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.
A couple of months back I wrote this post on 10 Charming Small Towns in Italy. I loved all your suggestions and comments on it and would like to add a few more to the ever expanding list today.
The glass making island Murano is often overshadowed by its colourful neighbor Burano as per me. Murano is equally quaint and charming with its beautiful bridges, towers and museums not to forget the glass shops selling chandeliers, souvenirs and jewellery. Everything is so exquisite and expensive but who charges to window shop 🙂
The noise of the busy cities sometimes gets to me and Fiesole has a lot of quietude that one might want during their Italian travels. Only 20 minutes from the hustle and bustle of Florence is a typical small Italian town with narrow alleys, beautiful piazzas and cafes.
Only a 5 minutes train ride from Polignano a mare is the town of Monopoli with a very authentic local feel and an important port. Even though the historic centre finishes as soon as one reaches, the town is molto tranquillo (very peaceful) for a day trip. There is a stunning cathedral and a recently restored castle as well.
Another beautiful town in Puglia, Gallipoli is relaxing day trip from Lecce. Pugliese produce such as sandals, wine and olive oil are neatly stacked in shops for tourists like me. The homes of locals smell of freshly baked cookies or pasta and the sea is warm and inviting.
One of my favorite towns in Umbria and such an easy day trip from Rome too, Orvieto is a gem. It is famous for its magnificent Duomo and Orvieto Classico wine. It has a small bell tower you can get sweeping views of the Umbrian countryside and an underground city which you can take tours of. Need more reasons??
The month to be grateful continues. One person who I am most thankful for and who instantly comes to my mind for my Italian sojourns is Margie Miklas. A fellow Italophilie and author of 2 novels and a coffee table book, Margie is my confidante and guide. I chanced upon Margie’s blog about 2.5 years back while browsing Twitter! I am so grateful for this connection ever since as there has been no looking back.
Margie and I became friends and connected virtually. We then started talking about meeting in Italy and made it happen in May 2015. It was incredible and very movie like! I felt as if we knew each other since forever 🙂
Today I will give you all a little sneak peek of Margie’s newest book “Colors of Naples and the Amalfi Coast”. A sleek coffee table book which is perfect to adorn your library, this book shows you that there is so much more to Italy than just tall cypress trees and hot Italian men.
It is filled with beautiful pictures of the Naples (on the cover) and Amalfi Coast. Although I haven’t visited Naples or Amalfi yet myself, I love this picture and can imagine myself being there. Of course the #FerranteFever has caught on me too and I know that this book will be my guide for many more things in the future.
Now what is the best part of the hard back you might ask??
It is her own pictures intermingled with lovely words of everyday life. Margie has described even the simplest of things in the city of Naples and Amalfi Coast so beautifully. One can see and observe her passion and love for the Southern Italians.
I love how she has added everyday pictures of food that the Italians eat whether it is cornetto or a huge tray of cannoli. Many other things caught my eye in the book such as a picture of an Ape`, photo of Limoncello bottles, Castlel of Egg, rocks around Capri, gelato gelato gelato, street lined with vespas....So much more!
This book will make you dream of clear crisp evenings in the Italian sunshine amongst delicious plates of pasta and vino then again of women chatting together and men having a coffee.
Thanks Margie for this lovely book which is a reminder of your Italian travels. It is special to have it with me in my library. I hope we meet in Italy someday soon again! ❤
In my previous post I mentioned that it is the month to be grateful. One such place that highlights my gratitude is the 25Hours Hotel in Vienna.
Located in the 7th District of the elegant city, 25Hours Hotel is a circus themed hotel in the heart of Vienna. It is definitely a hotel with a strange name and an ugly building from outside. But stepping inside changes your impression because it has the most quirky interiors making it a very offbeat travel experience. Being a circus themed hotel doesn’t make it kiddish and disappointing; instead it is fun, vibrant and pleasing to the eye.
