We make great time from Milan Airport, even negotiating motorway tolls without causing too many traffic jams. It’s Italy, people expect a bit of unpredictability.
It’s still daylight when we drive into Bergamo ahead of schedule… and then we hit the old town.
It’s small. How difficult can it be to find our hotel? The answer is very.
My instinct tells me we’re close. The one way system tells me we can’t go the way I want.
We drive around and around narrow streets. The town is beautiful but I’d rather be on foot than driving around in ever decreasing circles.
One road takes us away from the centre and two joggers point us back the way we’ve come.
We must be close… and then we end up in a tiny piazza with roads hardly big enough to take a Vespa spreading out from the centre like the legs of starfish. I leave the car to seek help in a bar. The waitress doesn’t speak any English but walks with me to a polenta bar where the waiter does.
The polenta bar makes me hungry – wild boar polenta and red deer polenta sound interesting, but I’ve got a hotel to find.
I tell the waiter my problem and he consults two slightly inebriated men tucking into bowls of the thick cornmeal. A debate ensues. They know where the hotel is; however, there seems to be a lack of accord about how to get there by car. I’m glad it isn’t just us then… but it doesn’t help.
A plan is formulated. We follow it hoping someone knew what they were talking about. Finally, an hour after we arrived in Bergamo, we drive into a small piazza supposedly near the hotel. It is the second time we’ve been in this piazza.
A no entry sign on the only exit via an narrow arch bars our progress. We double park outside a building with Carabinieri written across the door and I continue on foot.
Our hotel lies just beyond the other side of the arch. So close and yet so far. I still don’t know how to get there. I sweep into reception as though I’m Phileas Fogg on a deadline and tell the receptionist that we’re stranded on the other side of the arch and don’t know how to drive to the hotel.
“Oh, just ignore the no entry sign,” she smiles as though the answer was obvious. “It’s the only way. The police won’t bother if you tell them you’re staying here.”
Ignore a no entry sign as you drive past the police station. How could I not have figured that out?
Benvenuto in Italia.