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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

TomKat Wedding: Villa Feltrinelli?

Instead of marrying at Lake Como's Villa d'Este, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes may be tying the knot at Lake Garda's Villa Feltrinelli, which once served as World War II hideout of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

A source told Britain's Daily Express newspaper: "Katie recently visited the hotel with Victoria and fell in love with it instantly. It's an ideal place for Tom and her to tie the knot because it's hidden away by dense greenery on the landward side, while the view on the opposite side which overlooks the lake is stunning. Katie was made aware that Mussolini used it as a war-time base, but she seemed more interested in the fact that the likes of Grace Kelly had stayed there."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Weekend Special at Alitaliausa.com

Book your flights at Alitaliausa.com this Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday, and receive a $15 discount on each ticket purchased. Use the promo code "usaweekend" in the eCoupon field and click on the "Reprice" button. The promotion is only valid for purchases made this Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday, October 27 to 30, at alitaliausa.com.

TomKat to Wed at Villa d'Este

The entertainment news show Extra reports that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes will marry at the super-luxurious Villa d'Este on the shores of Lake Como. Earlier this week, the couple announced their wedding date as November 18th, but the location of the nuptials was no more specific than Italy.

Favorite Things: The Amalfi Coast

In Dream of Italy's October issue, Special Report: Amalfi Coast, guest editor Barrie Kerper asked a few residents and habituées of the Amalfi Coast about what they especially love about this special coastline. We published a number of tips in the newsletter but didn't have room for them all, so here are some additional favorite things:

Carla Capalbo, author,The Food and Wine Guide to Naples and Campania recommends:
  • The vegetable garden at Punta Campanella: Alfonso Iaccarino's vegetable garden for his famous two-star Michelin restaurant, Don Alfonso 1890, is in the completely unspoiled, UNESCO-site peninsula, Punta Campanella. It once housed a Greek temple, and has been left intact for millenia. Alfonso and his wife, Livia, bought it when it was a wild jungle, and have lovingly retamed it, planting it with dozens of varieties of native southern Italian olive trees, and all the indigenous vegetables his kitchen loves to serve. These are the luckiest vegetables on earth, as they look out on only one thing: the island of Capri surrounded by the blue Mediterranean.

Leni Attanasio, owner, with her husband, Palazzo Murat, Positano recommends:

  • the restaurants Acqua Pazza in Cetara; Da Gemma trattoria in Amalfi; Capo D'Orso in Salerno; Il Grottino Azzurro in Positano; Donna Rosa in Montepertuso; and La Tagliata, between Montepertuso and Nocelle.

Giulia Sersale, Supervisor, Plants and Flowers, Le Sirenuse, Positano recommends:

  • mortella, the beautiful Mediterranean plant known as wild myrtle that thrives here. La Mortella (the place of the myrtles) is also the name of the garden on the nearby island of Ischia that was created by Lady Susanna Walton, wife of Sir William Walton, a noted British composer. Designed by English landscape architect Russell Page, La Mortella is one of the world's great gardens, with rainforest trees, fountains, lotus pools, scented plants, olives, and wild roses. HRH Prince Charles is the patron of La Mortella, and recently a book was published, La Mortella: An Italian Garden Paradise, (New Holland Publishers, 2002). DOI readers who are garden enthusiasts may also be interested in the Mediterranean Garden Society.

Read more favorite things...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Where in Italy for the TomKat Wedding?

Now that the world knows that annoying, but still can't take your eyes off couple, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes will marry in Italy on October 18th and the bride and groom will where Armani and it will be a Scientology wedding with Catholic influences, the only question remains, exactly where in Italia will it take place?

Since Katie visited Lake Como earlier in the month, predictions are that the wedding will take place at George Clooney's villa or another venue in the Lakes region.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

October Issue - Special Report: Amalfi Coast

The October issue of Dream of Italy is out and here are the articles paid subscribers will be reading:

Smell Lemons. Find Bliss. The Amalfi Coast Awaits
Guidebook author, Barrie Kerper, guest editor of this issue explains what makes the Amalfi Coast so special.

The Hotels of the Amalfi Coast Offer Beauty and Splendor
Reviews of six hotels in Amalfi, Positano, Ravello and Praiano.

