I don’t usually do food posts, this is my first. I just eat and don’t have the patience to click every thing on my plate. So you might have to imagine certain things because I don’t have pictures for them 😛 Nevertheless, here are some good spots for coffee, gelato, drinks and food in general:
California Coffee Company: I saw it everywhere in Budapest. It was like Cafe Coffee Day of India. But only better. Coffee was real nice even though it was super crowded and in one of the busiest square of the city. The smoothies were delicious and the views didn’t disappoint me. This coffee shop is dog friendly so that’s a big plus.
Type: Budget and Medium
Goa Mama Coffee: This is the cutest cafe in Budapest and I stopped here only because of the name (Goa is a place in India). Goa Mama has very pretty exteriors and interiors along with great iced coffee, shakes and home made cakes! It’s really worth visiting.
Ruin Pubs: I have to admit I only went to two ruin pubs in Budapest. Once with a Free Walking Tour in the day and once alone at night. I wish I had company to enjoy because it really did feel unfair sitting alone and sipping my negroni. But I love the concept of shady ruined dumped furniture and equipment being used to create these cool places. Szimpla and Instant are my recommendations for ruin pubs.
Type: Medium and Splurge
Vaci Utca: This is a shopping street laden with cafes, restaurants and stores. There are a ton of options to eat and contrary to what I thought they aren’t as expensive as it would be in other parts of Europe. Just pick one!
Type: Medium and Splurge
Gelarto Rosa: A famous Hungarian gelato parlour that gives rose shaped gelato. Not only is the packaging dainty and pretty but its delicious too. There are gelato types for vegans and lactose intolerant as well.
Type: Super budget
My Little Melbourne Brew Bar: There are two bars by this name adjacent to each other, one is the espresso bar and the other is the brew bar. I had a filter coffee at the espresso bar- a very cool hipster cafe. The service wasn’t very friendly then but I loved the coffee. Couldn’t believe how cheap everything in Budapest was compared to other cities of Europe.
Frohlich Bakery: The Jewish quarter in the city has so many food joints that it seemed like a city within a city. What I specially liked was the fact that it was so traditional. Try the Apple and Poppy seed cake at the Frohlich- a modest bakery with a very happy looking owner. The cake is very heavy but worth it. Also Free Wi-Fi!!
Pizza Eataliano: Good Italian food only 5 steps away from the Andrassay tram stop. It has a beautiful terrace to relax after a long day. Loved their selection of Italian wines though I only enjoyed a quick pizza here.
Callas Cafe: Callas is a very Parisian feel cafe in Budapest. Slightly expensive as its on the main street next to the Opera but its worth a visit. Try their gelato and coffee or if in the mood to splurge anything you don’t understand which could be very Hungarian.
Bamba Marha Burger Bar: At the corner of the Andrassay Avenue is this cool place serving delicious burgers. The place is full at night and it definitely seems like a very popular spot for locals. I tried their Elvis burger and loved it! The only problem here is that there are only a few options for drinks except for some canned juices.
TOP TIP: If you are not from around Hungary, please check what you are paying. I mean the currency is a bit confusing and a couple of times I ended up paying more Forints than what I had to. I was lucky that both times I was returned the correct amount back. (Bless those people)
Did I say how much I loved Budapest?? Okay I probably did but here’s another post to prove my point 😉
On my second day I went to Fisherman’s Bastion at the Buda side of the city. Situated on Castle Hill, it is a unique monument whose name comes from the fishermen who defended the walls in the Middle Ages. The entire area on Castle Hill is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Buda Castle sits on the other side and houses the National Gallery of Hungary along with a Library and Museum of History. Completed in the 13th century, the castle is one of the most imposing structures of Budapest. Also at the Fisherman’s Bastion is the Mathhias Church made in a gothic style with 7 bells!
Reaching the Castle Hill is very easy as there is the option of walking, taking a bus (No 16) or a funicular. I chose the first one as it was only a 5-10 minute walk. Along the way I could see amazing views of the city. It was surreal!!
