Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Random pictures from today's lazy strolls in Torino - of Pizza and a giant jigsaw wall art.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Only 55 km from Turin, Susa has all the charms of a little town - cafes, a river, a tiny railway station, one shopping street, bakeries and patisseries, houses covered in flowers, surrounding mountains... Makes you want to slow down a little and breathe. Would love to return to this charming town! :D

Monday, April 25, 2011

Napoli to Torino

The leaning tower

Day of travel: Naples > Florence > Pisa > Genova > Turin
Close to 1000 km of train journey. Yay! :D

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Colors of Napoli
Harbour in Naples at sundown

There were times, more specifically when walking along the shore - in the breeze coming from the Tyrrhenian Sea, when Naples looked so peaceful, very calming – was it because it was a Sunday?

At other times Naples looked like a pretty doll whacked and tossed in a bin by its insolent owner. Garbage, not having been collected for months, was everywhere and in overwhelming proportions (none of that is included in these pictures – we like pretty pictures :D ).

We had originally planned to spend this day in Florence but had rather spontaneously jumped on the route to Naples. We are so driven by whim. It is nice to come to a place without any preconceived notions and create impressions solely based on personal experiences. Although, when I got friendly suggestions about keeping my camera, which was around my neck (tourist-style), out of sight from muggers, I felt foolish, specially because we were not sticking to tourist trails, many streets were deserted because it was Easter Sunday, and we looked nothing like the locals :D Nothing happened though. On the contrary, we couldn’t imagine meeting more agreeable people.

In the morning, on the small alleys between Rettifilo and Via Nuova Marina, we watched a local church group, all dressed in white, sing Easter songs. The group collected donations and walked to Piazza del Mercato. There we left them and continued along Via Marina. We also got to see this peculiar style of trade - women in balconies lowered buckets, which vendors on the street filled with their wares - meat/ bread/ milk. Coins that were showered in payment were casually picked up by the vendors. Reminded me of when once back in India I forgot a book in a taxi and the driver called to give me his address and let me pick it up the following day. Standing in her balcony, his wife let down a blue bucket from which I collected my then half read book - The Amulet of Samarkand. Neat, i thought!

We stopped at Santa Maria la Nova where Easter mass had just started - everybody was nicely dressed and the mood was festive. From there we headed west and found our way up to Corso Vittorio Emanuele - recommended for a nice workout and great view. It was so nice to see colorful clothes swaying in the wind hanging on clothes lines stretched between buildings – a sight also common in India except that clothes lines are seldom tied across buildings but instead in balconies or back yards :D I think clothes dry best in the sun, better than in a tumble dryer.

Our afternoon passed in a park on Via Fransesco Caracciolo reading a book and taking pictures of bugs. Naples (well most of Italy really) seems to be particularly keen on afternoon naps. When the city woke up we gorged on pizza and spaghetti on Via Nazario. In the evening we watched street football and street cricket, watched street performances on Piazza Plebiscito - the grandest square in Naples, and got fascinated by the grandness of Gallerie Umberto I.

At the end of our cheapest day in Italy - a day of aimless wandering - we sipped caramel tea chatting with the night shift receptionist at Hotel Esedra, who was super friendly and had perfected her British accent, about the lovely city.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Mestre to Napoli

The events that unfolded today were a consistent reminder of ‘Wacky Wednesday’ the discomfort and humor of which we gracefully embraced and therefore shall we not reminisce about this day without laughs.

It all began with the cold indifference of the understaffed hotel at Mestre about the dirty bed sheets and the lack of proper plumbing in our room. And to think of it, it was only our room, one out of 300 odd rooms, that had ‘technical problems’. How (un)lucky is that? :) Whoever gave this hotel four stars and how it should be so hard to allow guests a shower and a clean bed, I shall never know. However, what I am certain about is that this was nowhere close to the worst traveling experiences that one could go through :) And I must admit, the waiters in the breakfast bar served coffee and croissants with big friendly smiles.

Later in a restaurant we had good laughs when the waiter, perhaps his first day, kept bringing food and drinks we never ordered and dropping plates and spoons. I earnestly hope his manager told him that it was normal to be nervous and make mistakes on the first day.

The journey from Mestre to Napoli via Bologna, Florence and Rome was a long one - roughly 950km, give or take 50km – and as it turned out a slow one because the day got wackier and we missed a fast train or two, as a result of which we arrived in Napoli past midnight but the great thing was that we got to enjoy the lush Tuscan landscapes for hours.

