Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Back Home at last

... but the phone has been cut off so am posting from an internet cafe. Irritatingly, the phone compnay have not sent us any phone bills for over 6 months, despite our prompting. This makes it tricky to pay the bill. Now, since the bills haven't been paid for over 6 months, they've cut us off. Can anyone spell Kafkaesque?

Got home on Sunday, in fact after a rather irritating train and bus trip which necessitated an unanticipated night in Bergamo. Bergamo is a prosperous conservative northern town on the edge of the Po plains, known for its endless industrial sprawl, the coldness of its inhabitants and the legendary incomprehensibility of its dialect. Oh yes and the violent obnoxiousness of its football fans, at least those attached to Atalanta who this year celebrate their centenary. I was welcomed to the town by a giant graffiti proclaiming ROMA MERDA and saw fit to take my scarf off quite promptly. My inclination to the town was not increased by the unforeseen necessity to break my journey there, and I booked myself into the first hotel I saw opposite the train station in something of a temper.

Dinner restored my calm a little, especially the rather excellent sword fish with artichokes and lemon. And I went for a stroll to visit the città alta, the high town, which is the original heart of the city. It's a wealthy spot, and everywhere you go you see it: in the medieval and renaissance palaces which make up the historic centre, in the stately Belle Epoque villas of the lower town, with their expansive gardens hidden behind imposing walls, in the proliferation of banks on every street corner, in the numerous stylish restaurants and chic cocktail bars, even the endless commercial and industrial suburbs testify to the prosperity of the town.

But it was the charm of the città alta which suprised me, I had no idea (ignorantly) that the town was so old. Once the western outpost of the Venetian empire, it's a walled city filled with tiny narrow winding cobbled streets, stunning little piazzas, churches, palaces, statues, tall and precariously leaning houses. It's also very lively, housing the university and being filled with bars, restaurants and hustle and bustle. You reach the città alta via a funicular railway, first built in the '20s, which takes you up through the city walls and straight into the heart of the old town. The city walls, meanwhile, are magnificent, and perfectly intact: it's an evocative expanse of fortifications, bastions, gates, crenellations, siege engines, ditches, narrow passageways and steep stairs. You can fly to what Ryanair mendaciously claim to be 'Milan' airport, Orio al Serio, which is some 15 minutes away, and to my astonishment I would recommend it heartily.

Meanwhile the world took advantage of my absence for the Italian government to fall, brilliantly denying me the chance to blog about this most fascinating and most Italian of events. Maybe tomorrow. I also need to tell you about Rome's lesbian nightlife, about some excellent grappa, about Roma 3 - 0 Reggina, about a job interview and other news and excitement. I hope you've all been good whilst I've been away.


Anonymous said...

How about adding some pictures to your blog? eg. You could have shown us Bergamo. And some shots of your view from your position in the curva sud would be awesome.

- Aussie Romanista

TrentToffee said...

Welcome back blog-mistress. Tobias Jones has a brief moan about Telephone billing in his book - The Dark Heart of Italy (a good read IMHO).

Don't talk to me about rail journeys !! It took me *9 hours* to get back from Cardiff last Sunday. It was great fun sitting on a train full of irate Arsenal & Chelsea fans outside Newport station for 2 hours.

Bergamo sounds just like Nottingham. Well, the bit about the industrial sprawl, the coldness of its inhabitants, and the incomprehensibility of its dialect at least. I'll have to go there and see for myself.

Looking forward to reading about Rome's interesting nightlife :0)

martinobhoy said...

Welcome back. I'd join you in thoroughly recommending Bergamo. I stayed there a year ago when I couldn't get a decent hotel in Milan and was very pleasantly surprised.

Most people in the UK use it as a stopover on the way to Milan with Ryanair but it is definitely worth staying in Bergamo.

Martha Elaine Belden said...

i love how you write. your such a unique storyteller :)

welcome back!

Spangly Princess said...

As it so happens there are sometimes pictures on here, I have had pictures of the Sud and of other aspects of my life in Rome up here. I need a decent camera, really, rather than just the one on my phone. Bergamo I only saw in the dark, which rather limits the photographic possibilities.

Trenttoffee, Jones' book is indeed excellent and I enjoyed it a lot