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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Fire Up The 'Copter Dahling, We're Going to the Games

One thing that scares me about attending the Olympic Games -- the traffic! While officials are doing their best to limit car traffic anywhere near the event sites, I'm afraid these mountain roads just weren't made for moving crowds like this. That's why if you have the money, the best way to arrive at the Games is by helicopter!

If money is no object, Classic Vacations has just the package for you: stay in a private villa in Tuscany or Umbria and get to the events in and around Torino via helicopter.

From their Web site: "Depending on the villa selected, travelers can simply walk outside their door to the helicopter, eliminating additional transfer time to another location. The helicopter can accommodate up to five passengers, and offers breathtaking views of the regions of Tuscany and Piemonte during the two-hour trip. And same-day departures and returns mean vacationers can join the crowds for an event and retreat immediately afterwards to their secluded and peaceful home away from home."

No prices are listed on the site (how tacky would that be?) but I hear the package is priced at about $100,000. Does that include event tickets?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Toot, Toot - Torino

If there's ever a time to toot my own horn, 4 a.m. should be as good as any. Your favorite insomniac is perusing the Web for up-to-the-minute information on travel to Torino - (oh dear, I have gone to the other side, somewhere around yesterday, I gave up the fight to call it 'Turin'!). Just found out that USA TODAY quoted me today on those wildcat strikes in Italy. Here's an excerpt:

"It's the perfect time for the workers to bring attention to their issues," said Kathy McCabe, editor and publisher of a subscription travel newsletter, Dream of Italy, in Washington. "It's the worst time for the government."

Berlusconi, who is in a tough re-election campaign, had wanted to showcase the Olympics.

"This is a huge black eye for Berlusconi," McCabe said, because the strikes are occurring at the same time there is a last-minute demand to travel to the Olympics. "It's playing into a stereotype. It's Italy ...is a striking nation. They'll call a strike, then call it off, then call it again and call it off."

Here's some of the other great publicity Dream of Italy has received this past week:

Hear Kathy McCabe on Turin on Travel Hub Radio This Thursday

I'm Talking Turin on Peter Greenberg's Radio Show

Our Olympics Info. Page Recommended on Jaunted.com!

Our Olympics Info. Page Recommended on Gridskipper.com!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Uh, About That Strike Truce for the Olympics

As I have told you before, the Italians like to strike or at least threaten a strike -- not as much as they used to -- but it is still in their blood. Over the past week or so, wildcat strikes by Alitalia workers opposed to splitting off the company's ground operations, have disrupted flights. One strike two days ago paralyzed Turin's airport.

As Reuters reports today, Prime Minister Berlusconi, who must get this straightened out to save Italy's and his own reputation, is walking a very delicate line in making accusations about the unions' (who agreed to a strike truce for the Olympics) potential involvement in these latest actions.

So what does this mean for those of you (and me) traveling to the Olympics? I hope I am not being naive, but I am still planning on buying a ticket on Alitalia to fly to Italy in early February. They happen to have the only non-stop from Washington, DC to Milan. Those of you who have a choice, may want to book on another airline. But as I told a newspaper reporter this morning, I have been to Italy nearly 20 times and have never been caught in a strike (knock on wood), so I am optimistic.

BUT always pays to be informed -- these are wildcat strikes, so there may be no warning of them -- but if and when you're traveling to Italy, it is a good idea to check the Italian's Government's Strike Authority Web site.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Ten Things You Don't Know About Turin

In just a few weeks the eyes of the world will be turning to an Italian city that has long been overshadowed by its larger and better-known cousins. But as host to the XX Winter Olympics, Turin (or Torino in Italian) may finally be getting its day in the sun. Italians and foreigners alike often think of Fiat (the Italian carmaker) and Agnelli (the family who built the company) when they think of Turin yet, this city is hardly the Detroit of Italy. From world-class museums, to charming baroque architecture, to some of Italy’s best cuisine, Turin is a city of surprises. Here are some fascinating facts about Turin:

  1. Turin is considered a “city of magic.” Lying on the 45th parallel, Turin is, one of the three vertexes of the triangle of white magic with Prague and Lyon, and of the triangle of black magic with London and San Francisco. Other reasons: Nostrodamus lived here. The Holy Grail is said to be buried in Turin.
  2. Turin’s Museo Egizio holds the second-largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside Cairo.
  3. This city is a chocoholic’s dream destination! Giandutto, a blend of chocolate, hazelnuts and sugar, and a pre-cursor to Nutella, was invented here. Sample the luscious offerings of chocolate-makers Cafferel, Ferrero and Stratta.

For the rest of the list, click here.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Update: Turin Event Tickets

My editorial assistant is very thorough and I had her look into the status of purchasing Olympic Event tickets in the U.S. (through CoSport - the official seller here). This is what she found:

Many event tickets have sold since I last checked, and many more events are completely sold out at all ticket price levels (certain competitions for speedskating, snowboarding, skiing, figure skating). I suppose it is more important for you to know what IS still available:

opening and closing ceremonies (only most expensive level: $1,260 for opening, $910 for closing)
freestyle skiing
figure skating pairs short program
figure skating men's short program
the figure skating gala (towards end of competition)
women's snowboarding
biathlon
women's speed skating
women's downhill skiing
figure skating
ice dance competition
cross-country skiing
curling
women's ice hockey quaterfinals, semifinals (available in the most expensive ticket level)


Another way of looking at this: out of the Type I (more coveted) tickets available on CoSport, 50 events have sold out completely (out of 86 events); for Type II tickets on CoSport, 34 events out of 89 have sold out.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I'm Talking Turin on Peter Greenberg's Radio Show

Want to find out more about planning a last-minute trip to the Turin Olympics? Tune in this Saturday, January 21 when yours truly appears on Peter Greenberg's Travel Today Radio Show. As many of you know, Greenberg is the NBC Today Show travel editor (Do you know he travels over 400,000 miles a year?)

