My sister and I have a pact. Since both of us want to travel and visit the world and yet she lives in far away California, we decided to do family vacations once every few years at a destination that appealed to both families. This year we picked Italy – we had last been there 14 years ago when I was newly married and my sister was in the process of getting to know my brother in law. We’d had an amazing trip – my husband, my sister and I – and wanted my brother in law and the 5 children we had drummed up between us in the intervening years to have that experience. We also wanted to visit some other destinations within Italy which had been on our wishlist so it was a tightly packed trip over 12 days. Our parents were supposed to join us but my dad wasn’t feeling up to it with a recent shoulder surgery so it was just the 9 of us – 4 adults, 5 children, 8 backpacks, 5 suitcases and 2 purses!

One of my reasons for joining the saree pact was to re-position it for myself as an everyday outfit rather than an ‘occasion wear’ outfit, so I packed one of my favourite sarees for the trip, egged on by amma. Packing for an overseas trip involving 5 people is always a challenge – you want to keep it easy, light and yet not run out of clothes before you find a laundry. I wanted to avoid the unnecessary paraphernalia around a saree so ditched the petticoat in favour of a ‘naada’ or string, deciding I would wear a pair of pajamas underneath if required. In any case, I have begun to mostly wear sarees with T shirts so I figured one of the tanktops or Tees I was packing anyway would hit the mark.

Florence was hot, hot, hot and humid, humid, humid. I almost regretted my desire to wear a saree when I peeped out of our apartment window that morning but went ahead anyway. Finally, the naada was too much trouble so I tied the saree on itself – a common old technique that I’ve seen my ajjis practice – and pulled on the black and white striped T that is my favourite combo for this saree, and that I wear with it to office.

It was a reasonably easy walk to the Duomo, 20 minutes from where we were staying, but superhot and humid so at some point where my brother in law was walking around trying to find the next gelateria we should attack, my sister, I and the children sank down in the shade cast by the beautiful edifice and made silly faces at the camera to rival those made by the kids.

The saree turned out to be a great piece to wear in that humid weather, the lack of petticoat letting my legs air out (TMI???). Moreover, everywhere we went, it led to VIP treatment for some reason. At the Uffizi, an employee passing by as we attempted a selfie folded his hands in the Namaste pose before offering to take the photo for us. At dinner at a fabulous Trattoria near the Ponte Vecchio, the restaurant owner and his wife said their daughter had spent 3 weeks across North India the previous year and loved it and was planning to head back this year to travel across South India, and proceeded to cook us a fabulous off-menu meal!

I’m now planning to pack a saree for more vacations – since it’s one among the many choices of outfit and no longer a special encumbrance.

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