A Bundle of Surprises & An Instagram Hello

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Ciao a tutti! Hello everyone!

This was quite a month for me. I was struggling with reading since long but I think I got my groove back. I finished three books and am reading the fourth one. There was also a lot of writing work accomplished which am glad about as it turned out to be quite fulfilling.

Also also, a much awaited decision was taken so a surprise coming your way  soon. Stay tuned!!🙂

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More happiness comes from this series of Instagram posts for you all. Enjoy and Salute!😉

Being a little color coordinated in Burano😉

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A #latergram of fun, food and endless talks.

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Buongiorno☕☕😍😍

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Piovere😍 Rain😍 #monsoon

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How was this month for you so far??

Still More Charming Italian Words that I Love

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This post is doubly special to me. One, because I have been learning the Italian language since close to a year now and these words that I share motivate me to learn more and do better each day, and two because it brings me closer to my audience and to the Italians.

Not only do I get encouraged by them whenever I speak even a small sentence (full of mistakes) but I also hear from a different section of people who don’t know the language at all but are curious to learn and share.

When this post on “Charming Italian Words” was started, I had no idea it would be so popular. Grazie Mille a tutti. Thank YOU very much everyone.

Continuing the series now, here are some more of my favorite Italian words. Hope you enjoy this list and learn some more from my meagre reading. Buona Lettura!

Sinistra: it means the direction Left.

Altretanto: love the sound of it. It means likewise.

Truccarsi: To put make up😉

Ecco: Here is, here are, there is, there are..

Fazzoletto: Handkerchief. Never has a word been prettier.

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Garbuglio: Just like it’s name it means muddle.

Zerbino: Doormat. Very cute isn’t it?

Smeraldo: It means the jewel Emerald. Quite easy and lovely.

Bacio: A peck of kiss❤ need I say more??

Ciccione: Fat and chubby😀 Haha!

Bugiardo: A little liar😉

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Azzuro: The color Blue.

Abbastanza: Sufficient.

Pezzetto: Pieces.

Leggermente: Somewhat, lightly.

My favorites from the list are ciccone, leggermente (I want to use it often) and fazzoletto :) And yours?

The Walled Castle of Monteriggioni in Tuscany

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Spending a day in Florence in the summer can get to you because it is hot and crowded. Getting away from the crowds is essential I think.

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Oh Tuscany!

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Entrance to the town

I made decisions to first visit Fiesole and then the walled town of Monteriggioni near Siena. Past the rolling hills, cypress trees and wine tasting, there was the little town.

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Church of Santa Maria Assunta

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It was built in the 13th century and has a castle preserved since then. The army used to look at the enemies from afar in times of war from here. No wonder the town is walled.

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A Medieval well.

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On entering there is a small piazza with a Romanesque church. On another side a toursim office and a Bar and Cafe. Ristorante Il Posso is adorable and famous here and also happens to be the place I ate. With a great list of wine options and amazing Tuscan food (their steak is wow) this place should not be missed!

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Ristorante Il Posso

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Ciao

With a deeply alluring landscape and beautiful vistas, this quaint medieval town can become your favorite just as it did for me. There is little to see but more to take in.
How to reach:
Monteriggioni can be reached best by a car/bus if you are coming from Siena, Pisa or Florence. There are also several tours from Florence.

An Excursion to Monreale: The Sicily You Don’t Know

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Five days is enough to get a “feel” of a city and when I was in Palermo I felt the need to take a short break to see a new town. So I packed a small picnic box of an arancina (fried stuffed rice balls) and fruits and headed to catch a bus.

I decided to visit the small Sicilian town of Monreale. It was an easy bus ride costing EUR 1.5 (valid for 90 minutes) from Piazza Indipendenza. In about 15 minutes I was in the sleepy town of Monreale where it was lunch time and most of the shops were closed.

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Sleepy little Monreale

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Hello there!

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The Entrance of Monreale Cathedral

I took advantage of this time to see the much talked about Duomo di Monreale (Monreale Cathedral) which was built in 1174. Stunning!! Inside the cathedral I saw golden mosaics, tombs and crypts, which makes it one of the greatest living example of Norman architecture and art. A couple from Japan told me the cathedral was one of the most popular places to visit in Sicily, in fact the greatest monuments of Italy. Wow! I had no idea about that.

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Breathtaking!

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Mosaics made of pure gold

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The Cathedral was an awe inspiring work of art. You could gaze at those mosaics for ages. Unfortunately I had no guide or reference material with me that time. Nevertheless I enjoyed my visit.

Afterwards, I wandered in the streets to look for a place to eat when I chanced upon a cute Osteria. There was a lovely space to relax and eat outside and it was a perfect spot for a long lazy lunch!

Monreale is such a small town that you could cover it in a few hours. I enjoyed a walk to see views of Palermo from a garden. It was such a good find and definitely worth a day’s trip.

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My lovely lunch spot

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Love the green outgrowth

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Thirsty?

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Park views

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Palermo from Monreale

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Hope you enjoyed this post of the Sicily You Don’t Know Series.

Walking in Palermo’s Centro Storico

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The Centro Storico (historic centre) of Palermo is a lot quieter than most of the areas. Although it is filled with tourists like myself but there is a certain demeanor different from the rest of the city. It is a lot similar to the Rashtrapati Bhavan area in Delhi- quieter, clean and green while the rest stands abuzz with activity.

