YOU MAY HAVE THE UNIVERSE IF I MAY HAVE ITALY – Giuseppe Verdi
They say ‘Its better to See something once than to hear about it a thousand times‘
we truly are lucky to be living in this time where everything is connected, one person’s travelogue gives us an idea and excites us to plan our itineraries too. Yet no technology can ever match upto your own experience of the places that you see with your own eyes – live! Many of those who closely followed my journey this time on instagram and facebook, knew where I went but barely anyone knew how I decided on the places that I visited and why!
This trip got a lot of attention from countless people, all wanting to know more about the places, specially Italy. and why not! 90 percent of my trip was in Italy and the stubborn side of me wanted to compete with myself (earlier trips) and visit the least explored places.
‘From ‘oh you’re Indian, I love India’ to ‘Where on earth is India?’ From absolute strangers at some bar at 9 pm to travel buddies and wasted at 10.’ from having cookies as lunch to World’s best Pizza’s’ – I lived a dream in this trip and I cant wait to share with you the same
HOW IT BEGAN! –
The travel bug’s venom only spreads more and more and once you are infected and the only cure is to keep traveling. Ok so this planning was the funniest ever, because I knew i was going to Europe but didnt know where!! I had been to europe twice earlier but those trips were one country at a time. This time I wanted to visit atleast 3, i wanted more but then the message from the bank popped up (sign from the universe) 😬
My first priority was Portugal, and it stayed till the end, until i was close to start my trip – will come to that later. I wanted to cover Lisbon, Porto, Faro and San Sebastian in Spain and Valencia and Seville and Madrid. I had booked my stay at all these places and i was all set. while i figured that Portugal visa dates were not available and someone suggested to try from France as the visa is easier from there and then i can go to Lisbon from there. I did the same.
I started the visa process for france, my earlier travel stamps helped and it took only 2 days for the visa to come. happiness knew no limits. immediately booked my tickets – Mumbai – Paris, Madrid – Mumbai. Everything else was in between. trip duration was all decided to be 14 days.
Now that the dates, tickets and stay was booked, I started doing research on the places, areas nearby and famous spots and things to do. I dont really know what got into me and one search led to another and next thing i know I was checking tickets and stay in Italy. LOOL
There was this one place that i really wanted to explore – a small town in south east of Italy called as Polignano. no one had heard of it, so beautiful that if pictures were true, then I knew it will be a trip of a lifetime. I checked on the places, distances, commute etc and here I was, with a revised itinery that was – Mumbai – Paris – Rome – Bari – Polignano – Naples – Amalfi – Madrid – Mumbai. Capri was never a part of the plan, but then as i said, signs from the universe, a mistake at the very last minute made me cancel one thing and book another. you’ll know as you read through it.
So fellow travel enthusiasts, lets start with Paris!!
PARIS, France (July 5th- 8th )
I promise to be honest in my blog and I want no one to do the mistakes that i did. Paris was more like a landing spot to me as my Schengen visa was from France. My bookings were done, I wasnt really too excited about this city of romance but i thought, when am there, might as well spend a few days and strike off the Louvre and Eiffel from the bucket list 😉 maybe someday when I have a lover, i will photoshop our picture together in front of it. lol
I stayed close to the Arc De triomphe, a monument that lies in the heart of the city with 12 streets stretching at 360 degrees from it. a beautiful sight no doubt. on the second day itself, i walked from ADT to Eiffel, the distance between the two is about 2 kms. I love walking, so it was cool. one of the famous streets from ADT is Champs Elysses. Its Parisian answer to India’s famous Shopping street with World famous brands including the LV flagship store.
Of all the places i visited in Paris, the funniest and my favorite was Eiffel. I had seen millions of photos where people pose like they trying to catch the tip of it but to see it live was a funny experience altogether. it was as if everyone was competing against one another. Thanks to my selfie stick i tried my best shots too. You have to give it to the beauty of the monument. It was this time when the reality sank in, when I sat down, kept my bag aside and layed down on the park and thought to myself – Manu!! you are in france, out again on a solo trip and right in front of you is the Eiffel tower. goosebumps. what added to the excitement was that the trip hadnt even begun for me!
Next Day again the same routine, thats the perk of always staying in the city center or close to the famous spots. i highly recommend that. i walked through Arc De triomphe, this time I witnessed Paris celebrating France’s victory in Quarter Finals in FIFA 2018. ADT was covered in smoke with streets jammed, people yelling, drinking, firing crackers, smoke all over. ADT, as it lies in the center, has subways to reach to it, crowd had covered it all and people were all over and around it. drinking, hooting, all around. as i walked down the subway to have a closer look, I saw a bunch of people running towards me and all crying. i kept walking, and in no time my eyes started watering and i couldnt breathe for a minute. lol. It was my first ever experience of a tear gas, but what kind of celebration would make you use such gas. I left that question in Paris itself. Overall it was quite a sight. Little did I know that it would be France that will win FIFA 2018.
