One glorious day soaking up the spirit of Siena

This Tuscan town is famous for the Palio…

Hungover from the highs of flower-draped whitewashed villas, open-roof vintage cars and cliff-hanger coastal views. Dew-fresh Amalfi Coast memories flashing through the mind’s eye. Train-bound to Siena, in the heart of Tuscany, in and out of tunnels, through golden fields loaded with bales of hay and little hill towns dotted with red-roof houses. No big surprises during the 5-minute taxi ride from the station. Until the moment we sail through one of the gates…into one of the most unique walled towns in all of Italy.

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Brilliant blues will tempt you in the island of Capri

Idyllic island in Italy’s Gulf of Naples…

Keep your eyes glued to the window as the shuttle from Naples airport weaves slowly through the narrow streets of the city’s Greco-Roman historic centre. Past alley labyrinths and literary cafès. Past church steeples, Baroque facades, Renaissance statues and frescoed fountains. Past leftovers of the ancient Agora and Forum. To the buzzing port guarded by the turreted Castle Nuovo. Where the shadow of Vesuvius looming in the distance triggers a thought…maybe Pompeii just a bad dream. Long ticket queues to multiple islands, but the wait is short, because Capri ferries depart every 45 minutes. So sit back on the plush seats and enjoy the smooth sail over the Tyrrhenian Sea. Because here on, its stinging electric blue all the way.

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This is the most incredible medieval skyscraper city of all

12th-century Bologna was a high-rise metropolis…

It is recognized by many terms of endearment…‘La Rossa’ (The Red One) for its vibrant brick architecture, ‘La Dotta’, for its first University of the western world, ‘La Grassa’ for its traditional dishes like tortellini, mortadella, lasagne, tagliatelle with meat sauce and ‘La Turrita’, for its more than 180 towers from an illustrious medieval past. Many nicknames…much love. It’s been labelled with many official names too…4th-century name Felsina of its founding Etruscans to the Bononia of the Romans (meaning ‘fortified place’) to Bologna. Solid history, deep foundations. So quit thinking of reasons to skip the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, the authentic hotbed of Italian gastronomy. There just aren’t any!

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You can be a pigment in the colorful canvas of Cinque Terre

Inside Italy’s five most famous seaside villages…

Italy is an enigmatic lady. She flaunts varied sides of her split personality with equal elan…chic (Milan), arty (Florence), sophisticated (Bellagio), luxe (Capri) to innocent (Varenna), rustic (San Gimignano) or religious (Vatican), romantic (Venice). And if you’re looking for unspoilt and laid-back, there’s Cinque Terre (CHINK-weh TAY-reh). The cluster of five seaside villages stayed hidden from public eye for years, but are now  on every Italy-lover’s wishlist, and for several good reasons. No statues, monuments, museums and street performers here…just the sun, sea, rocky beaches, food, and unadulterated Italy. As its been since centuries.

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How to have a perfect (rainy) day at Lake Como

Loving Bellagio and Varenna, despite the rain…

Early morning, last day of Italy trip. Bed stumble, groggy walk, window peek, cringe. Wet roads…not on Lake Como day! But if you travel shoulder season to Europe, like us, a frequent drizzle will be a constant companion, so its best to make your peace with the clouds. You can’t change the weather, but you can certainly change the shape of your facial muscles. Brave the rains with a smile!

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Sweet dreams are made of picturesque Positano

Dream destination on the Amalfi Coast…

The entire horizon is covered end-to-end by the Amalfi Coast. The tiny image of a colourful little town carved into the stony hills of the Sorrentine peninsula grows larger and clearer as our ferry draws close. I scan the scene eagerly to identify the famous yellow-tiled dome of the cathedral. This is it…Positano!

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That adorable, offbeat Tuscan town of Lucca you need to see

Lucca has one wall, 100 churches and countless brick homes…

A short 30-minutes train ride from touristy Pisa lies a lesser-known, surprising little Tuscan town. An important Latin settlement since 180 BC. Remarkably well-preserved. Dripping with atmosphere. Quietly redefining picturesque. Entirely car-free. And just 90,000 locals. Love Lucca. There’s no way not to!

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Revealing rare treasures in the house of God

Brace yourself for a spectacle at the Siena Duomo…

Digital familiarity is a far cry from the real thing. And no amount of images can prepare you enough for this fascinating walled city built on three hills in the heart of Tuscany. Siena is bound to spring like a charming surprise onto your unsuspecting traveling soul…and reserve its own tiny corner forever. This dawned upon us the moment our cab entered one of the city gates and started navigating a curvy, concentric, seemingly confusing route through a tight maze of solid stone-and-brick palazzos spread over 170 hectares.

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Are you really sure you know your Italian food?

Rethink one of the most popular cuisines of the world…

Be honest. When you see this blog title, aren’t you thinking: “Why an article on this topic? Everyone knows Italian food, right? You WILL change your mind after you read through to the end.

When we came back from our vacation in Italy last month, we encountered naturally curious questions like: “Did you tired of having pizza and pasta everyday?” and “Was the Caesar Salad any different?” and “Wasn’t the food a cakewalk this time?”

Ha! We had gone brimming with the over-confidence. Thought we knew Italian food as well as Indian food. Came back humbled. There was tons to learn. We didn’t know it all.

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When dreams come true, tears flow

Venice made me cry: with joy…

Everyone has a dream destination, and mine has always been Venice. For as long as I can remember, the floating ethereal city has been the fairytale I wanted to live out. Naturally, my excitement was already sky-high when we boarded the train from Milan to Venice.

The sight of the water taxis outside Venice station fired my spirits higher and throughout the ferry ride, I kept standing at the helm, looking out at sea, eager for my first view. Despite all the fascinating pictures my mind recalled, I was totally unprepared! The city’s hazy silhouette from a distance kept sharpening as we got nearer…like a perfect painting hung up on a far wall in a museum. With every second, I noticed more colours under the intricate play of light and shade. Finally, we were here!

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