A Slice of Fantasy. *That's* how my trip to Italy was. Covering 4 cities and 1 country (The Vatican) in 5 days, and having a blast every minute of those days, is nothing short of a fantasy. Of course, given my manic obsessive self, I'm surprised how it even got covered so well so fast. Therefore, I begin this post with a huge hug to the four girls I shared this fantasy with. Had I traveled alone, I may have still landed up stranded at midnight in Florence, lived in a campsite in Venice, overdosed on Sangria in Milan and navigated through the streets of Rome.....but it wouldn't have been half as fun as it was doing ALL of this with you guys. :) So I-M, Potate and Fiery-Nair (yes, that's your new blog-name. I got tired of calling you Ash like a wannabe Aishwarya Rai groupie), I hope reading this post brings back lots of great memories.
We packed off, switched three trains and traveled through Switzerland to reach our first destination - Milano. Other than the fact that I absolutely *loved* the facade of Milano Centrale, the main station (It has nothing to do with the fact that they have a huge poster of half-naked Nadal advertising Armani jeans -nosirree.), the station represented the city itself - Glamorous and Gigantic. Whether it was exploring the city by tram or walking through the famous Galleria Vittorio (which houses all the famous Italian fashion brands), Milan took the prize for being a perfect blend of Modernity and History. It was like flipping a page of Roman Civilization and landing at FTV. But the food -ah! From Pizzas that could give tablecloths an inferiority complex (for the sheer size....not the texture or any other bizarre reason you may have thought of as you read the line), to fruity Granitas and Sangria. The eye-candy (Ahem, henceforth referred to as Pakodas) were aplenty. And the lilt in the accent of every Milanese (is that a dog-breed or am I allowed to use it for people of Milan?) was so endearing, we ended up speaking to each other like wannabe Italian Mafia with huge mustaches and cigars. (Read: Tom Hanks' dialogue in You've Got Mail, where he goes 'Monday-Tuesday-Thursday-Wednesday')
From Milan, we went to Venice. Expecting singing Gondola-men and beautiful little rivulets which can lead you to undisclosed pieces of heaven, I went to Venice with an overload of Romantic movies in my mind. I discovered soon enough that The Gondola-men don't sing. Not even if you glare down at them from a bridge(The honeymooning couple sitting in that Gondola did glare back, though.) We found ourselves a little place in the tourist hustle and bustle, and threw our feet in the Adriatic Sea with a view of the Venetian Skyline (or a bit of it, at least). Watching the many many channels of water meandering through a city that practically floats, I was lost to its charms. So I didn't find Venice as romantic as my Mills-and-Boon infested imagination had expected it to be. But it wasn't disillusioning either. It's one city I'd love to go back, just to explore all those little canals, leading to what they would call their home, but I'd call a floating fantasy.
Venice led us on further to Florence. The city I will most probably end up when I'm old and need to write those books I keep talking about. I *loved* Florence from the very beginning. The yellowed buildings (which would have reminded a less romantic me of Jaundice) made me think of sunshine and old pages from a history book. Watching the silvery Arno river wind its path through the heart of the city, I decided that I'd go back and find myself a house and live happily ever after here.
From Florence, we went to Rome. Now the only plan I had in Rome was to steal coins from the Fontana dell'Amore (because, of course, *that's* how one finds true love. If you're cynical about it, go watch When in Rome.). Instead of finding the fountain (which turned out to be fictitious, by the way. Sigh.), I found a city that is so quaint, it's like going into a parallel time-frame. The cobblestone streets, the marble beauty of Pantheon, La Piazza Espagna and Fontana di Trevi and little cafes that dot the entire city made me wonder how people can even live normal lives in this city. If it were me, I'd be constantly wandering around town, discovering a new marvel each day. (Yes, because having lived in one of the most historically beautiful capitals in the world, New Delhi, I haven't had the time to even go to Lodhi Gardens, and here I hatch plans to Wander in Rome.)
Rome prodded us towards the Vatican, which, true to the cinematography of Angels and Demons (which I saw *after* my trip to Italy), is magnificent. Of course, winking at the Swiss Guard was not exactly the kind of behaviour the papal decree would expect.....but ah, that *was* fun!
This brought us back to Milan, which led us homeward through Switzerland again. The journey held with it, a potluck of memories from every city that's unforgettable. Sitting for hours in a fountain outside a castle (Castello) in Milan and watching life whoosh by. Searching an entire city for Hot Chocolate, but finding it in a campsite outside Venice and relishing every sip. Missing the last bus in Florence and walking along the empty, sleeping streets. Holding maps and trying to find the shortest path to any destination in Rome, but getting lost and discovering better places instead. Meeting strangers in trains, weaving stories of strangers not met in trains. Watching the beautiful lakes of Switzerland melting perfectly into the Alps. This trip truly was - Una Fetta di Fantasia.