Hotel Castelbarco; Bergamo – Città Alta; Crespi d’Adda – a night away

Sorry. Been busy. Still am.

But taking a break for a moment.

Saturday night we spent in a hotel not far from Milan, the Hotel Castelbarco, near Vaprio d’Adda.

Vaprio is a small town just outside Milan, on the river Adda, hence its name.

It was a Groupon voucher thing that I got about 6 months ago and, so, as normal, we were running out of time!

It was for one night’s B&B.

The hotel was formerly the stables, etc. of a rather grand house, now used for functions (such as weddings). The grounds are spread along the river Adda. To the left of the great house are the stables and so on (now the hotel) and to the right are some other buildings (maybe new) that are now a restaurant, bar and night club complex (more on that later).

To be honest, I wouldn’t say the hotel was WOW! but it was quite nice and very, very clean. The breakfast was ample. As normal with Italian hotels that have been converted, the walls are paper thin and the woman with her stilettos that she continued to wear as (it seemed) she danced for an hour round the room next door, didn’t help. But, that aside, it was fine.

We arrived at something like 3 p.m. on the Saturday afternoon. It had been raining on and off. Fine rain or drizzle, not the normal Italian downpour, thank goodness.

We got in our room and dumped everything and left for Bergamo.

I’ve always wanted to visit Bergamo, more famed by the British for it’s airport that receives Ryanair jets from the UK. But there are two Bergamos – Bassa and Alta – and I had heard that Bergamo Alta was really quite a lovely city – being the original city built long before flying started and, as normal in Italy, on a hill.

And, pretty it was. A small medieval town with cobbled, narrow streets opening out, from time to time, on small squares or, in one case, the Piazza Vecchio (Old Square).

The cathedral (although it might just be a church) was wonderful, if not a little strange. There seemed to be a great mix of styles from Medieval to baroque – but it was lovely. We were both hungry so stopped for some lunch at Al Donizetti.

Although there was some very fine rain, it didn’t seem so cold and there was, waht seemed like, an old ‘market place’ under which they had tables. People were there eating without coats and so we chose to eat ‘outside’. that was possibly a mistake as it started to rain heavily and we ended up not taking our coats off at all!

It was also very touristy. But, then, the whole of Bergamo was very touristy – full of restaurants and bars, particularly those advertising their beers.

But the food was good and the service pleasant and, had it been a little warmer, it would have been lovely. We shared a plate of cold meats including lardo and some rather fine boiled and cured hams and then F had some polenta with mushrooms in a sauce and I had tomasino (a flat round cheese) with speck (they said it would be ‘crispy’ but it wasn’t so I wondered if that got lost in translation) on a bed of raddicchio done in a red wine sauce. It was rather lovely. The wine was good.

The only thing that let it down, in my opinion, was the sweets. I’m sure they were home-made but the pear and chocolate tart that I had was neither chocolatey nor pearey enough for me. The ricotta cake that F had was, to me, just stodgy without real taste . However, overall it was good.

We walked around the town for a bit, in, what was now, drizzle and light rain or, occasionally, no rain at all!

It was all very nice.

We had decided that, rather than eat in Bergamo and then have to drive to the hotel afterwards, we would go back to the hotel and eat there.

And so we did.

To get to the restaurant from the hotel, one can walk but, given that it could rain at any time, we drove.

The car park was overflowing. It made us a bit worried that the restaurant would be full. We eventually found the entrance (for it was not well signposted) and it was, in fact, the entrance to the bar and nightclub. When we explained that we wanted to go to the restaurant, he took us through to it.

If I say that it was being in a restaurant of a fairly cheap, 90s hotel, I think you’ll get the idea. If it wasn’t that I really didn’t want to have to drive around (having already have had a little less than half a bottle of wine at lunchtime), I would have suggested going somewhere – anywhere – else.

But it was all too late now. We were in Cubeba, famed, according to its card, for food, drink and dance!

And the food was more like something one would receive at Little Chef! Don’t get me wrong, Little Chefs are great places for food – for a very reasonable price. This was overpriced and the musak far too loud (to drive out the sound of the bar music, I suppose). I mean, it was OK but nothing WOW!

However, next door, it seemed the whole of Vaprio and it’s surrounding villages had come for they were having a ‘Fashion Night’. We went out for a cigarette at one point but, because we had to go through (a little bit) the bar, we had to have our hand stamped to prove we were entitled to go back in without having to pay! Not really what I expect from any decent restaurant.

The waitress, who seemed new, tried her best and, so, for us, we left a good tip. For the food I would have taken some money away! For the ambience, we should have had the whole thing free.

However, F did notice that, on Friday nights, they had their ‘Beautiful People’ night. It made us both laugh.

The next day, after breakfast, I had planned to take F to Crespi d’Adda, where he had never been.

It is a ‘workers village’ built by the Crespi family to house the workers for the factory they built next to the village. They say he was inspired by the model villages he saw in the UK during a trip there and I guess they were right in that it does have quite an ‘English’ feel to it.

I had been worried because of the rain forecast but, in the end, we were lucky with sunshine and warmth and a lovely trip round the village. This time I had looked it up on the net (see link above) and so had a better idea of where to go and what to see. It was a shame we couldn’t really get to see the owner’s ‘castle’ but the rest of it was just as I remembered it. F really enjoyed it.

Then we came home as F had to get ready to go to Germany which is where he is now.

Overall I would give 3 or 4 stars to the hotel, 4 stars to the restaurant in Bergamo and 1 star (for the waitress) for Cubeba. Next time I’ll try and remember to find out about the hotel restaurant first, before we try it!

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