Trains, Castles, and Dancing on Tables

On skipping Milan, sleeping in the grounds of a castle in Beautiful Bergamo, the perils of Chinese liquor, and getting naughty in Torino…

Milano… Capital of Terrible Fashion.

Well, yes – I’ve been to Milan. About four times now, but never for more than an hour. Somehow it hasn’t ever really inspired me enough to stay longer. As soon as I see someone waltzing around in over-tight, low-cut trousers or one of those other ironic, hipster trends that I’ll probably never understand – it’s straight to the station to catch a train… elsewhere. There’s plenty of all that crap in London – but at least in London I know where to go…

Do you know where to go in London?

Me, I’ve always been about classic fashion – all these modern trends just try too hard.
I mean, what’s wrong with a simple toga?

I hope I never learn…

*

Bergamo. Beautiful Bergamo.

Skip Milan and head instead to the very beautiful city of Bergamo, a mere train ride away. This is somewhere that agreed a whole lot more with my simple old soul. I stayed in Bergamo for a few days with Rose the Pose – and it was just bliss…

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We stayed in hostel Central Hostel BG that we found by chance whilst walking around. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the place, but it was so close to the train station, and we were so travel-weary after the Heat of Como that we just strolled on in and collapsed. But don’t get me wrong – it was clean, spacious, cheap and easy – and bloody boring. Such a stark interior. Not a whisper of character.

A fine base to explore, none-the-less, as the city is very small.

in the 'Citta Alta' - by Rose
in the ‘Citta Alta’ – by Rose

The Citta Alta (the ‘upper city’) is where we spent most of our time, however… You can catch a small train to the top of the hill… or walk it. Or even, if you’ve got the guts, you can jump onto any of the many city buses that drive up and down to the top of the hill throughout the day, without buying a ticket, and hope nobody catches you!

Having una birra and a cigarette in the Citta Alta. Whilst I no longer smoke (well, only on special occasions), I can’t deny that there’s something about great views and smoking that just goes hand-in-hand… like brandy and cigars. Or Swallows in Summer…

The city streets wind around and around like a complexity of veins – a beautiful medieval maze – perfect to get entwined…. and lost. It reminded me much of Sienna, in Tuscany.

Once you get to the very top, be sure not only to tour the beautiful Medieval cathedral, with its intricately-carved marble reliefs and saintly interiors, but also to visit the old castle, which is now in a state of ruin – more like a public park.

After climbing to the top of the city, I just layed down on the grass in the middle of the castle grounds, pulled my scarf over my weary travel-head… and had a wee nap. You need to learn how to power-nap if you’re thinking of being a traveller. Trust me, sleep can save your life.

 Run your hands across the rough stone of the old castle walls. Climb up, dangle your feet over the edge,
and muse…

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Those views – it’s always worth it for those kind of views.

*

III –
The Perils of Chinese Liquor.

One night in Bergamo, Rose and I decided we’d do our usual trick of taking a little bottle of something naughty around with us, to cheekily top-up our drinks whilst “out on the tiles…” I had an idea – often when out with friends I have ideas – this was not a good one.

We found a little corner shop run by this petite Chinese lady. She barely spoke English; at the time I barely spoke Italian. Anyway, I walked over and picked a bottle of the strongest looking liquor off the shelf and handed it to her. She chuckled a little as I handed over the 6 euros and muttered something in Chinese (she, not I), shaking her head. Me being me, I took no notice, galloped out of the shop to proudly greet Rose and skipped on into the night…

We walked around and found a nice square, sat down, and began a long conversation whilst sipping away at the mysterious liquor we mixed with cola.

After some time, we looked down to find the bottle nearly empty – laughing a bit but feeling just fine we stood up, ready to go and find some bars, me stuffing the rest of the bottle in my bag…

Well…

We didn’t really get up. Because we couldn’t move!
The stuff must have been so strong because every time I tried I could literally not stand up!
I checked the bottle feverishly – we were laughing like a couple of juniors – 70% alcohol!!! 70 bloody %!!

We were literally on our knees – crawling down the high street now – crowds of Italians and other tourists finding it all so very amusing, of course. And us too!
We just kept crawling and crawling, laughing and laughing. Rose was even throwing herself at the ground, bouncing around – which seemed so funny at the time.

What the hell was this stuff??
No wonder that Chinese lady was giggling.

I remember only a few things from there on – shouting up to a party going on above the street, telling them they couldn’t play Johnny Cash without our permission; Rose falling around by the side of the main road and me reassuring the baffled passersby that “she’s my fiance! This is our honeymoon!” (neither of which were true); then Rose passing out on a bench and me making friends with a large group of Italian boys who I, for some reason, kept calling Luigi. As if all twelve of them were called Luigi… silly twat James! And then (now this is interesting) offering them the remains of the liquor – which they vehemently declined!!

Was this some kind of drink that everybody knew about in Bergamo but us??

Somehow we made it back to the Youth Hostel… to this day neither of us really know how.

Do yourselves a favour, people – stick to Mojito and Red Wine Hangovers.
Anything is mild in comparison to that next morning of Bergamo Hell…

I have a new saying since Bergamo too – “See No Evil, Drink No Evil, Heave No Evil”

*

IV –
Vicino Torino.

Now Turin is a city not to be underestimated. Always it is over-shadowed by its stylish, more ostentatious neighbour Milan. But you won’t catch me dancing on tables in Milano…

Turin, once part of the Savoy Empire, was largely modelled on Paris.
It is very classic and understated.
I love the blend of Italian and French cultures.
And the air – so fresh – as the city sits at the base of the snow-capped Alps.

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Piazza Vittorio Veneto

 Turin’s perpendicular streets are so easy to navigate.
So easy to get perfectly lost in…
And there’s plenty of fine detail to greet the eye.

My favourite thing about Turin is the old cafes scattered around, on every street corner.

Step back in time…

See Piazza Vittorio Veneto at night, and I’ve heard…
The lights begin to dance.

And when visiting Turin, be sure to expect rain…

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*

I spent my 23rd birthday in Turin.
It all started off with my usual good intentions, of course.
We were in a little Irish bar – some music was playing – but no one was dancing.
A charming Polish girl was insisting I drink double vodkas. All night.

Next I got up onto one of the tables and began dancing merrily to myself.
Next she was on the table, too. Dancing around we were –
creating our own party on the rocking table-tops,
Whilst everybody else in the bar did nothing – just watched on nonchalantly!

I do try – but I’m nowhere near perfect…

IO

See No Evil. Drink No Evil. Heave No Evil…

I wonder if I’ll ever learn?

J x

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