Diaries from an Italian Summer – The Roman Ruins

The August of 2016, the husband, me and a little brown leather bound journal carefully tucked away in my bag , traveled to Italy and checked off plenty from our bucket list. We devoured pasta like locals, indulged in wine like there was no tomorrow, learnt a handful of Italian words and drank in immense art & history. I’m glad I could make a note of our precious encounters during this ten day vacation because the many glasses of wine sure didn’t help with the memory! At this point, I’m not sure how many parts this post/journey is going to be sliced into and since I’m heavily ridden with a bad habit of “straying”,  I cross my fingers and hope that I can keep you entertained and not subject you to boredom. I hope this journey makes you as happy as it did us…..

August 12th, 2016
I’m miserable & counting infinite sheep owing to the curse of the dreaded jet lag and find myself profusely thanking Maurizio for equipping the room with an espresso maker. At 5am,  a quick youtube tutorial later, I gulp the bitter concoction in two gulps and bide my time, experiencing jitter & thrill as the espresso accomplishes it’s tasks. Outside, the night time lull is gently being replaced by the whirr of motor vehicles and a boundless bright sun awakening a sleepy sky.
We head out to the Illy Cafe, minutes from our apartment, walking past a glorious Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. The air is quiet, still as it can be, waiting to be drenched in sunshine, before the cacophony of the day begins. Locals in the cafe are sipping coffee whilst engaging in laidback conversations with the barista.  The barista is a skilled multi tasker,serving coffee on the dot, yet cheerfully indulging in a camaraderie with his customers. The Italians are wonderfully expressive and although the language is foreign to me, I can’t help but pause and smile because instantly, I’m overcome by a surge of memories from home. Locals casually chatting with chai walas (tea vendors) & coffee vendors in Darshinis (South Indian fast food chains) is a scene almost every Bangalorean is accustomed to on weekend mornings. Research had made me aware of the very subtle similarities in culture and lifestyle…..
Breakfast introduces us to the Cornetto. The French croissant’s Italian cousin. Sweet, flaky, perfectly layered, dusted in icing sugar & profusely bursting with gooey, marmalade as orange as the sunshine. I realise my predilection for Italian cuisine will only intensify. Warm, foamy cappuccinos wait patiently to be sipped as we watch the Roman world go by. Not for long though…the Colosseum awaits…


We meander along the Roman pathways despite being forewarned of the lengthy ticket lines. Although, in my view of things, the walk is a treasured experience by itself. A water color artist displays his creative ware and his papers flaunt the many tourist spots scattered across Rome. I’m partial to local artists and we splurge on a masterpiece of the Piazza Navona.
Tardily, we  arrive at the destination (The Colosseum) and spend a few quiet moments marveling at the magnanimity of the colossal architecture but spirits are crushed as we spot the long lines braving under the harsh summer sun. We succumb to expensive tour guides.
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The Colosseum is bathed in a sandy grey, it’s facade punctuated with hundreds of windows that are struggling to enclose countless secrets, that are privy to the suffering of many pained souls. Constructed by the emperors from the Flavian Dynasty in 70AD, it is in fact an amphitheater (originally called, Flavian Amphitheater) where roughtly 65000 spectators watched as gladiators, prisoners and beasts were enforced to fight for the sole cause of entertainment. The guide pointed to dungeons indoors that locked away wild animals and humans together in a miniscule space. The swell of silence is disquieting and remains unbeaten by the gaggle of tourists and with good reason. In 217AD , a major fire destroyed major parts of the Colosseum followed by numerous earthquakes. The architecture however still stands tall as one of the icons of Rome, surrendering to constant restoration and lending tourists a tiny glimpse of a poignant Roman history many centuries later…


“While the Colosseum stands, Rome shall stand; when the Colosseum falls, Rome shall fall; when Rome falls, the world shall fall.”
—AD 7th century Anglo-Saxon pilgrims’ proverb, quoted by the Venerable Bede
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We then snake along pathways bordered by bushy trees, led by a friendly guide to visit the Ancient Downtown Rome: The Roman Forum and the Palantine Hill.
From atop, I attempt to imagine the bustle of activity that engulfed the area 2000 years ago. What used to be studded with a plethora of temples, Roman courts, Government offices,  marketplaces & homes is now a picture with hints of a laborious excavation.  Ruins lie rummaged and ravaged, eaten by the severity of elements. Fluted columns stand alone and worn flagstones drape the earth providing significant clues to a lost past. A history lesson I find myself deeply immersed in….
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Next, we visit the Vatican and parts of Roma contrasting these historic ruins…Ciao

