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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Mamma mia, this gotta be Italia! – Part 2

(contd. from earlier post)

The French Padre

And so, from the Vatican I made my way to the metro station to return to Rome and along, figured I had lost my way. And who should I ask but a young (and handsome, if He may) pastor for directions? Turned out that he was also on his way to the capital, and so we had a brief 10 minute walk where I learnt that he was actually French – a religious Frenchman, that’s a bit hard to believe – who obviously was happier answering the call of God in Italy.

To trim or not to trim

3 days in Rome passed by with a running nose, and seeing almost everything Rome had to offer – the Colosseum (stunning at night), Trevi fountain, the Spanish steps and the Pantheon. Then out of impulse, I did the weirdest thing – I went to a barber salon! Haircuts in Strasbourg are expensive, and after an enquiry, i figured that it was 75% cheaper! So, in Rome on my last evening, I communicated with the non-english speaking, Berlusconi-look alike barber in 5 italian words and a whole lot of actions and had a haircut that actually looked pretty cool 😉

Run, Vendor, run!

If you have been to Fashion Street in Mumbai where road-side vendors close shop and run at the sight of cops, this might strike a chord. Similar incidents happen in Italy, as I found out near the Vatican museum. After travelling through big cities in Europe where everything is orderly and people obey the law (in general), it was quite amusing to see vendors, selling fake Gucci’s and Rayban’s run from one end to another, and repeat the whole episode on a regular basis.

The bike ride

No guesses here! Papa G took me on a sexy bike ride across the streets of Naples and onto its posh neighbourhood as well! Sexy because it was a BMW bike. Ooh!

Papa G is the proprietor of a ‘hostel’ aptly named ‘Giovanni’s Home’ in Naples. His home was a blessing after 7 days of backpacking alone. He spent my first 30 minutes breaking some myths about Naples and its mafia and told me the places I should avoid. Thanks to him, I spent a wonderful day at the ruins of Ercolano and climbing up Mt. Vesuvius with 2 American girls who were on a short study-project. Back home for dinner and Papa G made us an excellent local specialty and we even dropped the girls to the airport. And on my final evening in Italy, not only did I get to sit on a fancy bike but was also treated to an excellent cioccolato-espresso at one of the popular cafes.

Lastly, I’d be erring on my part if I dint mention Sorbillo’s where I devoured the best pizza ever eaten. One huge Margherita in 5 minutes. Time to stop, or I’ll salivate my keyboard.

My 2 cents:

When some say Italy is all about food, they mean it. Don’t even dare return without having had a fair share of gelatos, paninis, pastas, pizzas, cappuccinos & espressos. And amidst all this gluttony, well, you can visit a few famed landmarks.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2012 in Italy

 

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Mamma mia, this gotta be Italia! – Part 1

Italy was the first big solo trip – 11 days in all. Something I’d been wanting to do for long. And now that it has been accomplished, thank you very much but no, not again!

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

Pasta

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!

Marco Polo

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

A complimentary dinner and wine at the hostel in Florence made me return to my room by 7pm. Which was not a bad thing because:

  1. 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
  2. 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?

Italian Mamma

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)

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2012 in Italy

 

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