Countries, Europe, UK

Travel pursuits – UK and Scottish roadmap

How nearer are we to getting back on the road following the pronouncements from the British and Scottish governments.?

The answer is no nearer.

Let’s take what Airlines UK are saying.

They are calculating that with no significant 2021 summer Travel there will be a £55.7bn loss in trade and £3bn in tourism GDP.

While no link to the US until September will leave the UK £23m short a day.

All of which will put 574,000 jobs at risk.

The Alpha to Omega of Travel

So our message to the politicians is stop dithering, get the finger out, and put the technology in place to help us to travel.

Dip your toe into Kythera in Greece

Because we’re big on Covid passports here.

We will, of course, continue to flag up what other countries are doing… Greece and their policies and the pacesetters Israel.

We’ll continue to take soundings from our friends at the Scottish Passenger Agents Association and are happy to take up their cause.

Photo by Haley Black on Pexels.com

So it’s over to Joanne Dooey, SPAA President.

She said: ‘The concept of vaccine certificates as proof that you are protected against specific diseases is by no means new.

‘Some wishing to travel to a host of countries including parts of Africa and Central and South America and the Far East already have to do that.

‘And produce an International Certificate of Vaccination to gain entry.

‘As travel agents we’ve never experienced this system being described as divisive, authoritarian or a human rights issue.’

Test, test, test

And yes, like Joanne, we are all about the testing and I was happy to do just that to report on Bergamo last Autumn.

‘Testing will have a role to play in the restart of international travel for at least a 24-month period.

‘The current cost of PCR tests is too high to be affordable for the average family.

‘There is a need for quick, reliable and affordable testing at airports.

‘And we would welcome further research into the different forms of testing than PCR including antigen tests and lateral flow tests.”

Hear, hear.

The oldest and the best

And we here at jimmurty@traveltraveltravel.com will ALWAYS support our dream-makers, our Travel providers.

Wise words: Joanne Dooey

And a shout-out to the SPAA which was founded in 1921 is celebrating its centenary as the world’s oldest organisation representing travel agents.

It currently has 120 member companies.

All their associated agencies across Scotland including many home workers, and 92 associate members across the travel and transport industry.

Adventure, Africa, America, Countries, Deals, Ireland, Sport, UK

Holidos and Don’ts – the alpha and the omega

So, the alpha and the omega of Holidos and Don’ts as there’s so much disinformation out there.

Greece lightening

Dip your toe into Kythera in Greece

No, you didn’t misread that…

I’m here to lighten the load for our Greek friends who have been painted as super spreaders.

We’ve got Public Health England to blame for the hue and cry.

They reported that the largest number of infections between June and September came from returning holidaymakers from Hellas.

They made up 21% of new cases, compared with 16% from Croatia and 14% from Spain.

The report which still needs to be peer reviewed, of course, doesn’t factor in that that was a pre-vaccine world so let’s not panic.

And book our Greek holidays with confidence.

Our old friends at Travel Department are offering a range of Greek breaks with Athens & The Island Short Break immediately catching the eye.

Amble along the Neighbourhood of Gods in the Plaka district and head up to the Acropolis.

Tip here: take an impossibility cheap taxi with your driver (who will look like Adonis) suggesting you pay what you like.

Travel Department will throw in a full-day cruise of the Saronic Gulf: Hydra, Poros and Aegina.

So that’s four days B&B from €749pp with departures in June and October.

And for a teaser on all things Greek… here’s my odyssey.

Digital Green Passports

Una ciocolatta di calda densa: In Bergamo

And it makes sense that the Irish Travel Agents Association should welcome the European Commission’s proposal for a Digital Green Passport.

The idea is that it will be proof that you’ve been vaccinated, received a negative test result or recovered from Covid.

Of course there’s no pain, no gain.

And I’d take the Scary One drilling that stick up my nose and down my throat.

Like I did to travel to Bergamo…

And thoughts to the Bergamaschi and all our Italian amichi as they tackle lockdown again… Molamia.

Olé for Spain

Hugs for Spain and Catalonia. https://www.google.com/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/24/messi-around-on-the-water/amp/

And Olé for Spanish Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto who is championing our return to Espana.

She told the TV station, Antenna 3: ‘We could be in a position to start implementing the digital passport when FITUR (Spain’s Travel Fair) in Madrid starts on May 19.’

The government over here in the UK has held out May 17 as the date when travel can resume from England.

Although that relies on the findings of the Global Travel Task Force report on April 12.

The Spanish jewel of the Med, The Balearic Islands have already stepped up.

And they have said they will be happy to trial it.

And as a signpost that the British are coming with Jet2 informing the Majorca press to expect a ‘massive’ arrival in June.

Watch this space for updates on Travel returning and…

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Africa, America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

A year on – Ireland and Scotland and further afield

That was the year that was – it’s 12 months now since I left my beloved Ireland for my first love Scotland.