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Duomo di Palermo

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Unique Architecture

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My first stop in the centro storico is Duomo di Palermo (Palermo Cathedral). Lined with ancient palm trees and neat streets, the cathedral is gorgeous!

It’s entrance includes a famous portico that was made in the 16th century. The Arab Norman baroque styled Duomo is stunning inside out. There is an entry ticket to the cathedral (but of course this is Europe) and if you want to climb the narrow tower to get a view of the city from above pay EUR 5. The duomo includes several jewels of the 16th century which are called the “treasures of the cathedral”.

There is also a crypt area inside which has tombs of the royal Normans (I found it too eerie hence did not venture there).

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Isn’t it amazing?

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Magnificent Porticoes

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After a visit to the beautiful Duomo, I walked a long street. It had everything from local shops of Sicilian cuisine, street food to small bookstores and endless souvenir shops. After a 30 minutes walk (I stopped a lot, it takes only 10 minutes otherwise) I reached another part of the historic area.

This area is called the Quattro Canti, simply a junction where four (quattro) roads lead to four different areas of the city. These are four historic areas of Palermo. Quattro Canti is full of sculptors and fountains commissioned by the Spanish Viceroy in 1611. It is well worth a stop for some photography and remains to my favorite part of the historic centre. I kept going back to it daily.

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Next to the Quattro Canti in the Kalsa district is the stunning Pretoria fountain. It needs half an hour only for gazing😉 What a work of art! Also perfect to cool you off on a hot summer day.

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The Pretoria Fountain

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Palermo has a rich and unique history but sadly gets sidelined due to other cities in Italy. There were many churches in the historic centre that I visited and also several bookshops. However I wasn’t clicking pictures all the time😉

Useful Information:

-for a quick know how of the city take the Hop On Hop Off bus.

-Getting around in Palermo is manageable by foot. Get a good Map of the city🙂

Swiss Airways caters travel to Palermo from India with a layover at Zurich airport. I found it to be the cheapest compared to other airlines flying from India.

-Palermo Card for 72 Hours card is useful to see the main attractions of the city and get admission in the many museums and cathedrals.

-Language is not a barrier in Italy as compared to other European countries. So many Italians know English and if they don’t, they will always find someone to help you when you are stuck.

-For any information and bookings on Sicily contact VisitPalermo & VisitSicily. They are super helpful, quick to revert and easy on your pocket. I guarantee you they will suggest you the best of Palermo and Sicily🙂

Palermo: An Introduction to the Sicily You Don’t Know

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One fine winter evening I was chatting about Italy with my friend Margie when I was asked whether I have been to Sicily or not. My answer was No. I knew nothing about the island except that it was the key to knowing more of Italy, that without Sicily my travels to Italy were meagre, small, niente.

As Goethe rightly said, To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything.”

This triggered my contact with VisitPalermo -a team of enthusiastic locals from Palermo who together promote tourism for their city and region. Founder and Owner, Maurizio Giambalvo, whom I later met in Palermo, had already asked me a couple of times to make that Sicilian vacation in the coming months and that talk with Margie set me off immediately.

Maurizio’s VisitPalermo and VisitSicily are everything you dream from a Sicilian vacation-from day tours, cooking courses to workshops, places to eat/stay etc. I knew I was in the best hands for my trip and in exactly 4 months after all the planning I hopped on a flight to explore the city of Palermo.

I reached Palermo to pleasant weather (pleasant because I was coming from India) and reached my swanky duplex apartment booked by the lovely staff of VisitPalermo. It was right in the centre, a 7 minute walking from the main street and hub of life- Piazza Politeama and Teatro Garibaldi. I had my own kitchen and a decorative balcony from where I would sip my coffee and see the buzz of the city. I could visit the historical side of the city along with the buzzing nightlife and shopping streets walking in about 10 minutes. It was five nights of bliss that I had in Palermo and I couldn’t be more pleased🙂

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Piazza Politeama

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Teatro Garibaldi

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Palermo is not like any Italian city you have ever imagined. It is much like India – chaotic and beautiful at the same time especially with its multi cultural heritage. I bet not many of you would know that Palermo was ruled by the Normans, Romans, Byzantines, Spanish and the Arabs which also answers a lot about the unique architecture of the city- gothic, baroque, Arabic, Norman etc.

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Ape

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Love these stands at every corner- much like India

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Church of San Domenico

DSC06725DSC06945Palermo is everything together- crazy, beautiful, wounded, colorful and magnificent. I can’t wait to share more of the city in the coming posts.

Say hello to the Sicily you don’t know🙂

Castello di Montegiove- Umbria’s Best Kept Secret

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Castello di Montegiove (Castle of Montegiove) is situated in the province of Montegabbione in Umbria. Owned and run by Lorenzo Misciattelli and his family since four centuries. The 13th century castle is perched on a hill top facing the stunning Apennine mountains.

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The Misciattelli family made their own wine of which the main products are Umbrian Rosso and Orvietano Rosso. I was given a guided tour of the grounds and wine making facility by Lorenzo. His estate consists of 1200 hectares of Umbrian land including several vineyards.

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I also learnt the process of making the wine making in their wine cellar where thousands of bottles of wine were stored. It was followed by a grand wine tasting!

