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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dec. 2007/Jan. 2008 Issue of Dream of Italy

Here's what subscribers are reading in the December 2007/January 2008 issue of Dream of Italy:

Fractional Ownership: Buy a Share of Tuscany
Thought you couldn't afford to buy a home in Tuscany? Think again. Fractional ownership allows you to buy a share in a villa or apartment for as little as $90,000. We profile three private residence clubs in the region.

Le Marche: Italy in One Region
In 1957, author Guido Piovene wrote, "Italy, with its range of landscapes, is a distillation of the world; the Marche is a distillation of Italy." International visitors are only now beginning to discover this charming and affordable region.

Venice: Four Days, Four Sestieri, Four Terrific Restaurants
What's one of the biggest challenges in visiting Venice? Finding wonderful, authentic restaurants that aren't overrun by tourists. We profile four of them.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Buy a Share of Tuscany Through Fractional Ownership

With the lira-euro conversion several years ago and the weakened dollar, the price of Italian real estate for foreigners has skyrocketed. Many of us just assumed that owning a piece of la dolce vita, especially in Tuscany, was out of reach. Maybe not, according to Vera Marie Badertscher, who introduces our readers to the concept of fractional ownership -- starting at an investment of $90,000 plus yearly fees -- in our latest newsletter issue:

The first choice, purchase of fractional real estate, gives you a deed for your share (often one-eighth to one-tenth), so you can sell the real estate or leave it to your children and grandchildren. Someone else takes care of decorating and maintenance and provides amenities like personal shoppers, transportation, spas and concierge service. Family members and friends can use the property just as they could stay in your home-because it is your home.

Fractional real estate accompanied by luxury services frequently may be known as a private residence club, or PRC. Many PRCs own other properties around the world and you can swap your time in your own for another place. These properties differ from the more widely recognized timeshares in that you own deeded property rather than just buying a piece of time.

The second option, the destination club, also thrives in Italy. Destination clubs sell a membership in a club, similar to a country club membership, that gives you all the privileges of a luxury resort/hotel for a certain time each year. Generally your time in a particular place is more limited with a destination club than a PRC, but you have more choices of other places to swap if you get the urge to go to a Caribbean island, or Cabo San Lucas instead of the Tuscan countryside. You can sell the membership, but generally only through the original owners/developers, unlike the deeded property of a fractional.

Paid Subscribers: Read profiles of three fractional real estate opportunities in Tuscany

Monday, December 17, 2007

Complete Italian Travel Gift Guide!

One week to go before Christmas. You know you need to finish or for some of you, even begin your shopping! So don't delay, check out our gift ideas and please order before noon, Wednesday, December 19th so we we can get it there to put under the tree!

Alitalia Extends Business Class Sale But...

My friend Joe alerts me that Alitalia has extended its business class fare sale (Magnifica Class) through the holidays. This offer is valid for travel from December 23, 2007. Travel must be complete by January 9, 2008. You can fly business class to Italy for as little as $ 1,389 round-trip!

But as many of you who know about the financial state of Alitalia as Joe does, purchasing a ticket comes with some risk. Joe says, "The whole organization may come apart over Christmas. Unions threatening strikes, the ceo of the moment threatening to leave, the pols still fooling around with the bids to sell the government's stake. I don't fly Alitalia normally, and I certainly wouldn't advise anyone to take a last-minute holiday just now."

Still, for the gambling types, it is a steal, if things work out. You must purchase your ticket at least 7 days prior to departure and no later the December 28, 2007.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas and New Year's at a New Tuscany Hideaway

I was at the post office today (yes, my local branch is open on Sunday!) mailing a bunch of our gift subscriptions and had a chance during the long wait, to receive some of the things that were in Dream of Italy's P.O. Box. A new property in Tuscany caught my eye, especially since it is open for Christmas and New Year's and I know our readers always like to know about special holiday happenings.

Palazzo Brandano opened in the sleepy town of Petroio (population: 400) about a year-and-a-half ago. Though not far from Pienza and Montalcino, Petroio isn't popular on the Tuscan tourism circuit (we love finding places like this) though there's much to enjoy in the town, including a Terracotta Museum, next door to this 12-room property. Nightly rates start at 275 euros.

