The Arno River in Pisa, Italy. Photo taken March 24, 2017.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Sala Mandelli, Italy.

Where are they going next? Savona, Italy. Arrive March 27th.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

We thought we were going to Milan!

When we first started looking at visiting Italy, our place of arrival was determined by cheap airfare! The flight to get here from Alicante, Spain was on sale, and I booked it without doing much research. In fact, we originally thought we were coming to Milan. The airport was listed on the Ryanair website as Milan (BGY).

So based on that, you'd think you would be flying into Milan, wouldn't you? But, you'd be wrong!

BGY is the code for Bergamo Airport, located 60 kms (36 miles) northeast of Milan.

Where we are right now.

But it turns out that we think we are happier here in Bergamo than we would have been in Milan. And we're thinking now that we may not even visit Milan. There is too much to see and do right here. 

We're actually staying in the town of Ponteranica, just north of Bergamo. But Ponteranica is walking distance to Bergamo, so that's just what we did yesterday.

First on the agenda was to get an Italian sim card for our new Samsung phone. I did some research, and it turns out that the major cellular carrier TIM has a special program for tourists. It's called TIM for visitors. You fill out the application online, and pay €30 ($43.50 CAD, $33 USD) with your credit card, also online. Then, they email you a special code that you bring with you to any TIM store to pick up your sim card.

For the €30, you get 4 GB of data, and 100 minutes of calling including calls to your home country! Yep, we can even call Canada, all included. Great deal for tourists.

Our host Fernando was heading that way, so he offered to drive us to the TIM store which was on the way to Bergamo. Also, it was handy to have him there in case there were any communication problems.

The guys in the store did have to do some research because I don't think they had ever heard of this program. I'm sure that if we had gone to a store in a major tourist center, it would have been easier. But, they got it all sorted out, and we were on our way...fully connected!

We thanked Fernando for helping out, and we walked from there into the old walled city of Bergamo.

(Don't forget, you can click on any photo to make it full screen!)

The stone bridge leading to Garibaldi Gate was built in 1780.

The old city of Bergamo dates back to before the year 1100. And many of the buildings and structures in the old city were originally built between 1100 and 1600. There is a lot of history here! Around the old walled city, the new modern city of Bergamo (pop 110,000) has grown. Yesterday, we spent the entire afternoon walking the old city.

Looking back towards where we started.

And this is where we are headed...up to the old city of Bergamo.

There are two levels to the old city. Both can be reached via fenicular railroad. The first from the modern city to the old city, and the second from the old city to the castle. But we needed some exercise, so we walked both levels.

Yep, there are some old looking buildings up here.

The Bergamo Citadel, built in the mid 14th century.

Part of another one of the four original entrance gates.

Surrounding countryside.

Looking up towards the castle (near where the construction crane is).

The park where we had our lunch.

The wall was built in the 1600's.

The wall around the city is massive. Because of it's height, the walled city of Bergamo was never conquered. 

Another old building.

We loved exploring the old alleyways.

The back of the Basilica.

More exploring.

We headed for the central square. It was beautiful Saturday afternoon, so there were quite a few people about. Funny, but we were still able to find a lot of the old town quite empty as in the photo above. Maybe everybody is in the restaurants...

This was a busy place! 
And we have to admit, it looked really good!

This tower was built in the 1100's!

Bergamo Basilica.

The Basilica is amazing. 

They think it was built in the 1100's, but excavation work under one of the floors indicated that parts of it have been there since the 8th century. It's hard to comprehend, isn't it?

Oh, and it's all free...just as churches should be.

The wooden confessional was carved in 1704.

The interior of the Basilica

There's a kind of an odd hanging crucifix thing.

Exterior of the Basilica.

The Basilica sits right next door the to much newer Cathedral. It's not nearly as interesting, so I won't include any photos here. 

View from a balcony.

Ruth, enjoying another view.

We hiked up to the castle, which in my mind wasn't really a castle. But, it does offer some fantastic views and was worth the effort.

