On Thursday, June 8, our good friends got married in a little village next to Bergamo. This merry occasion was a great chance to prolong the weekend and to go on a road trip around the Lake Garda. Garda is stunning, and the short trip was absolutely worth it! Breathtaking views, clear water, cozy towns and delicious food: you will find all this around the lake. In this post, you will find some useful tips on what to see, where to stay and what to eat if you stay in the North of Italy for a weekend.
Especially now, when the weather in Berlin makes us dreaming about better (read: warmer) place, it is so satisfying – thinking about last long weekend on Sicily. We had such luck with the wetter, bright sun and clear blue skyes three days out of four, temperatures over 18 degrees, everything blossoming and pleasantly smelling… This all was as a bonus to the beautiful nature, cozy cities, delicious food, fresh vegetables and good wine. Therefore, this post is less words, more pictures, juicy colors and captured impressions.
The power of words and thoughts is often underestimated. One week before, when we were in Colmar, I recklessly compared Colmar to Venice thus provoking a small discussion with a couple of friends if Venice better indeed and when is the best time to go there.
A weekend trip to the south of Italy. Naples is absolutely worth it. Less words, more photos. The essense in 5 abstracts.
- The best view to the city is from the viewing point in the medieval Castle Sant’Elmo that is situated in the uptowm (you can reach it with one of three funiculars).
From above you can see the island Capri as well (the one to the right).
The castle itself has a light oriental fleur…
- Naples is the homeland of Pizza. Indeed, delicious. To our astonishment, the places with the best rating on the Tripadvisor were takeaways. The line in front of them was impressing.
A surpise for me was the revellation that Rum Baba (ромовая баба) so loved by Russians is a typical italian sweet.
- Pompeii. Easy to reach with a train from Naples Central station. Be aware that the last admittance to the site is 15 o’clock, closure time – 17 o’clock. Probably, because of the absence of artificial backlight. You will need around 2-3 hours to walk through the area.
It you want to combine the trip with the mount Vesuvius, leave Naples early in the morning. The last bus from Pompeii to Vesuvius goes at about 14 o’clock. The one-way ride lasts 50 minutes.
- The stories about thievery are true. Keep your belongings close to you and watch out. Especially during the pre-Christmas time. The streets in the old city are incredibly full with tourists and locals. Here you can find anything you want for your home decoration.
- The city is eclectic, buzzy and still very attractive. Narrow streets and vivid atmosphere, stuff of all types sold on every corner, emotionalб loud and cheerful italians. Unforgettable. Repeatable.
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.
Narrow streets of Brera area are worth seeing and strolling along. Though, they are pretty crowded on weekends.
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.
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.
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.