The show airs 10 a.m. to noon ET. Go to http://www.traveltodayradio.com/, enter you zip code and find out the station in your neck of the woods. Otherwide, you can download the podcast at http://www.iradionow.com/ or http://www.knews970.com/ and click on the 'listen' icon to hear the show while it is live.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Turin: City of Museum

One of the reasons I love Turin is for its museums. Turin is home to some 40 museums, most of them world-class. Turin's most famous musuem may be Museo Egizio, home to the best collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Cairo. On my November trip to Turin, I visited the Museo del Risorgimento - the average visitor might find this museum a little dry, but as a student of Italian history, particularly during the period of Italy's reunification, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. One highlight is the chamber that served as Italy's first parliament.

Olympic visitors are in luck - three of Turin's museums have reopened in time for the Winter Games:
Palazzo Madama, (see photo above) an art museum that contains a famous staircase constructed by Filippo Juvarra, has reopened in order to serve as the offices for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during the Games.
Museo Nazionale della Montagna (Mountain Museum) reopened on International Mountain Day (December 11th) and boasts more modern facilities as well as a panoramic view of the mountains overlooking Turin.
Ameria Rele di Torino (Royal Armour), housed in Palazzo Rele houses some 1,200 arms that once belonged to the Savoy family.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Strike Truce Called for Turin Games

All of the major Italian labors have agreed not to strike while the Winter Olympics Games and Paralympics are taking place in Turin. According to the Associated Press, "The truce will last from Jan. 31 to March 23 and includes a prevision allowing strikes March 4. Local Turin unions signed an Olympic no-strike clause in November." The AP adds, "The truce will also ban telecommunications and railways protests, Betti said. Local protests outside the Turin area concerning labor disputes that have no impact on the Olympics will be allowed, he said, offering a bus strike in Rome as an example."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

"Turin" vs. "Torino"

My poor friend Paul. We're about to enter into a period of true hell for him. You see, one of his biggest pet peeves is when people, especially newscasters, say "Torino" rather than "Turin" - the English version of the city name. He was moaning and groaning about this months ago and well, he's about to hear it a whole lot more often in the coming two months...

Paul has some allies -- Jeanne Cooper, the travel editor of The San Francisco Chronicle -- states her case against "Torino" in a recent column entitled, "You say Torino, I say Turin, let's call the whole thing off." Here are some of her key points:

My point is that when we're speaking English, it makes sense to do it whole hog. We don't say "The Colosseum is in Roma," or "Michelangelo's David is in Firenze," or "Gee, there are a lot of tourists in Venezia." So why make an exception for Turin?
When sportswriters talk about "Torino," it may signify nothing more than affectation, or ignorance of the city's long existence before the Olympics. But I fear that with Americans' love of figure skating, they'll hear or read "Torino" often enough to start spreading the ignorance around.
My Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition, has a separate section for geographical names, where it lists "Turin" as the first choice, and "Torino" (marked It, for Italian) as the second. Shouldn't that be enough?


So Paul, rest assured that you are not alone, but I fear you and Ms. Cooper are facing an uphill battle.

Securing Turin Tickets: Is This Way Worth The Risk?

Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that numerous event tickets are still available for the Winter Games in Turin. I noted with interest some advice printed in the article's sidebar:

Buy your tickets directly through the Olympic Committee at torino2006.org and ship them to a friend in the European Union. There are tickets available from around $23.

I wondered if this might be a good alternative to purchasing tickets through CoSport, the official ticket vendor in the United States, which along with foreign sales agents in other countries, is allowed to and does charge about 20% over the face value of the ticket. (European Union residents can purchase tickets at face value.) I meant to get back to researching this, but last night read an interesting post from Seth Zurer (yup, related to Jim -- see below -- Seth is his son) of Select Italy on Slow Travel's Italy forum:

At Select Italy, we've had some experience researching and ordering tickets for the games. As far as EU delivery, the ticketing agency is being very persnickety about delivery. They're sending all tickets by courier and the person receiving the tickets must be able to demonstrate that they are the same person that ordered them or they must fill out a notarized "delego" form to officially name another recipient. The couriers are going to call the recipient by cell phone before delivery to make sure that the person will be there to accept delivery. They explicitly rule out dropping off the tickets with doormen, porters, or in a lobby. So, unless you actually live in Europe, it'll be hard to get the tickets you order.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Turin Olympics: By the Numbers

• 17 days of competitions: from February 10 to 26, 2006;
• 15 disciplines: biathlon, bobsleigh, Nordic combined, curling, freestyle, ice hockey, figure skating, speed skating, ski jumping, Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, short-track, skeleton, luge and snowboard;
• 7 competition sites: Torino, Bardonecchia, Cesana, Pinerolo, Pragelato, Sauze d'Oulx, Sestriere;
• 3 Olympic Villages: Torino, Bardonecchia and Sestriere;
• 84 titles at stake;
• 85 National Olympic Committees;
• 2,500 athletes;
• 2,500 coaches and national team officials;
• 2,300 representatives of the IOC, National Olympic Committees and Federations;
• 650 judges and umpires;
• 10,000 media;
• 6,000 guests of sponsors;
• 1,500,000 spectators.

Source: http://www.torino2006.org/evento/content.php?idm=100098