Seeing all that drama I made my way to the Eiffel again, this time I walked till its foot. sat on the bridge on that river and was observing people around. Mostly couples or families. i saw a lot of Indians too, people those who have been to eiffel tower would know that on the park, you see a lot of Indians selling water, beer and wine in a bucket. they keep roaming around all over, sit together for a while and get back to business. lol.
From Eiffel, i took a cab for Louvre. was there for about 15 minutes and got dropped back. then walked to the hotel.
I was deliberately taking it easy in Paris. I walked slowly, took random streets to find my way to the hotel, stopped wherever to have croissants, pizzas etc.
To sum it up now. Paris was not really that pleasant too, the city is overtly priced and I didnt find it much welcoming either. As a traveler i love to talk to people, to sit at some bar and have random conversations. In Paris, on my first day itself, i checked in to the hotel around 11 pm and the room given to me was wrong. the manager next day apologized but still, first impression lasts longer. It took Paris only 2 days to make me reconsider my entire trip and I was wondering, is this how Europe going to be for me. can i go back already. Hope kept me going and I kept telling myself – Boy! you aint seen nothing yet, you are going to see some of the most beautiful, unusual places on the planet. My next stop was ROME. And really, I was so excited to be there. Cabs in Paris are expensive, this was one of the first mistakes i made – to pay 50 euros one way from the airport to the hotel. that translates to 4000 INR.
Paris overview and Important Points –
- Before booking open the city map and locate these places – Arc De triomphe and Eiffel and Champs Elysees. these are the main areas and I recommend you book your hotel to be around this place.
- If you are fond of walking then from these areas, you can cover most places walking. if you wish to go to Louvre, take a taxi from Eiffel, its max 10 euros. the tuk tuks are 30 euros. we have enogh of that in India plus i didnt find it that appealing or romantic.
- Read the reviews of your hotels thoroughly. I strictly check reviews as i write them too. see the amenities well. However, if you stay at the area mentioned above, you will have many restaurants at walking distance.
- Food and Drinks in Paris is expensive. say 1 veg pizza is about 12-15 euros. Thank god to my maggi cup noodles. 😛
- Airport transfers will get the best of your pocket. i paid 100 euros return. and that pissed me off.
ROME/ROMA – ITALIA –
So here I am all smiles as now begins my favourite part of this magical trip. Paris indeed got me thinking that did I make the right choice to do this trip? I trusted my instincts and wanted to reach Rome. and BoY! As i look back now, My life changed with the experiences i have had and the place I visited.
I landed at the Fiumiccino Airport(FCO) that is about 40 kms on the outside of Rome. In Paris I paid about 50 euros one way from the airport to the hotel and i was pissed off. Hence i did my research on the transport options from the Rome airport. I came across with one article that said that further walking at the end of the airport, you can find buses that take you to the Roma Termini(the train station at the center of the city) for as low as 7 euros. I was alone, i had all the time in the world and Paris experience made me more alert to these things. I saw the Bus station at the end of Terminal 3 and booked my seat. Coincidentally the place where i was staying was walking distance from Roma Termini. These little signs made me believe that real magic of this trip will begin now. 😛
Rome was special for many reasons, one of the most important was that this was my first time ever in any hostel. Being Indian, my perception of the hostel was very different, more in a negative light. ‘How will i live with 5 strangers in one room?’ ‘where do people keep their luggage?’ ‘Shared Bathroom! No way’ ‘will it be safe and hygienic?’ countless thoughts and I wasnt sure how it will be.
The name of the Hostel was ‘ROMEHELLO’ and it had maximum rankings of the hostels in Rome, rated best for location, cleanliness, staff. and as i entered, my entire perception changed. In this trip, wherever i visited, i always checked in late, weird! lol.
In Rome as well I checked in around 10 pm or so and I was greeted with so much happiness and warmth as if they were waiting for me all day. The best part i loved was that no one at any 5 star hotel must have spoken or greeted me the way this hostel staff did. What a new thing to learn and its so true that half of your tiredness goes away if someone smiles and says hello. the same thing happened. The staff explained to me the hostel’s dos and donts and my room etc. handed me the map of ROme and i headed to my room straight.
As i opened the door of my room, I said ‘sorry’ and took a U turn. I saw a pretty girl sitting on one of beds, busy in her phone. I reconfirmed if I was in the right room. Must have annoyed her for sure by asking multiple times. Not my fault, this was the weirdest thing i was expecting after a long day to have a girl as one of my roommates, very unusual but a pretty encounter!!
The room was really clean with a common bathroom inside the room and was spic and span. lockers were provided to everyone to keep your luggage. graffiti on the walls, gave this hostel a very young and lively look.
Camila (my roommate) was from Brazil, she and I got along like house on fire. She was really happy to learn that I was from India and its one of the places she really wants to visit and I was awestruck when she said that she was a ballet dancer.
I was really happy! with the decision of staying in a hostel. Didnt feel alone, not even for a minute. you meet so many people from different parts of the world and you drink, sit, eat with them and get to learn so much. the staff too was so supportive and sporty. It was fabulous overall. My 3rd roommate was from Mexico. sweet shy guy, was very young and was studying in spain but wanted to explore Italy. These 2 were my friends in Rome.