There was plenty to purchase too!😉

My choice was Orvietano Rosso- a fresh and fruity red wine, comparatively younger compared to others.

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Afterwards I met Lorenzo’s lovely wife Rikki and we spoke of India and Italy quite a bit. I could see her passion for the land and Lorenzo’s attention to detail. Thanks to both of them I learnt so much more about Umbria‘s history. It is commendable to see how the Italians treasure their heritage and take pride in showing it.

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The castle and its surroundings give the impression of being right out the pages of a medieval fantasy novel (Harry Potter for me). What is even better is that there are two beautiful and luxurious apartments created around the castle grounds by Lorenzo and Rikki. It is picturesque and perfect for an Italian holiday that one would seek in the Umbrian countryside. Old olive mills and vineyards galore!

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Castello di Montegiove from afar on a cloudy day

Grazie mille Lorenzo and Rikki for your hospitality and warmth. It is an honour for me to be their first guest from India!

Useful Information:

To see more images of the castle grounds and facilities check here.

Best way to reach Castello di Montegiove is by car. It is just a 50 minutes drive from major towns such as Perugia and Orvieto. For more information visit the website.

An Instagram Hello & Shout Out- Part III

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Ciao a tutti! Hello everyone!

Hope you enjoy a selection of pictures from my Instagram this month. Would love to hear your favorites🙂

Blue cheese pizza with negroamaro- red wine of Puglia🍕🍷

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Marina di Miramare⚓⛵🚣🚤

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Streets of Ljubljana, Slovenia

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🌝🏊 the colors of Polignano and an innocent child.

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Those hunger pangs have a solution on the Roman streets 😉

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Classic Vienna✨

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My Monday blues😉

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Sunday morning breakfast – Home made pancakes 😍

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Needs no introduction. Yes, the Colloseum!😎 #huffpostitagram

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Love these cute little balconies😍

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Fairy Tale Alberobello in the Itria Valley

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In my past posts you would have read about Gio and Francesco from Green Italy Tours (picture below) who very happily showed me around Puglia. One of my favorite places that I visited with them was the adorable town of Alberobello.

UNESCO World Heritage Site since the year 1996, Alberobello is a fairy tale town in the Itria Valley of Puglia. The entire town is dotted with little cone shaped homes called “Trullo” (plural: Trulli) which makes it a very popular tourist destination. See for yourself🙂

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Santi Medici Church

DSC05841I walked around the town and saw the Hobbit type homes and shops lined with neat colored pots of flowers and creepers. The locals were warm and welcomed us to their shops to showcase hand made products. I bought two sets of beautiful hand made table mats for home along wiith a few postcards.

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It was enchanting to be in a town like Alberobello where people were going about their normal life. For instance I heard a couple fighting about the way lunch was made from inside a trullo. It wasn’t pleasant to the ears😉

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Church of Sant Antonio

Next time my wish is to spend a night in a “Trullo” and feel like a Hobbit😀

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More Charming Italian Words that I Love

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I have been learning Italian for about a year now and over the course of time I have not only learnt and read many words but also loved them. Many of my random favorite words were initially part of this post few months ago.

Today I have another list for you🙂

Nebbia: fog

Ringraziare: thank/acknowledge

Sforzarsi: Just as you struggle to pronounce it, I struggle too. The meaning of the word is struggle or endeavour.

Pochino: a tiny bit. I find this word very cute somehow.

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Capolavoro: masterpiece

Zanzara: mosquito

Meraviglioso: marvelous

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Soprattutto: above all/mostly

Boh: I don’t know/care

Attraversare: to cross

Tantissimo: very much

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An Instagram Hello & Shout Out- Part II

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Ciao everyone!🙂

I recently went to my hometown- Simla. It’s a beautiful hill top city in the Himalayas. Sharing some pictures from my Instagram page. Hope you enjoy them along with the rest🙂

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Buongiorno from Simla 🌻

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Admiring Palermo😍

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This shot is from the Hohensalzburg Castle in Salzburg- one of the largest medieval castles in Europe.

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I may not be there yet, but I'm closer than I was yesterday 💕

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Buongiorno! ☕ Wish me luck guys I have my Italian exam coming up!😞😃

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Color coordinating with nature ✔😁🙆😍🍀

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Any favorites??🙂

Visiting Ostuni: La Città Bianca

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I was hunting for day tours in Puglia just before my trip. I found a travel company called “Green Italy Tours” and contacted them through email. The owner- Giovanni Fasano was quick to respond back and asked me what I would like to see in Puglia. After a few mails back and forth we agreed we will start the journey with Ostuni. Known as the White City or La Città Bianca, Ostuni is a sight that I will not forget for a long time.

Gio and I left Lecce for Ostuni. After about an hour, from afar I saw an amalgamation of white houses on a hill top. It was Ostuni. And it was surreal. Akin to a painting.

We stopped for some pictures but I don’t think any of them would do justice. After a steep climb (thankfully we were driving) and halt at Green Italy Tour’s office, Gio being the kind gentlemen that he is, got me a cornetto from the bar and also took me to show his office.

