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.

MEET YOU ON THE ZOOM

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.

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

Bergamo – alta e bassa

What’s Italian for phew’ I’ve been walked off my piedi today in Bergamo Citt’alta e Citta Bassa (City High and City Low).

And phew too… Johnson, Schnapps and Co. are too late to quarantine me on my return. I was always flying back tomorrow evening anyway, so Sunday is troppo tardi, idioti!

David and Goliath: The Basilica

That’s if I don’t decide to quarantine myself anyway with the Bergamoschi (the people that is, not the local sheepdogs who share their name. Although…!)

La Prima Citta

Bergamo, as we all know by now, is where Covid-19 entered Europe.

To the greater glory of God

But they have taken the worst it can offer and are coming out the other side, and will prevail.

Or as they say here ‘Molamia’ (stay strong).

Chin-Chin

The Bergamoschi have done just that since Covid visited in March and shut the town off from the rest of Lombardy, Italy, and the world for four months.

To the greater glory of beer: With Matteo

But not from each other… or not in the ways that matter.

Matteo, my tour guide volunteered to help out the old and infirm.

Restaurateur Niccolo the same with his original ice cream and food.

Stay strong: The Bergamo credo

And model citizen Emmanuele, who lives in a palazzo on the hill too, as a volunteer.

All are heroes… and all Bergamoschi are an example to us all

La Storia

Perhaps it is in the blood. It is certainly in their history.

I am standing in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Ciitt’alta.

The Bergamo bear: With Matteo and Atalanta Bear

Where the Bergamoschi built a new church after they were delivered from the plague in the 12th century.

And filled it with frescoes, magnificent paintings and special picture boards of other scenes where humanity prevailed over adversity.

Noah anyone?

Pasta Basta

Ma mi scusi. I have just eaten my own weight in food and drunk today, a small lago di vino and must now repair to my bed in the Hotel Excelsior San Marco.

I scream for ice cream: With Niccolo

A Domani.

And if you want to slip on the Italian Boot to follow in my footsteps, here’s my Via Francigena, into Rome

While as the Veneto region is just over the horizon to the east, here’s the City of Frescoes Padova.

INCONTRA A VOI NELLA VIA

 

Adventure, Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying, UK

Holidos and don’ts – the Road to Bergamo

At the umpteenth time of asking I’m on the road again… this time to Bergamo, Italy.

Where Europe first witnessed the virus, but now, Grazie Dio, it is a tourist destination again.

The journey, like so many these days does not begin in a travel agent but in an Edinburgh pharmacy with a Covid-19 home kit.

That’ll be £115 to you and me with a £10 courier service to get the sample to Belfast (no, me neither)

Wash those handsies: Edinburgh Airport

The test is invasive and involves you scraping the tonsils (or back of the throat if you’re sans tonsils).

Break the swab stick in half and insert it into the tube provided.

Then break the swab in half and repeat for the nose.

Love a duck: The kerching shop

And if you think I’m going to do that to myself you have another thing coming.

The indomitable Mrs M is my willing assistant in this.

And she seemed a bit too enthusiastic too about the task, saying she was ‘going tae stick it right up me, pal!’

I felt my only brain cell too being scratched as the water welled in my eyes.

Follow the science

When you’ve stopped blinking fill out an online form.

And then sit back and wait for them to email you the next day verifying they got your samples.

Then within 48 hours they’ll email you again to tell you if you’re positive or negative.

You’re on your way.

Check, of course, that your politicians haven’t changed the rules regarding the country you’re visiting.

Or in the country you’re imprisoned in.

And make your way to Edinburgh airport.

Airports are normally a hive of activity but with a vastly reduced number of passengers now it’s refreshing to be able to breathe.

Or it would be if I wasn’t wearing the compulsory medical mask that you have to sport when you’re on the move.

I saw one imposter wearing a bandana around his mouth (the very thought!) but better not risk it.

Not that the staff in Edinburgh are airstapo or anything… they are, in fact, delighted to see you and are I’m sure smiling behind their masks.

Seeing this is a whistlestop visit I’ve taken only a small rucksack and a slightly larger rucksack with wheels.

Ryanair: Those clouds are lifting

Which meets the Ryanair regulations.

And it all cuts out the need for the electronic bag drop off which I hate.

So you’re now through the first test of the Crystal Maze and into the shopping and eating and dining concourse.

Flying safe

It’s all pretty much the same although there are no wee whisky or gin plastic samples.

I guess you’ll just have to buy the stuff.

The kerching souvenir shops are still pedalling their merchandise and you can, of course, still buy your Saltire rubber duck and fridge magnet.

Grab a seat, buy your bottle of water (unless you’re an airport drinker even if this is 7.30am) and pour it into your own container.

Better still if you can find yourself next to a plug to keep your phone charged… the Scary One is bound to text.

And besides if you’re under the age of 30 you’ll have your ticket and documents on your phone.

All the time remember to hand sanitise after everything you do.

Make sure you’ve got all your possessions and documents and sit under the departure board.

Particularly your passport and evidence of your negative test to show at the gate.

Made it: Bergamo

And, maybe go to the toilet before you board.

Now barring being stopped at the gate I’m back on the road… to Bergamo.

Now, what could possibly go wrong?

And seeing this is my first time in Il Bel Paese for a couple of years I’ve been taking a trip down Memory Lane…

And Rome, Padova and Venice. Bella, bella.