The Italian Affair!

25th May 2019

As a child, I was always looking forward to my next travel destination. Italy was on my mind for a decade long time, and I am so satisfied that I finally took a trip there!

What was most special about this trip was travelling with friends. Some of the best memories you can ever make with your friends are when travelling together. It doesn’t even have to be far or for a long period of time. When you explore new places and try new things, these are the memories that stick out the most when you reflect on your life and what better person to bring along for the ride than your best buddies.

So, after months of Whatsapp planning, hundreds of trips on, lot of debates over which cities to cover, the 4 of us finally set out all on our own, to explore the beauty called Italy! Our friends were travelling from New York, and the excitement of getting to meet them after 1.5 years was what made the whole journey all the more exciting.

We were to meet directly in Milan, our first destination. Milan in two words for me was – the FASHION CAPITAL. With brands thrown on your face all across the Duomo Sqaure, overlooking the Duomo Cathedral, and the rains to give company, Milan was cold, cosy and served us with the much needed break from our hot weather conditions back home. It was also special as we rang in our friend Manav’s birthday in a very small bar with beautiful candles and a yummy chocolate cake. But as all good things have a funny angle, in this case, we had to be reminded by our birthday boy himself to wish him at 12!

Photo of The Italian Affair! 1/4 by Manasi Shende

From Milan we covered Lake Como – one of the most beautiful paradises on Earth. The train ride to Como, the never ending walk to the funicular, and posing for pictures on top of the small village Brunate overlooking the Swiss Alps, in freezing cold (this is what my friend Kinjal made us do) made it so amazing.

But if there is one thing, the 4 of us would always remember from Como, is our first ever Gelato. I will never forget how my friend dropped her first ever Gelato near the lake, and how none of us could leave our own ice creams to help her! Friends in need are real friends, we clearly refuted the line!

Our next most memorable episode wasn’t that far, it was our next morning fiasco. Loaded with 7 bags in our hotel lobby, the 4 of us were panicking if we would make it to the train which was by the way scheduled to leave in 30 minutes.

That is another thing that would always stay with us – all of us running on Milan Centrale to catch the train with annoyingly heavy bags – one running the fastest on the platform with small bags screaming “platform 11” in her loudest voice ever, one continuously abusing his over-packed bag all through the trip, one THUG (my husband preferred to be called by this name in Italy for reasons best known to him) and myself busy arguing and trying out all the permutations and combination amongst our 4 bags to reach till the far end of the train. The train ride which we thought was for 2 hours, was clearly shortened by an hour because of the time taken to just reach our seats and then pass the remaining time laughing over the fiasco! Indians, I tell you!

Florence immediately managed to hypnotize all of us, with its simplicity, old world charm, cute cafes, and small streets. But our pleasure was short lived when we again boarded the train to go to Pisa, sat inside, chatted for 10 minutes with a beautiful lady, only to be shocked by her that we were in the wrong train!

Photo of The Italian Affair! 2/4 by Manasi Shende

Florence clearly was my most loved city. If given an option I could just give up everything and escape there. There were beautiful places to see around, the striking cathedral, Piazza Republica, Ponte Vechhio, enjoying wine and Risotto on APNA ADDA, Brunch at La Vespe, and our guided tour to the Tuscan country side.

What will stay with me from Florence, is the sunset we captured sitting on the steps of Piazza

Michelangelo, and dancing away to glory on the streets with people, me and my friend had never met.

From Florence, we started our journey to Amalfi, through Naples. Contrary to what people say, we had one of the weirdest Pizzas in Naples on our way. Yes, we managed to do all things funny and wrong.

The drive from Naples to Amalfi was beautiful, crossing one mountain after the other, getting glimpses of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, and houses in pastel shades decked up beautifully on the mountain steps. What a sight!

We enjoyed our coastal stay for 4 nights in total, and as they say if things don’t go as per the plan, you are at least thankful for the company you are traveling with to keep your spirits high. We realized it there J

Because we decided to hire a cute old fashioned FIAT car, we got to explore beautiful places like Positano, and Pompei, and Capri Island.

Positano was the most loved place for my friends, with the young party vibe and everyone dressed to their best. We had lunch at a very pretty place called Café Positano. It was beautiful, overlooking the sea, and the winds giving us company. One place on our TO-DO list for Positano will definitely be Franco’s Bar.

Photo of The Italian Affair! 3/4 by Manasi Shende

The highlight of our Pompei tour was not the ruins or the history, but it was a restaurant we found there, with the entire staff ready to customize all our food order to our taste! I think that was the best meal we all had in the entire trip, with such warm and welcoming hosts!

Capri was another gem – the entire experience of taking the Blue Grotto tour. The Blue Grotto is basically a sea cave on the coast of the island of Capri, southern Italy. Sunlight, passing through an underwater cavity and shining through the seawater, creates a blue reflection that illuminates the cave, and that is what makes the experience unique and memorable. But for us, what was even more memorable, was happily eating away our Gelatos while waiting for our Ferry back to Amalfi, only to realize that we had already missed it! We really managed to out-do the beauty and charm of every place, with our own set of incidents which made it more memorable!

Photo of The Italian Affair! 4/4 by Manasi Shende

Our last leg of the trip was Rome. We were pleasantly surprised with our beautiful B&B, with an impressive Jacuzzi right in the middle of our room. We reached Rome with a mindset of it being a typical city, with nothing much to offer. Hold on – we were all so wrong!

ROME blew us away with its charm, beautiful crowded streets with people sipping wine on both sides of the roads. Rome truly was a city with a SOUL-something which was lacking in other cities we visited.

Rome had lots to offer to us, the humongous history, high end brands, the beautiful wish making Trevi fountain, sitting on Spanish steps and watching people go by, and the very yummy Gelato at Venchi, which we earned after a 30 min long queue. Thanks Kinjal for dragging us to Venchi!

We were also very privileged to have gotten a chance to experience the beauty and history of the smallest country in the world – The Vatican City. Our respect for the Roman history, and Michelangelo grew manifolds, and I have to mention a special thanks here to my history loving friend – Manav, because of whom we got convinced for the tour. We also acted touristy and took a lot of pictures at The Colosseum, after which we explored Roman streets, and remembered our loved ones while shopping beautiful souvenirs for them. That was our last evening in Italy, and with heavy hearts we packed our bags to fly back.

As we settled in the car next morning to go to the airport for our respective flights back home, I captured the city sitting in the window, as much as I could for one last time. As we passed the Cathedral, the cafes, the Parliament building, a flood of memories crossed my mind. What an epic trip it was, and like all good things, this too had an end.

What made the trip so memorable, was our bond, our jokes, and the capacity to learn so much about each other. If my pigeon phobia was weird to me, I found peace in knowing that my friend Kinjal also had a weird phobia of seeing people brushing their teeth! This girl made me do crazy things like ironing her hair with an actual clothes iron, walking down the steps from Florence in dark, and joined me in hundreds of annoying Boomerangs! My husband explored a whole new side to him in the trip, he loved walking on the streets and embraced Italian food, after learning new terminologies like Gnocchi, Raviolli!

Also, after this trip, I realized how much I adore my friends – Manav and Kinjal for being so entertaining and lovable, and how badly I am going to miss their “Who stamped on whose feet” arguments, in the days to come!

Italy, you were amazing. As our plane took off, each one of us made a silent promise to reunite for another trip in the coming months, and keep the travel diary rolling always!

Signing off, till our next destination..

The Italian musketeers, PS - I love you guys