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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Rome: Papal Dungeon Open Through End of August

Have you ever wondered what’s inside Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome? Well now is your chance to take a stroll inside the enormous walls to see for yourself. According to the L.A. Times, “Through Aug. 26, 2007, visitors will be offered nighttime guided tours of the prison built in the fort's cellars by Pope Alexander VI in 1503, stepping through darkened cells and an infamous courtroom where death sentences were handed down.” The historic landmark was originally constructed as a royal tomb for the Roman Emporer Hadrian in the 1st century and was later used as a Papal dungeon “where popes of old locked up criminals and enemies.” It had been under construction for the past 10 years and will now open its gates to the public, if only for a brief period of time, so don’t miss your chance! Tickets are $16.50, and you can either buy your tickets online at http://www.castelsantangelo.com/ or at the entrance. -- Laura Cimperman

Related:

Article: The Dream Interview: Joe Knows Rome
Article: The Dream Interview: Vatican Insider
Article: Let Angels Be Your Guide to Rome

Tuscan Tourism on the Rise

If it seems like more and more people are treking off to spend some time “under the Tuscan sun,” it’s not just your imagination. According to The Florentine, “Statistics from 2006 reveal that tourism in Tuscany is up 7.6 percent from the previous year and there is no sign of it declining. Second only to the region of Veneto, Tuscany’s popularity has been growing steadily, especially among Europeans, Americans and Scandinavians.”

But really, what’s not to enjoy about the sunflower-filled rolling hills, cypress trees that dot the horizon, freshly pressed olive oil, and world-class Chianti wine at dirt-cheap prices? Not to mention the amazingly in-tact Medieval and Renaissance art and architecture that can be seen all over the region. It’s no wonder Florence took home the "Best City in Europe" award from Travel + Leisure. But if you ask me, the best part of visiting Florence is not Botticelli’s Primavera (which has been visited by 24% more tourists this year than in 2005), or Michelangelo’s David (up by 5.1% from 2005), but simply knowing that you’re walking around the same city that inspired these great masterpieces. -- Laura Cimperman

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Special Offer at Alain Ducasse' L'Andana

I'm a big fan of Daily Candy Travel and today they announced a special offer (4th night free with stay of three nights) for Alain Ducasse' luxury Tuscan inn, L'Andana. This is one place I haven't gotten to in my 20 or so visits to Italia and am eager to visit!
Located in the little-known village of Castiglione della Pescala in the lovely Grossetto area of Tuscany, the hotel boasts 34 classically decorated rooms boasting every modern comfort including DVD players and highspeed Internet access. Ducasse suprevises the hotel's 100-seat restaurant and creates dishes with the bounty of the estate's vineyard, olive grove and vegetable garden. Cooking lessons are available. There's also a heated pool and spa.

E-mail info@andana.it and mention “DailyCandy special.” to stay three nights with fourth night free between September 18 and November 18, 2007. From $640/couple/night, including breakfast.

European Heat Has Italy on Fire

Italy is sizzling, and we’re not just talking about the gorgeous men and women. Temperatures all over the country are approaching or over 100 degrees and presenting a health hazard. Some regions where the heat and dryness have combined to spark wildfires have declared states of emergency. “Fires forced the rescue of about 250 beach-goers by boat on the Gargano peninsula (Puglia), above the heel of the Italian boot, where temperatures hit 107 degrees," Italian news agency ANSA reported today. A plane involved in firefighting crashed in Abruzzo Monday killing the pilot and injuring a crew member.

For some even more cringe-worthy news, according to ANSA, “Two people were burned alive in their car near the town of Peschici, while another two were asphyxiated on a beach that was engulfed by flames nearby… Meanwhile more than 1,000 beachgoers were evacuated by sea from beaches near Peschici, while in nearby Vieste, fires destroyed four campsites.” More blazes have been reported on the Amalfi Coast, the island of Sardinia and some other locations in central Italy. -- Laura Cimperman

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

This October: "The Secret" Meets "Under the Tuscan Sun"


So many of us barely have time to pick up our dry cleaning let alone set aside the time and space to ask ourselves the questions: "What do I want?" and "What's next?" What if a new type of journey could give you this much-needed time and space -- and also give you the chance to experience the colors, flavors, history and serenity of Tuscan culture? I've collaborated with my friend and my own personal success coach Margarita Rozenfeld to create The Tuscany Visioning Retreat at the exquisite La Foce estate October 21 to 27, 2007. I invite you to join us to explore your personal and professional visions and create a roadmap for making those dreams a reality. Margarita will teach us how to apply the laws of attraction and the power of intention -- as featured in the recent hit DVD "The Secret."

I visited La Foce a few months ago to personally inspect the property and plan our activities for the week. To say that I was blown away, would be an understatement. In about 20 visits to Italy, this is truly one of the top 10 places I have seen in all these years. For this reason, and so many others, you don't want to miss the chance to fill one of the remaining spots for the retreat. We're only taking a small group so don't hesitate to find out more about The Tuscany Visioning Retreat!

