A Day In Bergamo, Northern Italy

Città Alta (Upper Bergamo), Italy

As some of you may already know, I was born and raised in Milan so I have often visited the city of Bergamo over the years because it is less than an hour’s drive from my native city.

The high plain of Bergamo gives way to the last hills of the pre-Alps of Bergamo, midway between the Brembo and Serio rivers. The ancient core of the city was founded right on the hills.

As with all the cities in the region of Lombardy, Northern Italy, the climate is very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter (sometimes it is even colder than Milan), so it is best to visit mid-season, especially in the spring time.

My last visit to Bergamo was in September 2021, when the days were still warm but not excessively hot, so it was very pleasant to walk around the city on foot and discover all the historical sights it has to offer.

Once part of the Roman Empire, at the beginning of the 13th century Bergamo fell under the influence of the Visconti of Milan, who fortified the citadel.

From 1428 Bergamo became part of the dominions of the Republic of Venice. The Venetians rebuilt the old city, erecting strong defensive walls. Venetian rule continued until the Napoleonic era, but with the Restoration Bergamo fell into the Austrian sphere under the Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom. The Austrians were the forerunners of the first industrialization of the Bergamo area, with the planting of textile factories. Bergamo took part in the Risorgimento (Resurgence) by supplying much of the Thousand, who belonged to all social classes except the rural world (nowadays the city is still known as “City of the Thousand”). The place was also fortunate enough not to suffer any bombing during World War II.

Bergamo is characterized by two parts: “Città Bassa” (Lower Bergamo, which is the modern part and includes the city centre and the railway station) and “Città Alta” (Upper Bergamo, the most iconic and interesting part of the city).

I spent the morning exploring Città Bassa, which is home to the city hall and to the headquarters of the prefecture and the Province of Bergamo. Lower Bergamo’s main avenue is called Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII; it connects the railway station to Porta Nuova, adjacent to the city centre, which is very ancient, since it was created in the first years of 1900. The city is also home to a lot of museums, like the Archaeology Museum, the Modern Art Gallery and the Museum of Natural Sciences.

Porta Nuova is a monumental gateway to the city of Bergamo which was built in the Neoclassical style in 1837, on the occasion of Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria’s entry into the city the following year. It is located in what is one of the central areas of Bergamo, along with the Torre dei Caduti (Tower of the Fallen); the tower is part of Bergamo’s History Museum and it is one of the most symbolic monuments in Lower Bergamo, as it was built on the patriotism wave that followed World War I, not only in honor and memory of Bergamo’s fallen soldiers but also to consolidate the idea of unified nationalism. In the city centre, close to the railway station, there is also the Church of Santa Maria Immacolata delle Grazie, which is located on Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII, the main avenue in Lower Bergamo that connects the city to Upper Bergamo.

The new church was built between 1857 and 1875 in place of the old basilica dedicated to Our Lady of Grace and it features a beautiful cycle of frescoes, especially the miraculous fresco of the Holy Jesus.

Tower of the Fallen(Torre dei Caduti), Bergamo, Italy.
Torre dei Caduti (Tower of the Fallen), Lower Bergamo
Santa Maria Immacolata delle Grazie, Bergamo, Italy.
Santa Maria Immacolata delle Grazie, Lower Bergamo

Revisiting The Baby-Sitters Club Series By Ann M. Martin 20 Years Later

Italian editions of The Baby-Sitters Club book series

A few days ago I watched the second and final season of The Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix and it brought to mind so many different moments from the book series it is based on. Watching the show was very emotional for me, since I grew up with these books. I own plenty of them and, along with the Goosebumps series, they remind me of my childhood, when I would consider them as friends because they kept me company on many afternoons, as I would immediately pick up a book to read after finishing my homework. The Netflix show brought me to reread a few of the books from the Baby-sitters Club series and it felt very nostalgic because they meant a lot to me when I was a kid.

The story follows four middle school girls who decide to found a Baby-Sitters Club; Kristy, one of the girls, comes up with this idea after she witnesses her mother struggling to find a baby-sitter when Kristy and her older brothers are too busy to take care of their little brother. Kristy thinks: “Wouldn’t it be great if a person in need of a baby-sitter for their kids could easily find one by calling an organization that provides baby-sitting services?” She pitches the idea to her friends Claudia, Mary Anne and Stacey and they go on to establish a successful club, attracting many customers in the fictional town of Stoneybrook, Connecticut, and holding club reunions three times a week in Claudia’s room. The book series is very educational and it is one of the smartest and most innovative example of entrepreneurship for pre-teens I have ever read about; everything regarding the club is organized down to the smallest detail and each of the girls plays a specific role, like people in a work team or a company. Aside from Kristy, who is the president and founder of the club, Claudia is the vice-president and she provides the phone line at which clients contact babysitters. Mary Anne is the secretary and keeps track of all the client appointments and personal commitments. Stacey is the treasurer and, being very good at math, she is in charge of club funds and collects dues. During the course of the series, other people join the club, such as Dawn, who befriends Mary Anne at school after moving from California, junior members Mallory and Jessica, who are a couple of years younger than the other girls, and two other associate members, Shannon and Logan, who are respectively Kristy’s new neighbor and Mary Anne’s boyfriend; they substitute the girls as babysitters when none of them are available.

