Natasha Coutinho (MUMBAI MIRROR; March 14, 2017)

Shruti Haasan has been away in Italy for over two weeks shooting for a Telugu film, Katamarayudu, opposite Pawan Kalyan. A self-confessed history buff, the actress was fascinated by the castles strewn across the picturesque European country.

Since classical times, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Greeks established settlements in the south of Italy, with Etruscans and Celts inhabiting the centre and north respectively. Various tribes and Italic peoples dispersed throughout the peninsula and in insular Italy. The Italic tribe known as the Latins formed the Roman kingdom which eventually became a republic much of the ancient world and became the centre of culture, politics and religion in the West.

Today, Italy has the third largest economy in the Eurozone and the eighth largest in the world. With 61 million inhabitants, it is the fourth most populous EU member state covering an area of 301,338 square kilometer. Back in the Bay now, Shruti has returned with a treasure trove of memories.

Brrrr, and its cold!
I don't really miss home when I'm abroad. I'm a nomad by nature and enjoy traveling though I'm not one of those who likes going abroad to shoot songs for my films. But this gives me an opportunity to see places I would have never visited on my own. Italy enjoys a temperate Mediterranean climate but the weather is different across the country.

Milan, the fashion capital, was really pleasant but as you move up, towards the mountains, the temperature starts to fall. Trento in the Adige River valley was very cold here but closer to the Lake Garda, it was more bearable even though, during this time of the year, you have to wear layers of clothing no matter which part of the country you are in. So make sure to pack plenty of woolens. You'll need them!

Princess in my castle
Trento is just three hours from Milan and what is unique about this place is that it has some of the most beautiful medieval castles. I love historic architecture, so for me, this made the trip memorable.

Castel Beseno is Trentino's largest fortress on the hill near Folgaria. Back in the 12th century, it belonged to the counts of Appiano and served as a residence of the Da Beseno family. In 1470, it was handed over to the counts Trapp, a noble family from Styria, affiliated with the Austrian emperor. Fire and decay almost brought it to ruins till it was handed to the Province of Trento, renovated and became a part of the Castello del Buonconsiglio Museum. Two elliptical walls surround the castle. Inside you can still see a medieval gate, drawbridge, canals and an arena. The view is to die for and there are lots of place to practise archery. We also shot at Castel Thun, which was huge, with a massive back area. Castel Beseno in comparison is more cosy like a war barrack castle.

We were shooting on the other side but I made time to dash across to Riva del Garda, north-west of the giant Lake Garda, 230 feet above sea level. The town is located at the southern edge of the Italian Alps. It has a gorgeous park around it.

Vegan woes
I'm not just a vegetarian, I'm a vegan and don't eat any dairy products and gluten. So pizza was completely out for me though I did eat a lot of it when I was there before I turned vegan. The food is fantastic, with a splendid spread of cheese. Visitors should also check out the wine. Italy is not a vegan friendly place like UK or the US. But the stores have some dairy free and gluten free options, so I managed.

I understand a bit of Italian but not much. Italian, though, is a lot like Spanish and Portuguese so that made it easier. In a worst case scenario, I always had my Google translator to find my way around.