Dream of Italy Header


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Gift Idea: Italian Decoupage Home Decor

For: Both the practical and the whimsical Italophile! Not only are these metal creations useful for storage and other needs, they are conversation pieces and can find a home in any room of the house, from the kitchen to the living room, from the bathroom to the den.

Details: All of the items are available in five decoupage patterns: Italia,Roma, Portofino, Venice, Paisley and Air Mail. We can special order anything you don't see listed (and yes, in time for Christmas!)

Range from $37.00 to $49.00. Just $9.95 to send two home decor items to the same domestic address.

To see our selections and to order, click here

Win a Trip to Florence!

My dear friend Barbara Benham who runs the Travel Sweeps Blog just let me know about an opportunity to win a trip for two to Florence through Dummies.com.

I was just in Florence about 10 days ago. What was the ONE THING on my must do list? A meal at Da Giovanni and it was just as good if not even better than the first time I visited. And there are still plenty of Florentines eating there - always a good sign!

If you would like the 411 on what to see, where to stay, where to eat in Florence, you can find four years of Dream of Italy articles as well as additional reviews and tips in our soon-to-be published e-book Dream of Italy's Collected Florence. Become a subscriber this month and you will receive a copy OR purchase a holiday gift subscription and the recipient will receive a copy!!

Monday, November 27, 2006

November Issue - Sicily, Valle d'Aosta, Eurofly

The November issue of Dream of Italy is out and will be mailed to paid subscribers tomorrow. Here are some of the articles in this month's issue:

Eurofly: All Business to Milan
Travel on a private plane to Italy for the price of a business-class ticket. That's the selling point of Eurofly's new all-business class ManhattanMilano (MiMa) flights.

Italy's Small Wonder: Valle d'Aosta
Imagine a part of Italy where French is a second language, where Alpine ways of life persist into the 21st century, where traditional cuisine and viniculture combine with beautiful scenery and challenging hiking and winter sports

Donnafugata: Old Winery, New Ways
This family-owned winery that is in the vanguard of a movement to transform the making and marketing of Sicilian wines. Plus there 's a musical component.

A Gastronomic Pilgrimage to Sicily's Ristorante Duomo
Does Chef Ciccio Sultano deserve the two stars Michelin his Ragusa restaurant has been granted? A journey through the tasting menu gives the answer.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

United to Introduce Daily D.C. to Rome Service

Those of us who live in the Washington, D.C. owe thanks to United Airlines for introducing daily flights between Washington's Dulles Airport and Rome, starting in April 2007. This news is particularly welcome since Alitalia suspended the only non-stop flight from the D.C. area to Italy (it eliminated its daily flight to Milan).

The Washington to Rome flight will leave at 6:16 p.m. and arrive in Rome at 8:50 a.m. the next day. United's Rome-D.C. flight will depart the Eternal City at 10:55 a.m., landing at Dulles at 2:40 p.m. United will use 777s to fly the route. Tickets are on sale now.

HINT: When an airline introduces a new route, it is often easier to use frequent flyer miles for awards on that new flight. CHECK NOW for your summer 2007 travel plans!

Gift Idea: Tuscany PBS Documentary DVD Set

For: The active or armchair traveler who wants to learn about the secret places and experiences that make Tuscany so special. This is the perfect gift for someone planning a trip to Tuscany in 2007...

The PBS documentary series Inside the Tuscan Hills offers an unprecedented journey into the vineyards, workshops, kitchens, and homes of the Tuscan people. Every episode brings the viewer face to face with the traditional artisans who still practice their craft. You will meet master shoemakers, mosaic artists, ceramic painters, coppersmiths and many others. Chefs open their kitchen doors and show us the secrets of hand-rolled pasta, wine-bathed steak, succulent porchetta, and many other mouth-watering Tuscan dishes.

Price: $24.95

For more details and to order, click here

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gift Idea: The Venetian Glass Angel Necklace

For: A special woman of any age -- mother, grandmother, sister,friend, cousin, daughter, aunt, niece, teacher, nanny, babysitter, new mother, bride, bridal party. The perfect heirloom piece for a girl or young woman.

These unique necklaces -- created from handmade Muranoglass beads (with 24-kt gold foil inside) and Swarovski crystals -- are both trendy and classic at the same time. After all, what's hotter at Christmas than angels? The necklace itself is made from 24kt gold orsterling silver wire and accented with a heart toggle clasp. Necklaces are available in 16 or 18 inches and a variety of colors including gold, silver, green, red and blue.