Broaden Your Visit: Naples and the Archaeological Sites
How to get to Naples, Pompeii, Herculaneum and other sites, from the
Amalfi Coast and the best private guides and private drivers to lead the way.

A Guide to the Villages of the Amalfi Coast
Where there is to see and do in Amalfi, Positano, Ravello, Praiano, Atrani, Furore, Concadei Marini, Maori, Minori, Cetara and Vietri sul Mare.

News, Tips, Deals and Events

A guide to the Amalfi's best shopping, especially for ceramics. Lemon Lifestyles offers cooking lessons on the coast. Take a hike along the Amalfi. Where to eat. Getting around. Why fly Eurofly to Naples and the Amalfi Coast.

A Few of their Favorite Things
We ask the experts -- Leni Attanasio, owner, Palazzo Murat; Faith Willinger, cookbook author; Giulia Sersale, supervisor, plants and flowers, Le Sirenuse; Carla Capalbo, cookbook author -- about their favorite hotels, restaurants, stores and secret places on the Amalfi Coast.

**Want to buy a single copy of this issue? Click here**

**Planning to visit Italy in the near future? Paid subscribers receive 10 issues per year PLUS online access to our archive of over 36 back issues of Dream of Italy. That's over 46 issues for the price of a one-year subscription! Less than $2 an issue! What more do you need to plan a once-in-a-lifetime Italian adventure? Click here to read about more subscriber benefits and to join!**

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

That Time Again: Italian Christmas Cards

It is hard to believe that it is almost that time of year again, but people have begun snapping up our elegant Italian Christmas cards! Time to get yours. We have a new design this year (and one that I plan to use as my personal card) - St. Peter's with Bow (pictured at right). Artist Allison Cross created this design as well as:

Modern Art Takes to the Tracks

As if art weren't easy enough to find in Italy, for the month of October, Trenitalia is leaving Italians and tourists with no excuse for missing out on museums. "The Art Train," a modern art museum on wheels, is making daily stops in Italy's major cities through October 31.

The train left Turin at the beginning of the month to start its trek down to Palermo. From Sicily, the artwork will travel back to the north, ultimately arriving in Milan for a final showcase.

Pulled mostly from private collections, the train contains works by well-known Italian artists like Giorgio Morandi (whose 'Still Life' is pictured) ,Giorgio de Chirico and Enrico Baj. Adorning the six-car train are paintings from the post-World War II period to present, some of which have never been displayed in public. --Shauna Maher

Thursday, October 12, 2006

They Paved Paradise...And Discovered A Necropolis?

Three years ago, while building a parking lot of all things, workers at the Vatican unearthed an unknown ancient burial ground. AP reports that Vatican visitors will soon be able to descend into the burial ground for an untouched look at life--or more importantly, death--for middle class citizens living under Roman rule from Augustus, beginning in 23 A.D., to Constantine, in the 4th century. Hailed as Vatican City's version of Pompeii, the necropolis holds everything from funeral urns to engravings, sculptures and sarcophagi.

But in a city where tourists can stroll along the Tiber to visit the mausoleums of Hadrian and Augustus, what makes this new underworld so notable? According to Paolo Liverani, a former Vatican Museums official, it helps "document the middle class, which usually escapes us. You don't construct history with only generals and kings." The artifacts also shed light on the subject of religion in a period when Christians were highly persecuted.

Thinking of adding the necropolis to your next Vatican visit? As of this week, you can, but be sure to plan ahead. All visitors must write to the Vatican Museum for permission before being allowed to tour the grounds. Tours will be conducted in groups of 25 or less, on Fridays and Saturdays. The Vatican plans to expand visiting days based on popularity of the site. -- Shauna Maher

Will TomKat Marry on Lake Como?

People.com reports that Katie Holmes visited Lake Como last weekend, possibly scouting wedding locations for her upcoming nuptials with Tom Cruise. But before anyone gets too excited, we have heard this all before -- most recently when Brangelina were rumored to be marrying at George Clooney's villa. There's a reason celebs love Lake Como; it is one of Italy's most beautiful destinations. Learn more about Como and its neighboring lakes in Dream of Italy's Special Report: The Lakes.

