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The journey to the past
Cock-a-Hoop moments in Rome
The Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi once said “You may have the universe if I may have Italy” today I , a passionate traveller wants to speak here in a degree of candour about visiting this slice of world : On heading any other European country I would recommend all my traveller friends to start their Europe odyssey with Italy. Italy can never be covered in a single go. As said the south of Italy is created only to stun .So as a passionate traveller I started my journey with Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan.
I am here today to share some of my astounding observations of the place and I certainly agree after seeing the architectural masterpieces of Rome, the enchanting medieval charm of Florence, the breathtaking views of the Chianti vineyards, furthermore Venice holds the unimaginative scene of a city on water, the idea is itself so Utopian ,the flamboyance of Milan is noteworthy and the beauty of lake Como from dawn to dusk exudes an aura of enchantment regardless of whether it is bathed in sunlight or shrouded in mist. Consequently, viewers never tire of looking at it with admiration and amazement. Dotting with fairy-tale villages with narrow alleys, tiny hanging balconies beautifully accommodating flower pots gives you a feeling that such places actually exist in this world AND it’s just not a mirage. Touring on these places is like starting a love affair with life and its creations.
Some of my cock-a-hoop moments was my first view of the Colosseum, one of the most evocative sights I have ever seen. The fact that it was the largest amphitheatre where men fought with men to kill, men fought with wild beast to kill and the entire roman folks used to cheer to this act of slaughter. If you do the complete tour of this edifice one gets a slight eerie feeling. But yes, said and done one must pay a special tribute to this timeless reminder of the roman might: The Colosseum. I remained flabbergasted after seeing the frescoes of Raphael Santi and Michelangelo in the Vatican Museum. What evoked me about Michelangelo was how could a man in his life paint so intricately and create sculptures par excellence.
The Italian capital is an epic metropolis that will steal your heart with its architectural masterpieces, its buzzing piazzas, stone cobbled romantic streets, scooters zip through medieval alleyways and stylish drinkers sip at tables on baroque piazzas. The most visited sights: Colosseum, Roman Forum, St.Peters Basilica, Vatican Museums, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona and Spanish Steps.
I stayed in Rome for 4 days yet if you make a stay for a week you are bound to miss some historic spots. Other than the go by the books ones you have a series of sigh-seeing which can never be termed as optional for passionate travelers or history buffs. Once starting your day with the famous Trevi, just in the vicinity is the Time Elevator a fantastic show that people of all age will eat. It is a 45 minutes virtual journey through 3,000 years of Roman history. Shows kick off half past every hour, ranging from kids to armchair sightseers loves the panoramic screens, flight stimulator technology and surround sound system.
Then comes the creepy Chiesa Di Santa Maria Della Conceizione, a church whose interior decorations comprise of human bones. The lovers of all kinds of ghoulish will find the place rewarding. A short walk to the north of Trevi is Tridante, which encompasses Piazza di Spagna. In past, luminaries ranging from poets John Keats to filmmaker Federico Fellini spent a large amount time here. It is the city’s shopping district too packed with fancy glittering designer boutiques.
Keep the afternoon to Villa Borghese, north of Tridenta. It is filled with sculptures, painting, frescos surrounded by the most picturesque public park in Rome. Don’t miss this extraordinary opportunity to experience Rome as not many do! On a small-group Roman countryside bike tour of the ancient Appian Way and Catacombs, cycle in a group of 12 along a 2,300-year-old cobblestone Roman road, past an ancient sepulcher and an Imperial palace, as well as ancient Roman aqueducts.
Finally, ride through Caffarella Park, a preserved strip of land in the Roman countryside that impressed 19th-century travellers like Byron, Goethe and Stendhal. The challenging route covers a distance of roughly 19 miles (30 kilometers) including some seven or eight hills and lots of off-road terrain; for this reason, the tour is aimed at experienced cyclists with a better-than-average level of fitness. For non-bikers also I would recommend this trip, you can do a segway ride for covering such a vast area. There is a dedicated page online stating options on getting to the Appian Way. Appian Way is strategically the oldest motor road of Roman empire.
Now comes the food and dinning section : I dug out an off-the-raider- type idyllic restaurant named la forchetta d'oro in Santa Maria Maggiore area where I was staying in an budget B&B. The complementary Brochette with a blob of Mozzarella was to die for. The jolly restaurateur came to us as a food consultant guiding us about Parmesan and balsamic vinegar based sauces , Bolognese sauce and Parma ham should be our staple for our roman vacation. Also adding delicious meats topped with homemade pasta, rich ragu and Italian deserts worthy of a moment’s silence. I feel the idyllic Italian dinning was the best in Rome, would love to come again to talk more about food with this passionate Italian.