Price: $45

For more details and to order, click here

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Reports/Video: On the TomKat Wedding Trail in Italy

To see what I did on my latest trip to Italia, read the articles and watch the video I shot video on Lake Bracciano, Rome's Hotel Hassler and other celebrity weddings that took place in Italy -- all on AOL:

+ Article: Cruise-Holmes Wedding Puts Italy's Lake Bracciano on the Map

+ Article: Celebs Pick Italy as the Place to Marry

+ Article: Rome's Hotel Hassler Hosts Wedding Guests

+ Video: The Scene at Lake Bracciano This Week

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

TomKat Wedding News From Italy

The latest, and greatest...

+ Brooke Shields is going to the wedding!?!?

+ Cruise is indeed staying at Rome's Hotel Hassler

+ Tom likes to eat at Dal Bolognese in Rome's Piazza del Popolo, where it is expected he and Katie will dine with the wedding guests Thursday night.

+ The wedding favors are embroidered towels featuring Tom and Katie's initials.

+ Oprah wasn't invited :(

Monday, November 13, 2006

Today's Pre-Wedding Scene at Lake Bracciano

On a sunny and warm day in Rome, I headed out to Lake Bracciano, reported location of the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes wedding this weekend. The town of Bracciano is an hour by train from Rome's Ostiense Station. It sits on a lake formed by a volcanic crater and is a favorite weekend getaway for Romans, mostly during the summer. Nearly all of the people who visit this small town are Italian, so clearly the townspeople haven't seen the likes of the paparazzi invasion that is just starting to descend upon them.

At first arrival, the town doesn't seem like much. On the short walk from the train station, we happened up on a lovely piazza housing the town hall. One worker was painting offer some graffiti on a wall of a building -- a sure sign that important people are coming to town? There's a tourist information point in the piazza but that was closed. My guess is that it is only open in the summer. We spotted a sign for "lago" and followed it, coming upon a beautiful panoramic view of the lake and a British man (paparazzo) and Italian woman coming up a steep path. They said this was the way to the lake and that we would be able to see the town's castle from this vantage point. When I refer to we, I mean me and my mother, who is my frequent travel companion and fellow adventurer and on this day, assistant paparazzo. Her presence came in handy as you will soon see.

We walked carefully down this steep path, not seeing another soul until we reached the pleasant and quiet lakeside where a few restaurants were open and a few people were enjoying the warm and sunny day by dining al fresco. We stopped for a gelato and asked our waitress about the goings on. She said she heard the nuptials will definitely be at Odescalchi Castle this weekend and that's the only topic the townspeople were discussing. Interestingly, she said she had not had any other journalists visit the restaurant. We would soon realize that they are keeping close to the castle. After a snack of chocolate semifreddo and a Coca-Cola, we headed back up the steep road/path towards the center of town and castle.

You should have seen how steep this path was and by the time we climbed back up a few hours may have passed and one of us may have had heart palpitations, so we two blond crazy women decided to hitch-hike of sorts. We watched a car or two go by without summoning up the nerve to wave one of them down. Then we saw a white car with a nice (read: harmless) older-looking man behind the wheel. My mother waved and he waved back --maybe he thought he knew her? But he stopped and we giggled and I explained our situation and he drove us right to the front of the castle. God bless you Domenico!

We knew we were on the right track when we saw two satellite trucks sitting in the small piazza in front of the castle. The ticket office to the left of the gate was closed and a sign said that it would be closed for the entire month of November. I started talking to a producer for Associated Press Television News and he told me there was an entrance on the other side and the latest was that Cruise's private jet just landed at Rome's Ciampino Airport. We strolled around to the other side of the castle. I filmed more video. (I am writing about Bracciano and shooting video for a major Internet side and will pass along the link to my story when it is up.)

On the way back up to the train station, we stopped at the main town piazza again and saw several film crews entering and exiting the town hall (my guess is they need permits to film) and discussed the whole situation with the lovely woman who owns the piazza's newstand. Oh and we noticed, all of that graffiti was covered over....

(P.S. - I have great photos of all the goings on and will post them when I can find the write cable here in Florence, where I am now. Long day.)

Building a House on Lake Bracciano

Has the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes wedding peaked your interest in Lake Bracciano? Below, you will find an article from the March/April 2003 issue of Dream of Italy , recounting one American woman's adventure in building a house on the lake:

When we were Romans, we fell in love with Lake

It wasn't hard. Lake Bracciano, less than an hour from the Colosseum as the pigeon flies, is one of the best day trips out of the Italian capital.

The lake is big, deep and clean. Three ocher-colored medieval towns, one with a rambling 16th-centurycastle, sitalong its banksand in the rollinggreen hills hugging its waters.