Best part of visiting the Castle Hill is really the location. One can spend as much time as one wants and see the vast vistas of the city! The entire area is like a small town with an old part and a Palace. There is also a five star hotel and a Starbucks which shows how commercial it is now becoming.
Many expensive shops in the area sell “Hungarian” goods but I didn’t know the authenticity of them so chose to ignore. Walking back to Pest I noticed how quiet the Buda side of the city is compared to the hustle and bustle of the Pest side.
It was an intriguing experience to see both sides of the city. More so because I had no idea about the history of Hungary and just got curious to know more. After my visit, I stopped at a bookshop to read more on Budapest. I’ll be posting about them later but for now I hope you enjoyed the hike to the Buda Castle?? Tell me if you are enjoying the Budapest series 🙂
Traveling a new country brings along its share of ups and downs which is why it is imperial to understand certain things beforehand that makes travel easier and enjoyable.
Italy as a country is full of wonderful people who will go out of the way to help you. I have so many instances small or big where I was helped by a random stranger and I am so grateful for that. But just to add a bit of extra help from my end, here are some tips that I’d love to share with you to ease for your Italian travels:
Know your Accommodation: It is essential to choose the best accommodation for yourself wherever you are in the country but also one that fits your budget. There are so many options of stay in Italy from a monastery, Airbnb, hostel to a agriturismo. Of course you can go for the safest hotel option but let’s make it more interesting with a home in an Italian countryside that gives you a local experience 🙂 Sounds good no?? Go for it! Make sure you choose a different one this time and don’t forget to keep copies of your passports with you for added safety.
Know the Culture: In Italy cover yourself when you visit a church, carry a scarf at all times just in case. Respecting the culture is important everywhere and the Italians take their dressing quite seriously so generally dress well when in Italy. I know this isn’t for everyone but I love it personally. I love looking good in a crowd of already well dressed Italians. It makes me feel more confident and it is fun to be looked at in a nice way than be stared at 😉
Know Where You Are: Italy is a unified country since 1861 and earlier it was only just different regions and kingdoms which is why you see how much pride Italians take in their regional products. So remember where you are! Don’t order a food/wine in the wrong region. For instance, Chianti is in Tuscany and if you are in Sicily, don’t ask for a Chianti Classico, instead ask for their local wines and try new things. Similarly for food, try the local Umbrian delicacies when you are in Perugia and don’t ask for Roman treats such as Cacio a pepe 🙂
Know the Language: This is not a mandatory tip but it pays to know small words of the country’s language you are traveling in. If you are in Italy a Grazie (Thank You), Salve (Formal Hello), Per Favore (Please) are basic words to know. Though Ciao is used for hello and bye both, it is informal greeting so don’t go saying it to everyone 😉
Know your Comfort: As a solo traveler, you sometimes feel shy and don’t want to move out of your comfort zone to chat with locals or make new friends. But I’d say take the first step. Go to the local bar for an authentic experience and have an aperitvo in the evening or visit the trattoria (family run eatery) to see the culture and food style. You never know you might meet someone to chat with. When I am in Italy, I love to observe the locals and catch a few extra words for my Italian vocabulary. I also love talking to the barista if the bar isn’t very crowded. Italians are a friendly bunch always making you comfortable.
Buon Anno a tutti! Happy New Year everyone! 🙂
I hope you had a fun filled New Year’s Eve with family and friends. Wishing that 2017 turn out to be the best for everyone in all possible ways ❤
I am starting 2017 with a HUGE ambition, a list (small) of places I’d love to visit in Italy this year.
I have only added a few of them here because I know I could go on and on. Also, these places are from different regions of the country so it is not possible to visit them all together. Just a wishlist 😉 Hope you enjoy reading through them:
–Rome, Lazio: I can’t get enough of this city, there is always so much to do or see here. I want to spend a week in Rome and just do nothing but wander the streets or stay in Trastevere or Monti. Also, I’d love to this Tea Room near the Spanish Steps. Have you been here?
