While this post (and the next) is about Italy, it’s not so much about the places I visited but rather about a few amusing observations and encounters.
I visited the 3 cities that most tourists goes to, and then went further south since my Italian friend had sung praises of how the southerners have more beauty and soul, in sharp contrast to everyone else who asked me not to venture down there alone!
And so the itinerary looked like this: Strasbourg – Venice – Florence – Rome & Vatican – Naples – Strasbourg
Venice was rustic and commercialized but as beautiful as it is known to be, with gondolas and an array of stores selling fancy Venetian masks. After Day 1 of exploring the place with Meg, an American backpacker I met at the hostel, Day 2 was spent wandering through all those narrow alleys and waterways with an intention of getting lost and attempting conversation with locals for directions. Alongside intermittent but very essential gelato pit-stops.
Walking through one such alley, I hear a woman loudly yelling a repetitive “Pasta! Pasta!” followed by some words in Italian. I stopped and turned around, curious to know what that was all about. After a couple of minutes, from nowhere appears a brown mongrel running towards the lady. Now that was one very inedible but cute looking Pasta!
Well, it’s just Marco. An old man I met at Florence. I checked into a really nice hostel and after a delicious cup of Cappuccino, hopped onto a bus that took me uphill to Piazzale Michelangelo, known not just for the statue of David, but also for a panoramic view of Florence, in particular The Duomo.
After having taken my fair share of photos, I couldn’t help but overhear an old man in conversation with a young traveller. Soon enough, our friend had a small audience, with me partly playing a translator! (since he spoke better French than English). So Marco had lived all his life in Florence and having retired, came to the square every evening and imparted a bit of knowledge of the place and its art, to those interested. Moreover, he took us to 2 quaint but different looking chapels further up the hill. As a result, I can now claim to know more about Renaissance and Gothic art than just their spellings.
Mexico and Adiga over Risotto
- I got to taste some exquisite ‘Kirsche liquer’ from Lisa, my German roommate who came from the village which grows some of the best cherries
- I shared the table with a Mexican girl who asked me tons of questions on India in relation to Arvind Adiga’s ‘White Tiger‘, which she was reading before I interrupted her. In exchange, I learnt why I might have to carry a gun if I ever visited her little town close to Mexico city. One of the most interesting and intelligent people I met, and we left without sharing any contact information!! Serendipity, maybe?
I’ll try to remember Rome as positively as I can. Well, what do you expect if you are struck by a severe flu, put up in a hostel dorm where teenage something’s (okay, they were probably 20 something’s) come every hour till 4am to the room to drink, because the pub below was expensive? Add to that, 5 days of travelling alone with 5 more to go!
Anyway, Stop 1 was The Vatican. After touring the Basilica, I halted at a corner of St. Peters square, sitting next to a touring group of Italian ladies. ‘Mammas’ evidently because of their age and loud animated conversations. They seemed to be on a religious ‘picnic’ and this was their lunch break. The ‘leader’ mamma opened neatly packed foils of Paninis one by one, and distributed them to the rest. And then she saw me watching them all (in amusement, but maybe she dint think so). So gives me one glance and lets loose a string of words in Italian with a sweet smile. I’d learnt some key words, two being “Mangiare” (to eat) and “carne” (meat) so when I figured that the sandwich had meat, I declined with a visual attempt at being grateful for her offer. Only that she looked at me scandalised, threw up her hands the italian way and said – Non carne??? Mamma mia!! A curious bystander then looks at me and says “she is really upset that you don’t eat meat. So what exactly do you eat ??”
(to be contd)