Get wowed by art in the Florentine air !!
My fourth day trip continues to Florence. The city is synonymous with Renaissance. Home to Michelangelo's David, Leonardo's Annunciation, Botticelli's Birth of Venus and Raphael's staggering Madonnas the city is indeed an art pilgrim's paradise.
The Duomo dominates in the sky of Florence and the entire city develops pinkish hues during sunset. The Arno river is like the life line of Florence silently flowing under Ponte Vecchio (iconic bridge of Florence) dotting the glittering wares of jewellers since 16th century when Medici ordered them here to replace the smelly town butchers. No visit to Florence is justified without haggling for leather wallets, bags, belts at the San Lorenzo Market.
The most visited sights: Piazza Del Duomo, Battistero, Galleria dell'Accademia, Museo dell'Opera dell Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio and end your day experiencing the panoramic view of the city from the famous Piazzale Michelangelo.
Turn your back on the bevy of ticky-tacky souvenir stalls flogging David statues and boxer shorts and take in the spectacular city panorama from this vast square, pierced by one of Florence's two David copies. Sunset here is particularly dramatic. It's a 10-minute uphill walk along the serpentine road, paths and steps that scale the hillside from the Arno and Piazza Giuseppe Poggi; from Piazza San Niccolò walk uphill and bear left up the long flight of steps signposted Viale Michelangelo. Or take bus 13 from Stazione di Santa Maria Novella. Start your morning bypassing the line with your skip-the-line ticket, enjoy a guided tour of the Accademia Gallery.
Check out Michelangelo's David, a magnificent 17 foot marble masterpiece -- easily the most famous statue in the world! Pass through the San Lorenzo Leather Market and stop to rub the nose of Florence's piglet statue (Il Porcellino) for luck!. Head past the queues outside the Florence Duomo for a skip-the-line tour of this stunning building, officially known as Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Learn about the Duomo's history from your guide.
The ideal way to discover Florence is your own way! Cross the Ponte Vecchio, a medieval bridge and experience the newest area of Florence Oltrarno, be sure set aside time to see the varied art collection housed in the Pitti Palace. When you grow weary of Museums and monuments spend some time at the Baboli Gardens or climb the hill to church of San Miniato al Monte to experience the views of Florence.
Under the Tuscan Sun !!
Next day early morning we started for our trip under the Tuscan sun. The one day Tuscany tour was conducted by the Viator .Visited some old medieval towns of Siena and San Gimignano. It was certainly one of my life changing experiences till date. The famous bareback Palio horse race dated from the middle ages takes place even today during 2nd July and 16th Aug every year. Siena's 17 town districts compete for the coveted Palio (silk banner).
San Gimignano is called the Medieval Manhattan, and believe me, the place has not changed much since the medieval age. The intact medieval streetscapes, its palpable sense of history and enchanting rural setting lure thousands of tourist all round the world. Possibly Italy’s most famous small town, there are few places that evoke the atmosphere of Medieval Toscana so precisely. Cobblestone roads, high defensive walls, imposing towers, narrow streets to walk down and minimal automobile traffic create an illusion of timelessness. Famous towers date back to a period when prosperous families sought prestige by building towers to match the height of their status. So aggressive was the competition between families that the government made a law forbidding any tower taller than the tower on the Palazzo del Popolo, the seat of the government.
Besides being symbols of status, the towers also served as defensive strongholds during the incessant family feuds that plagued the city, and were used to store grain for sieges and for dumping boiling oil on attacking enemies. A breathtakingly beautiful little town in almost every corner -- a view from the top of the Torre Grossa is exquisite -- San Gimignano’s piazzas and palaces add to its authentic charm – the beautifully paved bricks of the Piazza della Cisterna, the Piazza del Duomo, the Palazzo del Popolo’s town hall. This is a fabulous medieval town.
Enjoy a stroll among Chianti vineyards, olive groves and wine cellars before indulging in a traditional Tuscan lunch amongst the Sienese hills. Surrounded by grapevines you'll have the opportunity to meet fellow travellers while feasting on the local lunch : Garlic Brochette, Pasta with Rich ragu, Tuscan ham, salami and local artisan sheep milk cheese, Garden Salad, Cantuccini (almond biscuits) to dip into Vin Santo (dessert wine), A tasting of local wines. A wine-tasting class was held during lunch including free samples of wine and olive oil (which are also available for purchase). I come out with a great deal of knowledge about Chainti wines: Before going to the wine education let me preach you all in Tuscany region Sangiovese grapes are the Super-powers. So if you are drinking Chianti, Sangiovese is in majority in the bottle. There are three genres of Chianti wine 1.Chainti Regular 2.Chainti Classico 3.Chinati Riserva. The Chianti Classico region is central to the region and arguably the most famous.
