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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Stromboli ERUPTS!

Reuters is reporting that Stromboli, the volcano on the Sicilian island of the same name has erupted, but residents are not at immediate risk although they have been told to stay away from the coast. Here's more from the news agency:

Spectacular eruptions from the volcano on the southern Italian island of Stromboli may cause tidal waves, and all locals and tourists should stay away from the coast, emergency services said on Wednesday.

Locals fear a repeat of the events of December 2002 when a similar upsurge in volcanic activity caused a massive chunk of rock to drop into the sea, causing a 10-meter (33 foot) tidal wave that ruined houses close to the shore.

Emergency sirens sounded on the island when the new eruption began and local authorities ordered all residents to move to at least 10 meters above the water line.

The lava is flowing down an uninhabited part of the island and the risk, either of a greater eruption or of a tsunami, have not been deemed great enough to prompt a full-scale evacuation. In winter only a few hundred people live on Stromboli, but the population swells to several thousand in the summer.

Thanks to my friend Joe, who keeps me on my toes, for alerting me to the story and to www.viatraveldesign.com for the photo.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Join Us for The Tuscany Visioning Retreat This October!

This October 21, join Dream of Italy at The Tuscany Visioning Retreat, a week-long experience held at the famous La Foce estate in Italy's Val d' Orcia. Our cultural and personal journey that will delight your senses, engage your mind, reinvigorate your spirit and feed your soul. You will be captivated by the magical sights, sounds, fragrances and tastes of the breathtaking Tuscan countryside, where the gentle pace of life and serene tranquility are the perfect backdrop to explore your inner world.


My co-host for this incredible week is success coach Margarita Rozenfeld -- I met her at one of her weekend visioning retreats last year. Here's how we came to join forces: Four exhilarating but tiring years of running my business solo, and more recent changes in my personal life, made me realize it was time to retreat and refocus my dreams. I knew very little about Margarita when I saw an announcement for her weekend retreat and signed up on the spur of the moment. What followed was a life- changing weekend and at the end of it I proposed to Margarita that we join forces to hold a similar retreat in Tuscany. I knew that this magical setting would be perfect backdrop for this kind of life-altering work. And now our shared dream is a reality! Join us in Tuscany this fall and I can promise you will have the same transformative experience!

And You Thought Oranges Were for Vitamin C

Every year during the week leading to Lent, the peaceful, relaxed air of the northern Italian town of Ivrea is filled with the cries of battle and nearly a million flying, smashing oranges. During the Ivrea's carnevale celebration, the entire town in caught up in a three-day orange-throwing festival (La Battaglia delle Arance). This event, seemingly bizarre, is actually a symbolic battle between the citizens of the medieval city and the forces of oppression.

As one story has it, the orange-throwing represents an episode when the town’s feudal lords gave pots of beans to the poor as charity, only to have their meager offering thrown back at them. Another, juicier story tells of the townspeople’s incitement to rebellion when an Ivrean nobleman, the Marquis Ranieri de Biandrate attempted to steal the virginity of a young commoner, Violetta, on the eve of her wedding. Violetta defended herself well, and presented the Marquis’ head to the townspeople crowded outside the castle balcony. As the story goes, this was not the first time the Marquis had used his status to take advantage of young Ivrean women, and Violetta’s actions inspired the townspeople to destroy the castle in a symbolic rejection of their subjection. Today, the oranges are said to represent the marquis’ head and the pulp, well…it’s clear.

The thousands of throwers, decked out in ornate costumes, are divided into teams who defend their designated areas—any one of the five piazzas-turned-battlegrounds. Armed with thousands of crates of Sicilian and Calabrian oranges, their goal is to wage battle against the carts of volunteer adversaries, “castle defenders” wearing helmets and padded suits, which are repeatedly wheeled into their piazzas. Fishing nets are stretched around the multiple battlegrounds, behind which thousands of spectators gather to watch the pulp-smashing action, and occasionally to join right in.

