Ten Favorite Books on Italy

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Buon Novembre! Happy November! 🙂

I am starting the month on a bookish note after a big festive season in India. Many a times I am asked to suggest books on “Italy” and often find myself confused because it is impossible to mention just one book.

Seriously the choices are plenty (not to mention fantastic) which is why it is really tough to pick one good book out of the universe. There are several good books on travel, art many on culture and history and even more on the perfect house in Tuscany 😉

Taking the inspiration further, I have come up with a list of top 10 books that came to my mind first. These are my favorite Italy reads and I hope they set the pace for anyone wanting to know more on Italy.

Divertiti! 🙂

1. Inspector Montalbano Series by Andrea Camilleri:

Crime, delicious food, fantastic scenery and hot Sicilian men, this book has it all. Camilleri’s books on Inspector Montalbano has made him one of the greatest Italian writers of the 21st century. I have already read a dozen of his translated works and hope that some day I can read the entire book in Italian Sicilian dialect. Needless to say, his books propelled me to visit Sicily in April this year. To know more about my travel read my post for The Local Italy here.

Region: Sicily.

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2. La Bella Lingua by Dianne Hales:

For those of you following my blog for a long time know that I am learning Italian since more than a year now. I regularly do a series on Charming Italian Words and many words come from this beautifully researched book by Dianne Hales. This isn’t just a language book but has stories, phrases and history of the Italian language. I cannot recommend it enough to anyone who is curious about Italian or to those who want to learn a new language. There is a great chapter on Dante too.

Region: Italy.

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3. Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr:

I have already gushed a little about this book before here and for those who haven’t read this post please do. Four Seasons in Rome is lyrical and poetic and is the author’s personal account of his struggles in Rome. It made me fall in love with the eternal city all over again and whether one has been there or not, his writing weaves a certain magic.

Region: Rome, Lazio

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4. The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa:

This book was one of my first few reads on Sicily but it was nothing like I expected. The Leopard documents Italy during the period of its unification or risorgimento. There is class and traditions among the noblemen of Sicily followed by aristocracy and power. It is a must read to up your game in the Italian literature section and easily makes it one of the top 10 books on Italian Literature.

Region: Sicily

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5. Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King:

Saw the latest movie Inferno?? Can’t stop thinking about this beautiful dome below? You are going for the right book. Ross King’s book on Filippo Brunelleschi’s beautifully created dome is intriguing and historical. Although there are a lot of engineering details, I still enjoyed the story of the paranoid Italian goldsmith who is one of the most famous names in the field of European architecture. The book highlights the hardships that he had to endure in the times of plagues and wars.

Region: Florence, Tuscany

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6. Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere by Jan Morris:

I love Trieste. This book by Jan Morris was recommended to me by an Italian lady in a quaint bookcafe of Trieste. It talks of the city’s troubled past and its moods and changeability. Trieste is a great memoir by Morris with a lot of history but her humurous and nostalgic way of writing doesn’t make it boring. It would make perfect sense to visit the town of Trieste after you have read this book or even before like me because that is how I got attracted to the city’s “nowhereness”.

Region: Trieste, Friuli Venezia Giulia

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7. In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri:

This book surprised me with passion. I not only devoured the book but also recommended it to many who in turn loved it. Jhumpa Lahiri could be easily writing my story on learning Italian 🙂 In Other Words will open your world to the world of knowing a new language. As Ms. Lahiri rightly says “When you live without your own language you feel weightless and, at the same time, overloaded. Your breathe another type of air, at a different altitude”.

Region: Rome, Lazio.

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8. The Neopolitan Series by Elena Ferrante:

You might have heard of this name in the news off late as privacy isn’t respected in the world any longer and that makes me very sad. Anyhow, I implore you to read The Neopolitan series but with an open mind. This isn’t the story such as a Tuscan Sun but a very gritty one of two friends. It highlights Italian crime, politics, history and complex relationships. Ferrante’s words are bold, effortless and brutal and one that made me cry. It is a must read for all you Italophiles out there.

Region: Naples, Campagnia; Pisa, Tuscany; Florence, Tuscany; Milan, Lombardia

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9. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco:

One of my very first Italy reads, The Name of the Rose is both a fabulous book and a movie. A murder mystery set in an Italian monastery in the hills of Piedmont, the story takes place in the Saint Michael’s Abbey which Umberto Eco had once visited. I’d suggest to pick this book first before starting anything else on Italy from this list.

