18 Mar 2015

A journey into the Frasassi Caves in Le Marche, Italy

What does silence sound like? Have you ever heard it? I remember pondering about this sound of silence, as I stood all alone several metres below the surface of Earth - in the Frasassi Caves in Le Marche, Italy

Of course I had a few, totally paranoid moments with my hyperactive imagination going into fifth gear - what if the roof caves in, what if that stalactite dislodges itself and comes crashing down on me, are there ghosts down here... You get the drift? After a while, these thoughts melted away and I began to calm down. To say that I was enjoying myself would certainly be a lie, but I was able to appreciate that rare silence - so alien to us city-dwellers who are used to having every moment accompanied by a background score, most often of the jarring kind... But how did I stumble upon this soundless moment? Let's rewind.

16 Feb 2015

Walk through Chandni Chowk, plus where to stay in Delhi

Taking a brief break from Italy, but certainly not from eating ;) We were in Corbett a few days ago, for a family wedding, and we stopped over in Delhi for a day on our way back to Mumbai. Now, a day in Delhi is certainly not enough to do justice to the awesome food there, especially during winter. Delhi has a much better food scene than Mumbai (much as I hate to admit it), with interesting restaurants and cafes - new & old. But this time around, my agenda was to spend some time in Old Delhi, also known as Dilli 6 because of its pin code (110006). 

I have visited Delhi so many times, but had never once ventured into Old Delhi, and it was high time to change that. We were staying near New Delhi Railway Station (more about that later), so we decided to take the metro to Chandni Chowk. Since it was our first time in the area, I had also crowdsourced some suggestions on where to eat. My main source of information was the lovely Pamela Timms who has penned an ode to Old Delhi's food - the eminently readable (and delectable) Korma, Kheer and Kismet. Here's what she suggested - bookmark for future reference! 

Phew! That's quite a list. Read on to find out what we ate, and do scroll till the end of the post for a video walk-through in Delhi 6! 

2 Feb 2015

Where to Rent an Apartment in Rome city centre

To round up this mini-series on Rome, here are some suggestions on where to stay, eat and drink in the Eternal City. I have increasingly started opting for BnBs and apartments over hotels when I travel. I find them not only cheaper than hotels, but they give a greater chance to experience 'living like a local', even if you spend just 3-4 days. Most apartments do not offer breakfast, so it gives you a chance to step out to the local 'bar' and have a coffee with your neighbours. You head to the local market to buy groceries to whip up dinner. You don't have to pay through your nose to get your laundry done, you can refrigerate your pizza dinner & microwave it the next morning (most apartments have full or partially equipped kitchens)... And whether your hosts are present or absent, they usually have great tips on the best places nearby to eat, drink & be merry.

Where to stay in Rome city centre

This time around in Rome we spent 2 days at our favourite little BnB (in a residential area, away from the city centre), and 2 days in an apartment bang in the middle of the action - in the Spanish Steps area. In fact the place is called The Spanish Steps Apartment and it is literally a 3-minute-walk to the historic steps. The apartment is on Via delle Mercede, in a renovated Roman palazzo. 

26 Jan 2015

This is the Best way to see the Colosseum

Continuing with the Roman Holiday theme, how can you go to the Eternal City and not see the Colosseum? Well, that's exactly what happened when I visited Rome for the first time in the summer of 2013. Rome was more or less the mid-point of our trip, and after having dashed about Italy for 2 weeks, my body decided to protest. I fell ill in Rome and ended up not getting a chance to see the Colosseum at all! We did get off at the Colosseo metro stop and gaped at it from the outside but didn't venture in. I was keen to remedy the lapse when we went to Rome late last year. We ended up spending a large part of our day in the amphitheatre and tramping around the Roman Forum. 

View of the Roman Forum from Piazza del Campidoglio
But the highlight of our visit was undoubtedly the Colosseum at Night tour offered by Walks of Italy. In my opinion, this is the best way to visit the Colosseum!

12 Jan 2015

Where to find authentic Roman food in the Eternal City (plus a 20% discount)

Is it possible to have a bad meal in that culinary wonderland of Italy? Actually, it's surprisingly easy! Especially in the very big, touristy cities such as Venice & Rome, filled with so many dining options that choosing where to eat is like throwing the dice. Unless you know where to go, what to avoid - or better yet, have a local take you around. Now, it may not be easy to acquire an Italian friend immediately, though if you're staying at a BnB or an apartment, always, always ask the owner - they often have the best suggestions. The next best thing is to leave yourself in the very capable hands of Eating Italy Food Tours

We have had a couple of indifferent meals in Rome when we travelled there in the summer of 2013, so on our latest trip in Oct 2014, we decided to trust the experts. We chose to try the Taste of Testaccio Food Tour as we hadn't visited this Roman neighbourhood, which is considered to be the place where cucina romana (Roman cuisine) was born. What better place than this to find authentic Roman food in the Eternal City?

The Testaccio tour has a choice of 3 departure timings and we decided to go on the 11.15 a.m. tour. The tour goes on for more than 4 hours, so make sure you're wearing comfortable shoes and carry a bottle of water (and an umbrella, depending upon when you're going); and please skip breakfast if you want to do justice to this tour! The thing with guided tours is that your experience largely depends on the guide, and we were lucky to have Domenico - a tour guide, ex-UN worker, singer in a rock band and an all-out entertainer.