Ivrea, this normally placid town of 25,000 is nestled at the foot of the Alps just a few hours north of Torino. Ivrea is often a stopping point on the way to the Valle d’Aosta and also known as one of the culinary gems of Piemonte. If you would like to attend next year's "battle of the oranges," it will be held February 2 to 5, 2008. - Cailin Birch

Friday, February 23, 2007

How to Keep the Kids Happy in Italy

Barbara Pape and Michael Calabrese have been taking their now teenage children to Italy since they were toddlers. Barbara and Michael have graciously shared summarized their real life advice and child-friendly hotel picks with Dream of Italy readers in an original article for the February issue. Here's a BONUS excerpt from their book Italy with Kids on two key tips for minimizing stress on a family trip to Italy:

Give them room to roam:
Kids like monuments and sites where they can move around a lot. In Sirmione, our children were thrilled with the medieval castle, Scaligera Fortress, and the Roman ruins called Grottoes of Catullo. Ancient Rome was a big hit. The walkway above the walls of Lucca was great fun to ride books and play. Italy’s major villages have especially lovely public gardens; Rome’s Borghese Gardens for example, have bicycle rentals, a zoo and pony rides for little ones. Break up your touring with enough active adventures to help the kids burn up some energy.

Make art museums active: Art museums are doable if you make them a creative, active experience for children. Go early in the morning or late in the day to avoid lines and crowds. Bring a sketchbook and pencils and crayons. Most museums allow children to draw and color, as long as they work quietly. A group of children from our neighborhood school visit an art museum on days off, led by one of the moms who is an art historian. She talks to them about the art and gives them enough time to sketch and color. Some kids try to copy the masterpieces, others are inspired to draw original work, some scribble. But all of them – from age 3 to 8, including many rambunctious, sports-minded boys – happily spend at least an hour in the art museum. -- B.P. + M.C.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

February 2007 Issue: Take the Kids to Italy

The February issue -- our 40th issue -- of Dream of Italy is out. Here are some of the articles in this issue:

Take the Kids to Italy!
From parents who have taken their children to Italy at various ages, tips for keeping the kids entertained and recommendations for hotels.

The Dreaming of Tuscany Interview
Lifestyle guru Barbara Ohrbach takes us to the secret Tuscany including its private gardens and charming places to stay. She also gives us a list of places to shop in Florence.

What's New in Venice
Venice Biennale 2007 Schedule; Molino Stucky Hilton to Open in June; Bye, Bye to the Pigeons of St. Mark's?

More...
Nero's Golden Palace Reopens in Rome; List of Major Italian Museums Open on Mondays


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Sunday, February 11, 2007

DOI's Villa Rental Advice Featured in BusinessWeek

Dream of Italy is featured in BusinessWeek this week in the article, A Villa of Your Own for a Week. Some of the advice we passed along to the authors of the article which you can also benefit from:
  • Ask if the person you are talking to at the agency has actually visited the property. If not, ask to speak to someone who has.
  • Ask for photos of every room of the villa and ask for references from previous renters.
  • Google the name of the property (although agencies often change names to avoid you booking through a competitor) and see what you come up with.
  • If you know exactly which area of Italy you want to stay in, look for an agency that specializes only in that region; it may be better informed.
  • Ask about 24-hour service in case something goes wrong at the rental (and be sure someone at that emergency number speaks English).
  • Consider renting a villa that is on a larger estate. There are more services available and the managers probably have more experience.
  • Don't assume there is a phone line or Internet access, ask first.

Plenty of other bits of advice and reviews of 10 rental agencies are part of Dream of Italy's Special Report: Villa Rentals. Every paid subscriber receives online access to this issue and nearly 40 other back issues as well as 10 upcoming issues. SUBSCRIBE NOW and also receive a free e-book on Florence (another incentive, subscription rates go up March 10!)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Italy's Most Romantic Restaurants

In honor of Valentine's Day and the most romantic place on the planet (why, Italia of course), I interviewed Monica Larner, an American expat living in Italy who has written (and took the photos for) the sumptious (yummier than Valentine's Day candy!) new guidebook for lovers, In Love in Italy. Monica shares her amazing romantic finds in the excerpt below and the full interview on our Web site:

DOI: Do you have a recommendation or two for the most romantic restaurants in Italy?

ML:
Yes, two...

Ristorante Grotta Palazzese in Polignano a Mare, Puglia (photo above)

Built inside a marine cave, the outdoor dining area straddles a natural bridge over blue water. You can hear waves licking at the back wall and watch kids diving off rocks and swimming under your table. With surroundings that would make any movie location manager weak in the knees, it’s no wonder this is a favorite location for couples. [Editor's
note:
DOI also recommended Grotta Palazzese and the town of Polignano (for its amazing ice cream) in our Special Report: Puglia (June 2004 issue).]

