Travel is the spice of life; it is crème fraiche on a basic sponge cake; it is the vibrant lipstick on a bare face, it is the statement necklace on a basic black dress, it is the bold stroke on a plain canvas.
We live our daily lives performing various duties, chores and activities. Some we enjoy some we don’t. In any event no matter how exciting our daily jobs and lifestyles are after some time, well they become “daily” or “routine.” The familiarity even though comforting brings with it some vacuous boredom.
Travel jolts us from the quotidian routine and infuses the requisite amount of fervor and excitement to get back into the “routine” upon return.
Upon her return from a world tour, my friend told me that she could not find the food that she is accustomed to in her home country and hence from that aspect it was a little hard for her to travel.
It made me think, what is the point of traveling if you cannot immerse yourself in the culture, the traditions, the food, the style of that country and get a true feel of its soul. When I travel I have a ritual, I visit the grocery store and the pharmacy of the new place. It provides me an opportunity to get a true local feel of the country. I also try to buy at least one small traditional clothing item and incorporate it with my daily wardrobe. It enables me to take a nostalgic trip down memory lane when my life returns back to being “daily.”
When we travel, we all visit the famous sites recommended by Lonely Planet. The key to travel is to diverge from the well-traveled “touristy” path at least once and get a true flavor of the country.
Travel is about exploration and getting out of your comfort element, stepping out of self-imposed parameters and crossing boundaries literally and metaphorically.
If you are in Istanbul, you will of course visit Hagia Sophia as you should, but also take the time to sit in the little cafes and drink umpteen cups of cay with shakkar (tea with sugar). You truly get a feel of the old culture watching the men play board games.
If in China, eat the dumplings from the enormous steamed bamboo baskets.
If going to Italy, do buy at least one sartorial outfit from Via Condotti (no matter how small) to be a part of the most stylish culture in the world.
In Mongolia throw caution to the strong Gobi desert winds, ride a yak and later drink its warm milk! No need to crinkle your nose, it is delicious!!
So, pause your hectic itinerary for a few minutes, take a long breath, inhale and envelope yourself in the essence of the country you visit. You will get more out of it than visiting every miniscule “must see” site written in the travel book.
There is a lightness to life in Italy. A buoyancy, an effervescence, an inconsequential grace. You might say, what does that mean? In simple terms there is looseness in living, an elasticity, nobody takes life too seriously. They eat, drink and are “contento” and “felice.”
I too feel the lightness of being when I am there. The sordid thoughts are dispersed; the worries are dispensed; the weight of the world slips off my slender shoulders (at least I think my shoulders are slender!) I espouse the infectious energy of the Italians.
Going with the flow is part of being an Italian. They do not try to control every aspect of their lives. I suppose being loose is a big part of cultures other than the United States. Indian culture is the same, there is a lack of rigidity in day to day life. So, the shops open at 11 o’ clock in the morning and after a mere few hours close at 2:30 for the afternoon siesta. In America, that is a no-no. After all, time is money baby! Every second of the day must be productive. Well, not in Italy. I learnt to take those afternoon hours and fall into a sweet slumber, wake up with a rejuvenated glow on my skin, ready to take on the world, face any challenge, confront the mightiest of an obstacle.
But wait, wait…first I need to sit and take a break with my cappuccino and tremazzini. After that I will take on any challenge.
Oh really? Did I forget that after coffee, it is time to meet friends for a Prosecco or Spritz Aperol with potato wafers and olives. That is a dilemma! Well, I do have a solution for the dilemma. The solution is there is no hurry, no rush, nothing urgent. I can always confront the challenges “Domani” (tomorrow.) Yes, that is the attitude of the Italians. I call it the “Domani Attitude.” Why not, there is nothing wrong in it. The past is gone; the future is unknown; it is only but the present moment we have; it is only but the present moment we have to fulfill our desires.
So, armed with my Domani Attitude, it is the simpler things that I enjoy most in Italy. Yes, Italy is a treasure of ancient art, architecture, culture, languages and beauty. But, what brings me most joy is sitting in a cafe sipping my coffee with the biscotti and seeing life go by, observing, watching, reveling in the beautiful moment.
For me food and drinks are a big part of living life elegantly. What better place than Italy to exercise the elegance. I want to share with you a few of my favorites that help me enjoy the moment.
It is a sparkling wine made from a grape grown in the Veneto region of Italy. It is the sweetest, most ambrosial, delicious bubbly you will ever taste. It has absolutely no effects of alcohol, at least for me. Even my mum, who has never had a drop of alcohol in her life, found it to have medicinal capabilities to soothe her stomach!
- Spritz Aperol
The national drink of Italy. At any hour, particularly after 3 or 4 o’ clock you will see a bevy of Italians sitting in crowded cafes and bistros, laughing, joking and drinking the orange colored beverage in goblets. It is a reflection of the lightness of being that I talked about earlier. It is an aperitif produced by the Campari company. It stimulates the appetite.
You can make one at home, but nothing like sitting and drinking it at a cafe on Via Condotti. In a goblet pour 1 1/2 ounces Aperol, 2 ounces chilled Prosecco or other sparkling wine, and a splash of chilled seltzer or mineral water. Garnish with a piece of orange.
- Fresh blood orange juice
It is ruby red, it is freshly squeezed even at a gas station, it is not chilled, it has pulp and most times served in a warm sterilized glass. I would take the ruby red glass over a ruby ring any day.
The word tramezzino means “in-between”, hence you have it in-between meals. It is a triangular Italian sandwich made from two slices of heavenly white, soft bread with crusts removed. It is a reminiscent of my Heidi reading days. A most cherished book of my childhood written by Johanna Spyri where Heidi used to take divinely soft bread rolls for her grandfather.
My favorite is the funghi (mushroom) Tramezzini. Delizioso!!!
I don’t care what people may say about my taste and style, but I adore the eccentric, intellectual, cerebral, anti-establishment, non-conforming, highbrow genius of Miuccia Prada. Forget the shopping, buying, credit cards, debts, all the wearisome, burdensome worries. Just pop into Prada on Via Condotti in Rome and absorb the view of the Spanish steps from inside Prada.
An experience par excellence. A tribute to the Domani Attitude.