Friday, July 28, 2006
There has been lots of press about the outsourced phone call centers opened in India, but unlike the U.S., Italy is keeping these jobs within the country—and giving them to convicts, according to Reuters.
Telecom Italia, the country’s biggest phone operator, recently launched a new initiative: opening up phone call centers in Italian prisons. At the call center in Rome’s Rebibbia Jail, the second such center established, 24 of the over 1,600 inmates man the switchboards from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. A report in Reuters estimates that each convict deals with about 200 calls per day from Italians requesting information.
The company assures customers that there is no risk in detainees consulting a nationwide list of numbers and addresses, and that the prisoners cannot dial outside the jail. The program is a way to help prisoners take constructive steps, as Telecom’s Chairman Marco Tronchetti Provera says, to “help the detainees get some work experience and prepare for when they’ll get out of prison.”
At 15 cents per call taken, prisoners/convicts are allowed to make a little money and hopefully start to get back on their feet in preparation for the day when they walk out of the prison’s walls. -- Cailin Birch
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Highlights of this Tuscan journey include accomodations in exclusive hotels, five dinners, one lunch, all breakfasts, a cooking class at the Culinary Institute of Florence, guided tours in Florence and Rome, a day trip through Chianti, wine tasting at a vineyard, ceramics shopping and more.
For additional information, call Joyce Carman of European Escapes at (540) 882-9123.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Throughout the month of July visitors to Pompeii can indulge in “summer’s delights” just as the city’s original Roman inhabitants did. The native plane trees have been replanted and flower gardens have been restored according to the description of their former beauty. Visitors will be taken on a tour of the traditional recreational events offered in Pompeii, including games and theatrical shows in Pompeii’s famous amphitheater. They can also enjoy many of the ancient compacts and refreshments—everything from curative mud to cooling beverages infused with lemon, chamomile, mallow, and verbena—which have been recreated according to the readings of Pliny.
Also, Pompeii’s Great Palestra (gymnasium), with its green space and central pool, will be available for tours for the first time ever. The gymnasium was excavated from 1933 to 1935, and except for a very brief period, has never since opened to the public, even after the building’s restoration was completed. The northern porch of the palestra is also currently housing a special exhibition entitled “Pompeii and Water”, which is dedicated to the important role that the river and the sea near Pompeii played in the daily life of its citizens.
“Summer Amusements” runs through July 31st. For more information see the schedule of events, here. -- Cailin Birch
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
sales; the other being in January, just after the Christmas shopping season. In honor of saldi, Dream of Italy is offering discounts
on everything from our storage binder to gift subscription to our Special Reports Collection. Save anywhere from $3 to $15 off these items by using the discount/coupon codes below (all offers valid through the end of the month!):
- Special Reports Collection - Save $8 with discount code "special"
- Gift Subscription by Mail with Online Access to Back Issues - Save $10 with code "giftsub1"
- Gift Subscription by Internet with Online Access to Back Issues - Save $10 with code "giftsub2"
- ALL 33 Back Issues of Dream of Italy in Binders - Save $15 with
- Dream of Italy Storage Binder with Index - Save $3 with code "ebinder2"
Monday, July 17, 2006
The Portrait Suites occupies an Italian-style townhouse close to the Via Condotti, Rome's best shopping street and just a stone's throw from the Spanish Steps. The property's small size (just 14 suites and studios) allows for extremely personalized service. I haven't seen photos of the hotel's interiors but I can only imagine it exemplifies the finest style and design.
An inquiry to spend a night at the hotel in July yielded the following rates - a superior suite is 290 euros per night and a suite is 720 euros per night. There are options in between. I plan to test out The Portrait Suites firsthand on a visit to Rome this fall. Stay tuned...
Performances are scheduled for July 25, 26, 28 and 29 and August 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19. Each performance will be limited to 5,000 spectators. Tickets range between 15 and 25 euros per performance or a susbscription for six evenings at 100 euros per person or all 13 evenings, with best seating, for 200 euros per person. You can purchase tickets in advance, here.
If you're headed to Florence in the near future, check out Dream of Italy's Special Report: Florence which includes reviews of four of our favorite small hotels, Florence's best new restaurant, a great eatery to get hands on with Tuscan cooking and more!!
Friday, July 14, 2006
There are many ways to judge what makes a truly spectacular dining experience. Ratings and awards can be one way to sort of the best from the rest and food connoisseurs in Europe generally look to the stars awarded by authors of the French Michelin guides as a good indicator of culinary brilliance. Each year Michelin revises its ratings - earning just one Michelin star can truly put an establishment on the map, losing a star can be a public relations nightmare. Earning three stars is the Holy Grail for any restaurant and chef. In 2006, there are five restaurants in Italy that hold three Michelin stars (as noted in Michelin's 2006
- La Pergola, Rome: This restaurant in the Cavalieri Hilton boasts a stunning view of Rome and earned Chef Heinz Beck his third
Michelin star in 2006.
- Dal Pescatore, near Montova: What started out 80 years ago as a fisherman's hut has now produced Nadia Santini one of only three Italian female chefs who hold three Michelin stars. The restaurant was passed down to Santini's husband Antonio who is part of three generations working in the 35-seat restaurant today.
