Bergamo

Ruth tells me of her last visit to Bergamo, some 30 years previously and it sounds appealing enough to drop by and at least take in the historic centre. Having parked up by the city’s sports stadium, we get on our bikes and make for the téléferique that takes us up to the heart of the old town. Being a sunny Sunday, the narrow cobbled streets are brimming with visitors but it’s only when we turn a corner onto a small square that we realize why quite so many people are there. It’s the opening race of the Soap-Box Derby season that afternoon and the assorted vehicles and their suitably kitted out crews are buzzing around making their final preparations. There is a team of officials taking their work very seriously – weighing, measuring and inspecting the wooden wheels and breaking systems.

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We are fascinated enough to wait until the planned start and go to the top of the course and take our places in the ‘Grandstand’well, at the first corner! As we had not had much of a night’s sleep after the Milonga by Lake Garda, we doze on the grass overlooking the expansive plain below the old fortified walls and wait. As ever in Italy, the planned start-time is out by almost an hour and I have to say we are somewhat disappointed by the fact that it is a time-trial event – I had been expecting a massed grand–prix style dash for the first corner, but instead each 2 man team sets off individually.

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Having seen 5 or 6 career past us, we make our way back to the cable-car and after a steadying hot chocolate find our bikes and make our way back to Emma. A great day out !

Here are some more photos of this chapter.


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Curiosity

We picked up a brochure in Perugia about this giant tango event in a hotel by lake Garda. 18 teaching couples were advertised, so the mind boggles on how many participants there might be, and how many dance floors to accommodate all the workshops… we are too curious to let this go by unseen.

When we arrive, a workshop is in full swing in the foyer. We find out when the Milonga starts and how much it costs and then we go off to find a parking place. This is the second time in Northern Italy that we find a camperstop where we can pay for a limited number of hours rather than a full day, and in that time, we make use of the shower, the internet, load up water and have a little rest before heading back to the Tango festival.

There are about 1000 dancers present in a huge hall, and a second venue near the bar allows a bit of wriggle room for those who are intimidated by the busy-ness of the main hall. The level of dancing is pretty high, possibly lifted by the fact that there are so many teachers on the dance floor, and the atmosphere is as friendly as it can be with a group that size. For a Tango event, it is too big for me – I see people once and then can’t find them again once the Cortina has started, cabeceo is virtually impossible. I make a nice contact with some of the women I dance with. One of them says she wants to introduce a friend to us but then she disappears not to be found again. I meet Lazzaro, the friendly teacher from Perugia and he gives me a big ‘hello’ smile but then he seems to evaporate. I think my limit of Tango dancers in one venue is reached at around 250-300 people. But anyway, it’s so nice to dance, and Frank and I have some lovely Waltzes with each other.

We leave the event around 2.30am and take Emma to a quiet spot by the Mincio river – at least we think it’s quiet – and by 3am our heads hit the pillow…

About four hours later, I am woken up by the crunching sound of a steady stream of about 50 cars, bumper to bumper, going right past us through the gravelly car park, disappearing down a little lane towards the river. What on earth is happening at 7am on a Sunday morning??? Is this a traffic redirection? a strange outdoor early morning church, or a wedding?

We try to turn over and go back to sleep but curiosity gets the better of us and we hop out of bed and onto our bikes to find out. It’s a fishing competition! Everyone has parked in their assigned spot along the river. Latecomers are being sent away, no-one can pass now, not even us cyclists – the fishing rods are already spread out across the towpath.

We return to Emma and after breakfast, we set off for Bergamo.


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Mantova

It’s never easy to say good bye to Laura and the rest of the extended Pimpinella family, but one morning the time has come to move on, so we fill all our water containers with the precious Piminella water, bid our farewell and steer Emma to duck under the silken flags to leave this little patch of heaven on earth.

We are heading towards the southern edge of Lago di Garda where we plan to drop in on a Tango festival. But we have one night to spare in between, so we decide to stop near Mantova. Our camperstop book tells us of a place near the city centre, so we go and explore that. It turns out to be quite expensive for a whole night, so we just pay for one hour – long enough to use their shower facilities and check the internet to find the exact location for the dance the next evening, as well as catch up with my daughter Lilli on skype who is in the middle of preparing applications for various exciting projects and funding opportunities. We also catch a glimpse of the town centre’s skyline and decide to go and visit it the following day. Then we tootle off to a car park a few kilometres away, outside a summer swimming pool, where we are alone with the drumming of rain on our roof and the rustling of leaves in the poplars around us.

The danger with these ‘peaceful’ car parks is that at night they might turn out to be quite busy, especially if they are on the outskirts of a city…

Sure enough, plenty of cars come and go, groups of young people with loud music booming out of their speakers. But all seems to be quite harmless and as we are very tired, it doesn’t really affect our night.

The next morning, the rain has lifted and the landscape looks all freshly washed, with luscious green fields and snow-capped mountains gleaming in the distance. The poplars are dispersing their seeds by the handful and the path is covered with a thick padding of ‘poplar snow’.

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I am amazed that my body doesn’t react at all – normally poplar seeds make my eyes water and my throat itch, but here I am right in it, even doing Yoga right by it is ok, taking deep breaths of the seed infused air! My nose hasn’t been as clear in years! I blame the Yoga…

 

 

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After breakfast and a violin practise, we head into the city, parking Emma by the Palazzo and cycling into the centre. We take our instruments and try out busking together for the first time!

Mantova has a picturesque city centre, and as it’s a beautiful spring weekend morning, the roads are full of tourists. However, our playing doesn’t bring in much money. My general experience is that busking doesn’t go too well in a touristic place, it’s better to find a spot where a lot of locals pass, like a farmers market. But we still have a nice time playing and it’s good to be out on the street. After our busking stint, we go shopping on a farmer’s market and then back to Emma to feast on the local produce we acquired.

From Mantova, we cut across the countryside winding our way through little lanes until we reach Peschiera del Garda.


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