Italy

After our time in Brussels, we flew to Italy to visit with some of Rina’s family. Rina’s family come from the north of Italy. One aunt and her family live in a small town, Chiuduno, near Bergamo. Another Aunt and her family live in and around Como.

While in Chiuduno, staying with Rina’s aunt and cousin, we walked through the forested hills surrounding the town. The trails meandered between hunters perches and wooded glens, and offered some beautiful vistas of the surrounding plains and valleys.

Chiuduno, Italy

A Stroll around Chiuduno

Chiuduno, Italy

On Another day we walked a linear path through the hills at Val Vertova. The walk was quite easy and followed a small river. Occasionally we had to cross the river using stepping stones with a chain link fence to provide support.

Val Vertova, ItalyVal Vertova, ItalyVal Vertova, Italy

We took a day trip to Bergamo Alta, the mediaeval city. It is located on top of a hill that overlooks the city and provides a great panorama on a clear day. We took funicolare up the steep incline into the city to meet with Rina’s cousin who worked the museum. We walked the narrow streets of the city and stopped at a restaurant for lunch before visiting the ‘Museo Civico Di Scienze Naturali’.

The Museo Civico Di Scienze Naturali is not a large museum, but has incorporated education very well with many informative and interactive displays. The museum has several unique fossil displays including a complete fossilised skeleton of a deer 700 thousand years old. The museum also undertakes excavation projects in the area to improve the collection. Rina’s cousin works for the museum as an artist, providing detailed anatomical drawings of display items. She showed us a couple of her pieces of a spider as viewed under a microscope which were beautiful in their detail and design.

We also visited the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and the Cappella Colleoni annex, located next door, which was one of the most grotesquely beautiful religious sites I have visited. The Cappella Colleoni façade is grand with ornate geometrical patterns and beautiful windows while the interior is very clean with ornate stonework (no photos allowed in the interior). The Basilica is immediately to the left of the annex with high imposing grey walls and a portal with statues. Inside however was immense wealth the likes of which I haven’t seen before (this is my first Italian basilica). Almost every available centimetre of wall and ceiling was filled with art, be it painting, tapestry, carpentry or masonry, so much so that it can make a person ill or elated at their declaration to god.

Basilica di Santa Maria MaggioreBasilica di Santa Maria MaggioreBasilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

 

It was very interesting to walk the narrow cobbled streets of this ancient city, first through the town centre with many centuries old buildings lining the squares, then up a hill to a lookout. Bergamo stretched into the distance and on a clear day the view would be incredible, a vista stretching out for kilometres. As it was, each day we were in this area of Italy a white haze limited the view.

Our last day in Chiuduno we had a family BBQ at another of Rina’s cousins. His home was located on a nearby hill that overlooked the valley. The home was surrounded by grape vines and cherry trees and a small vegetable garden. We sat on his patio with the family and drank homemade wine and ate BBQ’d meat and salad.

The following day we drove to Como to stay with Rina’s other aunt and her family. Como is a beautiful area, stretching around a lake nestled in the Alps. It is so close to the Swiss border that it is not uncommon for people to cross it each day for work. Here we had a wonderful lunch with Rina’s family, aunt & uncle, cousins and their children. In the afternoon Rina’s cousins took us into the town to walk the streets and visit the Cathedral.

The Cathedral in Como was a major departure from the basilica in Bergamo. It was an imposing structure with a Spartan interior. The altars were impressive to look at with some very interesting designs, especially the one with a diorama of hell.

We took the opportunity for a morning walk up a nearby hill to Brunate with Rina’s uncle to overlook the city and the lake. The walk was a reasonably steep incline along a forested path. The view from the peak was impressive so we stopped for an espresso to savour it a while. We walked down via the road as it followed the contours of the hill.

A Morning stroll in Como

Como, ItalyHiking to Brunate, ItalyThe view of Como from Brunate, Italy

Later in the day we walked around the city with Rina’s cousin before retiring to her home for dinner with the family.

One of the big highlights for us in Italy was the food. We had many opportunities to eat some very simple but delicious meals. Each lunch and dinner consisted of fresh bread and cheese, salad, and a variety of pasta sauces. The simplicity and depth of flavour was surprising, but more so how few ingredients and how little garlic was used. Even the pizza is very simplistic, a good base sauce and a few topping scattered over a thin base that still tasted excellent. It made me realise that in Australia Italian cuisine seems to be expressed through the use of tomato and/or garlic, whereas in Italy the food is not as dilute.

We also took every opportunity to enjoy Gelato, which I’m happy to say is widely available and absolutely delicious. Everywhere the Gelato is slightly different in texture and flavour and almost everywhere you go they will tell you they have the best Gelato in Italy. All that choice just makes for an excellent journey for your tastebuds.

Lake Como, Italy