I met his staff members- two very sweet ladies. One of them, Francesca, was from Ostuni and was joining to show me the town with Gio. I immediately hit it off with her and it was special being with her throughout the day. I learnt so much about Italy and daily life and Italian words thanks to Gio’s excellent English and Francesca’s help. I didn’t feel that I had met them both of them only in the morning!

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The White City

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Love these potted plants

Meanwhile Ostuni was wonderful. White washed houses all around me provided a sense of  freshness and calmness. How different from the other towns I had seen. Our first stop in Ostuni was its piazza with its usual buzz after which we went to see its cathedral-Santa Maria Assunta. It was beautiful but a quick stop as it was lunch time by the time we reached.

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Daily Life

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Another favorite

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Santa Maria Assunta

It provided me more opportunities to click pictures of the white streets. Quite addictive really. One corner of Ostuni had the town with small shops, piazzas, trattorias and bars while the other side showed the sea far away with its quiet glamour calling out to me.

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Do You See the Sea?

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I loved the white houses with its neatly displayed potted plants and beautiful lace curtains. A woman selling hand made kitchen accessories had such a sweet voice that my small conversation with her lingered on for hours, while another man selling fruits in a corner shop had a smile that made me feel welcomed.

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How you are being missed, Ostuni. I wish I had stayed longer and walked those stark white streets and savoured a little more of the coolness of your alleys.

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One of the many posh restaurants where actors dine

A day in Ostuni wouldn’t have been possible without Green Italy Tours.  I owe a big thanks to Gio and his team for helping me make my day trip such a success! Gio, I hope I can visit your hometown in Puglia next time. Stay tuned for more on Green Italy Tours and Puglia guys. And if you visit Puglia, you know Gio is only an email away🙂

Disclaimer: I received a discount in exchange for a blog post for this day tour but as always the opinions here purely my own. 

An Afternoon in Gallipoli

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Its convenient to base yourself at one place and take day trips from there. In Lecce one such day trip that I made was to the town of Gallipoli.

I was initially a little doubtful using the local train service of Puglia, (not the national service which is Trenitalia) however after confirming from a couple of locals which reinstated my faith, I hopped onto a mini version of a toy train to reach Gallipoli. Let me tell you that the train looked as if it was never polished or painted in years😉 But it was on time and there were no problems at all.

The journey took about an hour and gave the real taste of the Puglian countryside. I passed through olive groves and semi barren land while reading a book that I was hoping to finish. I reached when the sun was very strong. However, that did not dampen my spirits in any way.

I was very curious to see the seaside town of Gallipoli which was full of pastel colored homes. The smell of the sea was very inviting and walking past a lovely harbour reflected the town’s charm.

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I made my way to the Centro Storico (historical centre) and I could hardly see any tourists around. It seemed I had the little town to myself🙂

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Moving further, I saw the influence of baroque architecture just as I had seen in Lecce. I was in awe.

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Gallipoli was just adorable. There were shops lined with local Pugliese produce- sandals, wine, food and olive oil, several type of sauces, seafood, souvenirs etc.. I passed by narrow alleys where I could hear locals talking, cooking and just relaxing. (I could hardly understand anything as they were so fast)

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It was almost 1:30 when I realized that it must be time for everyone to head home for lunch and take their siesta. I longed for a warm bowl of pasta and some local wine but soon forgot all about my hunger pang when I caught a glimpse of the ocean in front of me. It made me feel alive again.

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A long walk to then find the perfect place for pranzo (lunch) and I was happy. Gallipoli’s warm sea was so inviting that I didn’t mind the scorching sun on me.

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What do you think about Gallipoli?? Would love to know your thoughts.

An Instagram Hello & Shout Out

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Ciao a tutti! Hello Everyone!🙂

Just thought of posting a couple of pictures from my Instagram account. I know a lot of you are not there so thought it would be worth adding them here.

For the rest of you on Instagram, do hit a Follow or give a Shout Out🙂 Comment below when you do, so that I can follow back!

Hope you enjoy these top 5 pictures from my current Trip to Italy:

Pretty corners of #Rome. #italianlandscape #tv_living #myeuropenyt #doorsofitaly

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My Audrey Hepburn moment in #Rome 🙌🙈😍😁🏃 #darlingescapes

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This is the seaside town of Polignano a mare. One of my favorite places in #Puglia 🙌💜 #lpmi

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Visual chronicles in Rome.

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Which one is your favorite?😀

A Promenade in Lecce with Espressino Travel

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As I write this post, I remember a magical evening spent with Lili and Robert in Lecce. The lovely couple form part of Espressino Travel– a boutique company that specializes in tours in the region of Puglia (both Group and Private).

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I met them at Piazza Sant’ Oronzo – the centre of town in Lecce. Both immediately made me feel comfortable in their presence and explained me the history of the Salento while we walked around the Column of Saint Oronzo- the patron saint of Lecce.

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Piazza Sant’Oronzo

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Sant’ Oronzo   (Image credits: Wikipedia)

We then went to one of the most acclaimed bars of the town – Bar Avio where I was privileged to try the famous “Caffe in Ghiaccio” -coffee with sweet almond iced milk. Absolutely delizio!

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At work

We were only 2 seconds at the bar and it seemed Lili and Robert knew everyone in town. It was their sweet home and I could see their passion for the town and the warmth for the people when they met them. Every time they would meet someone, they would also share a little anecdote about about how they had known them or who those people were. One such incident was when we bumped into a painter they had known. It was a treat to visit his studio and see the talent behind beautiful maps of the Salento region. (sadly I don’t have pictures) Check more here.

