THE ONSET OF EXULTANT NOSTALGIA
Waking up with sweet unrest, feeling the misty air of a beautiful morning, I opened my eyes and from the bedroom’s balcony saw the soft hues of the crimson sunrise – this is the time I like to feel the coolness of the floor under my feet, while the quilt of the night sky releases the sun from its wrap. This reminds me of him – his calm demeanor before the day took over, his indomitable strength of taking the heat, and living through the reality of the world, providing light to the ones who need it the most to shine and grow. I dreamed of living one such reality so soulfully in the month of September in the past. September came this year and Snapchat prompted me with memories filled with Southern Italy, several lakesides, coasts of Marina Grande, leisurely boat rides, the soothing sound of water, mesmerizing & dark blue volcanic beaches – I’m instantly transported to the time I was snapping pictures & saving memories there while doting on a delectable cone of gelato. A wonderful Italian tradition – Passeggiata – used to be my most favourite time of the day, carousing around the streets and city squares. I remember the citrusy air with the hint of monsoon’s dew I can still feel in my lungs, and the magnificent church bells and prayers rousing me ecstatically. From attending Italian operas to evolving historical knowledge, like about Herculaneum – the ancient town which has been considered as Pompeii’s little sister, partying in Venice and laughing in delight instead of getting offended by the harmless, charming flirting of young men of Naples when they chased me down the street with their skittish remarks (p.s. thank you for not robbing me instead). Every pizza I savoured was cut by crafty Italian hands which had also mastered the mechanism of driving me through the beautiful coastline, dancing along, holding me strong when I stumbled. That Italian September and that love still melt my heart with the memories and connections that are so dearly cherished with that extraordinary continent. From dainty blue pottery to exquisite limoncello, everything about Italy to be lived and loved to the fullest has marked my essence for eternity. To know how to love is to learn from an Italian heart and hands.
THE ITALIAN EXPERIENCE – FASCINATING AND UTTERLY REFINED
It’s always been those little efforts that have mattered in life, but I have to admit my fascination with the flamboyant Italian gestures. Studying fashion, art, and history throughout the week, going to the museums over and over again to attempt to live among those artists and their creations was breathing to the brim and living to the core kind of experience for me. It was a magical emotion visiting Leonardo de Vinci’s “The Last Supper” in Milan; learning about the Medici family dynasty feeling Sandro Botticelli’s presence around. It occurred to me while attending Andrea Bocelli’s performances that these legends have infinite wisdom to pass on. Italians know art and creativity in a way that once you learn their techniques, they’re going to be etched within you for life. Take any of the best designers, engineers, or artists. It’s their Italian genes and blood which makes all the difference in the world. Coming back to my time in Italy, where weekdays were filled with knowledge and learning, and weekends used to be about going to Mercato Centrale in Florence to buy cheese and vegetables along with a fresh bunch of sunflowers and a bag of lemons. Cooking Italian meals at home and packing some fresh baguette with olives, herbs, and tomatoes for the road, and meanwhile, I hear his vintage Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale zooming up to my doorway. Life at the time was all about the vintage Italian style, clean air in the lungs, driving through the paradisal coastline to land in other heavenly spots to explore, to be loved, and enamoured at the small, beautiful, quaint spots of Italy.
My love endlessly flows all over the Italian continent. While studying in Milan and taking a stroll around the region, knowing little what was coming my way – I was going to live and experience something truly life-changing. From Tuscany to the Amalfi coast, each day has been spectacularly filled with life and love. Sardinia, Lake Garda, Sicily, Venice, Capri, Palermo, Lake Como, Forte dei Marmi……the list goes on – all my favourite places in Italy. My paramour took the reins of one week of my visit – it was surreal, the weather teasing us with torrential games; amidst the fond allure, his master plan made me surrender a week in Sorrento!
TAKE MY BREATH AWAY, SORRENTO!
Founded by the Greeks in 600 BC, Sorrento is the gateway to the Amalfi Coast and the namesake of the Sorrentine Peninsular. It is an adorably charming town with classy architecture that sprawls leisurely along the cliffs, overlooking the ocean, offering magnificent views of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius in the distance. There are many places you can easily explore around Sorrento – the town isn’t far away from Naples and the beautiful Amalfi Coast.
THE PRICELESS MEMORIES AT SORRENTO
PIAZZA TASSO – The main square, filled with pavement cafés, shops, restaurants, and horse-drawn carriages, is the perfect spot for people-watching and admiring the beautiful baroque architecture around. You can catch a small, white tourist train from here that takes you through the town and down to Marina Piccola for a 30-minute ride.
CHIESA DI SAN FRANCESCO – In the 14th century, the Franciscan friars turned the original building into a church that was rebuilt in 1926, retaining some of the extremely ornate architecture. The ancient cloisters are still used as monks’ residences and hearing the monks chanting is a haunting but memorable experience.
