America, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying

Rainy Days and Songdays – Travel toons

Our planes may be grounded, our ships docked, out trains in their stations but we’ve still got a song in our hearts.

And we’re keeping ourselves going with a playlist of Travel Songs.

Here are ten until we can travel again.

Life’s a Beach

Sloop John B, Beach Boys, California

Only I didn’t, and don’t, wanna go home.

There are few songs, or singers more synonymous with their home than the Beach Boys.

You get it about California when you see the Boys in Anaheim, as you do, and Mike Love touches your hand.

The Beach Boys Get Around all right by boat, plane, car or surf board. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Hail Mary

Proud Mary, Tina Turner, Mississippi

Home of the Delta Blues: The Mississippi

 

Watching those river boats, rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ down the river to Mississippi made me Mr Happy.

And reminded me of Proud Mary… and Proud Beverley.

Pumping her arms and rolling her body on stage at Rising Star Karaoke club on CiyWalk at Universal Orlando… 

Proud Beverley that is, a proud Scot who was supposed to be the warm-up act for my Lady Marmalade but who absolutely slayed it on our Orlando recce.

The Mississippi is, of course, America’s South to North artery and a playground or play waterway if you like.

And it’s how you really want to do The Deep South although that’s to take nothing away from our unforgettable road trip through Tennessee and Mississippi.

Hit the Road Jock

Jack, Ray Charles, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic

With my Jazz partner and global travel pal Agnetha in Prague

You might not immediately associate Ray Charles and Jazz with the Czech Republic.

But then you can’t have been or you would have seen the saxophonists on Charles Bridge in Prague.

It was probably Hit the Road Jock when I dance with Swedish Agnetha in Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic’s Spa Triangle back when.

Jazz has truly travelled the world and is in itself a music of travel with many a song of a vagrant worker eking out a living on the road.

Sounds all too familiar.

On the sunny Caribbean Sea

Dance away: Wukkin’ up in Barbados

Woah, I’m going to Barbados, Typically Tropical, Barbados

Now I’ve never been on Coconut Airways and I wasn’t off to see ma girlfriend Mary Jane…  at least that’s what I told the Scary One and I’m sticking to that story.

No, it was Virgin Airways, and I was the guest of Visit Barbados and then the second time with Tropical Sky.

Woah, I’m going to Barbados may not be the pure Soca they so love in Barbados and me too but they will sing along too.

As the house singer at Club Barbados who had a bow tie and dress shirt designed on to his T-shirt delivered without any degree of corniness.

I can’t wait to be…

On the Road Again, Willie Nelson, Pilgrimages in Spain and Italy

The Sun shines on the righteous on the Camino

And my go-to song when I’m out on the road is Willie Nelson’s standard… it’s my mission statement when I hit a pilgrimage, and my friend Aileeen Eglington’s Destination Anywhere radio show on Dublin South FM.

You’ll get plenty of time on your own when you’re on your Camino on your way to Santiago  or your Via Francigena into Rome.

And yes, of course, I can’t wait to be…

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

 

Countries, Culture, Europe

Kos I love you

With apologies to Seventies Glam Rock gods Slade but I’ve pinched one of your biggest hits to promote the Greek island of Kos. Why? Kos I love you!

OKU by you!

And us, because OKU Hotels have put their own individual footprint on Kos which soft-launched last year.

While it is, of course the sister of OKU Ibiza, opening on April 30 and which we have featured before on this site.

So let’s give some philia for our Greek friends.

And I ‘m being careful here to make sure I get the right expression as the Greeks have a range of words for love.

All Greek to me

I’d er, love, to say that I remember them all from my school Classical Greek but, in truth, I only recall the word eros… funny that.

Pictures of Kos

I guess I’ll always be that sniggering schoolboy.

But I’ll always love Greece and this life is an odyssey for me after all. To get around as many Greek islands as I can.

Kythera you weren’t the last.

