We often say that time flies but as I get older I think time speeds up too. Looking through some photo files on my computer I found some stored pics from my last phone (not exceptional quality I have to say) that I took in Bergamo in Italy and realised that I was there a year ago this week. Amazing. It only seems like a couple of months ago.
I went in connection with my day job as a freelance medical writer but it was good to have a trip away. After driving down to Heathrow and staying in a small serviced apartment with parking, I flew off to Milan airport. The alps were glorious.
The conference I was covering was about cancer survivorship. Screening, detection and treatments have all improved for many types of cancer and millions of people in the world now live more than five years after being diagnosed. That officially makes them cancer survivors.
The talks were all by very knowledgeable people who were engaged in cancer research and studies of how survivors fared in their lives beyond treatment.I had to write about the conference and produce reports and papers – I won’t dwell on that.
But this was an interesting meeting to go to because it opened my eyes to things I had not been aware of before. Many people face long-term health problems due to the treatment while most experience some form of discrimination, whether at work from employers or potential employers, or from finance and insurance companies. Certainly made me think about things very differently.
Time off from conferencing
The good thing about going away for a conference is that you stay in a nice hotel in a new place and, if you are very lucky, there is time for a bit of site-seeing. The conference finished at around 1pm Saturday lunchtime and my flight back was not until Sunday lunchtime, so I had a full 24 hours! Woo hoo.
During the evenings before, the hosts had taken me and the 40 or so speakers at the conference out for dinner. That was a huge treat and they had gone to a great deal of effort to pick interesting and traditional restaurants. The food was to die for, particularly in one restaurant in the Old Town of Bergamo. I think there were six courses with different wines, all beautifully presented and well cooked.
Many of the speakers knew each other and formed little groups – this is common at these meetings and as the writer its normal to be excluded. At this meeting, however, I got on really well with an American researcher, Sophia, who was also there alone and who didn’t know that many of the European researchers. We sat together at the dinners and arranged to go sightseeing on the Saturday afternoon.
I was impressed and very humbled to learn that she had gone into medical research after surviving cancer twice – once as a teenager and then again in her early 30s when her twins were tiny girls. That is bravery and determination.
Bergamo Old Town
After snacking on the buffet lunch we set off to the Old Town up the funiculaire. I love these little hillside trams. At the top, the buildings were old and typically Italian. This is in the town square.
We walked around taking it all in and bought a ticket that let us into about five museums and old buildings for about 5 Euros, which was very cheap. The cathedral was magnificent but I guess photographs were allowed.
At the centre of the Old Town, which has lots of cobbled and paved streets winding up the hill, is a big tower that you can go up. Lots of steps and not for anyone who has a problem with heights. But the views were stunning.
This was well worth the climb. It was a lovely sunny autumn day too, crisp but not too cold. Perfect.
Drifting back through the old town we stopped to do some window shopping and bought a few things. The shops were so individual and well presented, just beautiful to look at.
What a treat of an Italian town.