SIP A LIMONCELLO OR TWO – Sorrento is called the lemon town and rightly so. The shops are all full of Limoncello in cute bottles. Limoncello is a liqueur and the flavour and colour are derived by the infusion of lemon skins in alcohol. I Giardini di Cataldo is a producer right in the middle of town. You can wander through their beautiful lemon grove and see the limoncello being made. You could also try their variety of delicious lemon related products and take some souvenirs.
EXPLORE THE OLD TOWN & MARINA GRANDE – The Centro Storico (historic centre) is as pretty as a picture postcard. There are narrow cobbled roads, filled with trattorias, bars, and wonderful artisanal shops. Sorrento is known for its beautiful leather, lace, and inlaid wooden items. The Marina is an ancient harbor, the home of pirates in olden days. You’ll see fishermen out and about, tending to their boats and bantering back and forth. It is still a working village so the catch of the day is straight from the boats to your plate.
GO FOR A SWIM – You won’t find your typically sandy beaches here – more volcanic and black instead. Many of them are private. At Marina Piccola, you can rent loungers and umbrellas. There is a stunning natural pool at the base of the cliffs at Bagni Regina Giovanna which is worth the journey and one of the best things to do in Sorrento if you like the water.
CORREALE MUSEUM DI TERRANOVA– The Correale Museum is an archaeological museum and art gallery right in the centre of Sorrento displaying beautiful pieces of art, furniture, and china. Don’t miss the view from the beautiful garden that overlooks the Bay of Naples. From April to October, the Correale Museum becomes home to musicians who perform selections from Italian Operas – you’d love this if you’re an enthusiast. Experiencing a concert this intimate is one of the unique experiences in Sorrento.
VISIT THE MARKET– Market day is on a Tuesday in Sorrento in Via San Renato. It opens at 08:00 hours and closes at 14:00. Visiting an Italian town’s market should always be on your agenda. It’s a great way to see what’s seasonal, and mingle with the locals as well.
SEE VALLONE DEI MULINI (VALLEY OF THE MILLS) – The valley right behind Piazza Tasso was formed over 35,000 years ago during a large earthquake. It is considered one of the most enchanting views in Sorrento. The mill you’ll see served the area for hundreds of years by harnessing the power from the streams. In the late 1800s, urban planning and blocked access to the sea caused the mill to close.
My favourite thing to do after all the touristic adventures was spending days at the iconic Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria – the striking view from my bedroom every morning was an unparalleled Utopia. Getting a limoncello spritz and watching the blue sea and Snow White boats floating around the harbor was just pure bliss. The best part about this hotel is its aristocratic charm and opulence of a luxury boutique spa. Standing majestically on a clifftop above the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria is Neapolitan glamour at its grandest. It’s tucked away in five acres of shady gardens, olive trees, and citrus groves, with a fantastic sea-view swimming pool. In September, it’s the perfect weather to sail away across to the islands of Capri and Ischia and have an idyllic day with your loved ones. Being a dreamer and choosing peace over all the chaos life has to offer, sailing away without a care in the world is one thing my heart loves. With this thought, I decided to lighten up my nostalgic mood by watching this old classic movie of Sophia Loren called “Scandal in Sorrento”. This funny romantic comedy reminds me of each moment I had lived in that gorgeous town.
Italian food is a kind of soul food for me. I still remember the experience of having exquisite meals at the Michelin star restaurant Terrazza Bisquet with the perfect company I could have ever asked for. The euphoric happiness which a bowl of spaghetti gives me is not even close to any Indian dish I have grown up eating. Like Sophia Loren quoted “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti” – in the same way, I would like to be proud of my feminine side. I carry love in my heart for those who were left behind, their memories still emerging every
September when the first leaf of autumn falls in my balcony, when Frank Sinatra’s songs melt my heart along with the smell of fresh brie baking in my oven and my hands craving to make authentic Italian food just like Sorrento fed me with so much love. The life I once so deeply yearned to live forever…..here’s hoping some September takes me back to that love and food I have been missing and the winds of time change their ways again one more time. Once more my footprints leave marks all over those streets and once more I could be that Italian donna who loved and lived through all her hurdles, smiling and cooking and spreading flavours of her essence before getting in bed with her Sun and watching his warmth turning in to the silvery moon soothing her skin, surrendering her slumber in some lush green olive garden of Sorrento. I close my eyes to cherish that September of love, food, and beautiful drives and warm touch of that Italian elegance which made me feel so very special and grateful for my existence. Thinking of that week even now puts a tender smile on my face. No matter where I am standing in life today, I choose to cherish all those memories fondly.
“You must all, somewhere deep in your hearts, believe that you have a special beauty that is like no other and that is so valuable that you must not abandon it. Indeed, you must learn to cherish it.” – SOPHIA LOREN