The hotel has eccentrically designed rooms with circus based illustrations, fancy upholstery and peculiar objects. My bathroom toiletries read “Stop wasting the water when using me” 🙂 The dustbin was a steel bucket!
The hotel has a lot of space and hence a lot of rooms but they are average sized. However for a single traveler like myself there was enough space. I loved the writing/reading desk in the room along with a window and balcony (depending on the type of room you book) to see Vienna go by.
My room was exceptional with an interesting illustration, a fully stocked mini bar and a lovely view! I especially enjoyed it at night.
I was very impressed of the location of the hotel as there was a tram stop right below the hotel. The famous MuseumsQuartier as well as the longest shopping street in the city was only a 10 minute walk. And and and.. only 2 metro stations away was Vienna’s iconic structure- the St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
What more could one ask for??
The 25 Hours Hotel, which is also in the cities of Hamburg, Berlin and Frankfurt, is perfect for a short stay especially for those looking to be in Vienna’s centre. I was impressed with its rooftop bar and a buzzing restaurant which makes it the place to be with some company.
Their service both inside the restaurant and at the reception was exceptional whether for local queries or food. I had to catch an early morning flight and the hotel was kind enough to arrange me a driver at 5 a.m. Since I was skipping breakfast, they packed a fresh ham and cheese sandwich with fruits for me, which saved me from the horrible flight food later on. That was a very nice touch. Thanks to Mr. Roland Eggenhofer who was most kind to be connected with me during the stay. He even left me a goodies bag and a warm welcome note. Thank you for a great stay! I hope to be back again.
December is a month for GRATITUDE. We are blessed with countless small and big things but we hardly or almost never take a moment to be grateful. Today I am thankful about a wonderful April afternoon that I spent in Rome with Bici & Baci Tours. (It means Bicycles and Kisses) A rental company that helps you see Rome in the best way, Bici & Baci is one of the oldest vespa companies in the eternal city. It offers a hoard of options for rentals from the quintessential Fiat 500 to scooters to Piaggio Ape that helps one see more of Rome than usual. I went for Bici & Baci after a recommendation from Diana of Italy Translated and I am so pleased I did because it made my short trip of Rome worthwhile.
My tour started around 2 in the afternoon with Alexander, my tour guide and motorist. There was also another couple who joined in on another vespa and together we started the tour from the Colosseum. Alexander was very passionate about his culture and heritage and it showed from the moment he shared his insights about the city’s history. I learnt so much from him in those few hours, it was pure joy to see his enthusiasm for the city. Might I mention that the way he drove in that Roman traffic was commendable!
After learning the history of Colosseum we crossed the Baths of Caracalla which were founded around 212 A.D. He mentioned how parts of the baths are now used in the summer by the Rome Opera company.
Afterwards crossing swanky Roman villas and apartments, we reached the Aventine Hill which was a special treat. It was my first time at the Aventine and the view from there was exceptional.
Our next stop was the Circus Maximus– a huge playground which also turns out to be the largest stadium from ancient Rome. Currently it is used for many things such as a concert for Rolling Stones 😉
After the Circus Maximus we had to stop for a caffe` so Alexander took us visited the neighbourhood of Testaccio at a quaint place called Trentare3. We passed by Protestant cemetery to see a Pyramid jotting out of nowhere (YES you read that right). The Pyamid of Cestius is one of the most best preserved buildings of Rome as you can see in the picture below. It is extraordinary what all Rome is made up of.
We then stopped in Ancient Rome to see familiar sights of Piazza Navona, the Pantheon and Fontana di Trevi. It was such a beautiful moment to be there again, remembering my earlier travels with my red vespa gleaming in the sunshine, wind blowing on my face. Whatever more could I have wished for??
Before crossing the Ponte Sant’Angelo and reaching Trastevere, I wished we would cross Fontana dell’Acqua Paola which I had seen in movies. It turned out that was the route to the Gianicolo Hill– our last stop.