Palazzo Brandano is offering a special Christmas menu in its restaurant. The 4-course dinner is priced at 90 euros per person. For New Year's the Brandano is offering another lavish 4-course dinner (this one is 140 euros) and I'm half-tempted to fly over there just for one of the antipasti - "pumpkin tart with parmesan cheese sorbet and balsamic vinegar"! If you can steal away for a last-minute holiday celebration in Tuscany, this might be a fine destination!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Italy/Travel Gift Guide: Holiday Gifts for Venice Lovers

When its come to Italian travel there are three kinds of people - Rome people, Florence people and Venice people. If there's a Venice person on your list, consider these fantastic holiday gifts:


Tips for Spending Christmas and New Years in Venice

Friday, December 14, 2007

Italy/Travel Gift Guide: Romantic Travel Gifts

Italy is one of the world's most romantic destinations. Evoke memories of a wonderful trip of the past or hopes for a trip of the future with this romantic travel gifts. Know a couple celebrating a honeymoon or anniversary in Italy in 2008? These are also perfect presents for them:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Apparently It Is Tough to Be Italian

The New York Times reports today that the entire country of Italy is in a funk. A recent poll reports that they are the least happy people in Western Europe. So what's the deal? Was Under The Tuscan Sun selling us a song-and-dance?

Much of it can be summed up by "it's the economy, stupid." As Ian Fisher reports, Pensions, public debt and the cost of government are among the highest (in Europe). The latest numbers show a nation older and poorer — to the point that Italy’s top bishop has proposed a major expansion of food packages for the poor. Worse, worry is growing that Italy’s strengths are degrading into weaknesses. Small and medium-size businesses, long the nation’s family-run backbone, are struggling in a globalized economy, particularly with low-wage competition from China."

There's also the government, still riddled with corruption and slow to face the tough choices that must be made to in order to usher in prosperity. Italy is also aging and has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe. But Fisher finds that, "the old are not letting go."

He talks to a 36-year-old Roman man who says: "The generational problem is the Italian problem. In every country young people hope. Here in Italy there is no hope anymore. Your mom keeps you home nice and softly, and you stay there and you don’t fight. And if you don’t fight, it is impossible to take power from anybody.”
(Photo by Nancy Robinson)

Italy/Travel Gift Guide: Gifts for Movie Lovers

There are so many great Italian films but one that truly stands out is the lovely Cinema Paradiso - the story of a young boy in post-War Sicily and his special relationship with a grandfatherly film projectionist. The movie is featured in all three of the following gifts:

Italians Say: "Protect the Panettone!"

Holy cow! Did you know that Italian bakers produce 117 million panettone and pandoro cakes every Christmas? The population of Italy is only 50-something million. Obviously many of those cakes are being exported. Who knew the Italian Christmas cake industry was worth 579 million euros per year?

That's why, according to Reuters, manufacturers are calling for strict rules governing the origin and quality of such cakes, similar to government regulations protecting authentic olive oil and Parmigiano cheese from foreign imitators. Such rules would include the mandatory use of butter and beer yeast.

"Just think -- seven out of 10 panettoni and pandori exported to the United States do not respect the production norms. Seven out of 10 Americans buying an 'Italian-style' panettone are getting a fake," Alberto Bauli, head of the Italian Cake Industry, told a news conference.

I smell a Christmas scandal!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What's Hillary Clinton Doing in Naples?

She's in a nativity scene of course...Okay, back up. Naples is known for its artisans who excel in creating handmade presepi (nativity scenes) - there's a whole street of shops selling presepi the city's Spanish Quarter. Each year the offerings get more creative and this year, Gennaro di Virgilio made figurines of American presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. Apparently, the late opera great Luciano Pavarotti is another popular figurine this year. (Photo by Reuters)

Italy/Travel Gift Guide: Gifts for Tuscany Fanatics

How can you go wrong with a gift that invokes the beauty and allure of Tuscany? Her are some suggested gifts for the person on your list who just can't get enough of Toscana:

Italy/Travel Gift Guide: Gifts for Rome Lovers

Is there someone one your Christmas list who is planning a trip to Rome or who can't get enough of the Eternal City? Consider these unique presents:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Italians Celebrate Christmas with Food, You Can Too!

