A lOve letter to bergamo
by Emer Downing
Thoughts from a Balcony in Bergamo during Lockdown:
I have never felt so appreciative of all the good in my life. The world is suffering more and more each day, with the coronavirus spreading at an alarming rate. Here in Bergamo, the place I have called home for almost 8 years, we have found ourselves at the epicentre of the crisis in Europe. Hundreds of new cases are springing up every day and Bergamo can’t keep up with the number of deaths. Horrific warlike images of military trucks taking coffins to other cities have been seen as Bergamo doesn’t have the facilities to cremate all their dearly departed. We hear stories of people being sealed in their bedrooms after they have passed until medical staff
can organise a coffin or transport for them. Families have been robbed of the chance of a goodbye hug or a funeral. Little did we think in this modern age that we would see our city at war.
And yet, through all this pain around us, I have seen great hope, strength and courage. I haven’t heard much singing from the balconies around my apartment but that first collective round of applause in honour of the medical staff rang out loud and clear and brought tears to my eyes. Gestures of goodwill are all around – pizzerias and restaurants sending food to hospital workers, tattoo artists donating their gloves and holding art auctions, volunteers delivering food and medicine to those who are high risk and confined to their homes. More than anything, when the government had not yet forced all businesses to shut, many small business-owners showed immense courage by closing their doors to the public in the interest of health and safety. This came at a great financial and emotional cost to so many – an act of true selflessness!
Bergamo is famous now. The name has been heard on news channels word-wide, just as Wuhan had been before us. We’re now famous for all the wrong reasons. When all of this is over and our screens no longer show heartbreaking images of our medical heroes, I hope people can see the beauty of Bergamo for how it should be, a bustling little city full of character. Bergamo’s charming medieval old town stands stoically atop a hill, watching over us. In summer time, it really comes to life with outdoor bars and restaurants lined along the magnificent Venetian walls. Neighbourhood festivals spring up in the city and its surroundings where family and friends enjoy traditional Bergamascan food, bingo and entertainment. Campers, cyclists and hikers flock to countryside to discover lakes, forests and waterfallsWinter entices its residents up to the mountains for ski season.
Bergamo for me is cycles along the rivers and aperitivi al fresco with friends. It’s nonna’s homemade casoncelli (my partner’s grandmother’s local meat ravioli). It’s autumn walks, wrapped up against the cold, sharing roasted chestnuts and sipping on mulled wine. It’s the hustle and bustle of the festivals that fill the piazzas in the lower city with colour and flavour. It’s adults and children alike taking delight in the awe-inducing mid-Lenten parade. It’s the magical atmosphere at Christmas time with twinkling lights leading to the Christmas markets. It’s the gigantic murals and rushed
graffiti proudly honouring the local Atalanta football team. It’s the city that invented the stracciatella ice cream flavour!
So let’s remember Bergamo for what it is – so much more than a city fighting this tragic pandemic. Bergamo, mola mia, never give up!