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Kas ducked out of going running this morning, so we had a relatively relaxed breakfast at 9am and then promised the girls a couple of hours in the hotel pool before going to do anything else. We’d managed to do everything we wanted to do in Milan the previous day, so had found ourselves with an unexpected Brucie Bonus of a day. A quick search in the bar the previous night suggested that Bergamo would be worth a look.

Kas braved her first go in the car and drove us up to Bergamo. On the way out we had a debate about whether the car’s fuel tank was full or not, so to err on the side of safety we stopped at a motorway service station and incurred a look of displeasure from the service attendant as the car took in a massive six litres of diesel before being full. Obviously that display on the dashboard meant it was pretty much full already.

By this point, we’d definitely agreed that the Sat Nav was called “Violet”, and she did a respectable job of getting us somewhere near the place we wanted to be. Not quite close enough, though, and we ended up driving all the way up a long hill and back down again before eventually finding an underground car park with a fairly narrow and rather steep entrance ramp. Once inside it was OK, but Kas, like me the day before, took it very gently.

The city of Bergamo, for those not in the know (which we weren’t, until we googled it), consists of a new bit sitting on a flat plain and an old city on top of several hills, enclosed within a massive old Venetian defensive wall system. The old city is accessible by car (that’s the hill we drove up), but more interestingly (if you’re a tourist) it’s also accessible by one of two funicular railways. We Found the base of this lower one and bought some tickets (and cold drinks) from a bar at the station. Italy works that way. The bar sold tickets, which is useful for people who don’t want to pay in any of the ways that the ticket machines take. It’s also useful when the ticket machines don’t work. Next to the bar was a geocache, which took me a couple of attempts to find.

The top of the funicular brings you out at the bottom end of a street which runs right up through the lower part of the old city. We meandered gently up the street with no particular purpose other than the search for a pharmacy so we could acquire some gel for insect bites. It took us a while, and when we did find one it was shut for lunch. Ho hum !

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On the way up the street we were passing plenty of food joints and eventually we gave in and went inside one. The girls were in need of snacks. Well, I suppose we all were. We had a thoroughly eclectic mix of food types – Ami got some meringues, I got a sweet bread with raisins, and Izzy waited a few extra minutes and got some pizza. Rather more pizza than she was expecting, I think. I think Kas may have skipped, but can’t remember now.

We walked all the way past the square with the cathedral, and through an archway up to a square containing a massive dinosaur sculpture, before eventually arriving at the base of the second funicular, which takes you up a bit further to the Castello di San Vigilio. There was a bit more uphill walking to do once we got to the top of the funicular, but the view from the top was rather impressive. You get a great view of the lower part of the upper city sitting above the new city on the plains below. To the north you get a nice view of the bottom end of the Alps.

The castle is home to one of the new “virtual reward” geocaches, with this one requiring one simply to find the metal plate with all the distances and labels on, and to take a photo to prove you were there. It took us a little while to find the correct way up to the top, but that forced us to walk around a part we otherwise might not have done. While we were up top I tried to find what other caches were nearby, and discovered a puzzle that had been “de-puzzled” for a while – the cache owner had just provided the coordinates in the description. Those coordinates proved to be right below us, where we’d accidentally walked 20 minutes earlier, so on the way down again I scooted back round to fetch that cache.

Even though we’d bought a return journey on the upper funicular we decided it might be good to walk down the road instead, especially after I’d discovered it was actually only 500m down (and all downhill). So we walked back down the road, taking a few good “overlook” photos on the way, and ended up back in the square by Bergamo Cathedral and Santa Maria Basilica. Here we decided to have a drinks break and to generally assess the state of the union. We found a nice looking gelateria on the square and grabbed some for takeaways, with some more cold drinks, and sat in the shade for a while before attacking the “churchy” bit. The ice creams were good.

As it happened, both churches were quite good too. Very heavily decorated on the inside and (thankfully) nice and cool. The cathedral also has a serious hypno-floor. Don’t look at the floor ! Don’t look at the floor !

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It was getting a bit late by this time and we decided we’d had enough, so we walked slightly more quickly down the hill back to the funicular. By this time the pharmacy was open again, so we popped in for the much needed insect-bite gel. The funicular was both funny and peculiar, as these things should be, and we found ourselves back at the car in good time. Kas managed to get the car back out of the car park fairly easily and Violet managed to get us back to the hotel with a minimum of fuss too.

We weren’t quiet sure what to do for dinner but decided to go and try a different place in Caleppio. We ended up at the “Mare i Monte”, which might also be called the “Pizzeria Edelweiss” – it was all very confusing. However the menu wasn’t confusing and nor were the prices (again). And the food was very good. The girls especially liked the part where we made the waitress run all the way through the dessert menu before eventually just walking over to the display cabinet and pointing at things that looked nice, which was pretty much all of them. After driving home we frequented the hotel bar again and downed a few more amarettos. The bar staff were getting to know what we wanted by now.

That had been a surprisingly good day out for something totally unplanned. Bergamo really is very nice, and after a day in the hustle and bustle of Milan it was relaxing to go somewhere with fewer people. The weather was still hot though.