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After enjoying my time in Bergamo (see my posts here, here and here), I headed to Milan to participate to the 19th European Seminar for Graduate Students on Canadian Studies.

Milan Stazione Centrale

I arrived a bit late to be able to visit anything since the seminar was starting in the afternoon.  However, I took the time to get out of stazione centrale and stopped by for a panini on a terrace.  I was joined by two greedy pigeons who nearly went picking in my plate.  Ok, stazione centrale is not the Duomo, but I thought it was a nice building.  I was also able to see the local tramways (you might already be aware of my liking for foreign vehicles). 

As I stepped out of the station, I was submerged by an atmosphere.  It was busy, athough it does not seem so on the picture, and there was a stage with a DJ playing away.  It was really cool.  I love being a stranger in a city.  However, I did not regret to have decided to spend my free time in Bergamo rather than Milan; I have always preferred smaller towns.

The programme of the seminar was really interesting and I enjoyed many papers.  Many topics were covered from literature to law.  Of course, I found it difficult to follow the law papers despite the panelists’ efforts to make them accessible; however, they initiated interesting discussion.  Some of the literature papers were truly fascinating for me.  I was particularly impressed by Jacky Moore’s paper on Nuu’Chah’Nulth women.  She told us about how she spent some time with them and collected their stories.  I listened to the papers and discovered many things about Canada and its culture.  I love that about conferences: just sit back and discover the work of your peers.  It is most enlightening and an enjoyable way to learn.

One of the highlights of the seminar was a film presented by Aaraon Diaz from the Autonomous University of Mexico about Mexican temporary migrant workers in Canada.  The purpose of the film is to raise awareness on the too often deplorable working conditions of these temporary workers and the consequences ensued from employers’ carelessness (sometimes even causing death). 

The seminar was intense but it was great fun.  Everything was organised for us, including lunches and dinners, so we would get food for the stomach as well as food for the brain (in the words of one of the organisers).  The Italians love their food!  Even the lunch at the university cafeteria was lovely.  We went to different places for dinners, one of them being a traditional trattoria, in which food and environment were gorgeous!  And yes, they know how to make proper ice-cream!

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A few weeks ago I was telling you about my visit of Bergamo by night.  I actually planned a bit of time before heading to Milan to go visiting a bit more. 

After stopping for a relaxing breakfast in the Citta Bassa, I walked to the funicular, which enabled me to admire the Citta Alta viewed from below and to see some lovely buildings along the main street.

I then took the funicular to go up to the Citta Alta.  I just had to do it, it was fun!  I don’t know why, but I found it really difficult in Bergamo to find my directions and it took me a while coming out of the station to orientate myself.

The Citta Alta is amazing!  I love those narrow streets. 

And you know what? I also realised that I love shutters and terracotta roofs.  I never thought about it, but we don’t really have neither of them in Ireland: we have curtains and slate roofs. 

I took some back streets to arrive to Piazza Vecchia and discovered a lovely piazza before arriving at the back of the Basilica, one of the tourist spots. 

Another thing that amazed me when taking pictures was the perspective.  How to explain it?  The buildings aren’t flat.  There are stairs there and the top of another building raising at the back of the front building, and things like that.  Just look at the pictures, it will make more sense.

I spent a fair bit of time taking pictures around Piazza Vecchia, the heart of the Citta Alta.

I also love looking at the details of all these old buildings, the doors, the street lights, etc.

The shop windows also looked delicious (even the polenta was tempting me and I don’t like it)!

At the end of my visit, I walked up some steps and found myself in a garden with a view.  However, it wasn’t the view that I most enjoyed taking a photo of, but that little guy:

I was really happy that I had decided to stay one night in Bergamo rather than go directly to Milan.  I loved this town.  It is not too big; yet, there is much to see and it is really beatiful.  I found this place relaxing, you could really feel like taking the time.

Here is the sound I heard at noon while I was taking pictures:

Here is a slideshow of the Citta Bassa:

And here, three of the Citta Alta:

Café in Bergamo

I knew that the Italians liked their coffee (so do the French) but I hadn’t realised how anchored it was in their culture.

