Friday, February 2, 2024

Visitors to Bergamo – The Things We Wish They Would Notice

Carosello and Torre dei caduti - Lower City Bergamo Piazza Duomo Bergamo Alta Senterione Città Bassa Venetian Walls along Baluardo di San Michele
Left: Carosello and Torre dei caduti - Lower City Bergamo.
Center left: Piazza Duomo Bergamo Alta.
Center right: Senterione Città Bassa Bergamo.
Right: Venetian Walls along Baluardo di San Michele in Bergamo.
There is no perfect visitor, no perfect host.

As a host you can’t control your visitors’ experiences of your beloved hometown. They will notice what they notice. They will be amazed (or not) by what they see. Be happy that they are visiting. (And we are.)

When we host visitors, we notice what they respond to because it makes us think about our own reactions when we are the visitors. It's like looking in a mirror.

We’ve had visitors from 13 to 73 years of age. We’ve done the rounds in Bergamo so many times we can’t count them. Pass through the città alta, basilica, duomo, la rocca, colle aperto, piazza vecchia, città bassa, Centro Piacentiniano, sentierone, Papavero, and Il Coccio. After that, it's walks to discover the scalette of Bergamo, San Vigilio, and Maresana, and beyond. At times, we’ve hired guides. Other times, we are the guides. We’ve chosen restaurant experiences with our visitors' preferences in mind: eat-everything, gluten-free, vegetarians, and vegans.

We try to make the tour relevant to who is visiting. We’ve even forced museum experiences on visitors to some success.

What we have noted is that visitors – on average - don’t see the things we want them to notice and be blown away with, like the architecture, the geometry of the city, the rhythm of the piazza, the church bells, the abandoned and evocative buildings, the mighty UNESCO Venetian defense walls, the greengrocers, and thousands of other things WE love. To be fair, visitors do see some of that, but are just as easily focused on knickknacks, a brand of candy not available back home, a cute dog, or a Dodge Chevy Van (very out of place here).

This post shows photographs of the things what I wish our visitors would notice more of and ask about. We are okay with dealing with a little Stendhal syndrome. (We know some good doctors and a trip the hospital is another way of discovering Bergamo. The hospital is like a little city in itself with its namesake Papa Giovanni XXIII greeting you as you enter.)

Some anecdotes from visitors throughout the years:
  • “The houses [palazzi] are so close together, I couldn’t live like that” said one. Another: “Why aren’t there more balconies!”. (Bonus points for noticing the architecture.)
  • We followed one visitor into every trinket shop that had model cars. (Bonus point for making us go into shops we never visit.)
  • We often have visitors that become obsessed with something – often for good reason but not always: medicine, sunscreen, shoelaces, cooking pots, the perfect gift to take back. So, our time is spent looking for these things. (Granted this can be fun, but it’s not the things we want them to spend their time on!)
  • One visitor was intrigued with taking photographs from our house’s top floor but complained about the roof antennas and cranes.
  • One visitor staying with us complained we didn’t have enough meat in the meals we prepared over several days. Also: that we ate too healthy.
  • One visitor criticized our Italian remarking that we weren't expressive enough.
  • We walked through the lower city with one visitor, who talked about their problems and themselves the whole time and didn’t stop and look up to ask a question or notice anything. (I call that snow globe travel. These visitors take their world from back home with them. Shake it up to get their problems falling on them no matter where they are.)
  • One repeat visitor talks effusively about where they have been, who they stayed with, and where they are going, but not a word about where they are, at the moment, in Bergamo. (They are visiting, so Bergamo must be special? Still, it’s an odd habit. We can only imagine they are talking about Bergamo on the next stop of their trip?)
  • Visitors who constantly make comparisons to other cities. Some comparisons are okay, but too many ruin the day.
  • Visitors who touch things inappropriately, especially in museums.
  • One visitor - not ours - we encountered wondered where they could find more “medieval-like” places to see how it once was. As if the upper city of Bergamo didn’t throw you back in time enough? Should we all be recreating scenes for people who visit? (See the book Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov.)

In defense of our visitors, we understand they may be tired, out of their element, overwhelmed. They did make the trip here, and in a sense that's enough. It’s about time together.

We'll end with this Maya Angelou quote: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” A good thing to keep in mind as hosts.

Chapel in Chiesa di Sant'Agata nel Carmine Detail in Monastero di San Benedetto Chiesa di San Bernardino in Pignolo Detail in Sant'Alessandro della Croce, Bergamo 
Left: Chapel in Chiesa di Sant'Agata nel Carmine in Città Alta, Bergamo.
Center left: Detail in Monastero di San Benedetto, Via Sant'Alessandro, Bergamo.
Center right: Chiesa di San Bernardino in Pignolo.
Right: Chiesa di San Bernardino in Pignolo.

Faces on Palazzo Bonomi ex Pezzoli - Via Pignolo La Fara - Bergamo Detail in front of Cappella Colleoni Acquedotto di Bergamo - near Porta Sant'Agostino
Left: Faces on Palazzo Bonomi ex Pezzoli - Via Pignolo, Bergamo.
Center left: La Fara, Bergamo.
Center right: Detail in front of Cappella Colleoni, Bergamo.
Right: Acquedotto di Bergamo - near Porta Sant'Agostino.

Palazzo Frizzoni - Sede istituzionale del Comune di Bergamo Palazzo Medolago Albani Via Arena in Città Alta Via Pignolo
Left: Palazzo Frizzoni - Sede istituzionale del Comune di Bergamo.
Center left: Palazzo Medolago Albani Bergamo.
Center right: Via Arena in Città Alta, Bergamo.
Right: Via Pignolo, Bergamo.

Piazzetta del Delfino 6 am Porta San Giacomo of Città Alta in the evening with moon View of Porta San Giacomo in sunset
Left: Piazzetta del Delfino 6 am, Via Pignolo Bergamo.
Center: Porta San Giacomo of Città Alta in the evening with moon.
Right: View of Porta San Giacomo in sunset.

Stormy Day Along Via della Fara Venetian Walls - Baluardo di San Lorenzo Via San Giacomo
Left: Stormy Day Along Via della Fara.
Center: Venetian Walls of Bergamo - Baluardo di San Lorenzo
Right: Via San Giacomo in Bergamo.

Viale delle mura - near Baluardo San Giovanni Autumn tree on Baluardo della Fara Parco Caprotti - Hidden Park in the Lower City Bergamo
Left: Begonias on Viale delle mura - near Baluardo San Giovanni.
Center: Tree in autumn on Baluardo della Fara.
Right: Parco Caprotti - A Hidden Park in the Lower City Bergamo.

Wisteria in bloom in the lower city Asphodelus in front of Ex-Monastero di Sant'Agostino A door on Via San Alessandro Christmas tree in front of Sant'Alessandro della Croce, Bergamo
Around Bergamo: Wisteria in bloom, Asphodelus, an ornate door, a Christmas tree in front of Sant'Alessandro della Croce.

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