Dipannita Sharma's Italy trip

Updated: Jul 21, 2014, 11:03 AM IST

Dipannita Sharma

The quaint narrow lanes of Tuscany with luxury stores, remnants of history, delicious coffee and chocolates leaves actress Dipannita Sharma wanting more...

What struck me about Florence was that there was no traffic, even though it was very crowded. I soon realised why no vehicles are allowed beyond a certain point, leaving you with no choice, but to walk, a lot! But I wasn’t complaining as the weather was pleasant and the streets were quaint, clean and pretty. Just the kind of thing my husband Dilsher and I wanted.

While planning our Italy itinerary for this summer, we reserved six days out of our 14-day-trip for the region of Tuscany; it had been on our must-go list for long. Staying at Florence and exploring the rest of Tuscany from there was our best option if we wanted to avoid a hectic schedule.

I always imagined Florence as being picture perfect—especially the walk across its bridges overlooking river Arno and pretty blue skies leading up to the Michaelangelo Square, which lends the most stunning view of the city. But I wasn’t expecting to discover an architectural marvel in the form of the Duomo Di Firenze (Cathedral of Florence). It’s a fascinating gothic structure sans the starkness associated with typical gothic; its facade has happy colours of green and muted pink that make it stand out. What’s even more amazing about the Duomo is that it looks different every time you approach it from a different side. I felt I could spend hours staring at it from one of the cafés facing it. The cathedral’s interiors are stunning too, but nothing compared to the facade.

The area around was bustling with people, and the restaurants and cafés were full of life. Remembering the fabulous Lindt store, I can almost taste their Italian hot chocolate–ciocolata calda with whipped cream. We spent an entire day and a few leisurely evenings in and around the Duomo. Most places of historical significance such as the Uffizi Gallery, Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti are close to each other, find one and you’ll easily find the others. But the numerous tiny streets can be confusing, so keeping a map is advisable. The Ponte Vecchio or ‘old bridge’, built over river Arno, also retains its past; it still has the same setting that it did during the Renaissance period–the entire long bridge, with arches, is dotted with tiny little open, display shops selling trinkets, art items and more.

Florence is known for being the centre of art and culture since time immemorial, but what’s less known is its contribution to the world of science, which goes almost as far back as its art. I discovered this only during my visit to the Galileo Museum. Even some of my favourite luxury brands—Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci and Chanel have their head offices here. But unfortunately, Ferragamo’s signature museum was under renovation when I visited.

Being so close, a trip to the Leaning Tower of Pisa was unavoidable. So on one of the six days, we hopped onto a train and headed to Pisa. As we walked to the tower from the station, crossing a bridge over a river, I realised that people, houses, cafés and the weather make such a difference to your overall experience! Pisa’s setting was very similar to Florence’s, it lacked the city’s character. But as I neared the breathtaking Leaning Tower of Pisa, I was transfixed. I kept looking at it as I walked and at some point I felt a crick in my neck. Pisa surely is most deserving of being one of the wonders. It even has a tiny leaning door through which you go in! The thing to do here is to pretend to straighten the tower and take a picture, which I of course did! This is also where I discovered the delicious marocchino– an espresso shot with milk-foam and chocolate. I had one ‘marocchino’ till my last day in Italy!

Taking the locals advice, we went to the lesser-known settlement of Lucca, which they consider far more interesting than Pisa and even the stunning San Gimignano and Siena. It turned out to be unbelievably beautiful and had an interesting nugget of history too. One of its Renaissance-period walls, the only one that has stood the test of time without renovation, is so long and wide that it now has an entire manmade road with places to sit and greenery all around it. So when you are walking on the road, you are actually walking on the wall!

Then there are roads leading you off it and into the main village. But the only way you can get in and out of Lucca is via the wall road! The experience was simply surreal and my trip would have surely been incomplete without a visit to this tiny jewel. Language was sometimes a problem, but the locals were extremely helpful, explaining directions with sign language. So all in all I left wanting more and definitely plan to go back.