Every Day we all would get up, go for breakfast and then decide where to go. the best part was that no one would interfere in anyone’s itinery. One was visiting Vatican, one went to Colosseum and I decided to walk around and explore the streets with a map.
One of the most important things that i keep in mind when i travel or plan my travel is that my stay has to be in the city center. I Love walking and exploring small streets, i believe one often comes across things that catches your attention and is the real essence of the locality.
With a map circled with target areas, I started exploring the historical city of Rome/ ROMA. excitement to visit one of the 8 wonders of the world i.e Colosseum couldnt be contained and i started marching towards it. Rome is a city that can be best explored walking. Every street, no matter how narrow or big tells a story of the ancient Roman architecture. Romans have very well preserved it and with dignity. I stopped at various eateries, kept fueling myself up with coffee and croissants and finally, here I was, staring at the Colosseum.
The Colosseum was built in 70 AD and is a free standing amphitheater of sorts that was earlier used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles and its said that it could hold upto 60-80000 viewers. It is also the biggest amphitheater ever built. after staring at it for about 30 mins, i finally started to believe that i was actually in front of a monument that I had only seen in books or movies. It was quite hot so i climbed on one of the walls under a tree overlooking this magnificent masterpiece and kept my phone and bag aside. for about 1 hr, i was blank, no thoughts, no stress, no plan, just sitting aimlessly, as if the time stopped or i stopped for a while.
Walking back to my hostel I stopped at various cafe’s and souvenir shops. did i mention earlier how much i love collecting souvenirs!
FIFA fever was on with France being in semis and England on the other hand. All over you could feel the heat of the madness. being Indian it was just as mad as what cricket is to us. in europe the bars are mostly outdoors on the sidewalks. they dont drink to fall on the floor, they drink to get tipsy and enjoy the vibe.
It was like an unspoken ritual for me and my roommates to catch up after a long day of respective itineraries and just sit at the bar in the hostel and play some games or watch the match. this experience of me sitting with absolute strangers turned friends was one of a kind. so many stories to tell, so much to talk on so many things. it was wonderful
VATICAN – Smallest country in the world
This name and place needs no introduction. what i learned recently was that Vatican stands as an independent country on its own. situated in ROME is rougly the size of about 4 sq km. They say it used to be much bigger in terms of area but has now shrunk to a smaller bit. however till today the rule stands that no building in rome can be taller than the VATICAN’s Dome. hence you dont see skyscrapers in ROME. interesting!
I was particularly excited about my trip to Vatican, it was about 5 kms from my hostel and my roommate from Brazil had already visited on her first day. she boosted me enough that i can reach there walking and i did the same. I started about 10 am in the morning and with the help of maps i reached and as i could see that famous St Basilica’s porch and the Dome, within a snap as if i was in some periodical drama. No matter how many times you see anything on TV or movies, the experience of seeing it live is something that cant be compared, ever.
Here’s a few things that you need to keep in mind if you are in Vatican:
- It is a crowded place indeed, with thousands of people visiting at a time.
- every hotel/hostel in Rome has tickets to skip the line at the Vatican. you can buy the same from your hotel/hostel for about 30 euros. However the same has to be redeemed for another ticket at Visitor center once you are at Vatican
- I took my ticket and i though that was it, but i got lost in locating the visitor center. luckily I met an Indian guy who was there as an assistant to visitors and he suggested me that i take a guided tour
- At first I thought it was some gimmick but then I moved with the flow as i didnt have much option, seeing the crowd I kind of felt lost anyway.
The assistant, who immediately yelled out loud – Are you Varun Dhawan? took me by surprize as I literally paused while walking. ‘How d F do you know about him’? I asked. He replied – ‘I love Bollywood’ LOL. He then proudly explained how bollywood celebs visit Vatican etc etc. He convinced me to pay extra 20 euros and take guided tour instead which will help me understand the chapels and the architecture of the Vatican even better. I agreed.
The guided tours are a big business at Vatican, every 10 mins they form a group and with the help of a guide they take you inside. you are provided with a walkie talkie with headphones so at about 10 meter distance you can hear the guide. Main attractions inside the Vatican are the SISTINE CHAPEL, VATICAN MUSEUM and ST PETERS BASILICA(Worlds Biggest Church)
Taking the guided tour was indeed a good decision for me. the guide explained a lot about the history of the Vatican and How Pope is elected, How Michelangelo was assigned the work of the painting and architecture etc. It really is like time travel. all these years I had only heard and now i was seeing it all. To Sum up my experience inside the Vatican – MESMERIZING. the wall paintings, gold plated ceilings are preserved for centuries and is perhaps how Art should be defined.