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Later we went to see the Teatro Romano which I was pretty familiar with because I had seen it in an episode of Italy Unpacked. There is something about these Roman theatres isn’t it? Well this one is really special as it also holds concerts in the summer and goes on to the very top of my wishlist now. I really want to attend one!

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Teatro Romano

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More walking around and lot of churches and names which I don’t remember completely. I felt the need to have something sweet and Robert was quick to read my mind😉 We went to one of the many bars in the town- (but not just any, as the duo sure know their way to the best ones) to try more unique flavors of Puglia with its famous Pasticciotto-a crisp pastry filled with the goodness of custard..Yumm!

I love it when I say Pasticciotto. Its so beautiful❤

We ate so much, actually I did most of it, but thankfully the walking sure made up for it. Robert and Lili are fabulous at their job, they showed me around Lecce from its famous piazzas to its hidden corners. We whizzed past quaint bookshops, pretty trattorias and baroque churches.

One of my favorite stops was the Basilica di Santa Croce. What a sight it was! The detailing of each and every facade from the rose windows to strange figures to griffins and lions, I was smitten. I think I easily stood there for 10 minutes just to take it all in. I was gaping. Robert and Lili did tell me that every time they come to the church they see something new, something different.

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Basilica di Santa Croce (Image Credits: Wikipedia)

All in all, it turned out to be such a fantastic evening. Towards the end of our 3 hour walk was a HUGE surprise. Food of course! A big slice of pizza from Pizza & Co– a favorite spot for Lili and Robert and also one of the highest rate places of Lecce.

Owned by two brothers from Napoli, Pizza & Co is where they pour their heart into the food. Trust me I have had a lot of pizzas in Italy and otherwise, but nothing beats this one. I am salivating just thinking about it.

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A slice of heaven!

It was wonderful experience learning about the history of Salento from my very passionate and enthusiastic tour guides. I could see from the very start of the walk how much in love with Lecce they were. Grazie mille Robert and Lili. I am immensely grateful to you both for making Lecce and Puglia so very special for me. Those little tips and things to do helped me make my travel so smooth. And I hope you know I will be back again and we have a vino due together😉

Follow Espressino on their Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages. I especially love this podcast by SavoringItaly.

Warmth in the South at Palazzo Rollo

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Last year when I was in Italy I met fellow blogger and author-Victoria De Maio of PostcardZfromVictoria. Her vibrant and friendly personality coupled with her passion for Italy, immediately got us talking about everything from Italy to India to yoga and books. Needless to say we struck a friendship for a lifetime. After more chit chatting, I learnt that Victoria takes group tours to Puglia twice a year (from this year also to Liguria). When she mentioned Puglia I thought to myself, “Puglia? Where might that place be?”

Believe me, being an Italophilie myself, I had little or no idea about Puglia.

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#VespaDispatch

I came back to India and thoroughly read Victoria’s blog and saw through her eyes the glorious region of Puglia which forms the southern eastern part of Italy.

Puglia enticed me completely with its white washed towns, stunning coastline, olive trees and trulli houses. The more I read about it, the more I wanted to be there. But I wasn’t really sure when I could go and if I could go at all. So I kept the plan aside and let the universe conspire it🙂

And then it happened.

I traveled to Puglia in April this year🙂 It was one of my most precious trips to Italy and also my very first to the South. It is like a whole other country in down there. For starters, Puglia had me with its very friendly people, unmatchable delicious food, baroque towns and winding streets.

My love affair started with the baroque town of Lecce.

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Oh the baroque!

In Lecce, I was to stay at Palazzo Rollo‘s Fanfulla rooms but when I reached via train from Rome, groggy and tired, I found Fanfulla rooms closed owing to lunch time. (Mostly in the south from 2pm-4pm a lot of places shut down for lunch)

I called Palazzo Rollo and the owner-Elena, a very cool and kind lady with whom I had earlier corresponded, told me that they had upgraded my stay from Fanfulla rooms to Palazzo Rollo. I was ecstatic!😀

A 17th century palace, which is now converted to a B&B, the Palazzo is where Elena grew up with her family. I was impressed with its simplistic yet traditional furniture. My very traditional room on the second floor had a lobby with a drawing room and a private kitchen. Elena and her staff were very helpful and gave me insider tips while chatting about my love for Italy. I immediately struck a friendship with Elena and Simona– one of the staff members. It was also the start to a wonderful Southern Italian journey- so warm, beautiful and clear hearted. I felt blessed to be among such friendly people.

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Elena and Simona.

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While in Lecce, I made the most of my stay in Palazzo Rollo. Located right in the middle of the town, I could come and go as many times as I wanted as I was just 5 minutes away from all the main attractions. During the day when it was too hot, I would come back to take a nap. The mornings at the Palazzo were pampering with fresh breakfast of delicious Italian pastries, cold cuts, juices, coffee and fruits.

On one of the days I had a lovely evening on the terrace which had a fantastic view of the bell town of the town’s Duomo (cathedral). It made me feel as if I was trapped in time.

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Campanile del Duomo di Lecce

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I will not forget this special stay at Palazzo Rollo and thank Elena and her team for making my stay so special. I hope to be back soon again.

