Roman Holiday

Maansi Shah Monday 09th September 2019 14:13 EDT

We all know that there is something magical about the relationship between grandparents and grandchildrenGrandchildren represent the future to grandparents. They also stand for a legacy that grandparents would like to leave behind, a reminder of their roots and a bonding irreplaceable. Keeping that in mind our Publisher/Editor CB Patel invited the author of this article, 20 year old Maansi Shah, to write about her trip to Italy, with her 17 year old sibling and grandparents. 

Maansi is the dear granddaughter of Jyotsna Shah, Consulting Editor of Gujarat Samachar and her former banker husband D R Shah. 

This July, I found myself seated at the back of a little gelateria in the centre of Rome, savouring what must be the best gelato I have ever tried, after having spent the day in the Vatican City. I looked around the table, at my paternal grandparents and my younger brother, Dhyaan, and knew this was a moment that would, in time, become a cherished memory forever — and not just for the incomparable wonders we had seen in the Holy See, or the three otherworldly flavours we had just sampled (lavender and white peach; rosemary, honey and lemon; and garden sage and raspberry at Gelateria del Teatro, if you were wondering). 

I was bitten by the travel bug at a young age. Grownups would laugh when I would tell them, earnest and wide-eyed, about my plans to travel to every single country in the world. I think it began when my family relocated six thousand miles east from London to Hong Kong, when I was just six years old. At the age of 20, I have lived in three countries, and travelled to thirty, and I do not intend to stop anytime soon. From my parents to all four of my grandparents, every adult in my life has raised me to believe that this world is my oyster. Now that I am living away from home at university in Edinburgh, and as a young adult who is trying to find, or rather make my place in the world, I recognise the value of having been blessed with the grandparents I have. Although we lived abroad, I have always been incredibly close to my Baa and Dada, which is only natural when I think about the deep bond my dad shares with his dad. Every year, as soon as school would break up for the summer, we would take the first flight home to London to spend six gloriously long weeks with them. 

So earlier this year, I mentioned to my parents that I would love to visit Italy in the summer. “I might have to go solo. Neither yours nor my friends’ dates work with mine,” I remember moaning. It was my mum who suggested, “Maan, why don’t you ask Baa and Dada to join you? They’ve never been to Italy, and it would be such an amazing experience.” I was taken by her idea, and took charge. Baa and Dada were immediately as excited as we were at the prospect of a grandparent-grandchild vacation: a chance to build more special memories together. Within the next few months I planned and booked a week in Italy for Baa, Dada, Dhyaan, and me. For their comfort, I made a conscious effort to find an Airbnb with a lift (no easy feat in Rome!), arrange tickets for all the sights beforehand to avoid queues, research the best restaurants in advance as we are all vegetarians, and create an itinerary with enough time for rest and recuperation, because Rome demands lots of walking. 

Eventually, the morning of our flight arrived, and within seconds of entering through the Aurelian Walls, it became apparent that this trip would be magical. On our first evening, as we crossed the Pont Sant’Angelo, strolling past the Castel Sant’Angelo along the River Tiber towards the Trastevere district for dinner, with St. Peter’s Basilica lit up in the distance, we were overwhelmed by the beauty and mystique surrounding this ancient city. Over the next few days, we explored the maze of cobbled alleys in Centro Storico, never failing to be absolutely enchanted by whatever was waiting for us when we spilled out into the baroque piazzas. Once it was the magnificent Pantheon, which we visited just before noon to marvel at the way the sun streams in through the oculus. Another time we walked out of a lane to find the iconic Trevi Fountain in all its grandeur. One evening, Baa and Dada waited at the foot of the impressive Spanish Steps while Dhyaan and I filled our water bottles from the Fontana della Barcaccia. It was surreal. 

While everyone has heard so much about the Colosseum — and it certainly did not disappoint — the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill were striking too, and undoubtedly one of the highlights of our trip. Baa and Dada sportingly braved the intense heat to walk around the expanse, patiently listening to Dhyaan and me rhapsodise over the historical treasures. We grew up with Baa’s bedtime tales, and it was endearing to see the tables turn as Dhyaan, a Classics student, regaled Baa and Dada with stories of ancient Rome. Halfway through our sojourn, we nipped to Florence for the day, where we saw 

Michelangelo’s David in all his glory, the stunning Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, and the haunting Rape of the Sabine Women sculpture in Piazza della Signoria. Our day ended with coffee near the charming Ponte Vecchio. 

Throughout the week, the four of us spent unprecedented quality time together. We learned things about each other that we didn’t know before. Baa and Dada entertained us with stories of their youth and my dad’s childhood, giving us a more insightful perspective about what makes them the way they are, and shaping our understanding of how and why they view life the way they do. This trip was our longest interaction with Baa and Dada as grown teenagers, without any other family around. It was an opportunity for them to see us as near-adults. I couldn’t help feeling a surge of pride when Dada affectionately commented that his laadkiis such a capable, organised young woman. As the oldest of their five grandchildren — of whom the youngest three are all under eight years old —Dhyaan and I absolutely adored having their undivided attention again. We returned to London with an abundance of inside jokes, a lifetime of happy memories, and plans for our next trip as a quartet. 

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