The other Greek words for love are ‘philia’ meaning friendship and which Aristotle popularised, and the Americans were big into, particularly those in Philadelphia (brotherly love).

Before they started falling out.

What’s in a word?

‘Agape’ is more a word denoting charity and God’s love for us and ours for him, while ‘storge’ is the love of parents for their children.

‘Philautia’ (behave!) is self-love while ‘xenia’ is hospitality though unfortunately it has been attached to an opposite Greek word ‘phobia’ or fear to denote a fear of foreigners.

And that has no place on this site, or among Bandininis and Bandanettes.

You’ll have a smashing time in Kos

It’s the meetings with other peoples and learning about their cultures which we’re all missing so much just now.

So let’s hear if for the Japanese who are bringing their own Zen to us in Europe (and Buddha knows we need just now) with their OKU hotels.

The OKU Kos opens on April 5 with 100 spacious rooms including suites with private and semi-private pools and a handful of private two-bedroom villas.

Greek island: Kythera

There’s a spa, hammer, sauna and fitness studio with daily complimentary yoga classes at the beach pavilion or yoga terrace.

Adults only

An adult-only resort with a main pool and direct access to a private beach I’d say this is ‘storge’ because the kids will love having their parents away.

With the faint hope of ‘eros’ for the adults.

And having honeymooned in another Greek island, Corfu, then I can vouch for these Greek islands. Happy times before the ‘paidia’ or children came along!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asia, Countries, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Jimuary, Ginuary, Veganuary, Japanuary

And whatever you’re having yourself… January is after all what we make it.

Jimuary in Scotland

Jim O’ Shanter

And for me and all of us of a Scottish disposition then January is Robert Burns’ Month.

Burns is Scotland’s National Poet and January 25 is his birthday… he would be 252 this year.

Wherever they are in the world Scots put on kilts and start eulogising little mice and the like… ‘wee sleekit timrous beastie, oh what a panic’s in thy breastie.’

It’s all the whisky we drink you see!

Alloway Bridge

Burns’ Village is a magical place with Burns’ Cottage, Alloway Kirk and Brig o’ Doon.

Where you can let your imagination run wild.

Three Scots mice

January is also the month when Dr Martin Luther King’s birthday is commemorated.. he was born on January 15 but Martin Luther King Day is actually January 18..

I was fortunate enough to attend the 50th commemoration of his assassination and followed the MLK Trail from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi.

Ginuary in Ireland

G&T O’Clock

And you could do worse than Co. Monaghan, the border county where a ginoisseur will guide you through each gin and tonic.

The Scary One turned her nose up at the juniper when presented with a tray of samples only to then dig in and minesweep them all.

Veganuary

And if it’s good enough for Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein and Barry White (and he had a healthy appetite, and for food).

Veganuary has really taken off in recent years and I’ve visited the oul’ plant-based food before on this site.

But seeing that the calendar has come around again and that you’ll be performing a public service by not visiting the shops.

Here’s to all those things in your flower beds which also includes the majestic tulip.

And Japanuary

Thanks here to our friends in The Land of the Rising Sun for always keeping it fun and funky.

So Japanuary?

Well, we’re all being encouraged to get on our bikes and in Japan you can do worse than following the Tanesashi Coastline and bike hire is just £10 per day.

They advise stopping off at fish restaurants and temples while ensuring that through the cycling your body remains a temple.

If that’s too sedentary for you then why not canyon through the Sarugajo Gorge.

Talking of temples you shouldn’t go to Japan and not visit a Zen Buddhist temple.

Oh, and in the year when the Olympics are coming to Tokyo then they’re challenging us all to get our adrenaline vibe on.

And ski a volcanic crater in Niseko.

America, Countries, Cruising, Deals, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

New Year’s Holiday Snaps – Happy New Aer

And because America is at a turning point don’t we all want to get on board.

Especially when on board is with our friends at Aer Lingus who early last year had me all booked up for the Florida Keys when…!