(Do read my previous diary entries When in Rome &
Touchdown, Rome )

O Canada at Ottawa

The summer of 2015, saturated with a searing yet welcome heat, led us to explore the capital of Canada, among other places. Ottawa, which is about a 4 hour drive from Toronto, Ontario, was more than just a weekend getaway. Being month old Canadian residents, we were glad to be able to imbibe local history and what better place to do that than at the capital. We had ensured we had more than enough time to check off popular spots, stroll around the off beaten paths & scour the food scene at the Byward market. Continue reading “O Canada at Ottawa”

Québec City

It was a lazy friday morning. Owing to the Labor Day weekend, our morning began much later than it usually does on busy weekdays. A well laid out plan had been devised for the long weekend: Pop by the CN tower that beckoned us for a visit, considering it stands tall in our backyard, cram ourselves with Mexican at Milagro’s, devour gelato’s at the Distillery district, cycle along Lake Shore ( an essential at this point, considering the calorie consumption!). At 4:30pm, I looked into the wardrobe, racking my brains, wondering what to wear, when the husband took me by a jolt,
Husband: “Hey, do want to got to Québec City? Continue reading “Québec City”

Black Creek Pioneer Village

History like many other subjects, fascinates, piques curiosity and thereby encourages learning. In my opinion, also the easiest means to achieve time travel. It’s almost silly to consider it redundant in the present times considering it renders a clear perspective into the challenging times of the days gone by, invoking a deep sense of gratitude & humility. I personally,  jump at any chance that demands turning back the tapes of time and reliving the glories of a labyrinthine past.”Living vicariously”, they say. I was constantly enwrapped in an unfathomable awe whether it was when I stepped into the colossal halls of the Mysore Palace (in South India) or as we strolled across rows and rows of crystal ware from Belgium in the Udaipur Palace in Rajasthan, leaching out questions like how they lived or how they cooked or how they dressed. Even the simplest of things like spotting an old brass utensil or an intricately painted Minakari ceiling can be riveting. Well preserved chunks of the past coupled with a figment of one’s imagination is capable of doing wonders.(Now that I think about it, that’s probably the only reason I watch Downton Abbey. The beaded “tea” length dresses, cloche hats & headbands were enough reason for me to tune in every week. ) Continue reading “Black Creek Pioneer Village”

CASA LOMA

Sir Henry Pellatt, a business visionary & philanthropist from Ontario, Canada, began the construction of a dream home, CASA LOMA (Spanish for Hill House),  in midtown Toronto in 1911. Years later, it would become a famous landmark with a ticket counter guarding the entrance and a grey stone monument that countless tourists would check off from a “must see” list.
Reeling back into history, the camelot built for 3.5 million dollars, took 3 years of labor and was ornamented with artwork from around the world. Tall ceilings, oak floorings,mahogany & walnut walls, glorious chandeliers, rooms painted with wedgewood blue, a wine cellar in the basement and a pre requisite for any castle: secret passages….they’re all there and more.  Continue reading “CASA LOMA”

Mexico Part 1- CHICHEN ITZA

Before I delve into our week long vacation in sunny, sultry Cancun in Mexico, I think it’s only fair to kick off with where it all began. We shall travel back in time to the Pre-Columbian period & try to immerse in the rich culture & tradition of the Mayans. Continue reading “Mexico Part 1- CHICHEN ITZA”

BADAMI & AIHOLE…a stint with history & heritage

The cave temples of Badami, in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka, India, boast of the architecture of the Chalukya Dynasty in the 6th century.Carved out of hill cliffs hued with the rouge of sandstone they are home to numerous, intricate carvings of the many avatars of Lord Vishnu & Lord Shiva. If you pick a day when the crowds are scant (weekdays or maybe when the kids are slogging it out with exams in February & March!), the tranquility of River Agastya, the magnanimity of the cave temples, and the pleasant breeze that cruises through at the top of the hillock take you back to an era gone by, an era of grandeur, ancient culture & royalty. Continue reading “BADAMI & AIHOLE…a stint with history & heritage”