We ended our tour by visiting the vibrant university town that draws millions of day-trippers who come for a glimpse of Pisa’s tilted tower. Save your visit to the leaning tower of Pisa and Palazzo dei Miracoli. We reached this place in the evening and found out night casts a certain magic on the glistening white monuments. The photographers will be thrilled to capture some of the best frames of the trip.
Florence was so intoxicating that at the end of our Florence trip we really wanted to include another day in our Travel itinerary For wine lovers wine festival in Greve in the chianti district takes place- every year on second weekend of September and the preceding Thursday and Friday, 5 - 8th Sept 2013. On Thursday, the festival starts at about 5 pm, and on Saturday and Sunday at about 11 am and the stands close at about 8 pm. Local merchants display their products, and wine tasting is offered for free. Olive oil is also available for tasting, served on fresh sliced Italian bread. Local cheeses are also available.
For all the culinary experts Viator has started with a Cooking class at a Tuscan Farm House with a local Market tour from Florence. Indulge your love of Italian food in Tuscany, and enjoy a full-day tour that combines a market visit with a cooking class and 4-course meal with wine! After scouting out quality local ingredients at a historical Florence food market, travel to a rustic farmhouse in Tuscany, surrounded by exquisite countryside. Then, prepare your feast of pasta, pizza and Tuscan roast pork, plus beloved desserts such as tiramisu and gelato, before savouring the creations with Tuscan wine. Up to four glasses of wine are included throughout the day, as well as a recipe book, cooking diploma and souvenir apron. Highly Recommended!!
Bubbly wine and Gondala traffic in Venice !!
The comprehensive introduction to Venice begins near St Mark’s Square including the Byzantine architectural heritage of St Mark's Basilica and the adjoining prisons of Doge's Palace. Leaving the crowds behind, enter a labyrinth of narrow passageways, alleys and meandering canals punctuated by delicate bridges as you further explore the enchanting city with your guide. Following your guide, weave around the throngs of street musicians, visitors, locals and pigeons who converge on the square, and stop for photos in front of its many monuments.
Explore the lively Campo Santa Maria Formosa with its outstanding Gothic palaces, and view Marco Polo's house as well as an old merchant's warehouse and the city’s most beautiful wellhead. Complete your walking tour near the smallest bridge in the world (that’s what I felt) Ponte Rialto, and enjoy free time before your Gondola tour of the Grand Canal begins and soak in romance. In addition to Venice’s big-name sights, your walking tour also takes in some city gems that many visitors miss.
Discover the calli, a labyrinthine web of narrow Venetian streets and canals, and learn about life in the city as a local. Indulge in the shopping lanes for Murano glass showpieces and Venitian mask for your home collection. You can extent a day and go for a day trip to the Venetian islands : Murano has been home to glass blowers for centuries, Burano is famous for its lace-making, and Torcello is where the original Venetian settlers made their homes (one of Venice’s oldest churches still stands on Torcello). You can visit all three in a relaxed day, taking the vaporetto from island to island or can book a local day tour online.
On reaching in the time of day the city becomes overcrowded by boat traffic, water busses called Vapouratie, if something floats and it's in Venice, it moves along the Grand Canal. And by daylight it is one of the glories of the Earth. But at night, especially when the moon is full and the soft illumination reflects off the water and onto the palaces – it is like writing poetry. You can plan during the carnival ball if you love to see the spectacle. The Carnival of Venice (Italian: Carnevale di Venezia) is an annual festival, held in Venice, Italy. The Carnival ends with the Christian celebration of Lent, forty days before Easter on Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras), the day before Ash Wednesday. The festival is famed for its elaborate masks.
But I strongly recommend to do a Venice food tour. Discover the locals’ favorite ‘cicchetti’ bars in Venice, enjoying the city’s famous tapas-style dishes with an expert guide! The exciting 3-hour food tour includes visits to five atmospheric wine bars, a walk around Rialto market and a short Traghetti (Traghetto) ride. Choose from a morning or evening tour and sample plates of the Venetian snacks – known as cicchetti – in each bar.