Ireland’s national airline carrier has a January €148 sale for this summer to North America which is Toronto.

Waving the flag for DC and Aer Lingus

While my old favourites Boston, New York and Washington is pitched at €164.

And you know the deal it’s each way as part of a return trip.

Cruise into ’21

Yea, they’ve got forks too!

Or a Happy Blue Year, the kind of blue you only find on the sea

Or the blue of Greece. So let’s put them together.

Royal Caribbean have on the Eastern Mediterranean sailings we’ve zeroed in on in 2021.

Oh, how I would have loved to have spent the last year on a wee Greek island.

My pals at Royal Caribbean only have a range of Eastern Med packages as we plan to cruise again in 2021.

An old relic and the Acropolis

A six-night Greece and Croatia cruise, leaving from Venice (Ravenna) on Rhapsody of the Seas from €569pp taking in Split, Olympia and Athens.

And you know what I always say… there’s no party like a Royal party.

United in tribute to The Doc

Me and ‘Baby Doc’ Peter

And it might be apt that former Scotland manager Tommy Docherty, an old friend of the Murtys, should die on Hogmanay.

The Doc’s son Peter was one of my earliest pals in Glasgow before his Dad took the family off to Manchester.

Of course being a football man and someone who joked that he’d had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus there’s no single destination to point you too.

But perhaps Manchester United is the club he’s most associated with.

So let’s point you in the direction of a football match day package.

If you’re an Irish United fan, and there are many, you’ll no doubt know about Celtic Horizons and Abbey Travel.

And the important thing is that we will all be together again soon in a football ground.

America, Countries, Europe

New Year fireworks… let’s have fun in ‘21.

Baby you’re a firework. Come on let your colours burst – Katy Perry

And boy did those colours burst, signalling that the world wants to have fun in ’21.

The Middle East led the way with the celebrations with some real actual human beings gathering… at social distance.

And rock gods Kiss even performing in Dubai.

Now New Year’s Eve is always going to be a challenge in crowd containment and resources.

But it is a depressing admission that we in the West can’t trust ourselves, and others, to social distance, or meet in pods.

Now, I love an oul’ firework any time of the year, so as Katy says ‘you just gotta ignite the light and let it shine. Just own the night.’

Dresden takes back the sky

Drum roll… in Dresden

Dresden: And Dresdeners have more reason than most to be wary of their sky lit up above them.

The older generation still talk about the red sky, the Allied bombers’ firestorm which razed their beautiful city to the ground at the end of the Second World War.

The resilient Saxons went on to rebuild their city, the Florence of the Elbe, brick by brick to the grandeur it is today.

The light show on the Elbe was the backdrop for the closing night of the German Travel Mart.

And a magical reminder of how light kills darkness.

Take me to the DC ball park

Me, George and my Travel pal Issy

Washington: They love a firework in DC… and that’s just a Donald Trump barbecue.

They put on firework displays for all their VIPs which meant the delegates at the American Travel fair, IPW.

At the Washington Nationals’ ball park.

Home run!

Disney get any better than this

Acting all Goofy

Orlando: And whatever you’re doing around 9pm of a night in Orlando then stop it and look up at the skies.

For that’s when the lights go on above The Magic Kingdom.

All of which you can see from your Four Seasons balcony. Magical!

Or Mickey in Da House

Anaheim: And in Disneyland too in California where Mickey, Donald and the gang like nothing better than a light show.

Mickey runs his own show which is in effect one of just a number of extravaganzas around the resort.

With Star Wars and Harry Potter getting in on the act.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Happier New Year

As the Scary One never tires of reminding me I went away a dozen times last year which I, of course, didn’t have the courage to correct her on…

It was nearer 14! 2020 though was a quieter affair for some reason.

Voyage of the Jim Treadee

That said, it’s always about the quality, not the quantity. Hell, who am I kidding? It’s always about the quality and the quantity!