–Numana, Le Marche: Having heard so much about Italy’s eastern coastline and seen most of it in Puglia, I’d now like to venture to the lesser known Le Marche and its and unexplored beaches. The entire region is also filled with little hamlets that are so alluring.
–Torino, Piedmont: Oh Torino! How could I not visit this elegant city. The perfect cups of bicerin implore me to book a ticket right away. I can’t wait to see this city in 2017! Long due!
Piazza Castello, Torino #torino BUON ULTIMO GIORNO DEL 2016…SALITE A BORDO PER VIVERE UN NUOVO ANNO 2017 RICCO DI AVVENTURE E CULTURA. #turindowntown #turin #torinoèlamiacittà #igersturin #igerstorino #ig_torino #ig_piemonte #ig_turin #ig_turin_ #lestradeditorino #torinodigitale #torinopics #turincity #instagram #instangood #igersita #igersitalia #ig_italia #volgoitalia #volgotorino #volgoitaly #loves_torino #ig_italia_borghiecitta #ig_italia #piazzacastello #seemyturin #ciauturin #vivatorino #vivotorino #placeofturin Photo by @lelepap
–Verona, Veneto: Another timeless city that has been on my list since 2 years. There is a 1st Century amphitheater and tons of medieval architecture to get you interested. Hope to be there this year.
–Positano, Campania: Not a solo destination for me personally but I’d love to visit it. If not this year then maybe the next year. And yes, not alone. I can wait for Positano but definitely not alone.
–Padova, Veneto: Another place that has been doomed since my past two trips is Padova. After reading several posts about the city’s Scrovegni Chapel, I have a longing to be there. Hope 2017 is the year to sit in its historic cafes.
–Naples, Campania: The outbreak of #FerranteFever has had an inkling on me to see the streets from the viewpoint of Elena Ferrante. Other than that who doesn’t want to eat the famous Pizza Margherita from where it was born?
–Genoa, Liguria: Last but not the least I would love to visit Genoa a city with a lot of history and one that is missed by travelers. It is after all the land of focaccia and pesto.
Piazza Raffaele de Ferrari, fountain and Palazzo della Nuova Borsa Valori, Genoa | Italy 🇮🇹 #italytravel#italia#genova#genoa#italy#italygram#ig_italy#about_italy#decoration#architecture#architektura#archdaily#architecturestudent#oldcity#oldtown#italiangirl#polishgirl#adventure#adventuretime#traveler#travelgram#travel#travelingram#instatravel#instaitalia
So tell me where you are planning to visit this year in Italy or beyond??
Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
Oh Vienna, you are so charming, so gorgeous and so so elegant. It is hard to aptly describe the city that took me by its very lady like charm. Contrary to several people’s notion that the city boring and dull, I found Vienna to be just the opposite and thank the Central European team at Context Travel to acquaint me with the city. Context Travel organises city tours/walks globally with local historians in small groups (max of 6 people). They also offer individual tours offering in depth experience and information which is perfect base if you are in a new city!
While I was in Vienna, Piroska Meyer-Sebastian of Context Travel showed me around the 1st District which happens to be the most legendary areas of the charismatic city.
I was the only person for that morning’s tour so everything was done at my pace. I could ask a million questions (sometimes even unrelated to history) and linger around for longer intervals. For instance I totally bored Piroska about buying the best Viennese chocolates or visiting the city’s favorite spots. It was a blessing to be with a her, a local, who was really helpful. She took me to her favorite store after the walk, even recommended a bunch of goodies which I ended up buying for home 🙂
What is the 1st District??
Our walk was part of the 1st District which constitutes the ancient part of Vienna that was developed by the Romans (oh yes they were everywhere). It includes many of the sights that a tourist would normally not know on their first visit to the city. We started with the city’s oldest church- Ruprechtskirche. The ivy laden Gothic church is dedicated to the patron saint of Salzburg- St. Rupert.