I had though little intention of spending all my time in Scotia.

And instead had a long list of destinations to fill out the year.

So to mark the anniversary I’ll share the year that never was.

Off to a flier in Czech Hoptown

In the Strahov Monastery Brewery, Prague, in the Czech Republic

The Chinese lady with the mask on in the airport in Prague Airport seemed a curio at the time, a reminder of the latest virus that only affects Asia.

A few weeks later the fun and intimacy of the Czech Republic  were but a warm embrace I clung onto as I entered lockdown in Scotland for the first time.

As I came out of isolation I engaged with my Czech friends again over the new-fangled Zoom app we were all compelled to use and toasted each other in time-honoured fashion Na Zdravie.

I was heartened to see them lay out a table for a feast along the Charles Bridge in the early summer and wished that I was back there again in Prague or in the Czech Republic’s Hoptown, Zatec.

I know this though that the Czechs will get through this because they have the best beer in the world, Pilsener Urquell.

Trump steals my Keys

Limin’ at a Key Lime shop in the Keys

Suitcase packed, bandana on, I was all set for my fly-drive around the Florida Keys when Donald Trump (remember him) closed the country to visitors while encouraging Americans to gather… at his rallies.

And so Hemingway’s six-toed cats, key line pie, Florida sunsets and easy living will just have to wait.

Of course the beauty of it is that Papa’s pussies won’t have had any idea that anything was even different about the past year.

Exile me in St Helena

Napoleon was here

And another on the back-burner is Napoleon’s island. No, not his birthplace, Corsica, or the one the British sent him to initially, Elba, but the one where he ended his days, St Helena.

St Helena, 1200 mile west of southwestern Africa is one of the most remote inhabitable islands in the world and is an ecological dream.

All of which makes you think that exile was a pretty good option back in the day. And if I end up needing to self-isolate anywhere then I’ll be back in touch.

Vegas or bust

What happens in Vegas: With Cami

Now I’ve always felt bad about leaving Cami from Utah at the bar at Harrah’s Las Vegas a few years ago and knowing she goes down there every weekend knew that she’d be there when I revisited in June.

The American Travel Fair was scheduled for Neon City and I was all booked and ready, my chips at the ready to make my million.

But alas I had to leave Cami waiting again and to get my fix of Vegas I had to make do with watching the world’s greatest band The Killers perform from the ceiling of Caesars Palace on YouTube.

The fair, IPW is slated for the Fall, and I’ll be expecting an Access All Areas ticket, Brandon.

And maybe even reprising my Mr Brightside from the Rising Star Karaoke Bar, CityWalk at Universal Orlando a few years ago.

The Norman request

Perfect for a selfie?

I would have put my Monet on getting to Normandy

for the Monet festival back in late summer.

And even get a painting lesson in his back garden.

But as the UK travel corridor policy became as chaotic as the Spinal Tap boys trying to get to their gigs, again I found myself blocked.

Now what is the French word for cup-de-sac?

Bergamo go, go, go

Bergamo fountains

And just as the year was petering out and I was resigning myself to my best chance of a trip down to North Berwick beach, Mamma Mia but one came off.

And in spectacular style.

The journalist in me had me tracking the evolution of Bergamo through the pandemic, it being the gateway to the virus in Europe.

And just in time I got over to Northern Italy to talk to the Bergamaschi and ask how they had got through it all and their advice on how we should all progress now.

There was specialist Lombardy food and wine, culture, history Donizetti music and art aplenty.

But the most beautiful picture was that of the emboldened Bergamaschi in the backdrop of their historic city, both in Citta Alta and Citta Bassa, the High and the Low City.

Now there are worse places to have spent this last year, with the view of the Firth of Forth from my window, Bass Rock bookending the beach and Edinburgh just along the road.

I’ve chosen to live by the sea all my adult life. It’s a primal thing knowing that exciting lands lie beyond.

I know that we’ll visit them again soon, and hopefully I can fill in the blanks above and add San Francisco, Chicago, New England and a host of other trips I had planned last year, and many to come.

All for your enjoyment.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

 

 

 

 

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland

Every story tells a picture – from Caravaggio to Van Gogh

Surrounded by our four walls in lockdown one of the few ways to transport ourselves to exotic shores is through our pictures.

It is after all  what our Vincent did when he struggled for his sanity.

Van Gogh had developed a taste for all things Polynesian from housemate Paul Gaugin.

Van Gogh also had his demons to exorcise too, particularly when incarcerated.

And he would explore such existential themes in his art as the Reaper himself.

Manic twirls: Van Gogh

Now I’m not saying that I obsess on the same even during lockdown.

But a print of his Wheatfield with a Reaper hangs proudly in our guest room, hopefully not spooking out our visitors (when they come).

