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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Fair and Expo Fun in Trieste This June

Have you ever wanted to see the Adriatic city of Trieste, but weren’t sure what to do there? Here’s your opportunity to not only experience the local culture, but to dabble in the cultures of 15 other countries at the same time! Fiera Trieste presents its International Trade Fair June 9th to 17th. Expect to see “lots of local and foreign craft items, regional products, art and clothes, artistic design, a whole variety of handmade articles.” The 9-day long exposition will showcase 190 exhibitors from 16 countries and will be divided into four main areas of interest: tourism and wellness; handicrafts and exotic item designs; regional food and wine specialties; and ideas for the home.

OR, olive oil is just as good a reason as any. Olio Capitale has partnered with the Associazione Nazionale Citta’ dell’ Olio to host the Top Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Expo in Trieste this June. This new event will bring together experts in the field of olive oil production both from Italy and abroad. Side events include a lecture on olive-oil-based confectioneries, a technical seminar on the process of extraction, and a master demonstration on frying oils and high temperatures. The Olio Capitale Expo will take place in Piazzale de Gasperi, 1 in Trieste June 10, 11 and 12. Admission is free. -- Laura Cimperman

Monday, May 21, 2007

Palermo’s 700 year-old Vucciria Market Withers

Could one of Palermo’s most beloved open-air markets becoming a thing of the past? Some locals are concerned that without the help of city funding, the once-bustling Vucciria market may not be around to see the next decade. Danielle Pargament of The New York Times describes her unforgettable experience: “As I stepped over the empty boxes and discarded fruit rinds, I recalled my day in the Vucciria — drinking homemade artichoke wine, listening to an eccentric old man play bongos at his restaurant, feeding a newborn lamb and watching traditions unfold as they've unfolded for centuries.”

While this sounds like an enchanting tourist destination, there may not be much time left to experience the same Vucciria that has remained practically unchanged for 700 years. “There's new construction, new developments all around. The Vucciria won't survive,” says Ignazio D'Alessandro, a 62-year-old Sicilian vender who has lived in the area since he was just 5 years old. “The crowds are leaving. The developers are moving in. I'll have to close in the next two years.”

Although the thinning crowds have many vendors worried about the future of their businesses, Ms. Concetta of Shanghai Trattoria told the Pargament, “Places like this can never go away completely… You just watch — the Vucciria will outlive us all.” Let’s hope she’s right, otherwise now might be the perfect time to visit Palermo before summer crowds rush in. To read more about Palermo check out the article “Navigate Palermo Like A Native” in Dream of Italy's Special Report: Sicily
--Laura Cimperman

New York Event: Taste Torino at the United Nations This Week

I so wish I was going to be in New York this week. If so, I would make a beeline for the United Nations Delegates Dining Room where all week the restaurant is celebrating the food of Torino with an all-you-can-eat-buffet for just $25 (plus drinks and tip). Torino, the capital of Piedmont and host of the 2006 Winter Olympics, has some of the best food in Italy. I've spent a total of about a month in the city, including three weeks during the Olympics and trust me, I ate my way through the place.

According to Newyorkology.com,"The Delegates' Dining Room is open for lunch only, from 11:30 to 2:30 p.m. and only on weekdays. Reservations must be made at least a day in advance by leaving a message at (212) 963-7625. Jackets are required for men, and sneakers and jeans are prohibited. If you go, allow extra time to pass through regular U.N. security downstairs and show picture identification to get your special badge to go upstairs to the dining room. From the street, enter at the regular public entrance to the United Nations at 46th Street and First Avenue."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Italy Bests U.S. in America's Cup

The America’s Cup Semifinals, which took place on Sunday in Valencia, Spain left US team BMW Oracle Racing disheartened after they lost to Italian team Luna Rossa by 33-seconds. Among the California-based crew was software billionaire Larry Ellison, owner of the USA-98 yacht had invested nearly $200 million in the team in hopes that they would take home the trophy. But after their humiliating loss, “disgruntled supporters and rival fans sent e-mail messages to the BMW Oracle team calling Ellison of an egomaniac,” according to The New York Times. The Louis Vuitton Cup final, which determines who will face the defending champion Alinghi in the America’s Cup, begins June 1.” -- Laura Cimperman

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

You Might Call Naples "Trashy," This Week At Least

An escalating trash crisis in Naples that has left the city in almost unlivable conditions since Monday. “Doctors described the situation as "dramatic" and warned that the city faced a health emergency,” according to a report from Italian news agency ANSA. Locals are fed up with the mountains of trash that have been piling up on the streets in and around Naples, and have even begun setting fire to the heaps of fresh garbage. However, this has only made matters even more hazardous.
According to Neapolitan doctors, "There's a risk of infectious diseases given the rubbish combined with the heat. Burning the refuse makes matters worse by releasing dioxins into the atmosphere.”