I made some new friends and hooked up with some old ones…

On the King Charles Bridge in Prague

And that’s before I made the biggest journey and commitment of them all by returning (for good, I’ve been told!) to my homeland, Scotland.

I make sure that I contact all those dream-makers at the end of every year who have hosted me over the course of the previous 12 months.

Fur Elise: My Travel partner Elise

And this year has been no exception.

And this year I add those who have tried to get me away but something has got in the way.

While my heart, and any help I can ever give, I give to those for whom 2020 saw them lose their jobs or business.

Bohemia. Beer and Beethoven

Na Zdravi: In Prague

This time I was let off the leash in one of my favourite cities and given a monastic brewery to sup in and a Hoptown.

But heck, my pal Katarína knows how I roll.

And she’d arranged a walk through Bohemian Switzerland which is the Czech Republic which is Narnia.

In the frame: In Zatec

Confused? Well this is the centre of Europe, battleground and playground for the continent’s great powers.

And where the Great and Good came to compose and repose.

Czech mate: Well, she is Slovakian but Katarina is my Czech Tourism pal

We stayed in the Beethoven Spa, where Beethoven himself had a room, and where they have his hearing horns and his death mask.

There was a nuclear bunker, an opera and much else.

This one is Fur Elise (no really, that is her name), my travel partner… I do hope you got to Russia.

Stastnejsi novy rok.

Bergamo Stay Strong

Bergamo life: Una ciocolatta di calda dens in Bergamo

And because I’m a journalist, and a contrarian, I rush for trouble where others run away from it.

So that when images of Bergamo in lockdown, here in Western Europe, shot onto our screens I vowed I would get out there.

Which I did in the Autumn when I saw a city, and its citizens, blending in with the changing of the seasons and nature’s ways.

Bergamo stay steong

Nature had not been kind to the Berganaschi with the Northern European city Covid’s European epicentre in March.

But here they were back out in the piazzas, looking beautiful and cool, even behind their masks.

Fun of the Funiculare

Well they all speak with their hands anyway (parlano con le mani).

And they have much to tell us about their city.

About their favourite sons Papa Giovanni XXIII who gave his name to the hospital we were all transported to in March.

And composer Gaetano Donizetti who is ubiquitous in the city which throws an annual operatic festival to him.

A poplar choice

As ubiquitous as Italian hero and freedom fighter Guiseppe Garibaldi who on his Expedition of the 1,000, his march on Rome, drew heavily from Bergamo.

Which has given the city the moniker, La Citta dei Mille (the city of the thousand). My kinda people.

 Anno nuovo piu felice.

 

 

America, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – Repose en paix Pierre Cardin

French Riviera: The invitation to Pierre Cardin’s Bubble house must have got lost in the post.

Seeing it from the outside would have to suffice.

But seeing it from a speed boat on the French Riviera is a pretty good vantage point.

The Palais Bullas,, or Bubbles Palace, was put back on the market a few years ago – well, fashion god Pierre was well into his 90s by then.

For £300m the specs for the 12,000sqm complex, the haunt of many a celeb, included.

Ten space-aged rooms, three swimming pools, a 500-seater amphitheatre and lush gardens.

Chic: On the French Riviera

Now Cannes is not cheap but Mimoza’s in neighbouring Mandelieiu-La-Napouke is within your budget.

And it has A golf course nearby, Continental Europe’s first, The Old Course, which Pierre’s gaffe doesn’t.

Still, repose en paix, Pierre.

Our thoughts with Croatia

Check out Croatia

Croatia: And our prayers go out to our friends in Zagreb and Croatia where they are recovering from the effects of a second earthquake in two days.

I am always drawn to a city which boasts a daily ritual…

View of Washington from Arlington

I’m thinking a Changing of the Guard, in Arlington the Beefeaters in London or the One O’Clock Gun in Edinburgh.

And Zagreb has a cannon which fires out paper.