Looking back at the old city on the hill.

Scenery along the way.

View looking back towards Ponteranica.
The peak just to the left of center is the one we climbed on Friday!

It was another 4 kms (2.4 miles) to walk back to the apartment, but at least it was downhill all the way! I didn't keep track of how much we walked in total, but I'd guess it was around 10 kms (6.2 miles).

So before this trip, we had never even heard of the city of Bergamo. It's amazing, isn't it? So glad that we ended up here. We were supposed to leave here Monday morning, but I think we've already decided to stay until Tuesday!

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Since we are near Milan, the fashion capital of the world, we thought we had better offer you a related deal from Amazon...but be quick...there's only one left in stock!!


There's a similar one on sale in Canada...includes free shipping!





40 comments:

  1. As always great reporting and photos. I feel as if Im there..I wish. How well it worked out for you discovering a new place. Not travelling around Italy in a motorhome then?? Thanks for posting your adventure.

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    1. Thank you LIzzie! We think it turned out very well for us too. :-)

      No, we aren't traveling in the motorhome now, which is a shame because we would love traveling around here in it.

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  2. Ha, too bad I would have ordered two ! Really enjoy todays pictures, but I would have been tempted to try one of those pizzas.
    Kelly

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    1. It's a shame then Kelly, that they only had one available! ;-)

      Yep, they sure did look good! Our problem though is that we have to find a place that will sell gluten free ones and that is so easy to do. :-(

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  3. It's a wonder all those beautiful antiquities were not destroyed during the World War II bombing, but I guess the goal of the allies was to destroy railroad yards and ammo depots.

    Are you kidding me!! Maybe Evanka Trump might buy that leather tote on Amazon. $2,200 was the down payment on our first house in 1975!

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    1. Luckily Bergamo is one of the few Italian cities that did not suffer major destruction during World War II, so most of the major buildings received little to no damage.

      Somehow I doubt that Evanka reads the blog! ;-)

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  4. Very different scenery from Spain!

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    1. Yes, it is quite different, it reminds us more of the scenery that we saw in Czech Republic or Slovakia.

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  5. Fantastic photos.
    You are right to stay where you are. Carrie and I had to spend a day in Milan on our way to Denmark. It is nothing but high-price shopping. We would never go back.

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    1. Thank you! I think we will be happy then, not to go to Milan. We are quite enjoying the scenery around here.

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  6. You certainly have had a fantastic winter of travel :)

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    1. We sure have! Can't believe it is only a month and a half and we will be back at the campground.

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  7. Bergamo is the origin of a distinctive dance called the bergamask, which in turn was the inspiration for Claude Debussy's "Suite Bergamasque" for piano, which includes the familiar "Claire de Lune"

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    1. Dugg, you are most likely too young to remember, but when I was about 9 or 10 years old, Liberace had a TV program (in black and white) where every week he would appear on stage in formal attire carrying a lit candelabra, place it on his piano, and begin playing his favorite music, "Claire de Lune." Now you have taught me the origin of his music.

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    2. Shows you how much we know about "The Arts", we haven't even heard of that. We have heard of "Claire de Lune" though.

      Dee, I can remember Liberace's show. Not sure that I watched it but I probably saw bits and pieces of it.

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    3. I was wondering if there is a connection to oil of bergamot which is the flavouring in Earl Grey tea since bergamot oranges are grown in Italy.

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    4. No there doesn't seem to be any connection to the bergamot orange. Wikipedia says "Production mostly is limited to the Ionian Sea coastal areas of the province of Reggio di Calabria in Italy, to such an extent that it is a symbol of the entire city. Most of the bergamot comes from a short stretch of land there where the temperature is favourable. It is also cultivated in Côte d'Ivoire." Reggio Calabria, is not near Bergamo.

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  8. A pretty little city. Definitely getting your walking in there.

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    1. It is a lovely city! So glad that we decided to stay just outside of Milan!!!