Region: Piedmont

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10. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino:

How can one list books on Italy and not mention the genius Calvino? That would be blasphemy. Invisible Cities explores the travels and dialogues of Marco Polo and Kubail Khan. The cities are described with careful attention and magic that will capture your imagination. Quiet messages, ideas, city signs, images, prophetic warnings and human despair, this book is hypnotic. The only thing I would point out is that the prose is not like a usual book and is a little difficult to understand.

Region: Italy

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Have you read any of these books? I’d love to hear more “Italy specific” recommendations. Of course there are so many that didn’t make this list and maybe I can include them in a separate post.

 

Mercato di Capo: A Legendary Market of Palermo

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If you visit Palermo and do not venture to see its historic markets you probably haven’t seen the city. Food is an important part of the Italian cuisine hence there are vegetable stands everywhere in the streets. They are actually very well organized with shelves full of fresh produce. At home, I often visit the vegetable market whenever I can as I love the chatter and noise that surrounds them. Palermo reminded me of just that 🙂

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This color is beautiful

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The city actually has four historic markets that were established by the Arabs. I visited only one however- Mercato di Capo. Located behind Palermo’s popular shopping street next to Teatro Massimo, Capo is easy reach from most of the major sights.

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I didn’t dare take out my camera inside

When I reached in the morning, it was already bustling with people and colorful produce. Also, so much of Italians around me and Italian (the language) around me, sometimes loud, sweet, sing song and sometimes rude.

The market was really a sight. There was a huge amount of seafood display, (something that I don’t usually enjoy) locals trying to get the best of the Sicilian fish for their pranzo/cena, people trying to get the best bargain, a gang of ladies having fresh fruit at the side…

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A Happy Seller

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It was fun being in the centre of it all, not buying anything but just observing 😉 Loved the hustle and bustle. A stall of vegetables with purple cabbages caught my eye because I don’t get to see them so commonly in India. Also, the Sicilian tomatoes. My Oh my!! They were gleaming from afar. I couldn’t take my eyes off them!

It was great to be there and I soon busied myself with a big piece of Sfincione which is focaccia with olive oil, tomatoes, onions and pepper. Delicious! After that I got a small cup of strawberries and peaches which I absolutely devoured. One of my best days in Palermo that I will fondly remember.

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Sfincione: Oily, greasy and yumm!

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Parked outside

Location:

Via Porta Carini, Palermo.

Timings:

Monday- Sat: 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Sunday- 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Going Back in Time in Scicli

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While watching the Sicilian TV show “Inspector Montalbano“, I learnt that one of the major towns that the show was shot in was Scicli. So in Sicily I made sure to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site town. (pronounced as Sheek-lee)

The first thing I noticed in the town was how old it was. Around me were low hills with crude cliffs and ancient cave dwellings. There were also old baroque buildings in different piazzas.

Scicli is actually very old as it goes as far as the Copper Age. Yes, there are proofs of settlements from that time. The town also has an interesting history as it was ruled by Arabs, Spanish and Normans, very similar to Palermo.

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An ancient way of making bread

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Duomo di San Bartolomeo

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Old homes of Scicli

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Scicli was very alluring despite being old. It was full of very strange figures in balconies, quite different from the ones in Modica because the ones in Scicli appeared to be more forlorn and wretched.

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A little lost

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A favorite: Men hanging out in the piazza

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One of the bars where I stopped for an espresso

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Reminds me of Puglia

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Love these homes and small lanes

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Any time is gelato time

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Buongiorno

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Very happy outside Montalbano’s office

I went to several towns in Sicily but Scicli stayed with me. The town seems a little abandoned and on its own which made me feel sad for it. But that is also a charm. I hope you too can visit Scicli someday, maybe before it gets run down by mass tourism.

Italian Street Food by Paola Bacchia

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It is no secret that Italians prepare one of the best cuisines in the world. But few know that they also have one of the best street food options available!