My old friends Croatia Tours are the people to go with from Ireland.

From the UK…? I’m open to offers.

And a Happy New Air

Ryanair, flyin’ air

Flying: And we will be which is what Ireland’s national airline carrier Aer Lingus and Ryanair

Low-fare Ryanair are offering sizzling summer deals from €19.99.

And they’ve dropped their flight change fees for all new bookings made for travel before January 31.

And I’m noticing my faves Amsterdam, Hamburg and Lourdes in among the €19.99 tranche.

Lady Liberty is calling

Just because the shops are closed won’t stop us checking out the January Sales… and Aer Lingus.

They’ve got 30% off flights and checked bags to Europe, and Barcelona catches the eye.

While they’re all over North America with €149 sale deals which means I can swop Zoom for my cousins’ front rooms in New York and Washington DC

Africa, Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Europe, Flying, Ireland

Christmas cards on the table

Joyeux Noel, Feliz Navidad, Buon Natale and a Happy Christmas to you all.

And merci, gracias, grazie and thanks a lot to all my friends who have sent me Christmas cards this year.

I’ll even let you off cancelling your Christmas parties and not sending me a Christmas hamper this year.

So here are a few of the Christmas cards I’d like to show off to you…

Christmas in my Sandals

Open-toed: In Barbados

And yes that’s just how they roll at Sandals and in the Caribbean.

Where what they lack in chimneys and fireplaces they make up for in mango trees.

And Santa can soothe his feet in a Sandals swim-up pool.

My old friends in Ireland

Top point: Harvey’s Point

And while my Dear Old Mum will be spending her Christmas in a Glasgow care home, a nod to her homestead of Donegal.

Donegal, in the north-west of Ireland has all the warmth of the peaty sod and will be wonderful this Christmas.

So here’s to all Donegallers everywhere and thanks to the award-winning Harvey’s Point.

Scandi Claus

When I was thinking of going to Sweden this year my first port of call was my old Irish pal and Scandiphile Alan.

Happy Christmas… in Swedish

And a God Jul to you too and destination specialists Hadler DMC.

I got a tantalising view of Sweden on my MSC Cruises trip from Kiel, Germany through Denmark and up to Norway.

Cruises WILL be back in the New Year and of course that means river cruises too as well as the big seabreakers. Anyone for MS Arena?

Another year younger

And how long they look: Ethiopian Airlimrs

I’ve told you once or a hundred times about the lifegiving qualities of Enkutatash, Ethiopia’s New Year.

Because they live by the old calendar.

Back in the day an invite came through for Women’s Day from Ethiopian Airlines and a trip to celebrate womenhood in Ethiopia.

From where Lucy, the first women we have bones for derives.

I offered to drag up. But in the end I sent a colleague.

Bohemian wrapsody

Prague rocks

Of course we know who looked out on the Feast of Stephen.

Only the bustling Wenceslas Square will be empty this Christmas.

The Czechs are the most wonderfully resilient people, situated as they are between Europe’s great powers.

They will be back and so will we… Urquell in hand by the beautiful Vlatva River.

We wish Wu a Merry Christmas

Panda-monium

And isn’t it just like that? You get a card in and you panic that you haven’t sent them one.

So to Wendy Wu and the two Johns thank Wu for everything this year, particularly the legendary Chinese New Year lunch in January in Dublin.

And I know you’ll look after The Son and Heir when he heads to China next year.

And a Felice anno nuovo too

These Italians have style

And in the most fallow of fallow years I will always treasure my Autumn trip to Bergamo with Omio.

Miei amici have gone back into the strictest zone as they predicted when I visited but I’m sure it will all pay off.

And we’ll all be eating stracciatella gelato soon in Citta Alta.

Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Ireland

Feliz Navi(dancing)dad

Christmas parties this year are very different from what we’re used to… but Feliz Navi(dancing)dad all the same.

The Spanish Christmas party in Dublin is always the highlight of the festive season in Ireland.