Elated with the beauty and mystery of the Vatican, i made my way back to the hostel. I had given 1 day to Vatican and i finished that in just half a day. For the next day I decided to browse through the streets, get the local essence of the city. As it is ROME is world famous for so many things and i wanted to have my own answer to – WHY ROME WASNT BUILT IN A DAY 😛
On my last day in Rome i visited colosseum again, stopped in every street, for a better understanding of the routes, areas, landmarks etc. Every street here would lead you to some famous landmark. for eg – one wrong understanding of the map took me to Fontana Di Trevi – a fountain that is believed to be a lucky charm, you flip a coin with your back towards it and make a wish. Its also an architectural masterpiece.
ROME OVERVIEW –
- Book your stay around the Roma Termini (central train station). Everything else is closer to this. this will also help you get a cheaper transport from Airport to the Termini (7 euros in a bus) compared to 50 euros one way if you take a cab
- My hostel costed me about 180 euros for 4 nights! Which was a pretty good deal during season time.
- If you love walking, Rome will mesmerize you with magic in every street.
- Spend good amount of time at Colosseo. Admire world’s biggest amphitheater and picture some high end gladiatorial fights inside in full audience 😛 Have some wine by the restaurant next to it.
- Give one full day to Vatican and I recommend the guided tour. It will help you understand the beauty of it and also the reasons of its being and better insights
- There are plenty of bars by the side of Colosseo, do visit Rome’s oldest bars there
- Also try world’s best Pizza’s at any of the Pizzerias, they are everywhere. ofcourse ITALY 😉
POLIGNANO A MARE; BARI – ITALY
Most of you now must be suddenly even more keen on reading from here as those who followed my journey while I was at it, would know that this part of my trip was called as ‘A slice of Paradise’
As mentioned earlier, i had booked my hostel close to ROMA TERMINI, my next journey was to start from there. I had booked the train to Bari (south east of Italy) and from there another train to Polignano A Mare – a beautiful, secluded small italian town which is yet unexplored by regular tourists. Little did i know that the journey from hereon was going to be life changing with the views and beauty that i never thought i would have seen.
Why I planned the Off Beat Polignano A Mare?
The answer to this can be well understood by frequent travelers, because once you are addicted to something, you just want to keep getting better at it and you just want to explore more and more off beat destinations. Honestly, while I was planning this from India, I had no idea that it would be successful and more than that, it will be much more beautiful than what pictures showed. Exploring small Italian towns was always a dream. I had seen a few pictures of the world famous restaurant in this town called as GROTTA PALAZEZZE and also the cliffs with water so clean like nothing i had seen before. I knew i had to do this, whatever it takes.
So i boarded my train from Rome and after crossing through the famous bits of the Tuscan region of Italy, i was in BARI, a big town in the south east side of Italy. till here the journey was smooth. But I had to change my train from Bari to Polignano. The Journey to BARI was about 4.5 hrs. I got stuck at Bari station as I didnt know what train to catch from now as it was a journey of only 30 mins so the ticket could be used in any train that would stop there, but the confusion was which train will stop in Polignano?! I asked a few people and faced the expected situation – language. like a lost tourist i was asking people around, and then I contacted my airbnb host. His name was Vito and that guy turned out to be like a blessing in disguise.
He guided me and infact he checked the schedule of trains for me and told me to see the screen and check for a specific train number, as i saw that, it was scheduled to arrive in 30 mins and I eventually boarded the right one.
From here started the journey that i will never be able to get off my heart and mind. In 30 mins i arrived in Polignano. I dont know why but it was the rarest incident where as i landed in a place so different and far away from the ususal, i was all smiles, alone. it was about 9 pm and sun was setting slowly. Vito guided me to his place and here I was crusing through streets so quiet, old people sitting outside their houses and talking. neighbors sitting together and talking and ofcourse staring at this random stranger dragging this trolley and heavy handbag in the middle of unknown. And i was still smiling. As it was a first ever experience to a place who no one knew about.
Danny and Vito were fabulous hosts and as i reached their place, Vito sat me down and explained the place, the city etc. I couldnt contain my excitement as i was finally in this heaven, pictures of which I saw on instagram. I aksed him – ‘Where is that restaurant?’ He laughed and explained to me on the map and i couldnt wait till tomorrow to run to explore this town.
I woke up to a wonderful breakfast made exclusively for me by Danny. It was really amazing talking to him and learning about the local culture and much more. Polignano is a city as small as Bandra in Mumbai. the city runs alongside the sea and as i said, its unexplored and untouched by Asian tourists specially. I walked to the stretch and until now I had no idea what i was going to see. As i went to the cliff side, I literally was in tears.
Walking towards the cliff I knew there was sea in the front, but as i reached the Balcony of the cliff and I looked down, the view got me emotional. I could see the depth of the rocks and the turquoise water hitting the rocks and the cliff. There were sea caves under the cliffs. Say I was standing on a balcony and below me I saw a boat entering the cave that was right under me. I stood still to soak in the beauty of this place. tried recording as many videos and click as many pictures as possible but the excitement was such that the fingers were running faster than my mind. I STILL CANT GET OVER THAT SIGHT.