Delta: New NYC to Pisa Route

Delta announced today that it will add a non-stop flight from New York's JFK Aiport to Pisa effective May 31, 2007. The outbound flight to Pisa will operate on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday, leaving JFK at 8:15 p.m. The return flight operates on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, leaving Pisa at the convenient time of 1:35 p.m. (I hate those early morning flights back from Italy!) Kudos to Delta for the new route as this will be very convenient for travelers planning to visit Florence, Tuscany and Chianti.

Might Italian Cities Tax the Tourists?

If increasing plane tickets and high taxi prices weren’t enough, tourists may soon be faced with a new expense: a tourist tax. Francesco Rutelli, Italian deputy prime minister and minister of tourism, announced September 30th that Italian towns would now be able to exact such a tax if they should so choose, and that "city authorities in Rome, Florence and Venice are thinking about introducing this tax while others, like Naples, are not."

The major Italian tourist cities deal with a very large volume of visitors, particularly tourists who arrive in large tour groups for short trips and then leave the city to dine and sleep elsewhere, taking the real revenue to smaller towns. This tax is intended to help alleviate the burden on the cities’ infrastructure and services that this type of tourism demands. Venice, for example, already has a similar tax, which is only levied on tourists who make temporary stops in the city on tour buses, and then leave at night.

The new law is a loose one: it is not yet decided how this tax will be collected, but it may be incorporated into the fees charged by bus companies that take tourists into major cities on daytrips. Also, the 2007 budget allows each city to decide to exempt the tax from certain establishments, such as youth hostels, or to only apply it at certain times of the year. Revenue from this tax would then be spent on the maintenance of infrastructure and tourist services. -- Cailin Birch

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Balmy Truffle Boom

This fall, as rain clouds roll over the Italian Alps in Piedmont, truffle hunters are heading into the woods. While rain might mean bad news—and bad hair days—for the fashionistas in nearby Milan, it’s causing a more positive stir in the truffle hunting community.

The balmy weather accompanying the rain, and the thunderstorms that these conditions produce, are the perfect combination for a tasty truffle crop. The favorable weather is producing both a larger and more flavorful harvest, keeping hunters and hounds—especially the designated truffle hunting dog, the lagotto romagnolo (Romagna water retriever)—foraging through the forest.

After a string of disappointing truffle crops in past years, hunters and aficionados are gearing up for next weekend’s annual Alba White Truffle Fair, when prices will be given to this year’s prized white truffles. For more on truffle hunting, check out Dream of Italy's On the White Truffle Trail, On the Trail of Truffles in Alba, and our Special Report on Turin/Piedmont. -- Shauna Maher

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

NYC Event: Are You a Tomato?

The Three Tomatoes, a New York City women's lifestyle newsletter is hosting a celebration of Italy on Tuesday, October 24 in Manhattan. "La Dolce Vita: A Celebration of Italy" will feature cocktails, an Italian feast, shopping at a Tuscan marketplace, wine tasting and a roundtable of speakers discussing Italian travel and life (including yours truly). There will also be a silent auction benefiting The National Organization of Italian American Women Scholarship Fund. The event takes place at Tony's DiNapoli from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets are $78 in advance or $85 at the door. Join some fabulous women for a spirited celebration of Italia!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Introducing The Italian Dream Concierge!

For four years, Dream of Italy subscribers and non-subscribers alike have contacted me asking if I personally plan trips to Italy. Until now, the answer has been no, but I'm proud to announce that I have launched The Italian Dream Concierge in response to the many requests! I'll be honest that the service isn't for everyone; if you are just looking for a plane ticket and some hotel reservations, that's not what I will be offering.

As The Italian Dream Concierge, I will offer personal consultations, itinerary planning and even escorted tour services for those seeking a once- in-a-lifetime trip, filled with all of the unique experiences I have written about in the newsletter over the years -- cooking lessons, private guides, truffle hunting, vineyard visits, spas, Italian crafts, Carnevale balls, unique villa rentals, etc.