So what exactly are they protesting? The underlying issue is their dissatisfaction with the way in which the government has been (or rather has not been) dealing with trash disposal. In fact, the Camorra, the Neapolitan Mafia, which has been known to regulate refuse disposal, is rumored to have instigated the protest. “Anti-mafia officials warned recently that the Camorra was actively sabotaging plans to build incinerators because it would undermine its dumping business.” There have been plans to build landfills in several other sites in the region of Campania, but residents from those towns have also come to Naples to protest in defense of their hometowns’ health and economic well-being. -- Laura Cimperman

Monday, May 14, 2007

How I Realized My "Dream of Italy"

As editor and publisher of Dream of Italy, I write about so many topics related to Italian travel, but what I haven't written about much as how I ended up with this "dream" job in the first place. It is often the first question people ask when I meet them at a conference or cocktail party. I haven't had the pleasure to personally meet all of my readers, so it is time I let you in on the story. I came to "Dream of Italy" through some special family connections and possible divine intervention! You will see what I mean when you read "A Mother, A Daughter, A Dream", the essay I wrote for the cool new baby boomer Web site, Eons.com. Yes, it is a day after Mother's Day but I owe my own mother thanks and appreciation every day of the year for literally taking this journey with me (and my father has been equally incredibly supportive!).

Friday, May 11, 2007

Venice May Be Drowning in Tourism

Would Venice still be one of the world's hottest tourist attractions if there were no Venetians left in the city? This question is a serious one given the alarming rate of decline in the local population. This article in The Times (London) highlights the urgency of this situation and even illustrates the matter by comparing past and present population statistics: "The population is said to have fallen from 175,000 half a century ago to 121,000 in 1966 to only 61,000 today. About 50,000 tourists a day visit Venice."

While Mayor Massimo Cacciari is very concerned about this "exodus," he points out that this is not an issue specific only to Venice; locals are fleeing numerous European city-centers while tourists continue to flow in. Mara Rumiz, the Head of Housing for the Venice Council, says the city is on track to be completely void of locals by the year 2050 if we fail to take proper measurements. Additionally, many schools and other community-based institutions are being shut down and re-opened as hotels because they lack the demand (and funding) to remain open. This is a grim indication where Venice may be headed if priority is given to tourists (who bring in most of their revenue) and not to the local citizens who are the true life of the city.

For more on this important debate, see the Benetton blog. For more on Venice, see Dream of Italy's Special Report: Venice or the dozens of articles on Venice available through a subscription to Dream of Italy. -- Laura Cimperman

Searching for Heavenly Hotel Rates in Italy?

Would you consider renting a hotel room…from a nun? More and more people are turning to convents as a more affordable way to get some shut-eye in the Eternal City, not to mention the warm hospitality, clean, private bathrooms and serenity that is conducive even to praying.

Although this trend started in 2000 when 25 million tourists and pilgrims visited Rome to celebrate the Holy Year, convents all over Italy have begun welcoming more than just nuns to share their quarters.

According to a Associated Press article one of the first convents to rent out its rooms was the Fraterna Domus (Via del Monte Brianza, 62; 39- 06-68802727; e-mail mailto:DOMUSRM@TIN.IT), located near Rome’s Piazza Navona. With rates starting at $64 per person per room, and $104 for a double, this is a bargain considering its prime location and proximity to many tourist destinations.

One of the drawbacks may be that most of these bed and breakfasts do enforce a strict curfew, usually ranging from 9 to 11 p.m. This may be a turn-off for younger travelers who want to experience Italy’s all-night clubs and discotecas, but for the more laid-back tourists, a good night’s rest may be welcomed after a long day of touring.

So if hotel prices are too steep, and the curfew doesn’t scare you away, staying in a convent may just be the answer to your prayers. Also check out http://www.monasterystays.com/ and http://www.santasusanna.org/ for a listing of convents and monasteries in locations throughout Italy. Still want to stay in a regular hotel? See our Special Report: Rome for some of our recommendations. -- Laura Cimperman

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Florence Nixes Calcio Storico This June

Every June, Florence engages in a city-wide historic soccer (calcio storico) tournament, which rivals even the pomp and ceremony of Siena’s Palio, but this year's tournament has been called off due to increasing violence surrounding the event. The historic game of calcio storico is a predecessor to modern soccer and combines elements of soccer, rugby, “Greco-Roman wrestling” and “bare-knuckle fighting.” Each of the city’s four quadrants field a team of 27 players, who parade through the city decked out in Renaissance finery before the games begin in the Piazza Santa Croce.

Once the whistle has been blown, however, no one stands on ceremony.
Players, still bedecked in color-coordinated jerkins and breeches, use all possible means to get the red and white ball over the wall at the opposite end of the piazza. In the meantime, individual brawls break out between members of opposing teams, which officials say has become excessive in recent years. In 2005, police opened probes into over 40 participants for violent behavior, and last year, over 50 players were taken to court after a serious scuffle at the beginning of the first match led to the tournament’s suspension. Officials hope that this year’s hiatus will give tempers time to cool, and the tournament is scheduled to return in 2008. -- Cailin Birch

Umbria Hotel Review: Relais Alla Corte del Sole

(An excerpt from theApril 2007 issue of Dream of Italy.)