It was like living a dream, i started walking across the stretch of the balcony. Polignano is a city that is basically on a cliff and it slides down to a few beaches and underwater caves as you move further. Its not just those cliffs but also the city that is just as beautiful. Small narrow streets, houses turned cafe’s and shops. White pavements with colored artifacts and street art. I would often sit down on the sidewalks and do nothing but stare at the crowd crossing through. Polignano is a very old city and the old town is very small with one church at the center and a few streets extending from it and a central area where you see restaurants and bars.
As you move out of the old town gate, you see another master design of mother nature, the U shaped natural beach. This truly was one heck of an experience. Once again it was getting too much for me to believe that what i was seeing, was it really there! I made my way down to the beach and saw everyone sunbathing and chilling. i am falling short of words to describe the sight, so i would let the picture decide for it 🙂
Visiting this place was my escape from the usual and mundane life in real sense, it wasnt a regular city or anything like I had ever seen before . Now that i look back and think of it, it was the top highlights of my trip. If you could picture yourself in a small, really small town somewhere in south of italy where you see less of tourists and more locals, where the water is pristine and the air so fresh, thats how i lived those 3 days in a beautiful self imposed isolation in heaven.
POLIGNANO OVERVIEW –
- Book your stay in advance, polignano is rapidly gaining popularity on tourist map and world over.
- I paid about 15000 INR for 3 nights in Polignano that included breakfast. I absolutely loved the airbnb accomodation of Dani and Vito
- one of the top highlights of this magical small town is the world famous restaurant called as GROTTA PALAZEZZE. A meal there can be very very heavy on your pocket and has to be booked in advance but the view truly is worth all the hype. A single 2 course meal here can be about 150-200 euros i.e 17000 INR
- Food otherwise is not that expensive but souvenirs are. I love collecting magnets hence i had to buy.
- If you arent that hydro phobic as I am, do try the boat tour. its too surreal to be true. I didnt try but i loved what I saw. I almost booked myself for it but backed out last minute. The tour takes you under the cliffs and to a small island and back. you see a different side of Polignano from the other side and i bet its captivating. the tour is about 20 euros for 1.5 hrs
NAPLES – Blessing in Disguise
With extra bags full of memories i started my journey to Naples. Well This part wasnt as easy as it looked in my pictures. My real plan was to visit a small locality next to Amalfi called as Maiori. I booked this gorgeous looking villa from India itself and i was very proud. One important point though if you guys traveling to Europe, credit card bookings is a must, even if you book a refundable booking. I dont have one and i faced real issues. My booking would get canceled everyday as they would cancel it stating the debit cards arent accepted.
Coming back to the disaster here, so this booking in Villa Pandora at Maiori was done well in advance and it was non refundable. Little did i know back then about the public transport issues in this side of Italy. On my last day in Polignano i started prepping for my next destination, which was supposed to be Maiori. I started looking out for transport and was shocked to learn that there are no easy public transports available to the place that i booked. Trains are the most common and easy way to commute in Europe and here, the train was max to Naples. from Naples the options were you either take a ferry to amalfi, then change to Maiori. or you rent a private car and that option was not less than 150 euros one way. I did check on other options and one friend in India been constantly helping me out with options but there was none, unless am ready to pay 300 euros return via private car. The reason i didnt want to take ferry is because of the luggage i had. Let me simplify my ordeal to you –
From where i was i.e Polignano, I had to take a train to Bari (30mins journey) then wait for another train to Naples (5 hrs journey) and then hunt for a port to take me to Amalfi via ferry and then change again. There was no way in hell I was ready for that much of tension to reach a place. I had to take a call fast and then decided to let go of my booking in Maiori and rather make a fresh booking in Naples. i looked for options and this being the season time I was not getting many options in my budget. I got lucky with one place – Ramada, Naples. located very close to the central station where I was about to get off, i booked it.
At this point I was really frustrated that my itinerary for next 3 days came crashing down suddenly and bigger heartbreak was losing about 250 euros of my booking in Maiori as it was non refundable. Now that I think of it, it still hurts but I guess I would have never experienced what i did with my change of plans.
They say everything happens for a reason and it cant be anymore apt in my case here. As i checked in at my usual check-in time in this tour (about 10 pm) I ran down to fill my room with enough booze supplies. Man I drank every god damn day in this trip as well. lol. Raising a toast to my madness, mistakes, happiness and to being proud of being where I am. I went to to the hotel bar and saw a pretty face sitting by the bar as they were about to shut, she looked latin to me, in no time i changed my plan to take booze into the room and instead i sat there deliberately. 😀 I honestly had no idea we would get into talking. I casually ordered for a Manhattan for myself and finally after the entire day of traveling, i was at ease.