The area around the church is very compact and charming. Just at the corner is one of the oldest synagogues from the 12th century where the first Jews of the city started living. The Jews have had a tumultuous history from the 13th century and the big Jewish community in the city is testament to that. There are Jewish clubs, schools, museums and newspapers even now in the city. A big memorial to the Austrian Holocaust Victims is right in the middle of the historic centre which was also part of the walk.
Apart from the synagogue, there were small cafes and shops around the area worth visiting. One that I especially returned to later was the Shakespeare & Company book shop offering a huge selection of books in English.
We walked around the quiet area of the 1st Distict crossing what must be regular sightings in Vienna- horse driven carriages. I squealed in delight! Moving onwards to the Parliament, Hofburg Palace and the St. Stephen’s cathedral I could only see more of the imperial charm and elegance of the city. I was suggested a list of museums to see depending on my mood and interest. I had no idea that there was a Globe Museum in Vienna. Also the Peace Museum. Did you know??
My mind was full of information and several new names. We visited several small and quaint streets of Vienna that I do not remember but there was always something which led to something more. It was intriguing. The three hour walk wasn’t just boring and historic, if you may. Even modern Vienna was discussed and talked about and I think that really kept my interest because I could understand the layers of the city by knowing from now to then or vice versa.
My favorite part of the walk include the grounds of the Hofburg Palace which I returned to the next day. There was a different atmosphere around that area. It was as if I went back in the 60s.
Disclaimer: My walk in Vienna was made possible thanks to Context Travel but the views here are completely my own.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 😉
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
Address and Contact:
via Accademia 9, Mantova.
Tuesday to Friday: 10 am – 1pm, 3pm – 6pm
Saturday, Sunday & Public Holidays: 10 am – 6pm.
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!
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!! 🙂
More happiness comes from this series of Instagram posts for you all. Enjoy and Salute! 😉
I'm a huge fan of the Montalabano TV series and the books written by Andrea Camilleri. So I thought it would be wise to invest in another of his works. However, this time I didn't buy the translated version but the original in Italian. I can't wait for the day when Il be able to fully read, grasp and understand this title and the many nuances behind the Italian language. Pray that day comes soon!
Published in 1965, this wonderful picture book on Florence gives a peek into the city and the people of that time. It's a pleasure to dig in and time travel with the photographer🍃☀🕚📕 I'm pretty sure this book is a rare of an item as it was buried deep in the corner of a library probably hidden by someone who wants the book to herself/himself and doesn't want it to be found 😋 I would love to own it.. ! it's a treat to go through over 80 gorgeous black and white photos and many colored with the history and story behind them 💞
I love Orvieto -a quaint town in Umbria probably not traveled by many but quaint is not what makes it interesting. A retro tram takes you to this village, a mind blowing stunning cathedral awaits you as you reach, the town has its own and very famous white wine called "Orvieto classico", and its only 1.5 hours train ride away from Rome. Need I say more??😃😉
How was this month for you so far??
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Hope you enjoyed this post of the Sicily You Don’t Know Series.
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 🙂
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.
Palermo 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 🙂
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*
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.
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 ❤
Meanwhile, stay tuned for many lovely adventures and keep following me on my social media pages (on your right side).
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 to everyone! 😀 Buon Pesce d’Aprile a tutti! 😀
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? 🙂
Day 3 of the Three Day Quote Challenge is a quote that I think is the best tribute to the Bel Paese.
“You may have the Universe if I may have Italy“- Giuseppe Verdi
I eat, dream and live Italy and I think that this quote brings out the best for the nation. So much love and yearning for a nation that has not only influenced art and architecture but also literature, culture and food across the globe. No wonder it is thought to be one of the greatest countries of the world.
Cin Cin to Italy! 😀
Hope you enjoyed the Three Day Quote Challenge guys! This was something different and fun. I nominate fellow bloggers- Susan of Timeless Italy, Sylvia of villainumbria & Sam of twoblackdoggies to continue the challenge.
Meanwhile, have you checked my Facebook Page? There is always lots going on there. Do join in 🙂
I was tagged by the ravishing Jovita of Voguishly Chic to do a Three Day Quote Challenge. Thanks babe for the tag 🙂
Rules for the challenge are simple:
-Thank the blogger who nominated you.