Thanks to Italy Book Tours I can help share an excellent book on it. Written by Paola Bacchia of Italian origin, Italian Street Food shows hidden street food stalls behind the town squares, away from the touristy restaurants and down back streets of Italy The little-known gems offering up some of Italy’s tastiest and best-kept secret dishes that the locals prize are all in this book!

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Italian Street Food is not just another Italian cookbook; it delves into truly authentic Italian fare—the kind of secret recipes that are passed down through generations.

Learn how to make authentic polpettine, arancini, stuffed cuttlefish, cannolis, and fritters, and perfect your gelato-making skills with original flavors such as lemon and basil or affogato and aperol. With beautiful stories and stunning photography throughout, ITALIAN STREET FOOD delivers an authentic, lesser known take on a much loved cuisine.

Buy the Book:

Rizzoli  ~  Amazon

The author Paola Bacchia is one of Australia’s most popular Italian food bloggers. On her blog, Italy on My Mind, she shares family memories and their connections to food. It won awards for best food blog in 2013 and 2015 from ITALY Magazine. Paola returns to Italy every year to expand her knowledge of Italian food, its traditions, and innovations.

Connect with her: Website  ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram

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Postcard from Baroque Ragusa

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I was in Ragusa only for a quick stop but the baroque town was nothing as I had imagined and seen on TV. Ragusa’s medieval styled architecture and piazzas with lack of tourists was enough to give me a high. It was raw and indescribable beauty.

Take a walk with me….

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Breathtaking Ragusa from afar

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Much of Ragusa was destroyed in 1693 in an earthquake

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No he isn’t Montalbano

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Small details matter

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Something very touristy but fun

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The magnificent Duomo di San Giorgio

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Old and new

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Which way is the Duomo?

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Aperitivo?Caffe?

Did you enjoy??

In Chocolate Heaven at Antica Dolceria Bonajuto

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One of the reasons of visiting Modica for me was its chocolate. It is renowned for its chocolate all over the world and has numerous chocolate shops in the town. Modica is a paradise for chocolate lovers and worthy of every attention. Chocolate cannoli, pastries, different flavor bars, chocolate drinks, coffee and chocolate.. you name it!

One of the most famous institutions of chocolate in Modica is Antica Dolceria Bonajuto. I visited it during a cool spring evening, excited to pile up my stock of chocolates for home. The Bonajuto family is providing chocolate lovers like me with high quality products since the 1880s. Their shop constitutes chocolates and their products made traditionally similar to the way the Aztecs, an ancient civilization of Mexico. Commendable isn’t it? The process is very meticulous and thorough.

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Enter the chocolate heaven with me!

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The shop

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Range of flavors to try

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A bar of chocolate from Bonajuto includes only a few basic ingredients- rich cocoa, sugar and spices. There are so many flavors to choose from that I was astounded! There is cinnamon and vanilla and then there is also beef, figs and even honey. You can order their products online as well.

I am in awe of the entire process of making of the chocolate and the way it has been preserved over the years. The only downside is that the lady at the counter wasn’t very helpful despite knowing English. So much for customer service!

But I could go back to Modica only for its chocolate. It is that good. Maybe some day I will visit the town for its chocolate festival –Chocobarocco.

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Bonajuto was covered in an episode of Sicily Unpacked

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Modican chocolates were one of my precious buys. I owned several of these pretty packaged bars in the picture below and still left with one 😉

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My Modican chocolate (Image Courtesy: Antica Bonajuto)

The Historical Ambience of L’Orangerie, Modica

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As many of you know I went to Sicily in April this year and couldn’t stop gushing about it.

I traveled to two different areas of the region- one that included Southern Eastern Sicily mainly the Val di Noto and another that included Western Sicily mainly Palermo with its deep enriching history of being ruled by different civilisations. You can read many of my Palermo posts here.

Today I am taking you all to a 19th century Palazzo called B&B L’Orangerie in Modica, Southern Sicily. Owned by the very kind hearted, Giovanni Cartia, L’Orangerie is a high quality B&B in the heart of the baroque town.

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The entrance

Modica was always on my list of places to visit in Sicily after reading several travel books. However, what intrigued me more on this town was the fact that it was famous for chocolate 😉

So when I spoke to Giovanni about my travel to Modica, he was very helpful in planning it and hosted me during my stay in L’Orangerie. Despite being sick when I arrived, he welcomed me graciously with a bar of the famous Modican chocolate. I am grateful to him to give me last minute guide of a Montalbano tour that I wanted to do while I was there.