“This cocktail looks like you have had a long and tiring day” she initiated the conversation
‘”F** Yeah It was, plus i lost some money coz of my stupid booking at one place” I said
we started talking and drinking and her energy was so infectious that I didnt feel tired at all. We were yapping like we were long lost buddies and what surprized me the most was that she was an ex american military who had to ‘Medically discharge’ as they say coz of a mishap that happened. WOW! I was instantly fascinated with her as she explained her army lifestyle and how she is now exploring life on her own terms. Thats the beauty of traveling alone. you meet crazy people and the stories you get to hear and tell. She was way too enthusiastic about everything and believed in not wasting a single minute. I wont be lying if i said that i never met any girl so quick in staarting a conversation and as you turn, in no time she has made friends with anyone who is around her. lol
Both of us decided to explore Capri together. I told her about my fear of water and saw a wicked smile on her face with one eyebrow up, as if now her short term goal was to somehow throw me into the water. lol As it was my first day or rather night in Naples I didnt want to wake up and rush to Amalfi or capri immediately. As is I was upset about the losing money to that booking. But Ashley(Ms Military) lost no time and as she woke up, she ran to explore Amalfi. Now before you picture these places, know that Amalfi, Sorrento, Positano or Capri are not in Naples. you need a tour to explore these places. So yeah! I woke up to her messages saying she was in Amalfi and i was laughing. Everytime i think of her, she kind of reflects that energy still 🙂
We mutually agreed on exploring Capri the next day. I had to make the most of my changed itinery. So if not amalfi, Capri had to be the place. in my spare time I took a walk around the city of Naples and learned about Limoncello, a locally produced drink with alcohol content of 25-30% made from world famous Lemons of Amalfi region. Italians use it as a digestive post dinner, and its taken in shot glasses preferably.
Ashley and I did enough and quick research on Capri tours and with most of the top rated tours being sold out we decided to book one with the hotel itself. The tour was for about 130 euros with return jetty ticket from naples port. One option we had was to explore capri on our own but we stuck to the tour because we didnt have much time to do our homework on capri to explore it by ourselves, plus i read in various blogs that food, transport etc in Capri is expensive. well at least all that was covered in the tour.
CAPRI – *insert your favourite song on nature* ♥️
We boarded the jetty aroud 930 am and the journey was about 45 mins. Here starts another life changing experiences as one of the best highlights of my trip. as we neared capri the water was turning from blue to light blue and turquoise. you just wont or cant put your phone down for a second as you wouldnt want to miss a single moment to record the beauty of that place. The mountains of capri kept growing bigger as we went closer and you start seeing people on their private yachts parked in the middle of the sea, champagnes, pizzas and diving. true Italian style of luxury. We got off the port and I bet everyone who was in the jetty was awestruck with the beauty that was in front of us.
Unlike Polignano, Capri is already on world map of tourism and attracts about 30-40000 tourist per day in season time. As per our guide the population of Capri is about 50000 people. Capri is just one part of the island which is basically the base and the ports the top part is called as ANACAPRI (Ana in italian means top) We took a bus to go to anacapri and we were told to be prepared to witness the surreal beauty of this gorgeous little yet populated island that is also a holiday destination to various Local and international celebrities.
After various turns and uphill ride during the journey we crossed through the MAMA MIA ROAD. true to its name its called as Mama Mia road because the view from there is breathtaking and too good to be real. Like any picture taken from there will make a perfect wallpaper.
Here we are almost at the top of the island and the boats and jettys look like small white paper boats. We got off at Anacapri, while walking through those narrow streets with white houses covered with contrasting red and yellow flowers with just space for doors and windows to be seen, we arrived at a small market and on top of us was the cable car that takes one person at a time to the highest peak of the island.
Our guide noticed the childlike excitement in me and Ashley and she said if we wanted to go to the cable ride, she would give us 30 mins to go and explore and be back. the ride was for 11 euros but well, if you wont spend on scuh once in a lifetime experience whats the point of the trip then. In no time we both were in the queue for the cable ride.
As I was close to my turn to sit on that single carrier cable cart, I started to reconsider, maybe i had a fear of heights too which I didnt know. lol. But it was too late. I took a deep breath and i was pushed into the constant moving cable cart and up I started. I settled and in just 10 secs I felt the adrenaline rush like a sudden chill in my veins. and the view was like a drug. The high of getting higher to the topmost point in the Capri Island was worth every penny. Endless blue sea merging with the blue sky in the horizon with a small piece of land in the middle of heaven. what an exhilarating experience it was.
Finishing our cable tour we headed to have lunch which was included in out tour, thankfully. Post lunch we descended downhill to Capri. Here we stopped at a marketplace with narrow streets and a common porch. whats diffferent about this market? well unlike regular local shops, here the brands were of the likes of Dolce and Gabbana, Chanel, ferragamo and many more. Lined up as if its a regular local thing. Not my cup of tea, we know why! 😛 I still browsed around and clicked some good pictures. it was indeed fascinating to see Chanel and Gabbana’s for the first time in a store covered with floral walls and climbers.
We went down and here my fear was put to test. Ashley was adamant to do a boat tour, which wasnt included in our package but they said it would be worth it. The tour takes you around the Capri Islands, through the Caves and the famous BLUE GROTTO(a.k.a GROTTA AZZURA) – A sea cave on the coast of the island, where the sunlight passes through the underwater cavity shining through the water. the cave is only 1 meter high and its open only when the sea water isnt rough.