Related:
All the Details - The Tuscany Visioning Retreat
Frequently Asked Questions
Meet the Retreat Hosts

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

George Clooney Against Lake Como Construction Plans

Actor, director and producer George Clooney may be the "Sexiest Man of the Year," but he's definitely more than just a pretty face (and body). Although he is wealthy enough to have bought a lakeside villa in Laglio, a small town near Como, he hasn't let his fame or fortune overshadow his sense of civil duty to his fellow Italian residents. There have been plans to build a "floating tourist-trap" walkway in front of the Hollywood star's home and the construction of a small piazza where the ancient village harbour is currently located, according to the Corriere della Sera. The project would cost some 12 million euros and has many locals upset that it will dramatically alter the town.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper, Clooney expressed interest in his fellow residents' wishes. "'Are any residents in favour?' was his first question. 'Even if I don't agree with them, I have no problem about accepting the new building project if people like it. Besides, I can always sell the villa and look for peace and privacy somewhere else.'"Clooney wants what's best for his Italian community. "I don't want my presence to disturb local residents, who are being forced to submit to town planning changes that were very probably introduced to exploit my image," he says. -- Laura Cimperman

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Anniversary Deal: Take 5 Issues for $35 (Reg: $60)

In honor of Dream of Italy's 5th anniversary, we'd like you to sample the newsletter or fill in your library and save $$ when you "Take 5." Choose any five of our 43 back issues (including any of our 12 special reports such as Rome, Venice, the Amalfi Coast, Sicily, Chianti, Tuscan Hideaways) and receive the hard copies of those issues mailed to your home for just $35. (Free shipping.) That's $7 per issue when our normal rate for individual print issues is usually $11 or $12. This is a savings of over 40%!

Here's how to Take 5 for $35:

1. Look through out list of back issues and decide which five you would like to order.

2. Pay $35 online by clicking on the Take 5 page or download an order form to mail or fax back to DOI.

3. E-mail mailto:%20editor@dreamofitaly.comwith your list of five issues (and your full name so we can track your order). Your order will be sent out as soon as we receive your e-mail!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Five Favorite Casual Restaurants in Italy

It is Dream of Italy's 5th anniversary!And you will see a number of features using the number "5" in the coming months. I'm inaugurating the series this month with "Five Favorite Casual Restaurants in Italy." I was going to just pick my five favorite restaurants from my travels over the last five years but, although it may sound cliche, it felt like a mother choosing favorite children! So I've narrowed down my faves in the area of "informal eateries":

Cane e Gatto, Siena: The cozy art-filled dining room, which feels more like a private home than a restaurant, has seats for just 20 patrons at glass-topped brass tables. Owner Paolo Senni welcomes each female guest with an orchid before retreating to the kitchen to whip up some magic with wife Sonia. Our five- course meal (dinner only served here, pre- fixe). begins with a plate for each of us of antipasti: prosciutto with melon; honey drizzled on Pecorino cheese; startlingly fresh mozzarella and tomato; chicken liver pate; and finally, quiche with a cheese sauce. It only got better. Via Pagliaresi, 6; (39) 0577 287545 (More information in DOI's Special Report: Chianti)

Da Ettore, Naples: A Neapolitan friend turned me on to this place that is packed with locals every night (in fact, if you don't arrive early enough, expect to wait in line). Even more stop by to pick up takeout pizza. This is the real thing in the birthplace of the pizza pie. Also try pagnottiello, a scrumptious pizza dough creation, with fillings such as mozzarella and prosciutto and don't miss the fried zucchini flowers (fiorilli) if they are in season. Closed Sunday and the month of August.Via Santa Lucia, 56; (39) 081 7640498

Renato e Luisa, Rome: It is the kind of restaurant (taverna officially) you might not notice when walking by, but looks can be deceiving. Step inside Renato e Luisa, just behind Largo di Torre Argentina, for a relaxing, authentic and affordable Roman meal. When we ate there, our waiter did not speak English, which was actually refreshing for a change and made the experience more authentic. After listening to him slowly and patiently recite the nightly specials in Italian, the sea bass with puntarelle was hard to resist. (Puntarelle, resembling a dandelion and a member of the chicory family, is grown outside Rome.) Dinner only. Closed Monday. Via dei Baribieri, 25; (39) 06 6869660 (More information in DOI's Special Report: Rome)

Giovanni, Florence: I'm so crazy about this place that I made my review from DOI's Special Report: Florence available as a free article. I was there again in November and am reserving a table for my parents who will be visiting Firenze in two weeks!

Vino Vino, Venice: Entering this tiny wine bar, you can't help but notice of the number of men wearing black and white striped shirts and red neck scarves; this is a favorite hangout for Venice's gondoliers. Diners order off the menu of daily specials at the bar. There are usually a variety of meat, chicken, vegetable and pasta dishes; some examples: pasta salad, spicy veal stew, turkey with zucchini and curry. All of the dishes are prepared at Vino Vino's sister restaurant, the much more expensive Antico Martini next door. Closed Tuesday. Calle delle Veste, 2007A; (39) 041 2417688
The past five years have produced a stunning (I can hardly believe it!) 43 issues covering destinations from Palermo to Piedmont and topic from cooking schools to shopping for ceramics. Paid subscribers gain online access to all 43 of these issues (including the special reports mentioned above) plus receive 10 information-packed editions in the coming year and receive a bonus e-book on Florence. Celebrate with us and subscribe today!

