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Thursday, 30 March 2017

Year Abroad Photo Diary: Brescia, Venice and Lake Como.





Sunday 26th of March was Mother's Day for us Brits and I was fortunate enough to spend it with my mum and aunt here in Italy. Bergamo had been a little bit foggy and miserable for a week or so, but we were incredibly lucky with the weather and managed to visit three different cities in the space of 6 days; Brescia, Venice and Lake Como. 

I visited Venice for the first time last October with some friends who are also studying in Bergamo for their erasmus year, but my mum and aunt both really wanted to visit it and I was more than happy to get the opportunity to return.
However, I hadn't visited Brescia or Lake Como before, so it was nice to get to see somewhere new as well. Bergamo has amazing transport links to other cities in Italy and the prices are relatively cheap if you book in advance for the further trips, but extremely affordable for the closer ones. We took the train each time and although we had a couple of blips due to connections, late trains and a cancelled one, we managed to work around it every time and it didn't spoil the experiences one bit.



DAY 1 - ARRIVAL

Our week started on the Friday when they arrived in Bergamo; initially I was supposed to be teaching at the time their flight came in, but we ended up rescheduling anyway so I was able to come and meet my mum and aunt at the airport - probably a good job as otherwise they may have ended up in a completely different city as I know they were slightly apprehensive of the instructions I had texted them. We got from the airport to their hotel in Bergamo pretty quickly and after a gelato and a small walk we went for our first of three meals to La Bruschetta. 

La Bruschetta is a relatively small restaurant in Bergamo which serves amazing food at very affordable prices. I first went there with Sam one night when we didn't want to cook but also didn't want to fork out a fortune on a meal. We found La Bruschetta and didn't expect much, so were pleasantly surprised to discover that it is actually really gorgeous. Since then I have taken pretty much every single visitor and never had a bad experience; we ended up going three times in the time that my mum and aunt were staying here, so that says a lot!


DAY 2 - CITTÀ ALTA







After two bottles of prosecco, an antipasti platter and a bowl of pasta each we were more than ready for bed and spent Saturday mooching around Città Alta before returning to La Bruschetta for another amazing pasta dish... I definitely need a loyalty card or commission for that restaurant. When in Città Alta, we went in all of the beautiful churches but also had a look in the local museum which showcases different types of Venetian print and buildings. It was an interactive museum and didn't seem to be quite finished when we went in, but was pretty interesting even though it was entirely in Italian so meant I had to try and translate a lot of words I had never even come across!

The price of the museum is €5 and includes a ticket to the top of the bell tower. I had previously climbed this when my sister came to visit but this time we used the lift. The views are absolutely incredibly and as it was such a nice day it really made a difference to the time I had been before, which was quite misty and cloudy. You can climb right up to where the bell actually is, which we did and the view was even better from up there, but it does ring every thirty minutes and is pretty loud!








DAY 3 - BRESCIA



Brescia is a town situated between Milan and Verona, pretty close to Lake Garda and Lake Iseo. It wasn't somewhere I had really considered visiting before as I hadn't heard much about it and my only experience of the place was a FlixBus drop-off point which was far from aesthetically appealing. Originally we had intended to visit Milan but after one of my teachers informing me that actually Brescia is pretty nice - and knowing that Milan would be heaving on a weekend - we decided to take the train to Brescia. This meant changing at Treviglio, which is a tiny station not too far from Bergamo. The train conductor that day had obviously got out of bed on the wrong side as he wasn't too patient when explaining to us that the tickets we had purchased weren't actually valid for the route we took, but after I explained that when we had bought them we had not been informed that we couldn't take certain routes and that we were English tourists he just shrugged and walked off. We had no further problems with our tickets as we managed to get a train straight from Brescia to Bergamo on the way back.




I was very pleasantly surprised to discover how much there is to see in Brescia; there are a lot of old churches, monuments and squares to walk through and the city itself is actually really pretty. There are signposts too all of the main historic attractions and archaeological sites too, which was very handy for us as we had no idea where we were supposed to be going. The weather in Brescia wasn't the best, but was a lot better than when we left Bergamo, although we apparently missed a carnival that day... however I think this was actually better for us as it meant that there were barely any tourists and we could look at things in our own time. It was a Sunday so naturally quiet anyway, but there were still a lot of shops and eateries open. 




Another nice thing about Brescia was that since it isn't a huge tourist attraction like Rome or Milan, it was very affordable to just stop and have a drink or some food. We ate at a little cafe in one of the squares which was absolutely beautiful as it was directly in the sunshine, and whilst the cafe itself didn't look amazing from the outside the food was really nice and the atmosphere lovely as it wasn't too crowded or busy. Brescia was a perfect place for us to visit that day as we didn't want to go somewhere which meant getting up extremely early and being worn out by the end of it, but also didn't want to waste the day visiting somewhere which we could see in three hours. 