Grazie mille, amici❤

Disclaimer: I was a guest at Palazzo Rollo but the opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Back from Italy to Real Life

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I am back from 3 wonderful weeks of travel and cannot stop smiling when I think of my wonderful trip. Needless to say it was one of my most precious travels to Bel Paese. There is something extremely special about that place that just makes it better and better every time❤

Now as promised to all you lovely readers, I will be sending a small package as a THANK YOU to whoever correctly (and most quickly) guessed the region I traveled to J

I received a LOT of comments (which you can see here) and have interesting ideas for my next trip thanks to you all now😉 but the person to answer the correct region first was Darlene. She guessed Sicily right away and that was one of the regions I went to! Congratulations Darlene, so nice to be in touch with you through wordpress and Yay for your little package. Please email me your address at ishitatravel@gmail.com.

For everyone else who answered Sicily and Puglia (the other region I went to) a BIG Thank You!

Keep following along as there will be many posts and travel ideas for you from me. For Italy and beyond….!

Cin Cin!

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Book Spotlight: The Winemakers by Jan Moran

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Today I’d like to throw light on a book about strong female characters, deep history and detailed plot lines..and oh of course there is wine..!


 

Book Description:

The Winemakers by Jan Moran is a story of Caterina Rosetta who inherits a cottage in the countryside of Italy from a grandmother she’s never known. Thereafter, she discovers a long-buried family secret that threatens the future of everything her mother has worked for. She realizes her happiness will depend on revealing the truth of her mother’s buried past. Then an old murder comes to light that could destroy the man she loves and Caterina realizes her happiness will depend on revealing the truth of her mother’s buried past.

Buy the book:   Amazon  ~   Barnes & Noble  ~   Kobo  ~  Chapters  ~  Books-a-Million  ~   Book Depository   ~  iBooks

About the Author:

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Jan Moran is a Rizzoli bestselling and award winning author. She writes historical women’s fiction for St. Martin’s Press (Scent of Triumph, The Winemakers), contemporary women’s fiction (Flawless, Beauty Mark, Runway), and nonfiction books (Vintage Perfumes, Fabulous Fragrances). She likes to talk to readers at www.janmoran.com and on social media.

Connect with the author:  Website   Twitter   Pinterest   Facebook   Instagram

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This post is part of the Italy Book Tour program.

Happy Birthday Rome!

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Rome celebrates its 2769th birthday today! Happy Birthday Rome!🙂

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What makes it different from the other Italian cities? Rome is antique, its gorgeous, its romantic, its ancient, its one of a kind but most of all its Eternal!

Founded in 753 BC by twins Romulus and Remus, Rome happens to be one of the most visited cities in the world while the gigantic Colosseum is one of the most visited monuments of the country.

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Rome has a fascinating and rich history which can be seen around you everywhere. Turn any corner and find yourself around an antique shop, sprawling fountains or a beautiful park. This 3000 year old city (almost) has ancient relics and artifacts everywhere.

As you turn a corner or a visit a gorgeous alley full of bougainvillea, you will notice a sculptor you would have never thought could exist there. Which also proves the point that Rome really wasn’t built in a day!;)

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I wish I was in the Caput Mundi right now to see how the Romans celebrate the birthday of one of the oldest cities of the world.

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Reuniting With Italy, Again!

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Ciao a tutti! Hello to everyone!

Each one of you knows how much I love and adore Italy. I miss it the day I leave from there and try to travel at any opportunity I get. To satiate my wanderlust, I try to return to the country every year. I’m so excited and elated to share it with you all that my dream of visiting Italy in 2016 has finally become a reality….I’m visiting the Bel Paese again:D

*does a little dance*

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In the hope of practicing a little Italian and explore new places, I move this time to a region of the country that I know very little about.

The excitement is uncanny. It is slowly sinking in. Everything is done and planned. Now only a few sleeps separate me and Italy.

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I can’t wait to be united with my Italy, to feel most at home, to enjoy a passeggiata (evening walk), to eat fresh gelato, to visit an ornate café for a caffe, to meet more locals, to buy books on Italian literature, to devour fresh tagliatelle. Ah the list goes on!

Here I come once again Italy- to meet you, greet you, love you, explore you. I can’t wait to touch down and experience the goosebumps of hearing Italian around me. I can’t wait to be near the country I love so much. A presto, Italia❤

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Meanwhile, stay tuned for many lovely adventures and keep following me on my social media pages (on your right side).

SURPRISE!

I have a special something to the first person who guesses where I am heading to. Tell me the name of the region/regions that you think I am going to😉 The first person to answer will win! Waiting!

Happy April Fool’s Day/Buon Pesce d’Aprile

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Happy April Fool’s Day to everyone!😀 Buon Pesce d’Aprile a tutti!😀

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April Fool’s Day is not just an American concept, we have it here in India too. All in good spirit! But what I really love is the fact how everything in Italy is a little different- whether it is a Epiphany Eve (Buona Befana) or Easter (Pasqua) or April fool’s day (Pesce d’Aprile).

