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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Holy Planes, Batman! Pope Launches Airline

A Vatican-backed charter airline inaugurated flights this week between Italy and Catholic shrines such as Lourdes, Fatima, Santiago de Compostela and the Holy Land. The Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, an outfit that organizes pilgrimages for the Diocese of Rome, has signed a five-year agreement with Mistral Air, a small airline owned by the private Italian post office. The flights using a Boeing 737-300 leave from seven Italian airports, including Rome and Verona. Pilgrims will enjoy religious videos while onboard and their seats are covered with religious inscriptions such as "I search for Your face, Lord."
Rev. Caesar Atuire, CEO for the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi told the Associated Press, "We want to create the conditions to enable pilgrims to live their pilgrimage starting at their city's airport and even before they arrive at their destinations."


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Italian Wine Harvest Off to Early Start

This summer's heat wave across Italy hasn't just been a hundrance to summer travel but could wreak serious havoc with travelers hoping to be in Italy for this year's wine harvest. The hot weather is forcing Italy's earliest harvest in decades, and some say decades. "I haven't heard of such an early harvest since the Council of Trent of 1563," Marcello Lunelli of Cantine Ferrari told the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica. The hot, dry conditions caused the grapes to grow faster and vineyards are harvesting up to a month earlier than usual.

"It isn't just the recent weather that is causing this change; Italy experienced record temps in winter and spring. The grapes started growing early, and they will be harvested early. The grapes don't knowthe difference. The overall timeframe is the same," says Alberto Coffele of the Veneto's Azienda Agricole Coffele.

How might the quality and quantity of this year's crop be affected by the heat and early harvest? We talk to the experts. Paid newsletter subscribers can read the rest of this article by clicking here

July/August Issue: Veneto; Italian Wine Harvest

The July/August 2007 issue of Dream of Italy is out. Here's what our subscribers are reading:

Adventures in the Veneto
Visit Venice's little-known islands of Certosa and Sant'Erasmo. Be delighted by Palladio's designs in Vicenza. Take in life-size chess games and falconry shows in Marostica. Taste Asiago cheese in Roana.

"The Heat is On" for Italian Winemakers
The details on Italy's record-early wine harvest. Plus, don't miss this - a new destination club for vineyards marries exclusivity, access and personal experiences.

News, Tips, Deals and Events

Did you know you can spend the night in Ischia's landmark fortress? A new wine train will take you into Tuscany's Val d'Orcia. Get your gladiator training at Rome's Cavalieri Hilton. There's a new bridge being erected over Venice's grand canal. A unique tour takes you to the workshops and showrooms of Umbrian artisans.

Not a subscription newsletter subscriber? LAST CHANCE for BONUS E-BOOK (offer ends at the end of August).

A subscription to Dream of Italy includes:

All of the insider travel knowledge you need for as little as $79 - what you might pay for one dinner in Italy. Our subscribers think it is a great deal!

Use our secure site to subscribe now.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Get Your Italian Decoupage While It's in Stock!

I know Dream of Italy readers love our decoupage items as much as I do. (I've got the Roma window box on my desk right now.) Good news, we have a number of decoupage items back in stock!

Remember that we can special order items you need in any of our patterns or place a special order for the exact number you need. (I've already had someone place an order for Christmas!) Right now it is taking our supplier 4 to 6 weeks for special orders.

Here's some of what we have ready to ship in our stock room:

NEW: Italia Decoupage Bucket (2 left)
NEW: Roma Decoupage Bucket (only 1 left)
Portofino Decoupage Bucket (2 left)
Venice Decoupage Bucket (only 1 left)

Italia Decoupage Window Box (8 left)
Roma Decoupage Window Box (8 left)
Portofino Decoupage Window Box (9 left)
Venice Decoupage Window Box (9left)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Renting a Car in Italy? Save 5% with Auto Europe

Dream of Italy has partnered with Auto Europe to offer all readers 5% off Auto Europe's already-low rental rates. Even before I knew anyone at the company, I always rented my cars through Auto Europe. That's because they always beat everyone else's rates and they offer 24-hour service. If you're worried about the weakening dollar, Auto Europe offers the added bonus of guaranteeing their rates in U.S. dollars.

Save 5% off your Auto Europe rental by using Dream of Italy's exclusive coupon code: 72002261 Use the code when you call them at (800) 223-5555 or reserve your car online here.

1. Make sure your rental is booked in US dollars. Auto Europe's rates are guaranteed in dollars. If you are paying for a rental in euros, be prepared to be charged an additional 3% by your credit card company for the conversion of from euros to dollars.

2. Know what is included and not included in your car rental rate. Auto Europe's rates for renting cars in Italy are inclusive--they include mandatory insurances with a zero or low deductible. Competitor rates usually do not include value added tax (VAT is 20% in Italy) and airport fees. If you find a better rate, let Auto Europe know--they'll verify it, and beat it every time.

3. Read the car classifications carefully. Car rental companies may advertise a rate for a mid-size, Ford Focus. A Ford Focus is not an intermediate or mid-size car, it's a compact model. Take advantage of Auto Europe's upgrade offers where you book a smaller car, and are upgraded to larger one.