It was such a fun day and I may have missed so many more spots in between but the best part of Bici & Baci tours is that you wouldn’t see these sights if you came to Rome as a first time visitor. These are hidden areas and places that locals would know. Being on a vespa with a guide definitely helped me know more about Rome. I was so pleased when Alexander told me twice that he was happy that I already knew so much about Rome and its history. It made me feel proud of myself.
Bici & Baci was kind enough to host me for the 4 hours of my ride for no cost. Thanks guys, your tours are already high on my recommendation list for all my Indian friends who visit Rome.
Meanwhile, tell me have you ever seen Rome on a vespa??
Ciao a tutti! Hello everyone!
Hope you enjoy a selection of pictures from my Instagram account in the past few months.
Also, I’d love to hear in the comment below as to what post you would like to see next?? A few options include: More Favorite Italian Words, More Favorite Italy Books, Picture Post of a city/town or any Travel related post.
I’ll decide as per the maximum responses I get. Grazie mille! Thank you so much!!
Cosi Fan Tutte is an Italian opera by Mozart first performed in Vienna. This novel (changed from Tutte to Tutti) is loosely inspired from it. It is my first Michael Dibdin novel which revolves around an Italian inspector's crime chase in modern day Naples. The book includes star crossed lovers, mistaken identities, magicians and lots and lots of melodrama. And can you believe I got it for about a 100 rupees from a book sale!! (It's less than 2 euros) 😍 📚🔮💫
Hundertwasserhaus is one of the many popular sights in Vienna..Akin to Gaudi of Barcelona, the architect Hundertwasser, was criticized for his creations and termed insane in his times. But all he wanted was to achieve peace between humanity and nature. Check this strange grassroof colored apartment!👈👆
The clink of glasses in the morning, old world interiors and the smell of freshly ground coffee was enough to attract me here. For those of you seen and loved Before Sunrise movie this is Café Sperl- the place where part of the movie was shot. Like all Viennese coffee houses, Sperl is a big institution in itself. A little off the tourist attractions, Sperl is close to the famous Naschmarkt and is worth a detour. #foodtalkindia
Who doesn’t love quaint towns?? If you are in Italy or traveling there anytime soon, this list is a keeper. You will feel blessed to be in a country with so many varied choices of charming towns. Although this list is not exhaustive, it certainly includes many of my favorites. I will keep adding more to this list as and when I can. If you have any favorites, feel free to share 🙂
With an annual chocolate and jazz festival to its kitty, Perugia is quite a catch. It is still quite unknown to a first time Italy traveler so take a chance next time you are in Italy. Visit this medieval town before it gets run down by mass tourism and selfie sellers.
Deep in the green heart of Italy and quite close to Perugia is another small town with an ancient castle, a single yet fabulous Bar and the historic convent of La Scarzuola. Need I say more? For more details check this.
Gubbio is Gothic, strange and charming at the same time. It belongs to the Pre Roman era and has a beautifully preserved Roman theatre at the entrance. Although slightly difficult to access, there are regular buses to reach Gubbio from Perugia and the region of Marche.
Tuscany has a special magic to it and there are countless towns in the region with something special. Monteriggioni is one such town, off the beaten track from the usual towns of Pisa, Siena, Montepulciano, Volterra that most travelers visit. This Tuscan town is walled and has an old world feel with its small piazza.
Liguria is filled with colored houses and expanse of the Ligurian sea. Popular because of the Cinque Terre too, travelers overlook the little gem of Portovenere. The town is close to the main city of La Spezia hence easy to reach. It has a stupendous sea view, an old castle and history from Lord Byron’s times. Check here to know more.
This town deserves attention. Only 30 minutes from the under appreciated Trieste, Muggia is precious. It is well known for sea food and has small yatches and boats clung to the sea giving an inkling of an Enid Blyton adventure.