But this year scenes like this are for our social media retros.

And like a good Christmas movie they fill us with warmth and love for old friends.

The Three Wise Women

Hat’s the way to do it: With the sainted Teresa, Travel doyen Eoghan Corrie and Travel Corporation’s Sharon Jordan

Teresa, Sara and Kathryn, from the Tourist Board, were always the Three Wise Women of any Dublin Yuletide when I lived there.

While they would send us back into the cold and wet Irish night, filled with Spanish festive food and drink.

The Reyes Magos

The tradition is that the Reyes Magos, the Three Wise Men, look after the bambinos.

And as you can see they were the back-up act for our Three Wise Women and always made sure we got a gift,

TUI for two

Stick your toe in: The TUI Suneo

Our friends at TUI also look after us, and they have these deals for us for the New Year.

In our beloved Canary Islands.

Seven nights self/catering, Dublin to Tenerife on February 2, staying at the 3* Suneo Tamaimo Tropical, Puerto De Santiago,

Harbouring dreams of Tenerife

From €459pps (Covid cover and free amendments included).

Or stay half/board seven nights at the 3*+ Hotel Catalonia Las Vegas, Puerto de la Cruz from €499pps and also with Covid cover.

And Lanzarote too

Child’s play: Lanzarote is ideal for families too

While Lanzarote on February 4 comes in at €409pps for seven nights self/catering at the 3*+ Cinco Plazas, Puerto del Carmen (Covid cover included).

It’s just what we all need for the New Year… I feel one of my oul’ walks coming along.

I’m a bit of a Portugeezer too

I’m beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Now there is a story behind this… when my old boss asked if I would get my beardie pimped up for a Christmas story.

And I had been invited to the Portugal Christmas lunch that day too,

Of course the greening of the beatdie and the red Santa hat meant I was showcasing the colours of the Portuguese flag.

Portugal has always held a special place in my heart since my first holiday there, a childhood one in 1973.

Centro beach: Portugal

That’s been followed by our first summer holiday together in the Algarve, the magical trip to Fatima and Portugal Centro nine months after that Christmas lunch.

And a sports trip two years ago when Jidy Murray taught me to play tennis… and dance!

Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Bergamo, mola mia – stay strong!

Visitors have not always been kind to Bergamo.

Most of us still place it as Milan-Bergamo after its airport (actually it’s Il Caravaggio Orio al Serio International Airport), and this year we saw it as the Covid-19 gateway to Europe.

The pandemic hit Lombardy hard and early; the world watching in horror as its grip fastened last February and March – a preview of things to come.

Stay strong

It was a surreal light to shine on Bergamo, a medieval city in the Alpine foothills.

Suddenly portrayed not as a bustling cultural and historical hub, but through rolling television coverage.

Of empty cobbled streets, eerie churches and boarded shutters.

Medieval Bergamo

A sweeping landscape

Bergamo boasts rich galleries with works by Titian, Botticelli and Canaletto.

We know its Champions League football team, Atalanta.

It celebrates composer Gaetano Donizetti in its annual international opera festival.

And it has architectural dedications to revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi.

The cobbled stones of the old city

Bergamo is known as the Citta dei Mille after 1,000 of its citizens marched on Rome and helped unify Italy in the 19th century.

This year, tourists vanished and a different type of visitor descended.

International news teams flocking to the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital, named for another famous son.

Snapshot of Bergamo in the pandemic

But there is light at the end of the tunnel, as many of those who travelled to report on distress, only to find success, have discovered.

As Christophe Sanchez, CEO of Visit Bergamo, said: “Because of the situation we have been through, Bergamo is now the safest town in Europe.”

Visitors it is true, have not always been kind to Bergamo.

But Bergamo is kind to its visitors, particularly those who stay a while.

Owed to Autumn

The Autumn poplar trees

Visiting this autumn, I found the streets, which were desolate in March when everyone was locked away behind their shutters, alive again six months later.