Today the country is in fun and relaxed spirits (almost as always). Jokes and fun pranks are quite common. Pesce d’Aprile (pesce means fish) basically involves putting a paper cutout of a fish on someone’s else back. The victim is then asked if he/she has seen “April’s fish”. The victim is obviously oblivious to what has happened and answers till he/she realizes the fish cutout on their back ;) 

There’s a good laugh! I love how light-hearted and cute this prank is!

Do you do anything fun today? Any memories associated with April Fool’s Day?🙂

 

 

My Umbrian Wanderlust in Le Ginestre Greppolischieto

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Do you have a secret place in Italy that you love but wouldn’t want anyone to know about? Well I do. But its time I share it with you!

Situated just 45 minutes away from Assisi and Perugia, Le Ginestre Greppolischieto is a small medieval borgo with only two inhabitants. Yes just two! Really hard to believe but its true.

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This picturesque village was a rather unexpected find for me. I had no prior planning or knowledge to visit this borgo.

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Greppolischieto is extremely charming. It boasts a tiny piazza at the entrance which has preserved the names of soldiers who died in the war. The names dated back to 1919 and 1923 and it felt special and warm just thinking how the villagers had commemorated the small piazza for them.

An old couple who are now the only inhabitants of this borgo, work hard to keep the place tidy and beautiful. There are no cafes or trattorias here, only uninhabited homes and lost stories. Of course you will also find typical potted plants that are symbolic of Italian homes along with endless view of the Umbrian countryside.

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IMG_20150516_160828The beauty of this borgo is hard to describe, immensely enchanting and yet hauntingly beautiful (especially late evening). It is undoubtedly one of the most special corners that I visited in Umbria and will always stay close to my heart.

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Hope you enjoy and absorb these pictures of the wonderful village of Greppolischieto as much as I did. Aren’t unexpected findings the best? What do you think?

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How to reach– Greppolischieto can be reached by car on the route to Citta del Pieve or Castello Montegiove from Perugia. I found two very useful articles on this borgo by Delicious Italy and Hen House Umbria. Happy Reading!

A Walk Around Ljubljana: 7 Pictures for Instant Wanderlust

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By the Ljubljanica river

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Old Town

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Pretty Eating Options

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Can I spend my evening here?

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What a lovely day for a stroll!

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Passing by

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Do I hear a roar or a growl?

La Scarzuola: An Umbrian Hub of Mystery & Eccentricity

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 Located in the Montegabbione area of Umbria, La Scarzuola is a Franciscan convent and a complex made by a Milanese architect- Tomaso Buzzi.

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Citta Ideale

Buzzi bought La Scarzuola in 1957 and began restoring it to create an “Ideal City” (Città Ideale).The complex is nothing but a result of a series of hundreds of sketches that Buzzi made. The place was built and rebuilt after which it collapsed and re-done countless times.

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The entrance

But what is the Ideal City? I wonder.

Buzzi wanted to create a city that shows the ideal path of life to each individual. For me, it was unusual, quirky, imaginative yet hard to understand. The place is strange and requires a guide to take it all in.

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My lovely guide- Brian

I was lucky to be with Brian- an Australian who loved the place so much that he converted and settled in La Scarzuola and has been living since the past 20 years. Brian filled me with the history from Buzzi’s time. He told me that after Buzzi passed away in 1981 his nephew Marco Solari and Brian himself redid the gardens.

La Scarzuola consists of 7 theaters:

Theatre of Apollo

Theatre of Diana

Theatre of Bees

Theatre of the Ideal City

Theatre of the Big Lawn

Amphitheatre

Tower of the Babble

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Tower of the Babble

La Scarzuola as you can see from the pictures is nothing like any place I have seen yet. There is a certain eeriness in the grounds even though I went during the day. Maybe it was because it was in a secluded area of Umbria. Or maybe the architecture and the mystery behind it got me thinking so. The lush green Umbrian countryside certainly did not help me there.

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La Scarzuola is lesser known among tourists and I’d suggest you to visit pronto before it gets run down by mass tourism. I could visit the place in a heartbeat and more eager to see it at night.

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From the other side

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Eeriness at its peak

How to Reach:

La Scarzuola should be booked via email through their website. There are guides in English and Italian both that will show you the interesting complex and its gardens for EUR 10. The place can be best accessed by car.

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Place of rest

Lake Bled- Out of Grimms’ Fairy Tale

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I remember going through pictures of Slovenia before visiting it this summer. Lake Bled, one of the most popular tourist destinations of Slovenia, evoked a sense of fantasy, as if it was a place right out of a Grimms’ fairy tale. Located in the town of Bled, Lake Bled is only an hour and a half drive’s from the capital city of Ljubljana and an easy day trip.

I reached the town of Bled quite early in the morning to use the entire day to my advantage. The view left me breathless! I was astounded by the emerald green colour of the lake and the small island in the middle. Lake Bled is a really right out of a fairy tale that houses a beautiful church along with stunning views of the Julian Alps.

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I hovered around the area, clicked probably a hundred pictures of Bled and relaxed myself on a bench. It was truly a sight to behold and one that ignites inspiration, romanticism and creativity.

The entire area of the lake is laden with caffes and tourist activities not to forget a casino, a mini train for the kids and an Irish pub. It is easy to grab a bite and sit in one of the caffes and continue walking along the course of the lake. A must eat from the Bled is the popular Bled Cream Cake- which is literally a slice of heaven and droolsome! Then there is also the medieval Castle of Bled, perched on a hilltop.

