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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Italy: A Painter's Paradise

Guest blogger Pat Fiorello and the artistic attraction to Italy:

Why do so many people dream of traveling to Italy? The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)  ranks Italy as one of the top five most visited countries in the world.   And this fascination with Italy is not new. From about 1660’s thru 1840, Italy was part of a traditional trip in Europe called the Grand Tour. It was an educational rite of passage for nobility and the wealthy to visit Italy to expand their horizons in terms of art, culture and the roots of Western civilization. And many artists, including John Singer Sargent and others, dating back to Corot, have made Italy a destination for extended painting excursions.

As a professional artist of Italian descent, I was curious about why Italy has been such a perennial draw for so many artists and beauty lovers. I have taken several workshops there as an art student and over the past seven years have taught at least 10 painting workshops where I have brought Americans to Italy to learn to paint while having a wonderfully enriching experience immersed in the enjoyment of Italian art, food and culture. Beyond being the inspirational birthplace of the Renaissance, there’s something about the beauty of the landscape that is compelling and enduring when it comes to art.

In preparing to teach my first workshop in Tuscany, I pondered the question of why Italy has had such an attraction for artists for centuries through the perspective of art. I observed that Italy naturally possesses many of the aspects of well-designed art. Its beauty is inescapable. From the enchanting and elegant lakes in the north to the lush agrarian beauty of Tuscany, to the breathtaking cliffside towns on the Amalfi Coast, beauty is all around.

There are many contrasts in textures and natural color harmonies as the old stone buildings came from the earth so they perfectly complement the landscape that surrounds them. There are powerful diagonals in the landscape, for example in Tuscany with the rolling hills and vineyards that create a dynamic composition so they eyes to enjoy. And there is the story telling power of centuries old buildings that have character. One can only imagine what life was like in those towns 100, 500 or 1,000 years ago.

 So viewed through the eyes of an artist, it is easy to see why Italy holds such a unique appeal. I go further to explore and share the beauty and magic of Italy in my book, Bella Italia, Italy Through the Eyes of an Artist. It’s a visual tour of Italy through over 80 of my paintings. The book is meant to celebrate the beauty of Italy. If you have been there, it is sure to bring back warm memories. And if you haven’t visited yet it will surely have you be dreaming of Italy! And just maybe booking that next trip! -- Pat Fiorello

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Visiting Italy in 2015: Sordevolo's Passion Play

This is an abbreviated version of the article that appeared in the June/July 2014 issue:  
Every five years, a small hamlet nestled against the Italian Alps comes to life to tell the story of Jesus Christ. Sordevolo, in the region of Piedmont, is the host for La Passione Di Cristo (The Passion of Christ).  The play, illustrating Jesus' later life from when he arrived in Jerusalem until his resurrection, has run every five years since 1815, and will celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2015.
Sordevolo is one of only three cities that host such an event. Other hosts include Oberammergau, Germany, where arguably the most famous passion play occurs every 10 years, and Kuopio, Finland. Legend has it that Sordevolo vowed to host the play after being spared from the plague in 1634. The actors put on 31 performances in 97 days, as the show runs every weekend from June 6 to September 27, 2015.
During the performances, the town's population of about 1,300 doubles, as the 4,000-square-meter outdoor amphitheater can seat 2,500. The play involves the entire community, which spends nearly a year preparing for the event. About 400 locals perform, while 300 more serve as crewmembers backstage, making costumes, or designing the set; many specific acting roles -- played by everyday citizens, not professional actors -- are passed down through the generations. 
Sordevolo 's play still uses the original script, written in 1500 by Giuliano Dati in an ancient Italian dialect called Laudi. Dati, a native of Florence and a chaplain of a church in Rome's Trastevere neighborhood, used the scripts for the Colosseum's annual Good Friday performance of the Stations of the Cross, which was held until 1539. The play is not only written in the ancient language, but also performed in it, presenting a challenge for both locals and visitors to follow
The amphitheater recreates a section of ancient Jerusalem in 33 A.D., using the city's streets as the setting for places such as Calvary (Jesus' crucifixion site) and Herod's Palace (where Jesus' trial was allegedly held before Pontius Pilate). In 29 scenes, the performance depicts the most important and most famous moments from Jesus' life, including Judas' betrayal, the Last Supper, and Jesus' burial and resurrection.
Currently, reservations are only available through group tour packages (individual tickets go on sale in January 2015). Learn more at www.passionedicristo.org 
Also in 2015: The Milan Expo 

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

June/July Issue Covering Florence, Murano, Milan and Sordevolo

The June/July 2014 issue of Dream of Italy  is hot off the presses!

