An Italian Sojourn

Italy… is all about creativity, originality and designing. Name any great painting, frescoe, sculpture, architecture or museum, you find them all in Italy. This is the land of food, fashion, art and architecture. The terrain of Dante, Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and also the home of Salvatore Ferragamo, Giorgio Armani and the likes.

Tourists in any country would go to a museum to see the art and architecture of a by-gone era. But the city of Rome spares you the effort, because the whole city is an open air museum. Every direction we looked in, we spotted old city walls, ancient structures, beautiful ruins. The Colosseum tour, tossing a coin in Trevi fountain, resting on Soanish steps “ people watching”, are awesome experiences. Wow, Rome is Rome !!

While in Italy, one should do not miss the scenic drive along the Amalfi Coast. We drove on winding mountain roads with scary curves, deep gorges dropping into the ocean and pretty villages nestling on the cliffs. We lunched in the picturesque Positano, the village with a beautiful coastline, emerald waters and great food.

After touring the city and tasting a pizza at Naples, birthplace of pizzas, we took another interesting tour to see the ruins of Pompeii town, covered under the hot lava and debris when the neighbouring Mount Vesuvias exploded in 17 AD. The debris has preserved the well planned town of row houses and wide streets, including some paintings on the walls. When we saw the mountain innocently watching over the ruins of the town, it was hard to believe the extent of damage, human and material, it once caused.

Milan is a must for seeing Leonardo’s masterpiece ” The Last Supper” and it is worth every single euro you spend. Anyway, after the heavy duty, solid shopping spree in Milan, there are not many euros left to spend. I picked up a couple of branded handbags for dear daughter and realized that any further purchase would have entailed mortgaging the spouse !!

Tuscany is Italy at it’s best with beautiful landscapes, traditions, history, artistic legacy and culture. It is regarded as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance and has been home to many museums. When we drive down the winding country roads that connect the famous hill towns of Tuscany and watch the views out of the car window, we would understand why someone might drop everything to come and buy a rundown Italian farmhouse, as depicted in the 1996 memoir by American author Frances Mayes and later made into the Hollywood classic ” Under the Tuscan Sun” .

During the city tour of Florence, we went to admire the frescoes of Duomo, strolled on the Ponto Vecchio ( old bridge) and haggled for prices of leather bags in the market. After exchanging pleasantries with the naked man, Michelangelo’s David in Galleria Dell’Accademia, we headed to the Tuscan countryside. If you suffer from an overdose of art and museums, the famous tuscan wines can nurse you back to health !!

After the breathless climb to the top tier and breathtaking views from there on the Leaning tower at Pisa, we went for a wine-tasting session at a farm. We had a sumptuous lunch of home grown tomatoes and olives, home made cheese, accompanied by the celebrated Chianti wine. Of course, no meal in Italy is complete without a scoop or two of gelato. The Italian icecreams are made with milk, not cream, hence are less fattening and sinfully tasty.

Another highlight of our tour was the world heritage site of San gimignano, known as “ the town of fine towers”. During the medieval period, the crop-rich affluent families competed with one another to display their wealth, resulting in building of the towers. The town has pretty piazzas ( town squares), bell towers and great views across Tuscan hills and valleys. The main piazza has a wishing well in the centre. I tossed a ( readily available) Indian coin in the well and ever since have been seriously hoping that the Italian Gods would be able decipher the Indian currency and grant my wish !!

Another city I enjoyed visiting was Romantic Venice. We came out of the train station and surprised to see only canals and water taxis. The views of the town across the water, glass-blowing artisans of Murano, skilled lace work from Burano : these are priceless, awesome experiences. There are no roads in Venice and all canals lead to the central San Marco Piazza ( St.Mark’s Square). A ride on the grand canal is must, for admiring the architectural beauties of Venice. We paid silent tributes to the great traveller and the famous son of Venice, when we took off from the Marco Polo international Airport in Venice, named after him.

While heading home, we transited through Dubai, for the opportunity of going up the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa. Visitors can ride upto the 124th floor for awesome views of the city, neighborhood and the distant desert, from the glass enclosed observation decks. Though Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible-3 scaled the outer walls, I took no such chances and opted for the elevator. Or do you guys feel I should have tried the trick, suitably dressed in my Kanjeevaram saree and matching diamonds. You are, hereby, permitted a good laugh!!