Friday, April 22, 2011


We were wandering aimlessly enjoying this peculiar town when on "Ponte de Gheto Vechio" we were greeted by a fine gondolier, Luca, who offered us a nice ride on the Grand Canal as well as many small branching channels and to sing us a Venetian song. Irresistible! We took the trip at 1730 when the light was vibrant and the evening breeze soothing.

For over an hour we listened with awe as he opened his repertoire of Venetian lore interspersed with facts and figures on the rising water level in Venice, the increasing population causing the property prices to skyrocket in the last decade, how it takes many years to earn a gondolier's license, how gondolas are more expensive than many cars, et cetera. And on a quiet little channel, Maulik and I got our promised chanson d'amour in Luca's beautiful voice.

The ride was more exciting and fulfilling than a frosted dark chocolate cake! If I could I would take this ride a hundred times over :D

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Milano to Venezia

We spent the day hopping in and out of towns and for the most part watching farms, mountains, villages pass by through the windows of regional trains. Traveling with an interrain/ eurorail pass on fast trains requires a seat reservation either at the station of departure or on board the train. On the 'regional velocity' trains however the railway pass serves as a ticket. These trains, albeit slower, cut through many small and big towns and are a perfect means for exploring the charming Italian countryside.

The journey from Milano to Venezia took the better part of the day, because we took the longer route with so many many stops, but it couldn't have been better. The skies were clear, the spring breeze was pleasant and the camera batteries were fully charged :D

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Charming by day, glamorous by night

On the second day of our holiday in Italy, we were hungry tourists who wanted to see everything. High on sugar owing to a breakfast comprising cakes, cappuccinos and tropical fruits, and with a phrase book, day pass for public transport, street map, camera gear and summer jackets for the pleasant evening chill, we set out to explore the fashion capital.

Phrase book is a must! Interestingly though, while it is relatively easy to begin a conversation by looking up English words and their Italian equivalents in the book, it is often quite a task to decipher a response. Like when Maulik asked an elderly bus driver if the bus drove to Via _, he responded ‘quindici!’. We had good laughs when we eventually figured that ‘quindici’ meant ‘fifteen’ – that we should take bus 15 :D
There were other times when we discovered that many Italians spoke French. Always eager to brush up my rusty French, I started to use it instead of English or Italian from the phrasebook. But that didn’t always work. I got a lot of ‘sorry, but do you speak English?’ It was all very amusing. All in all it went well mainly because the sounds were easy to identify and reproduce. Oh and I love how they stress the vowel before the last consonant in every word. Like ‘Per favore’ - ‘paar favohray’ (please)  :)

City lights – At sun down, having climbed up to the roof of the Duomo to look at the flying buttresses and also the city, having tasted Pizzas and Spaghettis and Macarons in the country of their origin, and having shopped music and toys, out came our tripods for some night shots.  

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Milan underground
Milano by night
Duomo di Milano

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reflections - Italy

Today we flew into Milan and en route caught a glimpse of the stunning Western Alps. Snow covered peaks and charming hamlets on the foothills - such a lovely sight! For me, the greatest joy of traveling is the journey itself and is super exciting regardless of the mode of travel. Viewing people and their ways, their surroundings for a few brief moments - wondering what missions they have for the day, what plans they might have for the next hour, week or year, how they influence the color and shape of landscapes they are entwined in, how they feel about their land and their culture, how they would feel if they traveled to where I come from, the remote and gorgeous landscapes - is the very reward of traveling! Like opening shots of many a documentary, the view from the transport vehicle provides yummy teasers and sets the scene for the events to unfold.
Coming from India - ‘a country that lives in many centuries simultaneously’, as deliberated by Amitabh Bachchan in a book on Indian cinema, I may not have been stumped by the complex, the varied, the uncertain and the ambiguous that Italy had to offer across its length and breadth, had I not been conditioned, by the recent years of inhabiting Norway, to expect order and consistency in a mundane setting. It was therefore that when a Ferrari GT was juxtaposed with Asian immigrants vending lucky charms, or when an elderly commuter was replenishing her face with a fresh coat of makeup while a youngish nun brushed past her in a busy metro station, or when well-meaning strangers warned us of pickpockets in the city, I could not but be amazed at the coexistence of such extremities. Like India, Italy is a place where nothing is like it seems and where every moment brings fresh surprises. It might seem like I am exaggerating, but it is only my opinion :)
Solace in togetherness

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Swaying Daffodils

Shot this time lapse some weeks ago. The flowers have since grown very old :/
The photos were shot every 20 minutes over a period of a little less than 2 days to get this 30 seconds clip :) I used a reading lamp to light the flowers during the night. Time lapse is so fun!
It was incredible to see how the daffodils swayed despite there being no wind in the room :)