Lago di Como & Monza: Lakes & Pains

Whilst staying in Bergamo, I thought I should take a look at some other places in Lombardy, to get more of a grasp on the region. In the City, Lombard St leads to the Bank of England and attests to their having got around. The image I had of Lombards was one of industrious, sober and particularly go-getter Italians; the distant origins of the original Lombards are more Germanic than Roman (although the centuries, as well as the internal migration of the jobs market, will have blurred the boundaries considerably). So, where else to go? The other local towns at the top of my wish list (Mantua, Cremona) are not particularly close to Bergamo. There are plenty of important cities, and most of them have an important antique church at their heart, but many of them sounded slightly sad for a summer holiday; working towns that are resolutely industrial or, what is worse, deindustrialised. All roads lead to Milan, with its iconic Duomo, Leonardo’s Last Supper and all that is bustling, metropolitan and chic, but seeing Milan on a day trip sounded like a folly on a par with trying to see all of London in one afternoon. There are, of course, the Great Lakes, and whilst I expected these to be saturated with mass tourism, moneyed Russians tucking into freshly caught rainbow trout and coach trip folks paying through the nose for defrosted pizza, the good thing about arriving with low expectations is the increased likelihood of their being exceeded…

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Bergamo: Have Your Polenta and Eat It

In the aftermath of a vote that saw the English give their capital city a bloody nose for hogging the benefits of globalisation, and for spending far more time in Paris or Amsterdam than we do in Birmingham or York, what better way to react than by swapping the 1950s for the 1450s and running off to the place I spend 50 weeks of the year dreaming about? It being the height of summer, we settled on Bergamo as the place in Italy that would give us the best chance of not boiling to death; it is around an hour north of Milan, and the last major city before the Alps. As Italy’s economic engine and the most prosperous of the twenty regions, Lombardy is a hugely important part of Italy and yet this was my first visit; ancient old cities and picturesque landscapes are comparatively thin on the ground, and Bergamo is something of a rarity in giving good value for both.

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