I was somewhat disappointed by Bergamo as I had been very much looking forward to it, but found I didn't like it as much as I was expecting. My first impressions were good as I strolled through the lower town (città bassa) - despite being described as the "modern" part of town, it still featured the beautiful grand old yellow Italian terraces, narrow cobbled streets, piazze & al fresco dining that is so characteristic of northern Italy and is a good deal older and more traditional than anything that would be described as modern in the UK! However, the old town (città alta) was what I really wanted to see so I headed straight for the top. Bergamo has two parts, the more modern lower town and a medieval quarter on top of a hill, entirely encircled in Venetian stone walls. There is a funicular that runs from the lower to upper town but I love a good hill climb, so I bit my thumb at the funicular and started climbing. It was a good hill climb! Comparable to Bath train station up to Bath Uni, but on cobbles, in 32C heat. I actually kept going past two funiculars until the highest point, Monte San Vigilio and was rewarded with breathtaking 360 views back over Bergamo in every direction, looking down on the città alta. Quite by accident, I reached the summit at 11:58, just in time to hear bells all over Bergamo ringing 12 o'clock. There are apparently many bells in Bergamo! Scattered in all directions and all with different chimes. It was wonderful :)
Heading back into the città alta, I enjoyed an hour or so wandering in the streets but became increasingly frustrated when almost everything I wanted to see was closed. Several churches, described by my guidebook as worth a visit, had their doors shut with no note of explanation. A museum was closed. Half the shops were closed - either for lunch (2h) or for holidays (ferie). It was hot and I needed to pee and was desperate for a Diet Coke but the only places open were tiny bistros that sell Coke for €3 a bottle (how about no?!) and look too small for me to feel confident they would let me use their toilet if I asked. There were public toilets, but the ones where you have to pay... I'm not paying to pee!!! I never have and never will. Urination is a basic human function that you cannot choose to do or not just like you cannot choose whether you need to breathe. I disagree immensely with charging to use public toilets, it's ridiculous. I had planned to visit an art gallery but it was 10€ to get in and I was by now feeling too annoyed and grumpy to be ok with spending that. Also I REALLY wanted a Diet Coke. Had the gallery had a reasonably priced cafe I might have bought one, peed, and then felt up to going in but there wasn't a cafe in sight and the one in the gallery opposite was selling Coke for €3.50. Just no. I thought I might find a Diet Coke then come back to the gallery, but the trek from the gallery into town was down traffic busy streets without an open shop in sight, pretty much all the way back into town, by which point I couldn't be bothered to walk all the way back out there.
Bergamo is weird. The città alta is undoubtedly unique and quaint and perhaps if I visited at a different time of year, or a different time of day, I would have found more things open. It's not a tourist hotspot and it was nice not to be surrounded by hoards of tourists all the time, as I was in Venice and Verona. But perhaps because it's not so touristy it's not really set up for tourists eg there aren't many ice cream shops or little supermarkets, restaurants or souvenir shops, which actually makes it a bit boring to walk through. It has these massive grand old palatial buildings but at least in the lower town, half of them are crumbling and covered in graffiti. It doesn't seem very cared for. The graffiti has just been left everywhere. I can't remember seeing any graffiti in any of the other places I have visited so far.
That was it really, my day. Found a massive supermarket, bought some veg. Came back to the accommodation, which is FAB - it's a flat but all the rooms are B&B no live in owner or anything. As a result I feel completely at home. I did a load of laundry in the free washing machine and would have cooked in the kitchen if it wasn't so hot that all I can consider eating is salad. One other room is occupied. As it's unstaffed there's a risk it might be noisy, but my room is at the back, so hopefully it will be ok!