Not only does the book series recount the misadventures of the characters during their baby-sitting jobs, but also it deals with the typical daily challenges that pre-teens have to face; first love, fights and misunderstandings between friends (the babysitters themselves have several confrontations throughout the series, sometimes even funny ones), school issues and disagreements with parents. Moreover, The Baby-Sitters Club is a series that can touch on significant and profound issues, introducing and explaining them to young readers in the right way; an entire book is often devoted to a particular topic, like when Claudia becomes convinced that she is an adopted child and starts researching to find out who her real parents are. I recently reread this book and it is strange to see how a little girl was still able to find information in an era when there was no Internet (the BSC books were published between 1986 and 2000 and sold about 176 million copies; Ann M. Martin wrote the first 35 books in the series but later they were written by different ghostwriters).


Balkan Cities: Tirana In Five Pictures

I visited Albania at the beginning of 2018 and I managed to see some very interesting places. I was in Tirana for three days only, but I found it to be a city rich in culture and entertainment; while people usually prefer to see more natural places in Albania, especially towns by the sea, visiting Tirana was also important to understand a piece of Albania’s history. Tirana is the most populous city in the entire nation (located in an area inhabited by more than one-third of the entire Albanian population) but although the city was founded during the Ottoman Empire, it was expanded and modernized during the 20th century, particularly in the 1990s with the fall of the communist regime. Numerous investments by foreign entrepreneurs have ensured that nowadays the city has many venues and it is especially attractive for young people, due to the large number of cafés and restaurants. I had a chance to walk around the city and see how the locals live; as far as safety is concerned, Tirana is rather quiet but as it happens with all the big cities around the world, you have to be careful especially if you are traveling solo.

Speaking of bars and restaurants, I had a very good time at Millennium Garden, where I tried Puka Beer, which is a delicious Albanian craft beer. I also recommend eating fish at Markata E Peshkut, located in the city center.

Tirana Cityscape

1) Tirana Cityscape: I saw the city of Tirana from the top floor of the Maritim Hotel Plaza , one of the best business hotels in the city. The view from there is pretty amazing, as it also includes the mountains surrounding the entire area. Tirana is the seat of power of the Albanian government, as it also hosts the Albanian parliament. The city is now the main economic, financial, political and commercial centre of Albania, and it is home to various public institutions and the university. From the urban agglomeration of buildings, it can be noticed that Tirana is a city in constant urban growth and it has also been awarded the title of European Youth Capital for 2022.

Street Art - Tirana, Albania.
Graffiti work on the façade of NOKI bar

2) Graffiti in Tirana : the capital of Albania is full of graffiti and urban artworks as part of a project that embraces street art as a tool for social cohesion; the many murals located in various parts of the city have helped improve the city aesthetically and have given a new face to its urban fabric as well. In the same year I visited Tirana, a group of street artists organized a street art festival called MuralFest in collaboration with an art workshop in the Italian city of Lecce and the Albanian administration. Murals are increasingly appreciated by citizens in different parts of the world, and the same is happening in Tirana. I spotted this colorful graffiti of a girl dressed in flowers depicted on the façade of a popular bar called NOKI, which is located on the city’s main pedestrian street.


Five Bookstores In London

Daunt Books, London. Image Credits: Alexandra Kirr

I am an avid reader and I love wandering around bookstores in towns and cities I am visiting. I started reading when I was still attending kindergarten and my love for reading has grown through the years; I usually read all kinds of books across different genres and I love reading physical copies of books, so I rarely get to use an e-reader. Since I speak four languages, I like to read in different languages as well. I mostly read in English and Italian but I occasionally read French and Spanish editions of books as well. When I’m in Italy I find it difficult to buy books written in English in local bookstores, as most of them have only very few in stock and they are often quite expensive, so when I’m in foreign places like London or New York I really enjoy exploring the city to discover new bookstores.

I lived in London for some time in 2016 so I would buy books directly from local bookstores and I have rounded up five of my favorite ones I came across while living in the city:

Brick Lane Bookshop

1) Brick Lane Bookshop: an independent bookshop in Tower Hamlets. Established in 1978, it is located in the East End, one of the most iconic areas of London, which hosts plenty of interesting clothing stores, cafés and is also home to the famous Spitalfields Market. I love walking around this neighborhood because it is one of the most distinctive in the city and it has become a trendy area like Shoreditch, especially for young people. Many streets intersecting with Brick Lane are great to explore if you enjoy urban art and graffiti, since the East End is filled with amazing artworks covering different building façades. Brick Lane Bookshop used to be part of the Tower Hamlets Arts Project, formed in the 1970s out of a protest. There wasn’t a single bookshop in Tower Hamlets at the beginning of the ’70s, so a group of local people decided to start one. They began with a weekly stall in Whitechapel Market where they sold Penguin proof copies and the success of the bookstall inspired the locals to create a permanent bookstore. If you happen to visit Brick Lane, be sure to stop by the library because you will sure find some interesting reads about London and the East End (I suggest you have a look at the historic Brick Lane’s Beigel Shop, which is also known as “the yellow one” thanks to its bright yellow sign, and try one of their delicious bagels).

Brick Lane Bookshop, 166 Brick Lane, London, E1 6RU