Happy birthday, Hirsh!!! Hirsh never thought he'd spend his 32nd birthday in Bergamo, Italy, but here we are. We left Varenna and took the train to Bergamo to meet up with our friend, Maurizio. Maurizio is from Bergamo and recently spent a semester at Duke's Fuqua School of Business, where he roomed with Hirsh's co-resident and Sarah's close friend, Lauren. We met Maurizio back in Durham and had planned to meet up with him in Italy, and that time coincidentally turned out to be Hirsh's birthday. Maurizio met us at the train station and volunteered to be our personal tour guide for the day!
He is very proud of his hometown, and it didn't take long for us to understand why. Bergamo is a beautiful, livable city with a perfect balance between old world charm and modern conveniences. Little known on the guidebook/package tour circuit, Bergamo felt like a real town filled with lovely people. We were even luckier that Maurizio is very smart and proud of his city and country's history, so he gave a detailed history lesson - complete with a pop quiz! - as he showed us around.
We had a nice brunch and then embarked on our tour. The Citta Alta ("High Town") is the heart and soul of the city. We spent several hours walking around the city and first visited the impressive church in the town square, the Santa Maria Maggiore.
The most gorgeous and intimidating confessional we've ever seen. We all joked that your confession had better be a juicy one if you're going to do it here!
Bergamo's town square looks much like it probably did back in Medieval Times. Just as it did back then, the clock tower chimes ten times every night at 10:00, followed by 100 smaller chimes to notify the townspeople to get safely back inside the town walls, per curfew. The curfew is no longer in effect, but the tradition remains.
There was even a puppet show for local kids in the main square! Hearing all the sweet children laugh and excitedly yell out in Italian was priceless.
We then toured Maurizio's high school. Can you believe this is a public high school? It's beautiful and looks like Hogwarts.
We rode the funicular back down and had aperitifs of meat and cheese cuts and Aperol Spritzes at a favorite neighborhood hangout.
Then we got cleaned up and headed to dinner at the local favorite restaurant, La Marianna.
Sarah and Maurizio conspired to arrange a little birthday surprise for Hirsh. We asked for a candle on the dessert, and we were all surprised to see an actual firework! Good thing we were eating outside!
And then, because it was Hirsh's birthday (at least that's the excuse we're using) we had a second dessert. This restaurant created the popular gelato flavor of stracciatella, which is vanilla with chunks of dark chocolate. Obviously we had to sample some.
It was a wonderful day, all around, thanks to Maurizio's endless generosity. It was a birthday Hirsh will never forget! ❤️