I’m a believer that the best way to visit a place is to have someone local to show you round. My visits to Santiago de Compostela, Berlin, Cairns and Singapore were all the more memorable because of the local person who acted as a guide for me when I was there. When my friend Noah who lives in Bergamo invited me to visit him for a weekend, I jumped at the chance to catch up with him and be shown round the beautiful northern Italian town he calls home, as well as Milan.
What I may not have entirely appreciated until now is that there is a bit of risk involved with visiting someone in their (foreign) home. As the guest, you may not have much control over the what, when or where. If you end up fighting with your host for whatever reason then that can leave you feeling trapped and anxious. I had a good time on my trip but sadly not everything went smoothly.
Bergamo is an affluent city just northeast of Milan. I spent most of my time here in the stunning old town (Città Alta) where Noah’s family home is more or less located. Beautiful old churches, clocktowers and fountains are crammed within the zigzagging bastions, offering amazing views in every direction. Traditional delicatessens, cafes and restaurants abound on the steep cobbled streets.
Noah’s family live in a sprawling hillside villa which offered stunning views southwards towards Milan. He showed me round a bit on my first day, sharing stories of his high school days, telling me where the best places to get prosciutto and bread were and we even bumped into some of his old classmates. I finished exploring alone on the Monday (unfortunately when all the attractions were closed), visiting the grounds of the fortress and admiring some of the more outstanding pieces of architecture. I rode the funicular railway and walked along the bastions. All in all, Bergamo is a very beautiful town to explore.
Both Friday and Saturday nights Noah and I headed out clubbing in Milan. The nightlife there was pretty good I thought. Good looking people dancing to fun music with some enjoyable performances by various drag queens. The second night we ended up at a club named “Toilet” – which has to rank as the worst name for a club I’ve ever visited – with some people I befriended when I winded up waiting alone in a bar for 7 hours longer than planned. I’m pretty great at making friends wherever I go so this turned out fine!
I got chance to explore Milan (solo) which is obviously a famously beautiful city. I’ve been told that there’s not much to see, however the sights there are to see are massive. The castle was absolutely gigantic, as well as the Duomo di Milano and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. They’re all absolutely stunning feats of architecture. Sadly, I got some flashback vibes to Florence with the sheer number of tourists here. I shouldn’t have been surprised as Italy’s beauty is no secret. By contrast, it made exploring Bergamo even more of a delight due to it being so much quieter.
Noah wanted to do some work on one of his side-projects so I joined him on a trip to his father’s dental practice in the town of Calolziocorte, halfway to the Swiss border. We stopped by a small town named Monza on the way there. While it was definitely enlightening to learn more about the stuff Noah’s been filling his time with and talking to me about in recent months, it did leave less time for us to just chill and hangout together, which I suppose is what I flew to Italy to do. I felt that was a bit of a shame. Everything was quite rushed and at times I felt like an inconvenience and that I’m even more useless than I actually am (and I’m more than willing to admit I’m a bit useless!). Not the greatest feeling.
Noah dropped me off just in time to catch the bus to the airport. As part of our hurried goodbye I thanked him very much for an illuminating visit to Italy and to his family for allowing me to stay. He alluded to ‘the next time you visit Bergamo’ so hopefully he did enjoy having me there. With my plans to go to Japan there’s no saying when I’ll next see him but I hope it’s not too long. Till next time Italia!