If you're NOT a subscriber, subscribe now and INSTANTLY access this issue as well as nearly 115 other back issues, plus receive a BONUS copy of the new novel, The Gondola Maker.  Current subscribers can access the issue in our subscribers center and read the following:

A Market Renaissance in Florence
Our Florence insider takes us inside the newly refurbished Mercato Centrale - filled with foodie experiences including fresh market stalls, restaurants and a cooking school. Even Florentines are impressed!
Finding Real Murano Glass in Venice
Glass that was once strictly made on the island of Murano is being imported from China and passed off as Murano glass. If you come to Venice and want to find real Murano glass, here's how to do it. Plus: Murano/Venice Shops You Can Trust
2015 Preview: Piedmont's Passion Play
Every five years, the small hamlet of Sordevolo, nestled against the Italian Alps, comes to life to tell the story of Jesus Christ.
2015 Preview: Milan Expo
The current version of what was once the World's Fair will be held in Milan May 1 to October 31, 2015, with the theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.”
Palazzo Strozzi Makes Art Fun For Familes
This Florence museum keeps kids engaged when their eyes are at risk of glossing over after seeing another masterpiece.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Adler's Mountain Lodge to Open in Dolomites

Every time we turn around it seems that there's another new hotel in Italy. We even wrote a special report about new hotels in Italy in the fall. The newest kid on the block is Adler Resorts’ Mountain Lodge in the Dolomites which will open on July 3rd. This is the fourth property under the Adler name. The Adler Thermae in Tuscany is one of our favorite properties.

The Dolomites project, spearheaded by the Sanoner family who own Adler Resorts, was 10 years in the making. The altitude of the location and various building and planning battles dragged out the construction of this oasis in the middle of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The Mountain Lodge sits on the former site of the Hotel Mezdi, which the Sanoner family bought in 1999.

The Mountain Lodge is comprised of a main lodge and 12 surrounding chalets. The chalets are modeled after traditional old Tyrolean mountain huts, so that they blend in with the unique scenery of the Alpe di Siusi. The main lodge The main lodge houses the reception, a cavernous lounge with open fireplace, spacious sun terrace, restaurant, wellness and spa facilities, infinity pool and 18 guest suites, all with panoramic views of the Dolomites. The 12 south-facing chalets are particularly special, having been entirely made of local spruce wood (each panel planed by a Val Gardena craftsman) in order to give them an authentic mountain feel.

Room rates start at 207 euros per person , per night on a full-board basis, including soft drinks and a selection of Italian fine wines and liquors, as well as access to the spa and wellness facilities, together with a full program of activities, such as guided skiing, hiking and mountain biking, plus yoga at sunset. Visit the Mountain Lodge website for more details.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Tuscany Tours: 2015 Small Group Tours

At Tuscany Tours, we are celebrating our 17th year of offering the most amazing small group tours to Italy's favorite places!

Exquisite venues far off the beaten path.

Come join us in Tuscany, Sicily and on the Amalfi Coast for the time of your life!

Click here to view our 2015 travel calendar and request your free itinerary.
(This is an ad.)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

NEW Cinque Terre Cards for Summer 2014

This is a bonus article to complement our special report on the Cinque Terre:
The Cinque Terre National Park, established in 1999, charges a fee for the usage of path #2 Riomaggiore-Monterosso. The objective is to collect funds necessary for the maintenance of the paths. This summer, the park will be introducing two new types of cards to replace the cards used in previous years. The basic Cinque Terre Card will now be called the Cinque Terre Trekking Card. The old Cinque Terre + Train has been renamed the Cinque Terre Train Multi-service Card.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Best Times to Visit the Cinque Terre

This is a bonus article to complement our May 2014 Special Report on the Cinque Terre:

The Cinque Terre are at their best during the shoulder seasons of summer. Late-April and May offer less crowds and cooler walking temperatures but the weather can be unpredictable. The second half of September and all of October are usually beautiful. After the kids go back to school, the towns clear out a little and you can have the beach all to yourself. After all of the summer's heat, the water is still warm enough to swim in, often until early November.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

May Issue Covering The Cinque Terre

The May 2014 issue of Dream of Italy  is hot off the presses! It is an information-packed special report on the Cinque Terre.

If you're NOT a subscriber, subscribe now and INSTANTLY access this issue as well as nearly 115 other back issues, plus receive a BONUS copy of the new novel, The Gondola Maker.  Current subscribers can access the issue in our subscribers center and read the following:

Explore and Stay in The Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre, or “five lands,” is perhaps Italy’s most idyllic seaside cluster of villages. We profile Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore and tell you which village might be best for your needs and where to stay -- everywhere from a private villa to a charming agriturismo.
Getting Around The Cinque Terre
There are four ways to get from village to village in the Cinque Terre: car, train, boat and on foot. We give you the scoop on how to get around and provide extensive hiking information since that is one of the most popular ways to see the five villages.
Drinking Up The Cinque Terre
In the Cinque Terre, they call it "heroic winemaking" because of the back-breaking effort that goes into each and every bottle of wine made here. Our resident sommelier tells you about the local wines and where to sample them.
Where to Eat in The Cinque Terre
On the menu: anchovies, foccacia, pasta al pesto and many other Ligurian specialties. We profile world-class restaurants, hole-in-the wall delis and everything in between in our search for the best food in the Cinque Terre.
Exploring the Neighboring Coastal Towns
We think a trip to the Cinque Terre isn’t complete without also exploring the nearby towns that make up the beautifully rugged Riviera Levante (Riviera of the Rising Sun): Lerici, Portovenere, Portofino and Levanto.
Meet Our Guests Editors
The incredible Kate Little (who lives in Monterosso) and Megan McCaffrey (who lives in Lerici) wrote this entire special report. We were so lucky to have two Cinque Terre insiders share their favorite places and visiting CT strategies!