Brescia isn't necessarily somewhere I am dying to revisit and definitely not somewhere I would book a holiday to solely stay there, but it was a really nice day out and only around an hour away on the train. I was very glad that we chose Brescia over Milan, as it meant we were all going somewhere we had never been before and could do it without spending huge amounts of money throughout the day and being constantly pushed around by millions of other people.




Upon returning we decided to go to a restaurant called Biif for tea. I had been here twice previously and knew that the pizzas and salads were nice, but was sceptical about the steaks after Sam had a pretty hilarious experience (hilarious to ME might I add, not to him) where he ordered a huge steak expecting it to come with chips/salad/something and it literally came as just a slab of meat... since then Biif have changed their menu and now have a special disclaimer which says all meat cuts are served with potatoes and salad, so my guess is that maybe they just didn't like Sam or too many people complained about just being served steak on its own that they had no choice but to change it. Regardless, when we went we had a really lovely meal - my mum and I shared a pizza and a salad, whilst my aunt just had a pizza but we saw quite a few burgers and steaks going out which looked really amazing. They also gave us free chocolate and dessert wine which was a nice touch, but it was a surprisingly quiet night!









DAY 4 - VENICE




Day four was dedicated to the main trip of our week, which was Venice! As I previously mentioned, I have been to Venice before but as it was October, it was a little dull and dreary so meticulously planned our trip to make sure the weather was beautiful when we went. We originally planned to go on the Sunday but since I had a lot of lectures cancelled this week, we were able to go on the Monday when the weather was a million times better. It did mean getting up extremely early to catch the 6:45am train, but after three hours and three trains, we made it to the Grand Canal.

Venice Santa Lucia train station is located directly on the main canal so we were hit with its beauty as soon as we left the building. We decided to stop for a coffee to refuel and ensure we were ready for the day ahead, and as Venice is known for being a little on the pricey side for food and drinks we thought we may as well have one where we also had a view of the water. After that, we started our wanders throughout the little streets.





One of the things Venice is famous for are the Venetian masks, and whilst none of us were prepared to part with a thousand euros for the especially intricate designs, we couldn't leave without buying at least one. I love just going into the shops and looking at them, as I find them so beautiful and really fascinating to watch people make them. I bought a cheap harlequin one when I went last time which did the job so I didn't buy one myself, but my mum bought a gorgeous one with feathers and music manuscripts across the face. We were also tempted by all the gorgeous murano glass sculptures and lamp shades, so I treated myself to two little bracelets in black with gold and pink with gold - they're probably not authentic as they cost me around €10 for the pair but they're really pretty regardless!

The best thing I have found to do in Venice is to literally just wander down street after street and allow yourself to get lost in it. Every street has something new and interesting to see, and whilst St. Mark’s Square and the water front is absolutely gorgeous, the real charm to Venice is its quirky little areas. I took photo after photo after photo of the streets and just the architecture in general, as it is somewhere I fall in love with. I love anything old-gothicy like the cast iron flower boxes and paint-stripped shutters on tiny apartment windows, so Venice is the perfect place for me.




By doing this, we stumbled across an absolutely gorgeous restaurant by the canal front where we stopped to have something to eat. We knew that Venice was going to be a bit on the pricey side so had prepared for that by deciding to treat ourselves to one good meal there and then get something to eat when we got back to Bergamo at night time, but we were so surprised at how reasonable the prices were at the restaurant! I had mentioned how gorgeous it would be to be able to sit and eat lunch overlooking a canal with a gondola or two going past and this place absolutely lived up to our expectations whilst providing us with truly delicious meals too. I wish I could remember the name of it for anyone who is considering going to Venice as it was somewhere I would definitely return to, but it was right next to the Liassidi Palace hotel (which also looks insanely nice, as we saw a couple being transported by water taxi away from the hotel but after looking online I now understand WHY it is so nice, aka $$$). I would say that the meal really made the day quite special as it isn’t something you can do every day and was a lovely experience.





I was really sad when the time came for us to catch the train home as I would have loved to see Venice as the sun set, but as it took us nearly 3.5 hours each way, we really couldn’t stay any later than we did. It was a good thing we did catch the train at that time anyway, as it turns out, seeing as one of our connections was late making us late for the train back to Bergamo, leaving us stranded in Treviglio for an hour with literally nothing to do! We were suitably knackered by the time we had returned home and I was so happy to see my bus turn up at the stop literally as soon as I got there, but Venice makes the tiredness absolutely worth it. I definitely would like to return at some point soon.