A town every chocolate lover must visit even though there are so many in Italy that its hard to keep track. Modica is special because its a town in Sicily- a region so diverse that it puts the rest of the country’s diversity into perspective for me. The locals are usually home by 8 p.m. and its fun to wander the streets by yourself.
Another Sicilian town that needs attention from foreign visitors is Scicli. It is so quaint and forlorn that you will feel slightly biased for it once you are back. It has ancient cave dwellings and crude cliffs. You might probably see men at the piazza more as women stay confined to their homes and probably gossip or cook.
Probably everyone’s favorite because of its colorful vibe, Burano is only half an hour from Venice. It is famous for handmade lace and bussola which is a kind of a biscuit. According to legend, the island was colored so that the fishermen could find their way in the fog.
Perched on a hill top and filled with white lanes and maze like streets, Locorotondo will outsmart every other town you visit in Puglia. Make sure you have its local wine and visit the nearby olive groves and trulli homes in Alberobello.
-Discovering new places, cuisines, history, culture and things in general.
-Breaking mundane routines and making your own.
-Challenging yourself to things you never imagined.
-Sharing travel stories with strangers.
-Making check lists and ticking each one as it’s achieved.
-Learning words of the local language.
-Knowing others’ point of view for a new vision
-Enjoying a cake twice a day. Just because…
-Planning a new trip as soon as you are back from one.
-Receiving your Visa papers.
-Packing a picnic basket for a trip with family.
-Having Coffee/Tea more than you require.
-Glimpsing towns from the sky.
-Feeling WOW on being at thirty thousand feet.
-Sleeping till late.
-Reading in a foreign land about that foreign land.
-Partying at a hostel with random people.
-Appreciating life is general.
-Celebrating festivals with locals.
-Having friends from across the world.
-Finding new things about yourself each day.
“If not now, when?”
Castello di Poppiano is perched on the cascading hills of Tuscany. Only a short drive from Florence, it is located in Montespertoli and belongs to the Guicciardini family. A very powerful name in Tuscany, Guicciardini housed many Florentine masterpieces in this castle during the difficult times of World War II.
Poppiano is not very big but perfect for a day to just relax and enjoy wine or go for a bike ride in the Tuscan hills. The castle has a production of olive oil and wine going on since the 15th century. There were also several varieties to taste and purchase in a shop at the entrance. Make sure you climb the tower of the castle and pass through old barrels of wine stored in the cellar to see those lush green views!
I would recommend visiting this quaint fortress for breathtaking views of the Chianti region especially those tall gorgeous cypress trees that we always associate Tuscany with. I could stay there for hours! Of course with a glass of wine in my hand!
How to Reach– Best way to reach this castle is to hire a car to make the most of the Tuscan countryside.
Have you been for a wine tasting in Tuscany?
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 🙂
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.
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…
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.
Via Porta Carini, Palermo.
Monday- Sat: 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Sunday- 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
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.
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.
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.
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….
Did you enjoy??
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 😉
-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 🙂
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Grazie mille Lorenzo and Rikki for your hospitality and warmth. It is an honour for me to be their first guest from India!
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.
Ciao a tutti! Hello everyone!
Hope you enjoy a selection of pictures from my Instagram this month. Would love to hear your favorites 🙂
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.
A 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 🙂
I 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.
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 😉
Next time my wish is to spend a night in a “Trullo” and feel like a Hobbit 😀
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.
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 🙂
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.
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 🙂
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 🙂
That 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.
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.
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.
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.
-B&B Grottone (including breakfast) only 3-4 minutes walk from Piazza Garibaldi.
-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.
-Sottolarco for hand made jewellery and knick knacks.Say Ciao to Rosanna for me 🙂
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 🙂
Any favorites?? 🙂
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
Moving further, I saw the influence of baroque architecture just as I had seen in Lecce. I was in awe.
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)
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.
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.
What do you think about Gallipoli?? Would love to know your thoughts.
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:
Which one is your favorite? 😀
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).
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 😉