A long, lazy meal at one of the many sun-kissed restaurants along the shore is a favorite Roman pastime. And for us, swimming off a rented pedal boat in the lake's blue-green water is one of life's great pleasures. Followed by lunch.

Read the entire article

Have Your Italian Christmas Cards Yet?

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.Artist Allison Cross created this design as well as:

Friday, November 10, 2006

Alright, So Maybe it is Lake Bracciano

The word from Rome (that's where I am right now) is that the Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes will be held on Lake Bracciano, about 30 minutes outside the city. The Associated Press reports that journalists are indeed descending on the small town of Bracciano and the town's mayor gave a hint that the wedding of the year will be held there. The beautiful Odescalchi Castle appears to be the venue and it can certainly hold a crowd -- up to 1,400 people. I'll be headed out to the lake and castle on Sunday to check it out.

Bracciano is little-known by foreign visitors but this wedding will certainly put it on the map. Dream of Italy readers learned about the charms of this special lake a few years ago, when Daniela Deane wrote about building a house on Lake Bracciano. Here is the Web site for her house, which she rents to visitors.

The wedding may indeed be outside Rome, but gossip maven Cindy Adams of the New York Post reports that guests will be staying at Rome's historic Hotel Hassler. Katie and Tom themselves stayed there when they were first dating and Cruise was in Rome to film Mission Impossible 3.

November in Italy: Rome

After leaving Lake Garda's exquisite, impressive, breathtaking (the adjectives could continue on and on) Villa Feltrinelli, we returned the rental car to the train station at the small northern city of Brescia and took two trains (switching in Milan) to arrive in Rome. We arrived at Rome's Termini Station during rush hour and paid the price for that in the form of plenty of time waiting in the taxi line as only one taxi appeared every three to five minutes.

Our travel plans changed and I had made a same day reservation through Expedia.com at Raphael Hotel, close to Piazza Navona. I have walked by this hotel many times and was curious to try it. The price was about $300 for a double room for one night without breakfast and in the end, I didn't think it was worth it. I will explain why in our upcoming special report on Rome. The concierge did however send us to an excellent and cozy new restaurant nearby.

Without breakfast served at the hotel, I headed to what is purported to be the home of the best coffee in Roma, Cafe San' Eustachio. My cappuccino and chocolate-filled croissant did not disappoint and prepared me for a day exploring Rome's shopping scene. I only had time to stop for a piece of yummy Roman pizza and a Diet Coke ("the champagne of Americans" as one Italian waiter once told me).

Tonight, we're staying at Fortyseven Hotel and so far, so good, and...breakfast is included.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Gift Subscription Time!!

Shoppers looking for the perfect gift for a discriminating travelers or an Italophile need look no further than a gift subscription to the travel newsletter, Dream of Italy, The Insider's Guide to Undiscovered Italy. USA TODAY, National Geographic Traveler and U.S. News & World Report have all recommended this savvy newsletter. Published 10 times a year, Dream of Italy covers everything Italian (art, cooking schools, cultural events, destinations, hotels, museums, restaurants, shopping, villa rentals) for luxury travelers. All subscribers receive online access to hundreds of pages of back issues.

(Download our gift subscription order form if you would rather order offline.)

This is truly the perfect gift package for anyone who loves Italy. Not only will the gift recipient enjoy a year of issues packed with the latest travel information on Italy, but she will receive online access to over 37 back issues - perfect for trip planning.

This gift subscription includes:

  • 10 issues of the newsletter delivered by postal mail or via the Internet.

  • Online access to over 36 back issues – FOUR years of searchable articles – including special reports on villa rentals, moving to Italy, Tuscan hideaways, the Amalfi Coast, Rome, Venice, Chianti, Piedmont, the Lakes, Puglia, Sicily and more.

  • A FREE copy of Dream of Italy’s Collected Florence, an e-guidebook filled with our articles and reviews on Florence plus additional features ($39 value).*

  • E-mail updates on Italy travel news, plus exclusive discounts.

  • Gift letter including your message and recipient's online log-in information.

All gift subscriptions, including the first issue, e-guidebook and gift card, will be mailed on or before December 18, 2006, unless otherwise requested.

*The e-guidebook will be delivered on a CD. If you would prefer a print copy be included with the gift, we will request an additional $10.