-Share any new quote on three consecutive days on your blog.
-On each of the three days, nominate three more bloggers to carry on with the fun!
P.S.-No pressure; nominees are free to decline.
My Quote for today is in the picture below:
Isn’t it so apt and true?!
For many of you who have traveled to Italy and many others who read and know about the country, you must be knowing that Italians take their food very seriously.
Food is the binding factor in a social setup and is highly strongly influenced by history and traditions of the particular region. If you have had pizza, gelato and pasta until now let me tell you that have only scratched the surface 😉
I love this Three Day Quote Challenge and am already looking forward for the next 2 days. Do join me 🙂
Overlooking the Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of the Renaissance city of Florence and one of its many gems. The Palazzo is flanked by a statue of David (a replica not the original of course) at its entrance along with statues of Hercules and Cacus.
A huge courtyard welcomes you and leads to the Hall of the Five Hundred (Salone dei Cinquecento). It is awe inspiring to be there standing next to the frescoes by Michelangelo, Vasari and Da Vinci. As it turns out, this very hall is also the largest room in Italy that can be used as a political gathering!!
The entire chamber is spellbinding. I must have spent an hour there itself before moving to see other areas of the Palazzo. One of things I wanted to see was the famed mask of Dante Alighieri, a Florentine poet. The mask has been highlighted in Dan Brown’s Inferno ( I won’t give it more than 3 stars) and is known to be a symbol of Dante’s contribution to the town of Florence. It was made by Pietro and Tullio Lombardo in 1483.
I moved further to see the other rooms such as the Room of Jupiter and Penelope. After which I came to the Hall of Geographical Maps (Stanza della Guardoroba). The small chamber was full of old maps and ornate designed objects from as far as the 16th century. It is believed that this is the same hall where the belongings of Medici Grand Dukes were kept. This was by far my favorite and it was amazing to be standing next to a huge globe, almost 6 feet tall (I have been fascinated with globes since I was a little girl thanks to Papa).
Half a day spent in the Palazzo Vecchio was special to me, the interiors are massive and unique. Visiting it was surely akin to taking a trip back in time. I hope you enjoyed a tour of the Palazzo with me 🙂
I visited Siena on a radiant day from Florence. Although a few hours is not enough to see this gorgeous Tuscan town, I wanted to visit anyway.
A hill town known globally for its Palio- a horse race that happens twice every year on July 2 & Aug 16, Siena also prides itself in its medieval walls and stunning squares.
The town has been Florence’s rival since the Middle Ages because of several territorial and economic conflicts not to forget that it houses wondrous works of art just like Florence. Apart from that, Siena is also a photographer’s dream with its old styled architecture and narrow alleys, oh so romantic!
My Tuscan excursion to Siena was mostly walking around the town which is the best to get a sense of place. I wanted to just hang around the two popular landmarks- the Piazza del Campo with its Torre del Mangia (Mangia Tower) and the Piazza del Duomo with the Duomo di Siena (Cathedral of Siena).
Man I was stunned. It was a breathtaking sight!
The campo is huge and shell shaped, lined with several famous caffes, an old marbled fountain and the Civic Museum.
When in Siena have a quick bite of panforte- a hard nutty Italian dessert which is a speciality of the town.
Later I took an uphill walk to see the Duomo of Siena. Only a short climb from the Campo is the Duomo and the uphill isn’t that bad either with shops selling leather bags, stationary, truffle oil and fresh pasta. The Piazza del Duomo is massive and extremely impressive!
With marble columns carved by Giovanni Pisano, it is something not to be missed. The interior is equally stunning.
In my humble opinion, Siena’s Duomo gives Florence’s Duomo a run for its money 😉 This should in no way get controversial as I love them both. Oh wait, there is also the Duomo of Orvieto.. See how hard this keeps getting??
After spending some time at the Duomo, I headed back to the Campo. Did I tell you the Campo is the best place to catch a drink and watch the world go by? Something I mastered on my travels to Italy.