Solo Per Due in Vacone


If I were to choose one restaurant in Italy to bring to the attention of lovers, it would be Solo Per Due. Impossible to find, it claims to be the world’s smallest restaurant: as its name implies, it is “only for two.”
Open for dinner and lunch, the restaurant consists of a single, candle-lit table with two settings. Privacy is assured and a silver bell is provided for summoning the staff. If you reserve for lunch, you can enjoy the garden and peek inside adjacent Roman ruins. At night, you can order a personalized fireworks display. [Editor's note: The small village of Vacone is about an hour north of Rome in the Rieti province.]

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

New Venetian Vaporetto Stop

On February 1st, a new stop was added to Venice’s Vaporetto Line 1 at the Rialto Market (Rialto/Mercato). The stop will only be open when the market is -- weekdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Also beginning this month, new prices went into effect for vaparetto passes. A 60-minute pass now costs 6€, 13€ for a 12-hour pass, 15€ for a 24-hour pass, 25€ for a 48-hour pass, and 30€ for a 72-hour pass. Tickets can be bought on board, and passes can be purchased at any of the large stops (P.Roma, Ferrovia, S.Zaccaria, Rialto) or at some of the smaller stops (S.Tomà, Ca d'Oro) in the morning. For more information, see http://www.actv.it/ -- Cailin Birch

Monday, February 05, 2007

Vatican Watch: The Pope's Number Two Guy

The inner workings of the Vatican are fascinating to those of us who spend so much time in Rome. It is one of the few powerful worldwide organizations that still keeps plenty of secrets and mysteries close to the vest. This week Time Magazine profiles Pope Benedict's "right hand man," new Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a native of Piedmont who Time's Jeff Israely says, "doesn't have the guarded air of those who tend to rise to the heights of Vatican power. He smiles easily. He laughs out loud."

Israely writes that Benedict and Bertone have a special relationship: "It's the kind of affinity--similar to what U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is said to have with President George W. Bush--that inevitably adds extra weight to an already influential assignment."

Still the friendly Cardinal will have his work cut out for him: "For a poor farmer's son to have risen to the top of the Vatican hierarchy, Bertone must have had to develop steel under his outward affability. Vatican insiders note that in the new job--for which part of his task is to fend off those who want to derail the Pope's agenda--that thick skin may count more than Bertone's good humor. "

Bad News/Good News from Eurofly

First the bad news:
Milan-based airline Eurofly recently announced that it will discontinue its daily “MiMa” service between Milan and New York's JFK Airport as of February 8th. All 48 seats of these Airbus 319 planes were business class, providing an easy and luxurious way to travel to Milan. (Dream of Italy Editor Kathy McCabe flew on MiMa and reviewed it in the November issue.) The company is currently undergoing economic reorganization, and intends to eliminate three aircraft from its fleet and reduce its staff by one-fifth. Eurofly representatives stated that while the MiMa service was very well received by travelers, it would simply take too long for the service to become profitable, and therefore wouldn’t be sustainable.

And now the good news:
Eurofly is now extending weekly direct service to Pescara (Abruzzo) and Lamezia (Calabria). The first flight from Pescara to New York is scheduled to leave May 9th, 2007, an event that Pescara’s Director of Tourism, Enrico Paolini, called “an event of historical importance for Abruzzo”. The Pescara – New York service will feature weekly flights, departing Wednesdays at 1:20 pm; flights from New York – Pescara will depart Tuesday nights with return service departing from New York JFK’s Terminal 4 on Tuesday evenings. Flights to Lamezia Terme are scheduled to begin May 13th and will depart on Sundays at 1:45 p.m.; New York – Lamezia flights will depart at 10 p.m. on Saturdays and arrive in Lamezia at 12:45 p.m. the next day. Service between both Pescara and Lamezia and New York will connect through Bologna. The flights start at $659 roundtrip. -- Cailin Birch

Thursday, February 01, 2007

This is Why You Have to Love Italy!

Not much time to write today, but wanted to post a link to this Washington Post story about the public shaming of Silvio Berlusconi -- by his wife. THIS is why you have to love Italy!