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Report 1176: September Song: High Notes of a Few Precious Days in Italy

By Roz from Massachusetts, Fall 2006

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Page 2 of 16: Bergamo: Getting to Know You

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Colleoni Chapel in Bergamo, from Piazza Vecchia

Bergamo was kind of a stab in the dark for us. Since we were flying to Malpensa, we had originally thought of spending a couple of nights in Milan, as it was a city we'd never seen. But when I started checking around for hotels, they were all booked or beyond our budget. (I think there was some kind of trade fair going on.) So I looked at a map, consulted a couple of guidebooks -- and the Slow Trav boards of course, and got intrigued by Bergamo.

Bergamo is a city divided into two parts. There is the Città Alta (the high, old, and picturesque part), and the Città Bassa, where most of the business of the town gets transacted. It is not an easy town to get around by car, and Emma GPS really earned her keep navigating us through the twisty streets up to our B&B in the hills outside the walls of the Città Alta.

I didn't know too much about the Villa Luna B&B except that it looked nice online, was reasonably priced (€80 a night for a double), and claimed to offer Internet access. Our luck held, and it turned out to be a great choice. Our room was comfortable (good bed, large bathroom with two sinks, tub and separate glassed-in shower), and opened on to a terrace with a beautiful view over the hills down to the Città Bassa. There were peacocks roaming around in the yard outside, and it was an easy, pleasant walk in to town.

The only thing that didn't live up to the billing was that there was no Internet access in evidence. Once we got checked in, we never saw the manager/owner (I guess) again to ask him about it, and the woman serving breakfast the next morning seemed baffled when we asked her. She said we would have to go down to the lower town to find an Internet point. (More about THAT adventure later!)

We were pretty hungry but also tired, and fortunately didn't have to go far to find a good meal. There was a little trattoria (Parietti Pieri) across the street from the B&B -- a fun place, since it was definitely a neighborhood hangout with some great Italian faces and conversations all around us. For a week or so before we left home, I'd been afraid to eat raw greens because of the E.Coli scare, so I ordered a big, delicious seafood salad. DH picked a random pasta dish that sounded good, and later found out he'd ordered the signature dish of Bergamo -- casoncelli. It's a meat-stuffed pasta with cream sauce, cheese, and pancetta.

After two nights of little or no sleep, we decided a post-pranza nap was the right thing to do, and Villa Luna's bed definitely passed the comfort test. Refreshed, we strolled down the road to the old city about half a mile away. Inside the walls we were especially impressed by the Colleoni Chapel. On the chapel's front porch a couple of cute little girls with an even cuter dachshund were climbing over the Venetian lions guarding the facade, with its amazing profusion of pastel pink marble.

Inside the chapel every surface was adorned with just about every decorative artistic technique the Italians ever dreamed up -- fresco (including ceilings by Tiepolo), intaglio, sculpture, relief, ornate carvings, ad infinitum. It was hard to know where to look because everywhere you turned there was some new visual extravaganza. But we couldn't find what the guidebooks kept telling us was the main attraction -- the golden equestrian statue of the condottiere Colleoni. Finally, we figured out we had to go OUTSIDE and in the other door, past Colleoni's three-ball coat of arms. Supposedly this is an accurate anatomical reference, and they gleam quite brightly because people rub them for good luck!

For dinner we chose a place called Vineria Cozzi, via Colleoni 22, because we liked the menu, and it had stickers from "Amici di Slow Food" and "Gambero Rosso." However, the breast of duck with rosemary potatoes was disappointing -- neither one had much flavor. On the plus side, the waiter was very nice, and we enjoyed sampling the local wines. I think the place mainly earns its reputation for its wine list, not its kitchen. Our favorite wine was one called Kalos Cabernet. But the restaurant lost more points when we discovered they had added the check incorrectly (in their favor, of course), and we can't really recommend Vineria Cozzi. We found nothing to complain about, however, in the gelato up the street at Cherubini. I had pear and coconut; DH, limoncello and frutti di bosco.

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