Thank you, Siena for your ancient beauty. I know there is a lot left to experienc, much of which I have left many for my next visit, whenever that is. The Piccolomini library is certainly on the cards for the next time as is the climb to the gothic tower of Palazzo Pubblicco.
Ci Vediamo 🙂
Some things to remember:
Siena’s train station is at the foot of the hill so the best way to reach the town is by bus from Florence. If you are traveling from Rome or Venice, it is advisable to take a train.
The Siena duomo entry costs EUR12 with the Cathedral, Piccolomini library, Bapistery and crypt. Thank me later!
Have you been to the Vatican museum?? Wondered who this statue belongs to??
On my visit to the Vatican museums last year, I saw this ghastly yet wondrous representation of Greek history that I was unaware of before. The statue of “Laocoon and his Sons” is in one of the corners of the Vatican’s Pio-Clementino museum. I was a little flabbergasted when I saw this. It is disturbing yet beautiful. I remember standing there for a good 5 minutes, just staring at the sheer brilliance of the work. This is the miraculous statue that shows much beyond than marble and art. Yes, it shows human emotions and agony. The statue was excavated in Rome around the year 1506 and it is said that Michelangelo was one of the few to be there at the excavation site. He was highly impressed by the sculptor and it had a deep impact on him. The Laocoon and his Sons have an interesting myth tied to it. Laocoon, who was a Trojan priest, warned Trojan leaders not to get the famous “Trojan horse” in the city. However, the leaders did not pay heed to Laocoon. This warning caused Laocoon his life because he had angered the Greek goddess- Athena. She reprimanded him for his interference and ordered sea serpents to attack him along with his two sons. The 7 foot long sculptor depicts exactly that. One of his sons is breaking free from the snakes and looking at him and his brother, who too are just minutes away from death. If you happen to visit the Vatican museum, do check this piece of ancient history of Laocoon.
|The Morni Fort|
I arrived there at the time of rains and it was gorgeous and really peaceful. As I climbed the hill towards the fort, a beautiful Shiva temple awaited me at the entrance. On my left was a Pheasant Breeding centre managed and run by the Wildlife Department.
|The restored gardens|
The guard sitting at the entrance of the fort was able to provide me with some information of the history as there isn’t much written on this place. Apparently, they are now converting the fort to a five star hotel.
|The South Tower|
Morni fort wasn’t like any of the forts I have visited before in Delhi or Rajasthan. For here you will find no queues for tickets, no guide books or vendors selling knick knacks, but just the fort itself standing mammoth for you.
| Basilica Santa Maria del Fiore
One of the most beautiful churches that I visited was the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore. An astoundingly beautiful and striking church called the “duomo” it is located in the heart of Florence and is the town’s heartbeat. Thousands of people visit this mammoth structure daily. Needless to say, it is very crowded outside, albeit the interiors are much peaceful. It stands apart from all the other churches that I have visited. The dome of Santa Maria del Fiore happens to be the largest brick dome ever constructed. The Santa Maria Novella and Santa Spirito in Florence are also beautiful churches. Very striking.
|Basilica di Santa Maria Novella|
|Basilica di Santa Spirito|
The capital city, Rome, is also home to hundreds of churches approximately 900 as per the list on Wikipedia. Apart from the famous St Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican, there is the church of Saint Agnes. I count myself lucky to have visited there. It is absolutely heavenly amidst a large crowded square.
|Church of Saint Agnes|
|St Peter’s Basilica|
There were also some unusual churches in the offbeat side of the country. For instance the Church of San Lorenzo in Manarola was near a fruit shop overlooking several houses. If one longs for quietude and peace this church is the place to be. Another famous one is the church of Saint Peter- a striking structure of the 12th century in Portovenere.
|Church of Saint Peter|
The beautiful and picturesque Vernazza was also home to a 13th century church- Santa Margarita d’Antiochia, that stands on a rock. Unfortunately I did not visit the inside of this church.