I arrived in the April heat panting and puffing. The B&B is on the main road of the town so all you have to do is walk from the bus stop for 10 minutes and you are right near the steps that lead to the entrance.

I was thankful to be away from the heat and loved my room! A medium sized bed and a small terrace awaited me. There was a clean dry bathroom with fresh towels and toiletries, a table with reading lamp and a magazine in Italian (enough to challenge my Italian reading skills).

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It was a very quaint authentic way of living in Sicily and I loved that it was in an old Palazzo. Not only this, I was only 5 minutes walking from the town’s main piazza and the bustle of life that is the cafes and trattorias. Modica is divided into upper and lower part and I was in the lower part of the town- closer to its main attractions and also the bus stand that took me to Palermo later.

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Ciao Modica!

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Learnt so many new words

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Tastfully done

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Love the greens

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B&B’s Reception/Studio

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The street leading to it

Giovanni’s B&B is beautiful and very tastefully done. For breakfast there are a range of things from juices, coffee, bread to an array of jams and cakes. It was a pleasure to dine in L’Orangerie’s breakfast room. I loved my “B&B” if you may call it so, because for me it was more than a B&B. It was simple luxury at its best.

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Isn’t this cutlery too cute?

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The only downside of the B&B is that at night it gets a little eerie in the stairs leading from the centre. If you are alone, just be careful. But inside you will feel just as warm and welcomed as it was when you first arrived.

All in all, I’d love to go back to Modica and stay again in this wonderful Palazzo. I felt my time in Modica was too short as I couldn’t explore the entire area of Val di Noto. But some time again soon! What do you think about this charming Palazzo??

How to Reach Modica:

From Catania airport there is an AST bus that takes you to the town in about 2 hours. The stop is right outside the airport and is not hard to miss. The bus also stops at Catania train station. Nearest airport to Modica is Comiso.

Stay Tuned on more from Modica and other towns that I visited in the Val di Noto.

Step Inside Teatro Bibiena of Mantova

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During the Festivaletteratura I had a chance to visit Mantova’s Teatro Bibiena designed by Antonio Galli Bibiena. Built in the 18th century, the bell shaped theatre, is a breathtaking sight! It was inaugurated on Dec 3, 1769 and termed as one of the most significant architectural gems of the 18th century Europe.

It is so beautifully lit up wtih life like statues of Mantova’s poets and a beautiful facade on the ceiling that I was open mouthed. When I was there, a concert was supposed to take place in the evening so there was practise going on. It was surreal.

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Leopold Mozart, father of Wolfgang Mozart, wrote a letter on Teatro Bibiena to his wife and said, “In all my life, I have never seen anything more beautiful of its kind”.

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Address and Contact:

via Accademia 9, Mantova.

Tuesday to Friday: 10 am – 1pm, 3pm – 6pm

Saturday, Sunday & Public Holidays: 10 am – 6pm.

Tickets– €2.

 

 

Auguri! Italy on my Birthday

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It was 3 years back that I was in Italy on my birthday and it seems like a dream every time I think of it. Recently this dream became a reality again as I spent another birthday in Italy last week!

I was in Mantova on a beautiful day. The city was buzzing with energy because of the Festivaletteratura and I was so fortunate to be in my “happy place”.

Not only this, I got a chance to meet and interview David Mitchell- author of the novel Cloud Atlas and also received a signed copy of his latest book.#WIN

Ciao from Mantova!

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Buonasera da Italia! Good Evening from Italy! 🙂

I am writing this post from Mantova where all the action is happening. It is difficult to put into words the amount of fun and work going around me. 

Here are some pictures from the festival. Hope you enjoy a teaser 🙂 Ciao!

Prosit da Luca, Mattia e Paolo #20anni #festlet #festivaletteratura

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Piazza Sordello 29 agosto ore 18.00. Da qualche giorno la libreria è aperta. #festivaletteratura #festlet #mantova

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Men at work nel prato della mensa del festival. #festivaletteratura #festlet

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La tenda Sordello s'arrampica su Palazzo Ducale. #festlet #festivaletteratura

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Parata! In partenza #festivaletteratura #festlet #blue

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Visiting Italy for the Mantova Literature Festival

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Visiting Italy several times since past 3 years has given me an adrenaline rush. It pushes me to keep seeking, learning and recreating.

