Weekend trip to Lombardy: Milan and Bergamo

With Milan we definitely don’t have a match. Last time I’ve been there it was over Christmas, all shops and restaurants were closed, it was raining and everything but Duomo was grey. Last weekend I decided to give this city the second chance, because, in general, I like Italy a lot. Here are a couple of my personal tips and tricks as well as lessons learnt, because this trip turned over to be life-educational, indeed.

From Berlin you can book a spontaneous trip over a weekend for less than 50 Euros both ways: Ryanair flies to Milan several times a day. But, be careful, the airport is only called Milan-Bergamo, in fact it’s 45 km from Milan and only 3km from Bergamo. So if you rent a car, check twice the name of the airport, there are three airports in Milan. The one I’m writing about is called Aeroporto di Bergamo-Orio al Serio.

A pretty tricky thing are the toll roads – highways where you have to pay a fee to use it. In many countries they don’t have them, so it is somehow unusual. Anyway, the shortest road between the Milan-Bergamo airport and Milan is a toll road. You have to pay 3,40 Euro to drive on it. If you don’t have a Telepass (if you are not a frequent guest in Italy, you probably don’t have one), choose the entry line with the depiction of coins, notes or credit card. On the entry you get a ticket from an automat. On the exit you either pay to an officer or to an automat as well.

The roads are good, but parking is a catastrophe. We made rounds and rounds in order to find a parking slot. Finally, we ended up in a fully automatic garage and payed four Euro pro hour (a full day costs 25 Euro). Overpriced, isn’t it? But we were starving for Italian food and couldn’t afford another hour cruising along Milan streets searching for a spot for our Lancia.

The cuisine is amazing, that is true. Wine culture is outstanding (you should try homemade wine if available). Espresso after the meal – delicious and life-enhancing. You should consider that many restaurants have so called “coperta” – a service fee of 2-3 Euro pro person for bread, tissues and cuttlery. Please, mind, coperta is not the same as tips. To tip or not to tip you shoud decide yourself.

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Narrow streets of Brera area are worth seeing and strolling along. Though, they are pretty crowded on weekends.

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An absolute highlight is taking stairs or an elevator to the terrace of the Duomo. It costs 8 Euro stairs and 13 Euro elevator and open 9-20 in October. The place is tremendous. The spikes and statues are countless and make a great and long lasting cosmic impression. Absolutely must see.

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Another lesson learnt – you should know the right places in Milan or a person who will show them to you. Unfortunately, we didn’t, and therefore ended up, dressed up and ready for partying, in from of a club that was closed a couple of years back. The description and program could still be found online, so check before you head up to a place you discovered in the Internet. By that time is was completely dark and raining heavily. Walking in pumps for long was not in our plans, so we decided to grab a cocktail (price of a cocktail in center vary from 9 to 15 Euro) in a nice place and head back home. That was our idea. Milan thought otherwise. We finished the cocktails and tried to catch a cab – no luck. It was raining and all taxis were occupied. We asked in the bar to call for a taxi. It didn’t work either. “It’s raining”, explained the barista. “Okey”, we thought, “let’s then have another cocktail, may be the situation will change in an hour”. No way. After an hour already three nice Italian guys were trying to call a taxi. After half an hour (in the rain, oh dear boy) one caught a taxi on the street. What a relief…we don’t have to stay up the whole night drinking and can go home.

Next day we checked out and decided to have a breakfast in a cafeteria nearby. The buffet was full of attractive snacks. On broken Italian we asked, what was it. “Aperitivo”. Okey, we take it. What do you think we got? Strong alcohol at 11 o’clock in the morning. For three Euro. Buffet for free. Sounds great, heh? Unfortunately, I was the driver, so my companion took both drinks and I got coffee.

First half of a day we dedicated to shopping. There is an outlet village called Franciacorta about 40 km from Bergamo (http://www.franciacortaoutlet.it/en/home). If you have a couple of free hours you could drop by. Free parking, public Wi-Fi. The set of the shops and outlets it similar to any outlet village.

Second half of a day we spent in Bergamo. The city is charming, with its beautiful old town upstairs where you can find lots of restaurants, souvenir shops and narrow paved streets. You have to take a funicular to get up there (it costs 1,30 Euro one way). To go back to the downtown you can take a walk. We needed at least one hour and two Limoncello shots for each of us.

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We were incredibly lucky with a place to stay in Bergamo: B&B Donizetti (http://www.bebdonizetti.com/) Cozy, super clean, bright, hospitable and helpful staff (they even served us a breakfast though we left at 4 in the morning). Central location and moderate price (50 Euro for two of us with city tax included). If you have a chance to stay there – do it! No regret.

If you leave Bergamo early in the morning, make sure you spot a tank station that works during the night. We didn’t (and there were no stations open on our way to the airport at 4 am) and had to pay a fee for fueling.

Indeed, a cool trip. Two days, two cities, two absolutely different impressions and a lot of lessons learnt.

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