Relais Alla Corte del Sole is one of the four charming Umbria hotels reviewed in this issue by Rosanne Cofoid: Well, if George Clooney stayed here, it's good enough for just about anyone. The romantic 18-room Relais began its life as a 13th-century monastery that belonged to the order of St. Stephen, and it is believed that St. Margaret stayed here on her way to Cortona. Situated high on a hill, less than a mile from the border of Tuscany, with a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside and Lake Trasimeno, the property is perfectly located to tour both Tuscany and Umbria--it's located just 11 miles from Cortona and Montepulciano. The accommodations are spread throughout the property in beautifully restored ancient stone buildings, complete with beautiful and immense wooden beams on the ceilings and furnished with beautiful antiques and carpets; many feature canopied beds. The largest suites can accommodate up to five, an ideal solution for a family. The grounds also include a large swimming pool with a bar strategically located to make the most of the position. The hotel has a lovely lounge/bar, L'Orangerie, with several comfortable sitting areas (and a prominent photo of G.C.!), perfect for reading, playing a game, or relaxing with friends after a day of touring. There is also an excellent restaurant complete with wine cellar and sitting area below, a perfect area to hold a wine tasting or serve hors d'oeuvres. The property offers a variety of wellness services, such as tension release massage and shiatsu, tours of the area, and cooking classes. Località "I Giorgi", Petrignano, (39) 075 9689008Rates: During the high season, a double ranges from 195 to 230 euros per night and a suite is 285 to 340 euros. Junior suites also available. Includes breakfast and taxes.

Read About Three More Charming Umbria Hotels (Paid Subscribers Only)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Wash, D.C. Event: Flower Mart This Weekend

This Friday and Saturday, join Dream of Italy at Washington National Cathedral's Flower Mart, the 68th annual benefit for the gardens, grounds and woodlands of the cathedral. Entrance is free and visitors will have the rare chance to climb to the top of the cathedral as well as enjoy garden tours. There will be games and rides for the kids and plenty of herbs, annuals and perennials on sale.

Dream of Italy will be one of the more than 50 boutique booths on the grounds. We'll be selling a wide selection of Italian jewelry from Dream of Italy Designs. We'll also have Italian home decor items, note cards, prints, DVDs and books. If you're in D.C., stop by and say "ciao!" The Flower Mart will take place Friday, May 4, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, May 5, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

So You Want to Drive Along the Amalfi Coast?

For the first time this week, I rented a car to drive to the Amalfi Coast and navigate my way around its many villages. Even those who haven't visited the area surely know of the famed Amalfi Drive (S.S. 163), filled with tour buses, cars and scooters all fighting for space on hairpin turns along cliffs high above the sea. Yet every corner seems to reveal an even more stunning view of the ocean, the villages, the rows of lemon trees and even the clouds above. Should YOU rent a car to explore this region? (After all, there are many public transportation options, well-detailed in our
Special Report: Amalfi Coast
) Here are some things to consider:

* Driving Experience/Desire for Adventure*: I don't mind driving in Italy; I've done it numerous times, but I also know that drivers in Italy are crazy. They see the lines in the road and speed limits as mere suggestions and are incredibly impatient. If this is your first time driving here, think about whether you are confident enough to do so on one of Italy's most trying roads. On the Amalfi Drive, the road is so narrow that special traffic cops must stop traffic to allow huge tour buses to pass, the twists and turns require quick reflexes and when it is raining, traffic can really back up (see photo -- but if you're in one of the local buses, you're stuck in traffic too.)

Read More

April 2007 Issue Covers Ponza, Umbria, New Hotels

The April issue has been posted and is in the mail to paid newsletter subscribers. Subscribers can
log in here to download the PDF. Non-subscribers who
sign up today,can access this issue and 40 back issues immediately. Non-subscribers can also purchase the PDF of the April issue ($9) or have a
hard copy mailed to them ($11). Here's what's inside:

Ponza: The Secret Island Romans Love:
Around 20 miles long and three miles wide, some 23 miles off the coast of Lazio, Ponza has few foreign visitors and has managed to remain almost exclusively the haunt of Italians.

24 Hours in Ponza:
Which villa to rent; which caves to visit; how to boat around the Pontine islands; where to eat the best seafood.

Charming Places to Stay in Umbria:
Four special places to stay in Spoleto and in the Umbrian countryside; one was even good enough for George Clooney.

News, Tips, Deals and Events:
The Pass That Lets You Skip Florence Museum Lines; Numbers at the Pantheon; New Hotel Openings from Milan to Sicily, including Tuscany's Castello Banfi.