Although almost every other person hikes to the castle, I chose to give it a miss and instead just wandered around the circumference of the lake. It turned out to be the best and most ideal way to see the lake and also quiet simple. Only a 5 km walk gave me the best views of Bled as I got nearer. If one is spending a day in Lake Bled, it is good to see the better of Bled with a traditional “pletna” ride (maximum of 8 people for EUR 12 each) and visit the Church of Assumption. It is also possible to rent a personal pletna to make it more relishing.

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The Church of Assumption is very charismatic with 14th century frescoes along with a very famous “wishing bell”. According to a legend, anyone who rings the bell gets their wishes fulfilled. Worth a shot, I’d say!

Murano: The Island With the Glass Making

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Whenever I think of Veneto, the first place that comes to my mind is Venice. With Venice comes its narrow alleys and bridges, handsome gondoliers, romantic canals and stunning piazzas. Another thing that comes to mind with it are the islands that complete the Venetian lagoon.

Murano is one such charming island which I had the chance to visit twice. Famous for its glass making, Murano is an easy vaporetto ride from Venice. While I won’t bore you with history, I should tell you how fun it is to see glass being made in front of you. There are no tours required here, its free of charge, all you have to do is reach Murano😉

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Murano

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From the vaporetto

Once in Murano, find a glass making factory (there are quite a few) and enjoy the experience. I was astounded by the patience and friendliness of the glass makers. The factory that I entered had a small workshop with a huge showroom next door. After seeing the glass making process (check the horse below) I whiled away some time in the nearby showroom.

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A Horse Exquisitely Made

There were so many beautiful glass objects to buy- chandeliers, vases, souvenirs and jewellery.. Everything was great but very heavily priced as the Murano glass is very special, exquisite therefore expensive.

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Glass bead jewellery

I enjoyed the experience in all and later walked around the quaint island where the locals were going for their caffe.

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Love the detailing

Have you been to Murano? Any special memories?🙂

Charming Italian Words that I Love

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Over the course of few months, I have read many beautiful Italian words. But some have stayed with me more than the others. What I love most about these words is how lovely they are and how musical they sound when I speak them. Stupefacente!

Here are a few of my favorites (so far) along with their meanings:

allora: It is one of my favorite words but it is difficult to explain its meaning. It means “well”, “so” or “then”. Love the way Italians use it ever so often in every sentence.

arancione: this means the color orange. Love the way when I speak it😉

prego: The all purpose word which means “welcome”, “come in”, “after you” “not at all”

abbiocco: isn’t this word so beautiful? It means the the drowsiness after eating a big meal.

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menefreghismo: Ha! This word is badass. It means I couldn’t care less!

magari: this is a dreamy word. It means I wish or if only it was true…

vattene: go away!

chiacchierare: this word is just like it sounds- chatty and gossipy.

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sbocciare: Again I love the way it sounds. The word means to bloom🙂

pioggia: rain❤

trasecolare: Very musical. It means to be dumbfounded.

P.S.- My most favorite words of the lot are pregochiacchierare, allora and magari😀 Tell me yours?

Ascending 463 Steps to Florence’s Duomo- A Photo Journey

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Elaborate shades of white, pink and green

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Peekaboo

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Breathtaking city view

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Amongst others

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Red roofs galore

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Rains don’t ruin this view

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Ciao Firenze!

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Bellissima!

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#YourFlorence

Did you enjoy the climb with me??🙂

An Evening in Florence with BonAppetour!

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Have you heard of BonAppetour?? It is a great platform that helps meet travellers and locals. Locals from a particular town/city become host to travellers for lunch/dinner and offer them an “authentic” experience. All one needs to do is find whether the city they are travelling to that has BonAppetour hosts, and then just register and book.

During my last trip to Italy I booked a dinner with Andrea and his wife Giovanna, locals from Florence, Italy. I had no idea what to expect in terms of food quality, ambiance or experience. It definitely felt strange to just knock on a some stranger’s door and start eating with them. But it was also very new and different. I was certain that I wanted to dine in an Italian house to experience their culture and habits more. So I booked without thinking much.

I arrived at Andrea and Giovanna’s house to warm smiles and a large bowl of homely pumpkin risotto. Giovanna was very kind and even asked me if I wanted the recipe.

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They served me wine with the meal, both sweet and fizzed along with fresh salad. We chatted quite a bit and Andrea told me that the tomatoes in the salad were brought from the farms in the Tuscan countryside.

Andrea knew English quite well and was very informative as well as curious about the Indian culture. Giovanna was quiet and spoke more in Italian. She was very talented and loved cooking. I learnt that she was a trained singer so she put her favorite music on the computer just to have me listen to it and even invited me to a concert the next day where she was singing. Unfortunately I was leaving Florence the next morning so could not make it.

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Both of them made sure I ate well. After the salad came the grilled fish which made me pretty full. I skipped the usual coffee after the meal and instead agreed on dessert. Chocolate mousse and strawberries dipped in wine! Who would say no to that?! 🙂

Andrea and Giovanna were great company. They were kind to drop me back to my hotel around 1030 p.m. I hope whenever I visit Florence again, I meet them again.

Thank you for making Florence even more special for me.

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Meanwhile, to all of you, Taste The World with BonAppetour!

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