Try local specialties like marinated seafood with polenta, a plate of Carpaccio, a dish of thinly sliced raw beef topped with a generous drizzle of special sauce, but I just wasn't sure I could eat an entire plate of raw beef. It was invented in Venice and is popular worldwide, also try the sample regional wine and Prosecco – the Italian sparking wine. In the evening train we reached Milan the last destination our trip.
There is an anecdote in the book ‘Travels of Marco Polo’ where Kublai Khan asked the Italian Merchant Traveller ‘ There is still one of which you never speak’ , the Khan said ‘Venice’ Marco smiled. 'What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?' The emperor did not turn a hair. 'And yet I have never heard you mention that name.' And Polo said: 'Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice.” Similarly Venice appeared to me as in a recurring dream, a place once visited and now fixed in memory like images on a photographer’s plates.
Explore this avant-garde blend of old and new in Milan
You can’t ignore this modern metropolis but beneath its urban cool lies the 2,000 year old city with the wealth of treasures to be excavated. The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, is housed at Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, and has earned a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
But there's plenty more to Milan than Leonardo's famous fresco! Take a half-day tour of Milan includes a walking tour introducing you to this stylish Italian city. Milan boasts plenty of superlatives: It's home to one of the world's oldest churches, a renowned opera house, the most fashionable city in Italy, and Da Vinci's The Last Supper. (The exact route will depend on your departure time.)
Milan is the fashion world's design capital and rivals Paris as a leading fashion centre. Shopping here takes on an almost religious significance! But reserve your time for exploring intricate lace-like mountain of pearly white marble cathedral. Climb to the roof to see the bird's eye view of the entire city. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Santa Maria delle Grazie to admire 'The Last Supper' in situ. Demand is high and the queues get long to see this masterpiece; choose this best-selling tour for advance booking and entrance tickets. Explore Sforza Castle and the La Scala opera house with your guide. Explore the GalleriaVittorio Emanuele shopping arcade, a highlight of Italy’s fashion capital
Visiting the Lake Como you may ponder such places only existed in movies !!
A trip to lake Como is a must include in the itinerary. In my second day I explored scenic Lake Como in Italy's beautiful Lake District on a day trip from Milan. Board the train from Milan Norde in the morning and relax on the 1-hour ride to Como De Lago. The fashionable lakeside town of Como is surrounded by snowcapped mountains.
After spending time shopping and dining in Como, you'll take a one-hour panoramic small cruise on Lake Como to the enchanting village of Bellagio. This side of the world is simply a fairy-tale believe me when i say that. The classiness of this pocket of Northern Italy, which Wordsworth described as a 'treasure which the earth keeps to itself', comes from the unspoilt little villages that hug the shore, the beautiful villas in their lush, green gardens, the mountainous hinterland (snow-capped even in late spring) and the well-dressed, courteous locals who seem to measure progress by how much things remain the same.
Lake Como has been a popular retreat for aristocrats and wealthy people since Roman times, and a very popular tourist attraction with many artistic and cultural gems. It has many villas and palaces (such asVilla Olmo, Villa Serbelloni, and Villa Carlotta). Many famous people have or have had homes on the shores of Lake Como, such as Matthew Bellamy, Madonna, George Clooney,Gianni Versace, Ronaldinho, Sylvester Stallone, Julian Lennon, Richard Branson, Ben Spies, and Pierina Legnani.
Sad I didn’t locate George Clooney yet I had it all. Dining is a fine art in fashionable Milan with many a Michelin –starred restaurant playing host to celebrities. Dont leave before sampling some Milanese classiscs :the risotto ala Milanese( delicately flavoured saffron) and a legendary Panettone ( cake with candid fruits).I found a good deal of 16 Euros in a fine dining restaurant for a 3 coarse meal ending my last day of the trip.
Its like a Cookery show !! Flinger-Licking Yum delicacies
My Italian affair comes to an end !!
Italy is a soft drug peddled in predictable packages, such as hills in the sunset, olive groves, lemon trees, white wine, and raven-haired girls. Italia, on the other hand, is a maze. It's alluring, but complicated. It's the kind of place that can have you fuming and then purring in the space of a hundred meters, or in the course of ten minutes. Italy is the only workshop in the world that can turn out both Botticellis and Berlusconis. I wish Italy could kick its bad habit of wanting to eat pasta everywhere. Though I follow all the episodes of celebrity Italian chef the charming David Rocco cooking various recipes of pasta on Fox traveller. I found Italians in general are fashionable, sociable and passionate about enjoying life and cutting a fine figure (la bella figura) but much like Indians they are afflicted with nepotism and unemployment. My trip ends here but there is another big chunk left that is south of Italy that needs to be explored in my lifetime till then as Italian’s would say Ciao !!.
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