🇮🇹 Bergamo, Milan

“Travel makes you realize that no matter how much you know, there’s always more to learn.”

After Dublin, I went to Bergamo, an Italian Province about 50 mins outside of Milan. This is where I have learned from some mistakes and aim to blog a truthful account of my trips as opposed to everything appearing to be perfect. My motto is ‘The world isn’t perfect so to experience it totally, we have to experience the not so perfect as well’.

I’d got a flight for £17 return with Ryanair flying out of my hometown of Liverpool and this time I used Airbnb for a room, not a hostel. The description made it sound like the property was a ’10 minute walk’ from Bergamo when in fact, I’d be staying in a little town called Ossio Sotto that was around a 35 minute bus journey to Bergamo City. I didn’t have a great stay in this property as I realised only when there that I wasnt just renting a room with the owner of the property but it was more of a guest house that did have permanent residents. I never even met the lady who owned the property and who I had been corresponding with and the check in was dealt with by one of the residents who I presumed was the manager. I didn’t speak Italian, he didn’t speak English so I was communicating via Google Translate.

I had only been in the small town less than 2 hours and I thought he was just going above and beyond showing me where the local bar was until he disappeared, came back and gave me the first of 2 inappropriate ‘gifts’ that made me feel uncomfortable. When I got back to the property I told the other residents that I was uncomfortable with this and they spoke with the resident. The property I stayed in was an old converted convent and at first glance, my room seemed quite quirky. The ‘wall’ was more of a wooden partition and the door was more like a gate, there was no lock on it and I realised there were holes in it meaning anyone could look through. Feeling extremely vulnerable by this time, I pushed chairs against the door/gate, managed to hang my jacket of the hole and felt relieved at least there were other people in the property.

The morning after, I could hear the church bells ringing and I should have felt excited to be waking up in Italy for the first time but I was to scared to go out of my room in case I saw the resident who made me feel vulnerable. My plan for that day should have been to find out about public transport and head down to Milan for the day but instead, I waited until about 12pm when I couldnt hear voices anymore and when I felt safe enough to leave my room, I headed out to the bus stop. I felt like I’d lost a day by this point as I wanted to go out early in the morning so I opted to just find my way to Bergamo City.

Once I was on the bus and away, I felt happier then and at least I was about to see some of Bergamo City and I’ve got to say I wasn’t disappointed. Although my first plan intentions was to go to Milan and it was still a 35 min journey from Ossio Sotto to Bergamo, it was a beautiful in its own right. Once Id arrived in Bergamo, I decided to try and get to the older upper district known as Città Alta. At first I presumed this would be a walk but then discovered there was a Funicular and the journey was around 2 mins 40 seconds and cost €1.30

This is where I began once I arrived in Bergamo and the plan was to get to the top to its older upper district, called Città Alta
The Funicular to Città Alta

Città Alta – Older Upper District

Once I’d arrived at Città Alta, it was beautiful and definitely made everything from my initial arrival feel a bit more bareable. Surrounded by 16th century venitian walls, it was absolutely stunning with the views, the narrow alleyways and streets, boutiques, delis and wine bars. I had some lunch at one of the restaurants in the square know as ‘Piazza Vecchiaan’ and right in the heart of Città Alta. It was a Saturday afternoon and it was buzzing with a mixture of families and tourists , there was Italian wedding was going on nearby which was lovely to see and it really was how I’d imagined Italy would be, like a movie set.

I’d had a really nice time exploring Città Alta and had managed to push the property issue to the back of my mind. Until my phone started ringing and getting messages from the resident in the property. Again, I had been naive the previous night and given said resident my phone number on the presumption it was in case I got lost or had any issues(this was before the problem had occurred). I just did not know why he was ringing when he didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Italian. I copied one of the messages and put it into Google translate only to see the inappropriate behaviour was continuing. By this time I was really upset, I didn’t want to go back to the property but it was a Saturday night and not only was there no accommodation available in Bergamo, I had left my passport in the Airbnb property.

I really felt scared and vulnerable so once I had thought things through, I contacted the owner of the property. She was very apologetic and said that the resident had never done anything like this before. That I failed to believe as he already had ‘the gifts’ prepared when I’d arrived at the property. However, she said she would contact him to tell him to stop. This made me feel a bit better and to be honest, there was nothing else I could do but go back to the property. Fortunately, when I arrived back at around 10pm, I came across some other solo travellers who were staying there that I hadn’t seen the night before. This made me feel a whole lot better as one was from Belgium, spoke really good English and we chatted briefly as I sorted out a few things before retiring to my room for the night.

The next lesson I learned was the day after which was Sunday. As I was staying in Ossio Sotto (the area I didn’t realise I was staying at), the area was that remote, there was only one bus out of the town which was later in the afternoon. That meant I could not risk leaving the small town in case I struggled to get back as my taxi for the airport was at 4am Monday morning. That was another day lost and also everything closed down in the afternoon, even the bars which I was surprised at but then realistically, it isn’t really a tourist town so I could understand why they do. I don’t know if it was just because it was a Sunday but definitely a lesson learned to check public transport prior to a trip.

Would I return to Italy? 🇮🇹

To be perfectly honest, after the property I was staying in, I did doubt if I would solo travel again. I’d never really thought about things not going to plan and It was probably the most vulnerable I’ve ever felt in my life. The language barrier was a problem, especially in a small town like Ossio Sotto and although that is my own fault as they should not be expected to speak English but I think with the situation I was in, I don’t think any Italian class would have prepared me for the communication required.

However, once I got home, reflected on the trip, realised the mistakes I’d made with lack of research, being a bit too trusting etc, I realised these were things I could work on, not to let one bad experience put me off, use it as a learning curve and to also try and highlight to others what can happen and that not every trip is a perfect story for social media, sometimes there’s a lesson behind every picture.

I am a bit more wary now though of using Airbnb for accommodation and I have found I feel safer in hostels as a female solo traveller. I also make sure I research thoroughly as well now and try to stay as close to a busy area as possible.

In conclusion, None of this is a reflection on Italy, it was my own lesson to do better but I’d definitely go back to Italy to see more one day

🇮🇹Cost for Bergamo:

  • Bus to Liverpool Airport: £4.20 Return
  • Return Flights: Liverpool/Bergamo – £17.00 (Only hand luggage)
  • Accommodation: Ossio Sotto – 3 x nights : £121.00
  • Buses from Ossio Sotto to Bergamo City: €2/3
  • Funicular: €1.30

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