Citizens mingled, talking at breakneck speed behind their masks and, of course, con le mani (with their hands).

Ice cream heaven

They spoke, of course, of the second wave that has now come to pass, and the closure of restaurants, cafes, shops and museums. But also calcio e cibo… football and food.

And whatever it is that a gathering of young Bergamaschi always chat about in loud decibels outside your hotel bedroom window at midnight.

My visit gave me a glimpse into the everyday life of the Bergamaschi – not as victims, although there have been far too many of them, but survivors.

A picture of our times

The testing centre

An exhibition of photographs in the piazza captured the past year.

A masked priest administered Mass; doctors and nurses cared for the sick and dying, and a father cradled his new-born son.

But the Bergamaschi, queuing at the open-air testing centre, knew that the worst had passed and what they were now having to endure is temporary.

They had been here before and prevailed – with a little help from God.

Bergamo is split into old and new towns, Citta Alta (high town) and Citta Bassa (low town).

The best way to reach the walled and cobbled Citta Alta is by funicular.

It takes you into the centre of things, Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe (market of the shoes), and to that staple of any old Italian town, an Irish pub, Tucans.

Take me to Church

Stories for the Masses

For the real beating heart of Bergamo, though, I went to Piazza del Duomo – which houses Bergamo Cathedral and the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore.

Here, the Bergamaschi congregation of old could follow redemptive tales of the parting of the Red Sea, David and Goliath and Noah and the Deluge on wooden engravings.

Forza Atalanta

Deliverance was as much a part of Medieval life as it had been in Biblical times.

And when Our Lady finally spared the Bergamaschi any more suffering from the Plague in the 12th century they built this basilica to her.

Of course, all of this speaks to us in 2020 louder than ever.

Good neighbours

They’ll make a statue of me

Matteo, my Visit Bergamo guide, recalled the only sounds back in March when the city was in quarantine – the sirens of ambulances and the whirring of helicopters.

He told me of a citizen stuck in his house with his Covid-hit ageing father, unable to get help.

When he saw a report of a man who had died in the nearby town of Brescia, leaving behind a half-tank of unused oxygen.

He made his way to Brescia, found the house, asked and was given the tank, although, alas, he could not save his father.

Everything in the garden is getting rosier again

Every Bergamasque has a story of loss and suffering but for Matteo, the best response is a return to the life they know and love.

For Italians that means their famous five-course meals.

Food for thought

And there are lots more courses to come

The centrepiece of which at the Trattoria Sant’Ambroeus in Citta Alta is their special ravioli, casoncelli dei sant ambroeus.

Stuffed pasta with sausage, breadcrumbs, parsley, eggs and garlic and cheese…

All washed down with the best Valcalepio rosso Riserva doc Tenuta Castello di Grumello del Monte.

I sauntered to the city walls and La Marianna for their signature milky scoop of ice cream heaven, stracciatella.

Plenty polenta

And, of course, for Lombardy that was only lunch. Dinner in the roof garden of the plush Excelsior San Marco Hotel in Citta Bassa brought five more courses.

In future, those bustling crowds will return.

But that night, the restaurant was an encouraging two-thirds occupancy with social distancing in place.

And even a puppy at the next table enjoyed himself and heeded the rules.

He was a Bergamasque, after all.

Trip notes

Putting the fun into funicular

I was a guest of Visit Bergamo, booking platform Omio and Ryanair. He stayed at the Hotel Excelsior San Marco 

Need to know

Bergamo currently sits in the yellow zone, the lowest of the three tiers Italy has been applying since early November.

This means restaurants and bars open till 6pm, shops are open, ski resorts / pools / gym / museums closed, people can move freely. The other zones are red (strictest) and orange (medium).

Travel into Bergamo

involves providing the results of a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of arrival.

Or you can get an airport test on arrival and quarantine for 48 hours while waiting for the results.

Any travellers will currently need to self-isolate on return..