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

But reminding us of the captivating Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam on our tour of Amsterdam.

All of which meanderings has prompted me to share some of the finer art I’ve enjoyed on my travels.

Beheading for Malta

Lose your head: Caravaggio in Valletta. www.caravaggio.org

Beheading of St John the Baptist, Caravaggio, Valletta: There’s always something a bit unhinged about artists.

And the meeting of brushmeister and subject comes together in this classic painting, described as ‘the painting of the 17th century.’

Caravaggio was on the run and took refuge with the Knights of Malta in Malta.

But he fell out with them, was imprisoned and then escaped from their dungeons.

A theory floated in 2010 has it that Michelangelo Merisi, for it is he, was killed by poisonous paints.

Caravaggio’s Malta

And suspicious has since fallen on the Knights.

Caravaggio’s masterpiece hangs in St John’s Co-Cathedral and shows real insight into the shady side of life.

Valletta with its stunning harbour is a real jewel.

And and you can picture the intrigue and the underworld of Medieval Mediterranean life.

When we’re all able to get out again then Malta should be on your radar.

Monster Munch in Bergen

Keeping warm: A troll in Bergen.

The Rasmus Meyer Collection, Bergen: And you’ll gasp at what those naughty trolls are doing in the drawings in this gallery.

Up a fjord in mystic, fabled Norway you’ll find this artistic curio.

It wouldn’t be a Norwegian gallery without a host of Edvard Munches and Bergen doesn’t disappoint.

And the story notes give you a real insight into the travails of the Great Man.

Dark Secrets: Munch in Bergen

Bergen is also the place for the travels of JS Dahl whose paintings first popularised cruising in the fjords

The Real Dahl: In Bergen

A must visit on your MSC Cruises stop-off while, of course, you simply have to pull a Munch Scream pose.

Paint the ceiling in Padua

Giotto down your ideas: In Padua

Scrovegni Chapel, Padua: And it’s doubtful you would have a fresco ceiling of the Sistine Chapel without a Scrovegni Chapel.

Well, you probably would, but it might have been the Medieval version of Dulux!

Giotto was something of an inspiration for Michelangelo and you can see his halo work here.

And yes we know the finesse of Firenze, the merits of Milan, the riches of Rome and my own recent favourite, beautiful Bergamo.

But Padua, often in the shadow of Venice, should be praised to the heavens which in fairness to Giotto he does.

Masters and Mississippi

The settlers: The Mississippi Art Museum

Museum of Mississippi Art, Jackson, Mississippi: Yes, when we think art and America we immediately focus on MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York Art, the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia and the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

The First Nation: In the Mississippi Art Museum

But in truth America is a sweep of wonderful art, so take it in wherever you find it.

Which in Jackson, Mississippi is the Museum of Mississippi Art where you’ll see early Frontier art and much more.

Dirty old Lane

Art for arts sake: The Francis Bacon Studio

Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin: And it’s the Francis Bacon studio you want to see here.

Bacon bequeathed his studio to his home city on the understanding that it would be recreated in every detail.

All of which means it is messier than any student bedsit…

To think I was probably sitting on a goldmine back in Aberdeen in the Eighties.

 

 

 

 

 

Adventure, Africa, Countries, Culture, Deals, Food

Holiday Snaps – Capes of good hope

And, yes, you read that right. I’m talking of the Eastern and Western Capes of South Africa and the Good Hope of returning ine day.

TV chef Gregg Wallace has been conjuring up memories of the Eastern Cape foe me in his ITV travelogue series, sponsored by Saga Holidays.

Where last week he went on safari at the Amakahla Game Reserve, just north-west of Port Elizabeth, and this week goes west to Table Mountain et al.

Chin chin: Gregg Wallace in South Africa

Of course Gregg got stuck into biltong, the dried cured meat they all eat out there.

The promo video shows Gregg toasting us with a South African white you can almost taste.

But a piece of advice, Gregg, if you really want to go native then you need to put ice in the wine.

Bergamo stands alone

Bergamo Molamia: Stay strong

Mola Mia… and I’m glad to see that Ryanair is giving Bergamo back its name in its latest tranche of offers and not just aa an appendage of Milan.

They flag up the medieval jewel of Lombardy at up to €30 off which takes you to their €23.99 one-way deal for Milan Bergamo.

Bur hey, Bergamo wasn’t built in a day… and I’ll share all its history and how it has rallied from being the doorway for Covid in Europe.

Una ciocolatta di calda densa: In Bergamo

Book foe Bergamo and a raft of destinations by January 13. Travel between April 1 and October 31.

Ryanair helpfully shares where you can get a Covid test near you.

Sandals in the sand

Blessed: Saint Lucia

Or more accurately on the runway. Actually the plane on the runway but then my hour in Saint Lucia just whetted my appetite.