Auto Europe is a US-based company and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you have a problem here or in Italy, call them. They'll solve it for you.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"Oh The Dogs You'll Meet" in Italy

Yup, that's my little play on the title of the very popular Dr. Seuss book, Oh The People You'll Meet. While travel is such an amazing experience to meet new people, for some of us who are certifiably dog-crazy, with a specific diagnosis of suffering from "terrieritis" - sometimes the dogs you meet could be just as interesting. Meet one Ms. Moneypenny, a Parson Jack Russell Terrier from Germany. My parents (yup, I inherited terrieritis from them, mostly from my mom, my father pretends he's not afflicted but he totally is) met her last month in Italy. MoneyPenny and her human parents were vacationing at their apartment outside Grossetto, at the Tuscan coast. Turns out Moneypenny is a quite a star. She even has her own book! I have more photos and will tell you more about her a little later...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Rome's Ponte Milvio: New Destination for Lovers

It was no accident that Shakespeare set his most famous love story in Verona, Italy. Love, passion, and romance are embedded in Italian culture, which is probably why so many people fall in love in Il Bel Paese. But unlike the protagonists in Jane Austen’s novels who try to keep their love a secret from everyone, including themselves, Italians take great pride in being in love and want the whole world to know it.

Until recently, lovers flocked to Verona to graffiti their names in hearts just outside of Juliet’s balcony. But there’s a new tradition in Rome that began last year after the release the Federico Moccia’a book, Ho Voglia di Te. (I Want You) This second-installment love story was made even more popular by this year’s release of the movie by the same name. In the story, two lovers write their names on a padlock, attach it to a chain around a lamppost on Rome's Ponte Milvio, and throw the keys into the Tiber River, ensuring that it can never be re-opened and they will be “locked” together for life.

Apparently the idea caught on and lovers from around the world flocked to the now-touristy Ponte Milvio to declare their “padlocked” love. The only catch is that so many people put a padlock on the famous lamppost that the weight actually collapsed it! Roman officials have had to step in for the sake of public property. Rather than banning the practice altogether (which resulted in accusations that the Left is anti-love), they set up a designated area where padlocks could be placed on chains not supporting anything that could come crashing down, according to The New York Times.

Street vendors have also cashed in the idea, setting up stands and selling overpriced padlocks to couples who forgot to bring their own. You can even buy virtual padlocks online at http://www.lucchettipontemilvio.com/. And who says love can’t be bought? “Everlasting love…just 5 euros!” -- Laura Cimperman

Inside The Slippery World of The Olive Oil Biz

creqqThe olive-oil industry may not be as “extra-virgin” as its oil is presumed to be. In fact, much of the oil isn’t even “virgin,” especially if it has been mixed with any less-expensive-to-produce oils such as that from sunflower seeds and some types of nuts. Over the past several decades, this has become quite a big issue in countries like Italy, where olive-oil distribution can be quite lucrative, especially if the costs of production have been dramatically cut by illegal practices.

According to Tom Mueller's recent piece in The New Yorker, “In 1997 and 1998, olive oil was the most adulterated agricultural product in the European Union, prompting the E.U.’s anti-fraud office to establish an olive-oil task force. ('Profits were comparable to cocaine trafficking, with none of the risks,” one investigator told me.)'"

Mueller's reporting reveals that, “Adulteration is especially common in Italy, the world’s leading importer, consumer, and exporter of olive oil. (For the past ten years, Spain has produced more oil than Italy, but much of it is shipped to Italy for packaging and is sold, legally, as Italian oil.)”

So how do you know you’re getting what the label says is inside? One way is to do a chemical test, which is how the N.A.S. Carabinieri uncovered an illegal ring of dealers in 2005, in which they confiscated 100,000 liters of oil with a black-market value of roughly $8 million. “The ring, which allegedly sold its products in northern Italy and in Germany, is accused of coloring low-grade soy oil and canola oil with industrial chlorophyll, flavoring it with beta-carotene, and packaging it as extra-virgin olive oil in tins and bottles emblazoned with pictures of Italian flags or Mt. Vesuvius, and with folksy names of imaginary producers—the Farmhouse, the Ancient Millstones,” Mueller writes.

Short of a chemical lab, how can the average consumer tell the difference between extra-virgin olive oil and 'lamp oil' (as they call the lowest-quality grades)? “According to the E.U. regulations, extra-virgin oil must have appreciable levels of pepperiness, bitterness, and fruitiness, and must be free of sixteen official taste flaws, which include ‘musty,’ ‘fusty,’ ‘cucumber,’ and ‘grubby.’” So there you have it, olive oil in a nutshell (but hopefully not literally). -- Laura Cimperman

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Italy Named Best Honeymoon Destination

Italy has been named the #1 honeymoon destination in Modern Bride magazine's annual "World's Best Honeymoons" survey. Is it any wonder?

Early this year, I interviewed Monica Larner, author of In Love, In Italy, and asked her what exactly makes Italia so romantic?

"A very big part of what makes Italy so romantic is that fact that we – as foreigners – and the Italians themselves recognize it as romantic. It’s a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy in which we pay extra attention to the romance that the country offers: the fact that “Rome” spelled backwards is “amor;” the fact that this was the stomping ground of Saint Valentine and the fact that many of the icons of romance – from Sophia Loren to Ruldolf Valentino are Italian. Italy has sex appeal in spades: from fairytale castles to pristine beaches and three very macho and temperamental volcanoes," Larner said. (Click here to read more of the interview.)

I think everyone should take an Italian honeymoon and I'm here to help you plan your own honeymoon (I'm working on one as I right this moment) or romantic Italian journey through The Italian Dream Concierge.