When I traveled to Italy the very first time on September 6, 2013, little did I know that exactly three years later on 6th September, 2016 I would be taking another flight to the Bel Paese. (Quite coincidental, really)

Yes you read that right! I’m going to Italy again! Yippee!!!!

The purpose of my visit is different this time. I will be a Guest and International Blogger/Journalist for the Mantova Literature Festival/Festivaletteratura.

The International Literature Festival takes place annually in Mantova and is celebrating 20 years of literary love and success this year. I am stoked to be part of the 20th edition because I know this journey will be like no other.

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Image Courtesy: Mantova Toursim

For everyone’s benefit the town of Mantova is in the region of Lombardy, about 2 hours from Milan. It is the Italian Capital of Culture for 2016 and needless to say another UNESCO world heritage site.

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Mantova -Image Courtesy: Italy Magazine

There will be a lot of Literature talk on Italophilia this entire month as several big names visit the Festivaletteratura. I can hardly contain my emotions because it’s two of the things I love a lot – BOOKS & ITALY. Nothing like both passions coming together, right?? So, BEHOLD!

I will be soon amongst a crowd of notable authors such as Alain de Botton, Robert Calasso, Antony Beevor, Alessandro Baricco, David Mitchell, Sarah Waters, Julian Barnes and the list goes on.

There is still a lot to be done at my end-packing, to do lists, planning etc. I also just finalised my plans on where I will be traveling to after Italy. Any wild guesses?? 🙂

Meanwhile, follow along here as well as my Instagram and Twitter pages. I promise to make it entertaining for all of you out there- the Literature as well as the Non Literature lovers 🙂

“I am all the more convinced that we, as Italians, know nothing about certain aspects of being Italian.. Now I am in Mantua on a July night, where some Mantuans have come up with the wonderful idea of a literary festival which, year after year, takes place as summer draws to an end.” -Andrea Camilleri

Until next time. Ci vediamo!

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.

Altrettanto: 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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Azzurro: 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

That’s why I decided to visit Fiesole and the walled town of Monteriggioni near Siena on different days. Monteriggioni was a surprise past the rolling hills, cypress trees and wine tasting.

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Church of Santa Maria Assunta

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Built in the 13th century , the town has a castle preserved that the army used to guard from enemies. No wonder the town is walled.

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A Medieval well.

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There is a small piazza with a Romanesque church and a toursim office in the piazza. Of course you can’t see any piazza without a Bar. Ristorante Il Posso sits opposite the Bar and is adorable. It is quite famous and I happened to go there for lunch. 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

Monteriggioni was just what I needed. With its deeply alluring landscape and beautiful vistas, this medieval town became my favorite Tuscan spot after Siena. 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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Credits: Wikipedia

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- quiet, 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 was Il Duomo di Palermo (The Palermo Cathedral). Situated around ancient palm trees and neat streets, the cathedral is gorgeous! It’s entrance includes a famous portico that was made in the 16th century. It also includes several jewels which are called the “treasures of the cathedral”. A crypt area inside the church has tombs of the royal Normans. I found it too eerie hence did not venture there.

The Arab Norman baroque styled Duomo has an entry ticket (but of course this is Europe) and if you want to get a view of the city, a narrow tower leads you to the top. Its worth EUR 5.

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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, a long street takes you through local shops of the city. There is everything from street food to Sicilian cuisine,cafes and small bookstores and endless line of souvenir shops. Afterwards about 30 minutes another part of the historic area called the Quattro Canti is a great stop. Quattro Canti is simply a junction where four (quattro) roads lead to four historic areas of the city.

Quattro Canti is full of sculptors and fountains which were 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.

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Next to the Quattro Canti is the Kalsa district with its stunning Pretoria fountain. Keep half an hour only for gazing 😉 What a work of art and perfect to cool you off on a hot summer day.

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The Pretoria Fountain

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Palermo’s historic centre is rich and full of 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. The city definitely deserves more attention 😉

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.

-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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72 Hours in Polignano a Mare

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I have always believed that 24 hours does not do justice to any town/city. Especially if one has time at their disposal, one must make the most of seeing and living a place.