My Saint Lucian pal Jerry, the Big Rapper, from my G Adventures tour of Jordan had given me the skinny on his island.

And how he had plans for writing a guide book.

Look out for that when you’re out in Saint Lucia at Sandals who have a January sale on.

They have seven nights at the Sandals Regency La Toc with travel dates in September and October.

Fly with British Airways and stay in a honeymoon luxury.

Now I’ve experience of a couples hotel in Barbados and a Sandals on the south of the island too,

While, if you want to island hop, Saint Lucia is the stop-off for another prize destination Tobago.

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.

 

 

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, 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..

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – Forte forte and Italy

Me and Sir Rocco Forte are taking on the world.

Bit by bit.

The international hotelier shared his thoughts on Italy, Covid and how we should get tourism back in track.

He reported that the holiday experience is seemless in Sardinia at his Forte Village Resort where the health and safety measures are not invasive.

And but for the staff wearing masks and the regulations we are all getting used to follow you wouldn’t know things were any different.

Sir Rocco has been lobbying government throughout the crisis.

Put it on a pedestal

And the news of airport testing, at £80 with the results within an hour, being introduced at Heathrow for flights to Hong Kong that opens up an opportunity for Italy.

Before I flew to Bergamo last week I had to get a home test from a pharmacy, pay £150, courier it £10) and await the test’s return 24 hours later.

All within a 72-hour window before departure which Italy requires.

I asked Sir Rocco if he had lobbied the Scottish Government too.

My cup of ciocolatta: Bergamo

‘The First Minister is determined to make it more draconic than the rest of the UK,’ he told me.

‘I’m not very confident she would listen. It would fall on deaf ears.’

Perche? I can vouch that Italy, the entry point for the virus, is coping better than us with it now.

Forza Italia and Scotland and the UK, I mean Mamma Mia!

Balearic amigo

And word comes to us too of how our friends in the Balearic and Canary Islands are being proactive and inventive too in trying to get us back to their shores.

It is something of a bug bear of mine that a special case was not made for the Spanish islands.

But that was then.

The Spanish Government has put forward this protocol and it is worth reading.

The taskforce suggests a test pre-departure, funded by the visitor, and a test prior to their returning to their home country. At no cost to them.

If visitors are requested to self-isolate while they are away accommodation would be provided.

Me and my pals Lizzie and Mathew In Tenerife

If any additional medical costs is required this would be covered.

Today the accumulated infection rate in the Canaries was 35.29 per 100,000 are (based on the last 14 days).

In the UK it is 329.2 per 100,000.

Drink up and Kissimmee quick

The Margaritaville cocktail king

And after all that I was ready for Happy Hour with some of my favourite people in the Travel world, Experience Kissimmee.

They sent me a hamper with Margarita glass, can… and Covid accessories, branded mask and gel.

And a very helpful Floridian cocktail king from Margaritaville showed us how to make them.

And the king cocktail drinker himself

I’ll share all their news as soon as… Happy Hour extended into Happy Evening.

And, of course, you know how I love Florida and Disney World, Universal Orlando, Busch Gardens and the cities, Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

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Adventure, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Bergamo – time to say goodbye

Time to say goodbye, Paesi che non ho mai, veduto e vissuto con te, Adesso si, il vivro, con te partiro, su navi per mari che, io lo so, no, no, non esistono piu, it’s time to say goodbye. – Andrea Boccelli

Una ciocolatta di caldo densa at Balzer in Bergamo

Ciao Bergamo e grazie mille. Molamia, miei amici, stay strong my friends.

It’s time to say goodbye, although on my terms and not Signore Johnson’s.

I have made it my mission to come to Bergamo since the start of the outbreak to find out why the pandemic came here first.

What it was like for the Bergamoschi to live through.

And something a little stronger

And how they are living today and how they see tomorrow.

Peace to Bergamo

The overriding feeling I have found is one of peace (except for the raucous ragazzi e ragazze outside my window at midnight although this is how the young should be.)

I spend my last afternoon reading the stories on the picture boards in the piazza they are using as a testing centre.

And, of course, nothing tells a story quite like a picture, or a photograph.

Mars, Venus and love in Accademia Carrera

I wish mia moglie, the long insufferable (sorry, suffering) Mrs M was here to put her award-winning photo skills to work.

A work of art

I have come too from the Academia Carrera where I have been enjoying Titian, Canaletto and trying out Lotto (no, not the lottery, but the artist.

I have just enough time to treat myself to my Italian guilt pleasure, una ciocolatta di calda densa, a hot chocolate that wants to be a dessert.

Una fotographia di Bergamo in Covid

At a Bergamo institution Balzer cafe. Near my 4* Hotel Excelsior San Marco.

And here’s to beer

And then a Grumge IPA at Gate 11 in the airport.

I plan to have molti.

I am going back to a madhouse. And Britain is not much better.