      We had a rest day yesterday. After two days of almost continuous walking we needed to just relax.

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  9. Isn't wonderful how things turn out for the better? Lovely pics. Totally appreciate the SIM card info. Hugs to you both & happy trails!

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    1. It always amazes us how things can turn out for the better when you have a little burp in your plans.

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  10. Peter and I loved Italy, we could easily live there. We lived on pizzas, never got sick of eating them. Super cheap and delicious. One was called Quatro Stagione, Peter as to have the four separate ingrediants mixed and our waiter got upset and said no way it would not be a QS pizza. That was him told.

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    1. Yes, we could easily live here too but it is more expensive than Spain we are finding.

      We are going to have to keep our eyes open for a restaurant that will serve gluten free pizzas so that we can give them a try as well.

      Delete
  11. Looks like a lovely city and nice pictures. Maybe your flight from Spain was so reasonable because you did not land at a major airport like in Milan. Have fun and enjoy your stay!

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    1. That is exactly the reason, I am sure. Ryanair generally doesn't use the huge city airports as the taxes for flying in and out are more expensive.

      We are glad that things turned out the way they did, and we knew ahead of time that we weren't coming into Milan itself so it wasn't a surprise to us.

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  12. I love to travel that way...the surprises along the way are often the most wonderful parts of the adventure! What a beautiful area and the history, just wow!

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    1. Kevin knew well ahead of time that we weren't coming into Milan when he started looking for a place to stay here. Luckily he noticed then otherwise it would have been a huge surprise.

      Yep, lots of history for sure and such a pretty place and very clean.

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  13. You are in a beautiful part of the world! We absolutely loved hiking in the Dolomites, South Tyrol with our kids. You could google Wolkenstein or Canazei. Some of the most fabulous mountains there are the Langkofel, Sella Group and Marmolada. I remember hiking Marmolada with my parents in the 70's!

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    1. Found this about the area:

      http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/trentino/hike_dolomites.htm

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    2. The Dolomites look fantastic but we aren't making our way there for this visit. Unfortunately we just don't have enough time to see everything that we want to see here, which just means we will have to make another trip back to Italy sometime in the near future. Again, we could easily spend months checking out this beautiful country.

      So nice that you have been able to visit and hike with the kids and your parents. It must bring back some great memories.

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  14. Great cycling in that area. Some years ago I spent a bit of time in Lecco, about 25 miles from Bergamo on Lake Como. Best thing I did was take a bike - the Italians are crazy about cycling.

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    1. You are absolutely right about the Italians love for cycling. Lots of places to do that in and lots of people out doing it.

      We may just take a drive out to Lecco and Lake Como today, sounds like a nice day trip from here.

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  15. Glad to hear about the internet with TIM :)

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    1. Just remember to take your passport with you and you are better off trying to do it at a center in a touristy area. Some of the smaller places may not know what you are talking about and we find that once you leave the major centers there is very little English spoken.

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  16. The opulence and details in the basilica are just amazing...isn't it. I doubt there are few if any still alive in this day and age that could duplicate the construction.

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    1. Definitely lots of opulence there! We agree with you on people today not being able to do construction like that and we have all the modern tools these days, not like way back then. The people who built these buildings we certainly craftsman of their trade, actually they were artists in their own right. Las Vegas sure tries to mimic them though, although it is all superficial and fake!

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  17. You guys have seen some amazing, ancient sights on this trip of yours. Wow.

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    1. Yes, we sure have and more so if you add in Romania and Moldova into the mix from last fall. Learning lots of history about all of these countries.

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  18. I can't imagine the amount of work involved in building the old city...quarrying the stones, cutting it, placing it ever higher, carving it, etc and the paint work and wood work is stunning...definitely a work of art.

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    1. We can't either, especially when you consider that they didn't have all the equipment and tools that we have today, and I think we would be hard pressed to built a city like that nowadays! There are however those that have learned the trade for reconstructing some of these old buildings but there are very many that are so specialized.

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