- Enoteca Piniciorri, Florence: Chef Annie Feolde, the first woman in Europe, outside France, to win three stars from Michelin, welcomes diners to a Renaissance palace to taste her innovative Tuscan cuisine complemented by one of the 150,000 bottles of wine in the enoteca's cellar.
- Al Sorriso, near Lake Orta: Chef Maria Luisa Vallazza is another of the three- star female chefs. Those who are satiated by her cuisine can spend the night in one of Al Sorriso's eight elegant guest rooms.
- Calandre, near Padova: This restaurant featuring modern Italian cuisine is part of a mini- empire run by the 5th generation
of the Alajamo family. It includes a deli, patisserie and hotel. Massimiliano Alajmo is the youngest three-star chef in Europe
I couldn't confirm the latest totals for 2006 (looks like there are 226 Italian chefs with stars this year), but in 2005, 255 restaurants in Italy held Michelin stars - 197 establishments had one star, 23 had two stars and four had three stars (La Pergola above earned its third star in 2006). How does that compare to other countries? In 2005, France had 620 restaurants with at least one star (23 eateries earned three stars). The United Kingdom had 230 restaurants with at least one star and Germany had 212.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Those visiting Rome between from July 11 on, should keep in mind that the Pope will not be making his regular appearances at St. Peter's Basilica. Benedict's only public appearances will be the praying of the weekly Sunday Angelus on July 16 and July 23 from his residence.
Following his Alpine respite, Benedict will spend the rest of the summer at Castel Gandolfo, the Papal residence outside of Rome. (For more on visiting Castel Gandolfo and other treasures in the Alban Hills, see Dream of Italy's November 2004 issue.)
According to Catholic Online, "Over the summer period, all private and special audiences are suspended. The general audiences will resume regularly from Wednesday, Aug. 2, and the Sunday Angelus throughout August and into September at Castel Gandolfo."
Once again, my friend Joe, another confirmed Italophile, reports in on what's going on in Italy -- and what else could it be this week, but the celebrations surrounding Italy's World Cup win:
- Telegiornale 2 says 600,000 people were at the party at Circo Massimo on Monday evening.
- Best sign I saw in the crowd: Cannavaro Santo Subito. Cannavero is the team captain. "Santo Subito" means immediate sainthood. And that echoes the signs that were in St. Peter's Square when John Paul II died.
- The team's off-the-pitch uniforms--black suits with black collared shirts--were designed by Dolce & Gabbana.
- The infamous Zidane head butt on Materazzi is creating huge speculation centering on what Materazzi might have said that drove Zidane to the madness. A French anti-bias groups claims they were told Materazzi called Zidane, whose heritage is Algerian, "a dirty terrorist." The Times of London enlisted a lip reader to study the tape. She claims Materazzi called Zidane "the son of a terrorist whore." Materazzi denies it all.
Monday, July 10, 2006
The government finally agreed to open discussions over the measures recently approved to liberalize the taxi industry and on Friday, union leaders met with Minister of Economic Development Pierluigi Bersani and other government officials for nearly three hours. Leaving the discussion room, Walter Veltroni, the mayor of Rome, said that the two groups had had a “constructive dialogue,” which was to continue today, Monday.
Veltroni says that he is convinced that after this event, Italy will develop a taxi service that is “more modern for the citizens”, and also “respectful of taxi drivers.” Thankfully, travelers should now have no problem getting around Italy’s cities, as long as talks continue as planned. Members of the taxi union, though, have threatened a continuation of the strike if their demands are not met. -- Cailin Birch (Photo: Slowtrav.com)
Yes, Caremar has decided to reduce their services to the islands but things are being discussed at local government. I just got back from a week stay from July 1st and everything is running normally - no sign of any strike at least not at present.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
The current strike started in June, but this isn’t the first time the island has shut down—the islanders first protested last April, promising that it would only be the first in a series of actions aiming to draw attention to various issues on the island, including the condition of the local hospital and island traffic, in addition to the ferry service. This could pose a real problem to the economy of Capri, however, which depends heavily upon tourism. The parish priest of Capri, Father Salvatore Chiusano, is quoted in the London Times as saying that “We have to do something, the lifeblood of Capri is being cut off.” The other two islands in the Bay of Naples, Procida and Ischia, have also staged similar protests, so plan accordingly this summer! -- Cailin Birch
This proposed deregulation would increase the number of taxi licenses given in Italy, which previously could be handed down or sold to the highest bidder, in order to open up the industry and hopefully decrease the control the taxi lobby currently exerts on prices. Consumers in Italy have reacted very favorably to these new measures, expecting it to lead to cheaper goods and services.
However, the taxi drivers themselves seem to be settling in for a long, fierce struggle with the government. A nation-wide strike has been organized for next Tuesday, July 11th, to last the entire day, according to Maurizio Longo, head of the Italian taxi drivers union. Groups of drivers have already been staging smaller, independent strikes in various cities all over Italy on Saturday, including Rome, Milan, and Turin. In fact, a sit-in of several hundred taxis blocked Rome's central Piazza della Repubblica for most of the day on Saturday, July 1st.
Read more in this Scotsman article. -- Cailin Birch