One thing I will mention is about the gondola trips, as it is something which Venice is famous for. We looked at the prices and it was €80 for 30 minutes, or €100 at evening/night time for the same amount of time. I wasn’t sure if this is correct, but the way it is offered is as though it is €80 for the gondola regardless of the amount of people, but I may be wrong here and wouldn’t be surprised if it was €80 per person. We contemplated going on one but decided against it as it is very pricey for half an hour and we were enjoying just wandering through the streets and making our own way that we didn’t feel that we needed the gondola experience to make anything particularly special. I think it is something I would do in the evening rather than during the day as I can imagine it is a truly beautiful experience to take a gondola at sunset, but for us it wasn’t something we were particularly bothered about missing. Also, there were quiet a few tour groups in Venice the same day as us who all seemed to have a gondola ride included in the package, which created a huge amount of canal traffic which didn’t seem to add to the charm at all!






DAY 5 - CITTA ALTA



On day 5 we returned to Città Alta as, naturally, we needed a restful day after Venice. We decided to take the funicular cable car up to the town because we had planned to do that the first day but as it was a sunny Saturday the queue was stupidly long so we had taken the bus instead. As it was a Tuesday, it was a lot quieter so we got to see the entire view of Bergamo on a sunny day, which was nice! I had university this day so revisited the churches, had a coffee and ate a pizza bread with my mum and aunt, but then left them to their own devices as I went to class. We later met up and decided to go to Biif once again as my mum wanted to try their burgers, which much to Sam’s dismay was served with chips and about €15 cheaper than what he paid for his slab of meat. I had a caesar salad which I never ordinarily order, but after a few days of constant carbs I felt I needed a couple of vegetables in my system (although I am aware that a caesar salad probably has more calories in it than the pizzas and pastas I had scoffed the previously few days anyway). 


DAY 6 - LAKE COMO




Day 6 was another beautiful trip to somewhere I had never previously visited. Lake Como is known by pretty much everyone for being a beautiful lake in Italy - and for being home to one of George Clooney’s villas. I’d wanted to visit Como for a while, as it is only €6 on the train and takes around an hour and a half. We had to change over in Monza, and although our train was initially cancelled and seemed as though our day was off to a fantastic start (lol), we just took the second one and got there for around 12pm. 

We arrived at Como San Giovanni station, and although there is another train station which is directly in front of the water front, we were given a map by a man in the tourist information centre who told us it was only a ten minute walk there anyway. It is a really straight forward journey from that station to the water front and we didn’t need to use google maps once - good job really as it had sent me in the complete wrong direction in Venice and led us to a school yard instead of the station anyway! It was a gloriously sunny day and really perfect for visiting the lake.




Once we reached the water, we noticed that there is a funicular cable car which takes you up to a village called Brumate. We decided to check out the price and if it was reasonable, we could have a look. It was only €5.50 for a return trip and the views at the top were truly spectacular - you could see right out to the snowy capped mountains as well as the other areas of the lake, and there was a cafe right outside the funicular station which does the most amazing fresh salad with a view of everything. 

We only had around five hours in Como as we wanted to get back at a decent time to get something to eat (three guesses where we went for the final meal…) so had a lovely walk around the waters and stopped for a drink whilst admiring the view. It was a toss up between Milan and Como for the final day, but as I managed to reschedule my teaching for this week I had wanted to visit somewhere I’d never been before, and it was definitely the right choice. I know there are quite a few little villages around Como which are supposed to be beautiful, so I will definitely be returning at some point in the near future to explore those, too.





Upon returning we decided to grace our favourite restaurant with yet another visit... they actually laughed as we walked in and gave us the same table we had had for the past two visits, but we also got extra free prosecco and limoncello so it pays to be a regular there! We shared a bottle of prosecco and each had a pasta dish and dessert as it was the final night; I had a squid, squash and langoustine pasta which was absolutely gorgeous and I was gutted when it was over.


And so came to an end our lovely week of travelling, eating and sampling the Italian culture. It was so lovely to have close family members coming to stay, especially people who wanted to explore the other areas and were happy to let me suggest places along the way. Although I am probably ten stone heavier after all the carbs and alcohol I have consumed, I had the best time and know that my mum and aunt did too. They are currently sat on the plane at the time of me typing this but I am well and truly ready for a good nights sleep and a couple of vegetables, but wouldn't have changed the week for the world. Big thank you to my mum and aunt for keeping me fed and wined this week and also for putting their trust in me to organise the train journeys and excursions, I love you both very much and you're more than welcome to come back again. 



































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[name=Lauren Gibbins] [img=Your Image Url Here] [description=I'm Lauren, I'm a 21 year old student from Manchester currently studying in Italy for my erasmus year abroad.] (twitter=www.twitter.com/laurenjgibbins) (instagram=www.instagram.com/laurenjoygibbins) (bloglovin=https://www.bloglovin.com/blogs/lauren-gibbins-18477709)

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