This is what I wanted to do in Polignano a mare– a seaside town that is made on a limsetone rock. So I checked places to stay online and narrowed in on B&B Grottone– a quaint B&B in the heart of the town on a quiet ancient street.

I emailed the owner, Gianni, who was quick to revert to me with information about the town and his B&B. He was patient till I decided and not only gave me a blogger discount but also a superb room at his B&B. I stayed in Grottone’s Attico for 3 nights and couldn’t be more pleased. I had a huge terrace for myself, a kitchen to cook in and a nice yet tastefully done bedroom.

I wanted to relax and make the most of my time.

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Day 1:

I reached Polignano in the afternoon after a lovely day trip with Green Italy Tours. Gio, me and Francesca (whom I wrote about earlier) had a lazy stroll through the town and after checking in and meeting Gianni, we went to see the statue of the famous singer Domenico Mudungo. A celebrity in his home town and singer of the famous song “Volare” Dominco’s Volare continues in my head as I write 🙂

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Green Italy Tours was so helpful to me throughout my Puglia trip and while I was bidding goodbye to Gio and Francesca they suggested me places to eat in Polignano. I was on my own after that where I had a an aperitivo at Bar Millenium – a popular bar in the centre which also turned out to be my breakfast place for the next three days.

I went to see the main Piazza after my drink and went to a local shop where I bought lovely jewellery. The owner Rosanna and I befriended each other immediately and even though I am not very good with my Italian, she and I knew how to make each laugh.

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Day 2:

On my second day I woke up early to a fabulous sunrise on the terrace, I made coffee and enjoyed the view of the sea. It was exceptionally quiet and I savoured it fully. On reaching  Bar Millennium at around 9 I found it to be full. The clink of glasses, smell of fresh coffee and the hustle bustle of a daily commuter made me smile 🙂

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A German couple – Marlen and Ken sat next to me and we ended up talking about the town only to realize we were staying in the same B&B. It was great chatting with them and their two kids – Pepita and Tillmann were an eye candy. We eventually decided to hit the beach and relax together because why not 🙂

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DSC05941That walk to the beach and then the soothing color of the water gave me goosebumps. It was lovely basking in the sun at the beach and relishing the sweet life. La dolce vita!

After a couple of hours we went around the town to the Piazza for some people watching. A fresh fruit serving at Joya Canti di Stagione was enough to help us from the strong sun.

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It was around 2 p.m. when I decided to head for lunch while my companions chose to go back to the room and attend to the kids. Here’s my lunch of blue cheese pizza along with a glass of Puglian vino rosso- Negroamaro.

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It was a long savoring lunch and I got time for some reading. Around 4 p.m. I was back in the room for a nap and the evening was spent shopping, gelato tasting and more people watching. Dinner was at a restaurant Gianni had recommended to me for its seafood.

Day 3:

After another long breakfast with my friends from Germany at Bar Millennium we went to see a vintage car exhibition (more on that later). This was again followed by more eating and people watching at the piazza.

After some time in the late evening I tried a very famous take away fish joint in the town where there was fresh calamari and octopus. Sea food is not my favorite but this was fun!

Thank you Polignano a mare and Gianni for all these wonderful memories of  a lifetime.

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Polignano Guide:

Stay:

-B&B Grottone (including breakfast) only 3-4 minutes walk from Piazza Garibaldi.

Eat:

-Joya Canti di Stagione for fresh shakes and salads.

-Bar Millennium for super coffee and service.

-MINT great option for fresh vegetables, cheese, wine and salads. Don’t miss their cheesecakes!

-Pescaria and Monaco for fresh seafood.

-La Terazza for a wide variety of pizza.

-Super Mago el Gelo for one of the best gelatos. Try their Cafe Speciale for a different espresso with lemon and liqueur.

Buy:

-Sottolarco for hand made jewellery and knick knacks.Say Ciao to Rosanna for me 🙂

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Postcard from Polignano a Mare

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Polignano a mare- one of my favorite places in Puglia, in pictures 🙂

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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 🙂

A presto!

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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Thinking of my evening with two lovely ladies in Rome. This one is from Pizzeria Emma- a perfect end to a wonderful day 🍕

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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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