Arrivederci and Grazie!
Today is a day of goodbyes. Susie is getting on the plane to go back home, and I am heading back to Bergamo, grab the rest of my luggage, and head down to Milan, where I’ll catch a plane to Dublin to meet the kids for the second half of my journey. Arrivederci Venezia, arrivederci Susie, arrivederci Amedeo.
The three of us walk back to the bus that takes us back across the causeway to the car parked next to the train station and drive toward the airport to drop Susie off. Venice airport is not very big, so we can park the car close and go in to make sure she checks in without any problem. Everything’s fine, and after a quick coffee (paid for by Amedeo while we were not paying attention – thank you!), I say goodbye to my best girlfriend travel partner. We both wish that she could continue on with me to Ireland, but I guess that’s for another time.
It’s about a two hour drive back to Bergamo, and Amedeo and I chat along the way, reliving the past few days. Before we get back to his house to get my things, however, there’s one more stop to make. Lunch! But not just lunch, it’s lunch and a castle.
Remember our friend Bartolomeo Colleoni, soldier of the three balls? Well, it turns out that when he finally settled down, he settled down not far from Amedeo’s house. In 1456, he bought Castle Malpaga, originally built in the 1300’s. In 1456 it was in ruins (must have got it for a song!) and proceeded to fix it up and made it the seat of his lordship. The squarish castle, his home, is surrounded by an empty moat, then a yard area, then an outside wall lined on the inside, facing the castle, with small apartments for his soldiers, staff, and animals.
Today, we walk through the outside gate from the road past some workers who seem to be again fixing the place up. They’ve got a lot of work to do, however, because the yard is a mess and the apartments are ramshackle. The castle is holding up pretty well, though. We walk around to the front and I catch a glimpse of a woman in medieval garb leading a group of elementary aged children from the castle over the drawbridge and then through the outside gate. A ghost?
We go over the drawbridge ourselves and enter the castle. It’s not really open for visitors, but Amedeo works his magic and before I know it, I am Signora Giulia, dressed like the lady of the castle (because they had these amazing medieval dresses, adult-sized, available to wear!) and we are exploring the rooms. From the outside, the castle doesn’t look like much, but on the inside the walls are rich with 15th century frescoes, the colors still vibrant. As Signora Giulia, I have to remember to hold up the hem of my gown so I don’t trip going up and down the stairs. Somehow, wearing this silly costume has made it easier to imagine the banquets, the fine furnishings, the lords and ladies as well as the servants and staff that were here before me. It’s one of the most evocative castles I have ever visited and I am fascinated by the details and the stories of these walls. For a while, we are the only ones here and the castle belongs just to us.
Alas, like Cinderella at the ball, Signora Giulia must relinquish the dress (no glass slippers, though!) and cross back over the drawbridge to the real world. Fortunately, the real world has lunch, so it’s a smooth transition. I am the only woman diner in the restaurant across the street, one reason being that we are late, and the other is that the men there are all on their lunch break from work, so you know the food has to be good. And it is. Veal scaloppine, polenta, salad with onion, wine and a yummy dessert, plus a little local moonshine in my coffee made for a fantastic meal.
However, all good things must come to an end and I must move on to Milan. After retrieving my bags from Amedeo’s, it’s time for me to go. My Camino friend really went all out to create some fantastic experiences for us, and I’m afraid my meager thanks are not enough to express what a wonderful time we had and how much we appreciate everything he did. But life goes on, and I’m off. The adventure continues!