the bar and our children loved patting it while I resisted the strong urge to join in. We really miss our dogs (both died before we left Australia, the chocolate lab, Sophie, from a snake bite and the black lab, Lily, from cancer).

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We briefly had a look in the ornate funeral chapel in the town square before climbing the civic tower, 51m above the ground. It’s unknown when construction began but it was probably in the 12th century CE. My stomach churned as I gripped the hand rail in white knuckle fear on the way up. I fastidiously avoided the edge at the top while trying to enjoy the view. I took a few photos while irrationally worrying that I would drop my phone. I’ve suffered in silence with my fear of edges overlooking heights and tried not to let my children know (my husband knows and sometimes takes photos of me trembling with fear). It was interesting then that our daughter gripped the handrail this time and told us many times about how afraid she was. Poor her!

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We continued our slow walk up the hill, stopping to buy some food from stalls in the next Piazza. The man with a mobile deli happily prepared for us panini filled with the cheese or salami of our choice, even though he doesn’t sell filled panini. Next we bought incredibly delicious cherry tomatoes and fresh strawberries. In the next piazza we washed them and sat in the sunshine to eat our delicious lunch. After a rest our daughter dipped into the seemingly inexhaustible supply of childhood energy to play at the playground.

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The roofline of these churches is lovely

We were disappointed to find that the funicular was out of order. We decided to walk up the hill to the castle ruins. Suddenly the energy that sustained exuberant playground play disappeared but we walked very slowly and made it to the top without any tears.

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The castle ruins are not particularly interesting or well preserved and there aren’t any signs but we enjoyed the view. We headed back home to let our children rest.

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Afterwards we walked down the hill, away from the old town. We were surprised to find that it is also lovely and we enjoyed looking at the architecture there as well, including an astonishing sculpture on the outside of a church, see next photo.

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The Celestine convent of Santo Spirito was built in the first half of the 14th century together with a Gothic church and a small hospital. The church has an interesting mix of Gothic, Renaissance and 18th Baroque architecture. At the center of the facade stands a bronze sculpture by Francesco Somaini (1971), symbolizing the descent of the Holy Spirit.

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Our children had a lovely time designing their own Lego people in an amazing Lego shop next to the church. Afterwards my family had a nice meal in a cosy bar while I enjoyed an aperitif with complimentary cheese and salami board. After settling my family into our nice apartment I headed to the fancy restaurant, Giopi e Margi in Bergamo’s Cittá Basso, for a wonderful meal with a friend who I met in Kuwait in November.

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This entry was posted on February 21, 2016 by in Europe and tagged , , , , .
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