Rasam Travels - ITALY

I need to move around a bit.
to shuffle my surroundings.
to wake up in cities
I don’t know my way around
and have conversations in languages 
I cannot entirely comprehend.
there is always this tremendous
longing in my heart to be lost,
to be someplace else,
to be far far away from all this.
— Beau Taplin - 'Vacation'

This is the BIG ONE.  

The travel in 2016 that ignited this fire to start this website and to be committed to creating. That year my husband and i decided to take a nice long vacation to the following places - Italy, Switzerland and the UK. This decision came after a year after the transplant and we had decided to take a break from it all and go somewhere we can be free and enjoy ourselves. So after getting all green signals from my doctors we decided to go for it. Out of the three destination we had picked, Italy was the only place we did not have relatives staying, and that was the place we were most excited about. Also, We didn't book any package tour, so we were on full exploration mode.  So we packed our bags and headed out for this adventure.

We only made hotel reservations in Italy, nothing else.

Before going, many people had warned us about how Rome was known for people getting mugged, and how people try and con you when they get the chance. Their advise went through one ear and came out the other. We decided to see for ourselves. 

The day we landed at the airport in Rome, the taxi company which had their stall inside the airport cornered the husband and tried to get him to take their taxi by offering him some absurd inclusions and fare - now, we already knew that the taxis outside the airport would cost much less so with a lot of persistence we said 'NO' and took a taxi outside. The hotel we choose was close to all the tourist places, and with the help with google maps we decided to just walk to all of them. 

Travel Tip - WALK. Rome is tiny when compared to Bangalore. So, walk.

It was the best decision we took. We walked everywhere and this way we could really immerse ourselves in the city, see all the sights, stay for as long as we wanted or leave as soon as we wanted. An added bonus was we got to see all the little streets and corners and steps where we could sit and rest. I love to see and observe people walking about, talking - some locals, some tourists.

On those steps I got to take a step back and be a silent spectator.

The city is also full of these ancient water taps and old buildings and doors and other architectural splendors that i could get lost in forever; apart from this, walking also gets you to small family-run restaurants serving the best Italian dishes with the most delicious cheese, accompanied by chilled beer, and for dessert? Gelato! It was a dream to walk through this old city covered in cobble stones, where every corned you turn there is something waiting for you to see, taste and experience. We also did the normal touristy places like the Colosseum, threw a coin at Trevi Falls, took a bus (excellent place to eavesdrop on the locals speaking Italian and also to feel like a local) to the Vatican city - only to see the Sistine Chapel - it was glorious. 

Travel Tip - at every tourist spot there were many many guides who speak a thousand languages offering you a speedy entry. Don't fall for them. Stand in line and you will get in in no time. These queues have nothing on our 'Indian' queues. Believe me. 

The food from breakfast to dinner was exceptional! Being foodies, we loved the different meats in our breakfast buffet to the ham and Parmesan in the Spaghetti Carbonnara to the super luxurious Tiramisu with a big hit of liquor and to the delightful and refreshing gelatos. We stuffed ourselves in their food and their culture. I for one, loved to eavesdrop on peoples conversing in Italian - I didn't understand a word, but it didn't matter. You know, "When in Rome.."

Bellicimo!!

Our next stop was another dreamy destination. Venice. 

Venice, Venezia! We didn't stay at Venice itself (because, budget) so we had to take the local train to travel between the two places. The train station is bang in the middle of Venice, and what a station it is! It opens up to the Grand canal where you can see the gondolas, the churches and the many many tourists. Venice is all what it is made out to be in novels and movies. It's magical and romantic.

It looks like a painting, tastes like wine and olives, smells like romance, sounds like poetry.

No wonder this city has been written about in a thousand books and poems.. I felt like an author too sitting beside the canals looking at the gondolas pass by. Everyone transforms into an artist. I felt so happy and lucky that I could have a peek at people in their own little worlds creating something, drawing, singing, playing an instrument. I saw the immense joy it gave them to be able to share it tens and thousands of people from around the world. No one hides their talent.. 'Come take a look!' they said. Love and romance is truly in the air in Venice. If
you don't feel it, you can see it. Couples holding hands, kissing and hugging. Mr husband and I felt shy just looking at them.. But as time went by we became them. Time had stood still for those days we were in Venice. Our days would start by walking around, what we ate and drank depended on our mood, we spent time roaming around visiting the many art galleries spread across the city, and if not the art gallerias, then sit around and watch people engrossed in art - dancing or sketching or singing. I loved the tiny roads that led to nowhere - We could get away from the crowds and be by ourselves, watch the many boats and ships come in and if we had enough of that, go into the nearest restaurant and have a drink - it didn't matter if it was 10 am. We were living the Italian dream! 

travel Tip - Take the gondola ride. It is on the expensive side, but worth it. 

From here we went on to Switzerland and the UK where we had relatives stay. I will write about them someday; but Italy will always be special to us. We ate and drank and got lost and found in this incredible country. We had to navigate and find our way through these ancient cities and there was nothing we wanted more. 

As I mentioned -

this post is dedicated to Anthony Bourdain

who took his life last week. The news of his suicide devastated me and millions of others around the world. The man who advocated travel, meeting new people, understanding new cultures. I have so memories of my dad and I sitting to watch his programs on food and travel. He committed suicide. It’s unfathomable of how many people I saw as icons and role models and confident people - were hurting inside and gave in. And this scares me.  Time and again these tragedies have shown us that money and fame doesn't guarantee happiness and that your mental health is as important as your physical. So, my dear ones, please take care of yourself and your loved ones.

The ‘Live Laugh Love’ foundation has a hotline number and a trained mental health professional ready to help and guide you.

This is their number — 022-25521111.

Sending love and healing to those hurting. Choose life.

Onward.