The coffee counter

Waking up in Bergamo, my plan was to find a nice terrace to have my breakfast.  I found this nice café and went in.  It had what I wanted: croissants, coffee and fresh orange juice.  Perfect!  So I stood at the bar counter, where a few other people were standing, to place my order.  The “coffee man” came to me and I started ordering.  He rapidly stopped me and called someone else to look after me.  Basically, he was the “coffee man” and was only serving coffee to the hurried businessmen standing at the counter.  I then noticed that some people were getting in, taking their shot of espresso and leaving; it didn’t take them more than a few minutes.  I actually got used to it and in the next couple of days I often happened to go to a coffee counter and have my shot before I kept going on with my day.

I work in restaurant, so I’m quite familiar with the various Italian coffees: the espresso, the macchiato, the cappuccino and the latte.  However, what I wanted was none of these.  I wanted a coffee with milk, a white coffee, un créme; longer than the espresso, more milky than the macchiato, less frothy than the cappuccino and less milky than the latte.  I tried to explained with my mix of English, French and Spanish and the server seemed to understand me; yet, I ended up with an espresso with a small jug of milk.  Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy to dip my croissant in it!

Two weeks ago, I went to Italy for a conference.  I was my first time there (second if you count the time I passed the border and went to Ventimiglia for an hour, just for the sake of saying I had been to Italy).  As my flight was landing in Bergamo, I decided to stay there for the first night before going to Milano.  I had been told it was a pretty town and I usually prefer smaller places, so this seemed perfect for me.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Bergamo is a lovely town, particularly la Citta Alta.

Bergamo at dusk under the mist

I arrived a bit late in the afternoon in warm but misty weather.  By the time I put down my luggage and got to the Citta Alta, it was already dusk (I had forgotten that in September the days would be shorter).  However, it was still nice and enabled me to practice some of Zhu’s wonderful tips on taking night photos, but I still have much progress to make.  Although I wasn’t helped by the mist, I think it gives a bit of atmosphere to the pics.

The archway (wrong one!)

Narrow street in Bergamo

I thus got off the bus, admired the view, went through an archway and went looking for the heart of the Citta Alta.  For some reason, I didn’t look at my map and I should have become alerted by seeing more people going down than up that steep street, but I was enjoying the view and the atmosphere of this narrow street with beautiful houses dominating the city.  I must admit that, for once, my sense of orientation totally failed me.  After a while, I found myself in some deserted street.  I tried to look on my ridiculous map but could not see where I was.  I still kept walking.  Next thing, I was on a dark road with nobody around.  Freaky!  Finally, I found a landmark, a castle (Castelli di San Vigilio).  No wonder I could not see where I was… I was outside the map!  So I went all the way back, still admiring the view but starting to get hungry.  When I arrived to the piazza where the bus had left me I saw another archway.  And for sure this was the entrance to the centre of the Citta Alta.

Wonderful view

Busy street in the heart of the Citta Alta

There I was at last!  Let me tell you, it was buzzing, nothing compared to where I had been.  I wandered for a while looking at the various restaurants and admiring the buildings and fronts of shops.  Hmmm, polenta seemed to be on a lot of the menus and I don’t like polenta (a long story).  I got the explanation quickly: it is the speciality of Bergamo; my luck!  I finally chose a restaurant that was busy enough, had quite an extensive menu and a lovely terrace that was properly lit, and I sat down for my dinner with my book.  I enjoyed my meal so much that I prolongated it by having a dessert (pannacotta with red fruits, yum!).  It was so relaxing to be sitting here with food, wine and a book and take the time to enjoy the buzz around.

However, my adventures weren’t finished.  I had seen on the internet that buses kept going until midnight and I never thought of checking the time of the last bus.  When I arrived to the bus stop, I discovered that I had missed the last bus by an hour!  I wasn’t the only one in this situation and two Scottish ladies were also wondering how to get back to the Citta Bassa.  We decided to share a taxi, but none were in view so we decided to walk back (thankfully, it was going down all the way).  An hour later I reached my apartment, exhausted!

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