I was panicking earlier on taking the tour but then when the guide asked who all are willing to go for it, everyone except me raised their hands. and FYI my tour had an old couple aged 60 years. I was ashamed of myself, but happy at the same time, as this was going to be the leap beyond my fears.
This tour is for 18 euros and it lasts about 1 hr around the entire island. As the tour started, i felt at ease, specially when I saw the old couple enjoying, initially i was scared but honestly, this ride was much much smoother compared to my ride from Naples to Capri. even tough this was a small boat. Here began my yet another experience that wouldnt be replicated ever again. Some things have to be lived once and as i was in that moment, on that boat, with every passing minute I was headed closer to conquering my fear. and then the boat guide announced that we will be crossing through what Italians call – CAVE OF LOVE. Secluded 3 huge rocks placed in the middle of the sea, with one having a naturally carved gate. Our boat was supposed to go through that.
Heart started beating faster, I knew this, would be a once in a lifetime experience, specially for a guy who never thought would get into a boat on deep waters. While cruising towards it our guide explained to us the myth attached to the cave of love, they say if you kiss while crossing under it, you and you r partner will live happily forever. lol
Ashley yelled – ‘What if someone dont have a partner?’
‘you can kiss me or the captain’ – said the Boat guide. haha
All aboard the boat, were smiling ear to ear as we crossed the cave. we all yelled 3..2…1 and on the other side of it, I felt i accomplished something. as if I stepped on the other side of my fear. Remember that moment in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, where Hrithik becomes numb after the dive and is just sitting and absorbing the beauty of it. That is exactly how I felt, as i turned back and saw the cave of love (now behind us). they say some experiences are priceless and I guess you know which ones in your life transcend you into a complete different and upgraded version of yourself, once you push yourself to limits you never knew existed. This was my moment and for the first time I felt happy and proud to not be able to put it in words and to just live it as it is.
Everything after this was in slow motion, it was an instant high and i couldnt get over it, we sat on the jetty back to Naples and as I reached the hotel, i opened a can of beer to celebrate. All Smiles, high on life. I was seeing myself from a very different viewpoint. 🙂
CAPRI & NAPLES OVERVIEW –
- if you already know you have to do capri, book your tour in advance. you may get discount of 10-20 Euros. The Tour will still cost you about 100 easily.
- You can also choose to stay in Capri for a day, This being an island, consider everything will be expensive. I suggest you do a day tour instead from Naples.
- If you want to explore Capri on your own from Port of Naples, the fare is 40 euros return for the jetty. Rest you pay separately for the transport, which i believe is expensive there. Which is why Tours are the best
- YOU MUST DO the cable cart in Ana Capri, reach at the topmost point of the island and see the view that you wouldnt have imagined ever in your life. its that gorgeous. The ride is about 1 euros
- Also, YOU MUST do the Boat ride, a separate tour around the Capri Island, you pay 18 euros for that but MAN!! once you in it, you would want to splurge all you got on the sight. if you are lucky, DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT MISS THE BLUE GROTTO.
MADRID, ESPANA ( Last but not the least) –
Many of you who are well aware of the Europe map would wonder why Madrid was my last spot if I was in Italy. As mentioned earlier my original itinerey was Portugal and Spain, and hence my return flight was booked from Madrid. but my itinery changed for good and Italy replaced Portugal, but the return flight stayed as is. I boarded the flight and as i reached my hotel in Madrid, i realized i made a mistake again.
I am otherwise very particular about certain things during my trip. A good hotel in the city center is always what i look and book. This time I ended up booking a hotel that was way far from the city center. Now far in Madrid terms means 5 kms away from the center. While I am used to walking 15 kms in a day when traveling. These 5 kms were impossible as the hotel was off the Highway. and you arent allowed to walk on the highways. The only option as my hotel suggested was metro. I got myself a card for 14 euros which was eligible for 10 journeys on the sky blue line. But then the closest metro station was about 2 km walk, through a residential area. in short it was a boring area with no essence of the capital.
However after a few stations, I got down at SOL, its said to be the center of the city and is full of culture in every street. Right from the bull fight street paints, Huge beef stores, bars almost everywhere, shops, Street performers. Everything was lit and everyone was busy exploring on their own. This was relaxing to me as well, as majority of my trip was in less populated areas and hotspots. This was a mtero, capital of Spain, home to Christiano Ronaldo. And i was ready to surrender to the city vibe. I shopped, sat by the cafe’s, googled and explored some famous hotspots. My trip couldnt have had a better conclusion than this. I lived my dream in these 2 weeks and I was ready to party in Worlds one of the top cities. I pub hopped on my own and i would start random conversations with people by the bar. everyone would share their experiences as most of them were tourist themselves. One thing i learned that they really have a fascination with India. Not sure if they want to visit, but everywhere I have been welcomed with a pleasant surprise and my country has definitely got them excited.