***We fully believe in giving yourself a gift!! And the same offer still applies, but please use our main subscription page - you will receive all of the above including Dream of Italy’s Collected Florence e-guidebook.***

November in Italy: The Lakes

To continue where I left off yesterday....lunch. Well, before lunch I had the pleasure of taking a tour of Villa d'Este's kitchen with head chef Luciano Parolari, who has worked at the resort fo 39 years! Parolari, along with the resort's Jean Salvadore, just published Tales of Risotto: 50 Recipes: Culinary Adventures from Villa d'Este. Parolari supervises 35 full-time kitchen staff, most of whom specialize in a particular area - meat, fish, pastry, pasta, etc. The chef shared his sources for the exquisite fresh food his chefs turn into masterpieces (I will share in an upcoming issue of Dream of Italy). He maintains a chef's garden on Villa d'Este's estate where guests are welcome to take a walk. By the way, the entire Villa d'Este experience -- every good thing you have heard and more...

We took a short walk into the town of Cernobbio where we hopped on the ferry for the 15-minute ride to Como. Como is one of those towns where all of the shops are closed during lunch. So no shopping for us, but a quick lunch and return by ferry.

Next it was off to Lake Garda in the rental car (which takes Diesel fuel by the way, to the tune of 50 euros per tank) after fighting some EXCRUCIATING traffic on the A9 and A4 autostradas. Many of Lake Garda's hotels are already closed for the season, but the Romantik Hotel Laurin in Salo (the town which declared itself a fascist republic for a short time during World War II) is open and we stayed there for the night. The hotel, housed in a yellow villas, has a decidedly old world feel andsweeping views of the lake (including the view from the curtain-less window directly across from the bathroom, interesting...). We enjoyed our stay but came to the lake to see one place in particular -- Villa Feltrinelli -- wow! Stay tuned, more tomorrow....

Did you know we have a special report on the Lakes? It is a must-read.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

New Crime in Naples: A Concern to Tourists?

Naples--long known as a stronghold for organized crime--has made headlines lately for heightened violence. In the past two weeks, there have been more than a dozen murders attributed to La Camorra--the Neapolitan branch of the Sicilian mafia. While the violence has targeted members of rival gangs, bystanders and civilians have also been injured or killed simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Italian government--fearful of how tourists may react to the headlines--called for an increased police presence throughout the city, particularly in the historic center that draws the most visitors. Just five days after a thousand police officers were deployed to the Southern city, 32 camorristi have been arrested. Still, tourists remain weary. According to USA Today:
The spike in criminal activity in recent weeks has brought tourism, one of Naples main industries, to a virtual standstill. Alessandra Viti, a manager at the Vesuvius travel agency near the main train station, said the agency mostly has fielded cancellations and postponements this week.
Although foreigners in Naples aren't particularly prone to attacks--they're far more likely to fall victim to petty criminals and pick-pockets--those traveling to Naples in the near future should keep an eye on the news and avoid exploring the outlying neighborhoods, especially at night.

--Shauna Maher

November in Italy: Lake Como

Ciao readers! I'm writing from the glorious Villa d'Este on the banks of Lake Como. It is day two of my November visit to Italy. For the last few years, I have visited Italy every November. It mostly just worked best in my schedule but can be a wonderful time to visit as the summer crowds are gone, the fall foliage is out and the weather might still be warm.

My journey started on an all business-class flight (Eurofly's MiMa) from New York's JFK to Milan Malpensa. The experience was incredible -- from the use of the Swiss business class lounge at JFK to the amount of sleep I had in the incredibly comfortable seats -- and will spoil me from ever taking coach again! I'll have a full report in an upcoming issue of Dream of Italy. FYI: Just learned that Eurofly MiMa is having a buy-one, get-one-free offer on tickets during the holiday season. What a deal!

Lake Como is so easy to reach from Milan's Malpensa Airport. I think the lake is closer to the airport than the city of Milan! We rented a car and headed straight for Villa d'Este, one of the finest hotels in Italy, and indeed the world. More to come...but right now I need to catch a boat from Cernobbio to Como, where I am going to have lunch.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A New Way to See Rome: Audio Tours

There's nothing like having an animated and educated tour guide or historian to lead you through the wonders of Rome. I wrote about one in particular (Enrico Bruschini) in our sample issue. Yet, thanks to today's technology those who don't have the time or money to hire a private guide can take advantage of audio guides.

I recently tried Jane's Smart Art Guides and liked them so much, I added her two Rome tours to the Dream of Italy online store. [By the way, I try or use everything we carry (have watched the entire Tuscany DVD set, used our Christmas cards myself last year) so you can be sure you are getting quality products.] What I like most about Jane's audio tours is that they are customizable depending on how long you have to visit St. Peter's, for example, and Jane gives historical context that you can listen to before you get to the site.

Jane has visited Rome many times and offered to share her strategies for "doing Rome" without having "Rome do you in" with DOI readers. Click here to read her tips...