My unique perspective as a writer and Italian travel expert allows me to approach travel planning from the “experience” of travel rather than the “business” of travel. Indeed, unlike a travel agent, The Italian Dream Concierge doesn’t accept referral fees or commissions for recommendations. (You can take our itinerary to your own travel agent or seamlessly book through one of our partner agents for no extra charge.) When media outlets such as ABC News, Travel Channel Radio, USA TODAY and U.S. News & World Report need the inside scoop on
travel to Italy, they come to me. I hope you will too!

I look forward to making your dreams of Italy a wonderful reality through the personal service of the The Italian Dream Concierge.
(before November 10th, save $100 on the following):

Buy Frances Mayes' Bramasole - Well, A Photo of It!

I learned about the wonderful work of Respite Italia a few months ago and have been meaning to write about the organization that provides free vacation accommodations in Italy to breast cancer patients. Here's a good excuse to tell you about them: Right now, Respite Italia isauctioning off a professional photo of the Cortona villa, Bramasole. Bramasole is the villa owned by author Frances Mayes and made famous in her book, Under the Tuscan Sun.

Proceeds from the sale of the photo will go to Respite Italia as well as the British organization Breast Cancer Haven. Another way to help the work of Respite Italia is to rent one of their holiday properties in Italy. The owner of each property offers two weeks a year free-of-charge to breast cancer patients in need of a break.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Limoncello: The Nectar of the Amalfi Coast

In honor of our special report on the Amalfi Coast, coming out later this month (subscribe to Dream of Italy today and it will be your first issue), here's almost everything you wanted to know about the region's most succulent drink:

On the terraced hills of Italy’s Amalfi Coast, the Mediterranean sun and ocean air combine with volcanic soil to produce lemons the size of grapefruits. For hundreds of years, southern Italians have used the thick, juicy skins of these Sorrento lemons, named after the nearby town, to create a sweet tangy, liqueur known as limoncello (as the Italian word for lemon is limone). Historians suspect that limoncello, like many other regional liqueurs, was developed by local convents. In the 17th century, the nuns of Santa Rosa in Conca dei Marini used the lemon liqueur to make their famous lemon pastry, sfoglietta Santa Rosa.

For generations, local families have passed down their own recipes for macerating lemon peels to create limoncello. Only four ingredients may go into the liqueur – lemon zest (the colored portion of the peel), grain alcohol (or vodka), water and sugar – but Italians argue that much can go wrong if those ingredients are not up to par, or if the maceration process is interrupted. There are hidden pitfalls everywhere. For example, the limoncello may not turn out right if the alcohol is not strong enough. Some recipes allow two weeks for the mixture to ferment; others insist on as many as 80 days.

Read the rest of the article

Thank You for the Prizes

Our September issue included a reader survey and as an incentive to have it returned, some of our friends (see below)offered wonderful prizes! Every current, paid subscriber who completes and returns the survey (sent by snail mail) by October 20 will be entered for a chance to win!

BUT if you're not a current, paid subscriber you haven't missed your chance yet! Everyone who subscribes by midnight, Monday, October 9 will receive the September issue along with a reader survey.

Grand Prize:
“Design Your Italian Dream” Travel Planning Package ─The Italian Dream Concierge - $995 value
Additional Prizes:
One night stay at a 3-star hotel in Venice ─ Kublai ($280 value)
One-day cooking lesson at Ristorante Il Ritrovo in Positano ─ Gourmet Getaways ($275 value)
Lunch for two at Florence’s Michelangelo Hotel ─ Starhotels ($125 value)
Gourmet gift basket from Puglia ─ Bella Italia ($100 value)
$100 Amazon.com gift certificate ─ Italian Vacation Villas
One-hour consultation with travel specialist Jim Zurer ($90 value)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Are You Eligible for Italian Citizenship?

The National Italian American Foundation and the Italian Embassy now offer an free online dual citizenship questionnaire to help people find out whether they can qualify for Italian citizenship. I myself filled it out today. The questions cover whether you were born in Italy, born after January 1, 1948 and whether any of your parents or grandparents were born in Italy. Interestingly, the questionnaire asked if my paternal great grandfather was born in Italy but failed to ask about my maternal great grandfather (the only way I might have a shot). I'd be interested to learn more about that - perhaps they value paternal lineage over maternal?