$5 Off ALL Italy DVDs and Audio Guides

We want you to celebrate our 5th anniversary along with us -- that's why through the end of July, we invite you to save $5 on ANY of our DVDs and audio guides. Just be sure to use the coupon code "dvd5" at the end of your online shopping. Here are some of the fantastic media products you can save on:

Again, the coupon code is: dvd5 (good through July 31, 2007)

Naples: "Scarface" Mansion to Become Community Clinic


Talk about rubbing salt in the wounds of Mafia member Walter Schiavone, who was arrested for murder in 1999, Italian authorities have decided to turn his "Scarface-esque" mansion into a physical rehabilitation center for Naples residents. According to The Guardian ,
Schiavone was so obsessed with the character of Scarface that he built a $ 2.5-million dollar replica of the neo-classical Miami villa where Tony Montana (played by Al Pacino) was shot at the end of the mobster flick.

Known simply as "Hollywood" by locals, the resulting villa boasts views over a huge garden and pool from a balcony sandwiched between two tiers of classical pediment mounted on double sets of columns, similar to the balcony from which [Al] Pacino sprays machine-gun fire before his demise. Apparently the plans to give the mansion over to the community didn't sit well with Schiavone, who had his men strip the mansion of all valuables, including the marble tiles, and fill it with car tires before setting fire to it. -- Laura Cimperman

Related:
Article: The Best Little Pizzerias in Naples (paid subscribers only)
Article: On the Waterfront in Naples (paid subscribers only)
Article: Broaden Your Visit: Naples and the Archaeological Sites (paid subscribers only)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

L'Avventura Italiana: Girls-Only Trip to Italy

Calling all belle ragazze! Many of our clients have asked for a trip just for 'the girls', so that's what we've done at La Dolce Via Travel. Once school is back in session, why don't you join in on this one-of-a-kind adventure with a friend, sister, mom, or cousin or other special person that includes stops in mysterious Venice, spa town Monsumano Terme, and gorgeous Florence, and the Umbrian countryside? We're going to have a great time doing some unique things, such as making our own bespoke perfumes, having a chocolate lesson in Perugia, seeing craftspeople practicing their art as well as relaxing. I hope you decide to be part of it. We've worked very closely with our ground providers to create a unique journey that you won't find anywhere else and include plenty of free time. The group will be limited to 12 participants, so this will be a very special experience. Contact: ladolceviatravel@comcast.net or call us at 630-887-8983.

(This is an advertisement.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Stars Come Out in Rome for Valentino

Described as "the most glamorous fashion show of all time" by actress Sarah Jessica Parker, Italian fashion designer Valentino celebrated 45-years of fashion design at a gala held in Rome over the weekend. According to The Guardian, "The retrospective, featuring the best gowns from almost half a century, was a hard act to follow, but the presentation of Valentino's latest collection on Saturday provided yet more examples of the designer's best tricks: the precise nip of a waisted jacket, the opulence of a dress rustling with jet beads and trimmed with ostrich feathers."

Rome's mayor was supportive of allowing Valentino's celebrations to take place at such historic venues as the Galleria Borghese. Among the 1,000 guests attending the lavish events were supermodels and actresses including Claudia Schiffer, Marisa Berenson, Sienna Miller and Joan Collins. Even attendees not involved in the world of fashion design must have been star-struck by the guest list, which included designers Giorgio Armani, Tom Ford, Philip Treacy, Karl Lagerfeld and Donatella Versace, just to name a few. Click here or here to see more photos of Valentino and attendees. -- Laura Cimperman

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

July 8th: Washington, D.C.'s Festa Italiana

Dream of Italy will be sharing a booth with The Modern Italian Network at Washington, D.C.'s Festa Italiana in downtown D.C. this Sunday between 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Come by the booth to enter to win a Dream of Italy gift basket, purchase DOI products and learn more about The Modern Italian Network!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Women-Only Beach Opens in Italy

Who doesn't enjoy hitting the beach on a smoldering hot day, relaxing on a lounge-chair, feeling the cool breeze and the ocean mist caressing your face? For many women, the thought of strutting out onto the beach half-naked in a skimpy swimsuit is terrifying, especially if they know they are going to be either gawked at (or even worse, laughed at) by on-lookers of the opposite sex. Unfortunately, many women decide that the psychological discomfort of being "on display"outweighs the pleasures of the beach. But now there is another option, just for women.

Italy has introduced their first women-only beach, number 134 on the Adriatic coastline between Rimini and Riccione. Also known as "Pink Beach," there are restrictions against the presence of men (other than the lifeguard), children, deep-fried foods and loud music. "Healthy salads and fresh fish make up the beach club menus, while lessons in deportment, manicures, pedicures, keep-fit classes and cookery lessons from a well-known chef are the order of the day," according to The Telegraph. There are some mixed feelings about the concept behind the women-only beach, but I think it offers women a great way to truly relax and let loose. Click here to watch a short video clip about the beach and some reactions to it. -- Laura Cimperman