I was in Madrid for 4 nights, and every day i would follow the same routine. explore different areas, I wish I booked a place nearby city center but thats fine as its over. I would conclude my night with a beer or two and sleep! All smiles. 🙂
This was the end of my trip peeps. I seriously urge you to travel. you would be surprised to learn how beautiful does it feel to get lost sometimes, aimlessly. What rush you feel when you sit by the sea somewhere far far away from you own comfort zone and all you see is sunset and all you hear is the sea waves tapping the cliff under you. Time Stops! literally! C’est La vie!!
TRIP OVERVIEW –
- I applied for my visa from France region. the schengen visa cost is about 6000 INR. I was told France visa comes quickly and in my case it came quickly than i expected.
- I am personally not a fan of Paris, it consumed a lot of my money and time. If you are a fan of eiffel or Lourve. I would rather you stay here for only one day. But as mentioned earlier book your hotel around Arc De Triomphe or Champs Elyssess
- My return flight costed me about 38k return. Emirates, which is bound to have Dubai halt. My landing destination was paris and return was from Madrid
- once in life try the famous European hostel living. even for a day. See and meet strangers and get to know them. They are really safe and cheap and hygienic.
- Rome is best explored on foot. But keep in mind to stay either around Colosseo, or Central Termini. the International airport is far from the city but you can do what I did. Pay 7 euros for a bus and it will drop you to termini. Otherwise cabs would charge 50 euros.
- Colosseo, Vatican, Fontana Di trevi, Ancient Remains of Rome and Bars by Colosseo are a must must watch
- My train journey from Rome termini to Bari and to Polignano was about 80 euros. But I wanted to try the first class experience. You can get a second class ticket for 50 euros. But keep in mind that Unlike India, train prices may change. so book and keep. There is literally no difference in first and second class compartments. They are all well equipped.
- If you are doing Polignano, and want to visit the world famous Restaurant, GROTTA PALAZEZZE, keep 150 euros aside. 😛
- Polignano has its own charm, the U shaped beach, the clliffs, caves. Its still not yet exploited, not by asian tourists to be honest. My stay in Polignano costed me 15000 for 3 nights, breakfast was included in Danny’s and Vitos Airbnb
- Flights across Europe are cheap but book well in advance. With one Schengen visa You can visit all schengen countries without any hassle.
- At Naples, book yourself around Castle Nuovo or Pizaa Vittoria. these are the plush areas of Naples and also the port of naples is right here, so the jettys to capri or Amalfi would be closer to you
- One day tour to Capri costs around 120 euros that includes return from Naples. However, as mentioned earier, YOU MUST DO THE BOAT TOUR and THE BLUE GROTTO. No point in visiting otherwise. Boat tour is additional 18 euros
- I couldnt do but you can definitely do a one day trip to Amalfi and Positano. Its just as amazing via ferry.
- MUST try the limoncello, you get it in bottles and it tastes like lemon slush but with alcohol. Its like a digestive for the Italians and they drink it after dinner.
- in polignano, take a 30 min bike ride or train to monopoli. Its yet another untouched, unexplored sea side beauty. unlike Polignano its flat surface and not on cliffs.
- MUST TRY the boat tour in Polignano as well. You see this gorgeous small town from a different angle
- Also the U shaped small beach called as LAMA Monachile Cala Porto. you have seen me there 😉
- Usual beer in Italy costs you about 1-2 euros. my choice of food included pasta and pizzas mostly. pasta can range from 7-12 euros and Pizza would range about the same.
- Note that to reach Polignano, because its a very small town in the south east of Italy, is difficult. the train station is very small and less of its population speaks English.
- Try the lemon-orange slush once you in Capri. its nothing like you have ever tried before. Made from the homegrown lemons and crushed ice. its one of its kind
- If in Paris, sit by the foot of Eiffel and try the gelato. go around the sunset and see the light show. You see a lot of indians wandering around with a bucket selling water and beer
One Last and perhaps an important tip – Try Only Italy if possible rather than getting greedy to cover many countries. While my trip was nothing less than a dream, I still wish I hadnt had to spend money in Paris on bookings etc. I could have well used and extended my trip to Italy instead. Italy is one such country that has so much to offer and its vast diversity from Culture to pristine beaches, from Vatican to underwater cavelands. It deserves all your time. I didnt do North of Italy and the Tuscan region. But you can perhaps take a tour to PISA and see the leaning tower. and the Tuscan area and Florence too.
I hope my itinerary helps you to motivate yourself to go out there and explore the beauty of this world and write your own stories rather than to be told. Life is beautiful and its ending one minute at a time. I have been told, questioned and many are still surprised on How I make it happen? How i take so many trips. The answer to that is simple and is also known to the ones who ask these questions – Anyone can do it, Most people crib, they dont want to plan, if you dedicate your energy to it, anything is possible. Most of my trips are budgeted, all you got to do is to keep you eyes and ears open. there are many offers for interested ones. And once you step out, what seems impossible here, sitting at your comfort, you will be shocked to learn that its a part of ordinary lifestyle outside. GO FOR IT!
Love and Light
MANU ( Instagram @vegetariansharma)