Food is an essential part of the Italian experience. What do Italians eat during holiday celebrations?

  • Christmas Eve: The meal centers on fish, in the Catholic tradition to abstain from meat the night before a major holiday. La Vigilia di Natale (the vigil) is also called The Feast of the Seven Fishes. The origin of the "seven" is somewhat of a mystery. Some say it comes from the number of sacraments; others say it relates to the phase of the moon (seven days). Some families even serve 13 fish dishes, one for Jesus and one for each of the 12 apostles.
  • After Midnight Mass: Families return home for pannetone (the dome-shaped fruit cake that originated in Milan) and Prosecco (sparkling wine).
  • Christmas Day: Italians eat tacchino (turkey), which arrived in Europe in the mid-16th century, or fagiano (pheasant). Dessert consists of countless cakes and cookies such as pandoro (a light, golden cake from Verona) and rococco (crisp almond rings).

    Read more about Italian holdays foods
  • If you want to prepare your own authentic italian meal, the online food store DITALIA has all of the specialty food items you need! Our friend Vince, president of DITALIA, is graciously offering Dream of Italy readers *15% everything* in their wonderful online food emporium through midnight, Friday, December 14th. Use coupon code: DOITALY

    Their items also make wonderful gifts. Take for instance, chocolate covered orange peels from Calabria or tiramisu panettone!!

    Thursday, December 06, 2007

    Florence: Christmas and New Year's Events

    Christmas Market (Il Mercato di Natale) in Piazza Santa Croce November 28 to December 16, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
    Forty-nine exhibitors from 13 European countries will be selling their wares: Christmas decorations from Germany, reindeer furs from Finland, typical sweets from Austria, China-bone from England, dolls and glass from Hungary and amber from Poland.

    Ice Skating in Piazza della Libertà
    December 1 to January 13, open daily 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
    Six euros to rent skates.

    Free New Year's Eve Concert in Piazza Santa Croce
    December 31, starts at 11 p.m.
    Listen to the Orchestra Filarmonica del Teatro Lirico Europeo, made
    up of 80 musicians.

    More events featured in our free article What's Happening in Florence for Christmas and New Year's 2007

    Saints + Cellphones: Not So Perfect Together?

    Looks like religion and technology have collided again in Italy. Italians - and indeed many Catholics around the world - are known for carrying small pictures (called santini) of saints in their wallets. That may be a thing of the past sometime soon as Reuters reports that a new Web site, santiprotettori.com is now offering to send one of a catalogue of 15 photos of saints right to your cell phone for a cost of three euros.

    "It is a distortion of sacred things ... selling 'santini' for cell phones is horrifying," Bishop Lucio Soravito De Franceschi told the newspaper La Stampa. "We are merely catching up with the times. I think this will appeal to young people as well as grandmothers," the Web site's founder contends.

    Wednesday, December 05, 2007

    Last Day for Alitalia Business Class Sale

    My friend Joe Brancatelli asks, "Who doesn’t crave a little dolce vita for the holidays?" If you do and you like flying business class, act today to take advantage of Alitalia's business fare sale.

    In an article this week, Joe writes, "And at least on the surface, Alitalia’s grandiosely named Magnifica Class is a bargain for as little as $775 one way from New York and $1,200 from Los Angeles. But beware: Even the Italian government calls the carrier comatose, and its service and on-time performance is incredibly erratic."

    I have long known Joe isn't a fan of Alitalia's service, thus he warns, "Don’t even think of using Alitalia for connecting flights beyond Italy. Concentrate on the nonstops to Rome or Milan. Fares are good until January 9, but tickets must be purchased 30 days before your departure and no later than December 5."

    The Vatican's Christmas Tree

    A 100-foot tall fir tree from Italy's South Tyrol was put into place in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican today. The Christmas tree will be decorated with 2,000 balls and officially lit on the afternoon of Dec. 14th. There's also a life-size nativity scene in place in the square.

    Hundreds of people gather in St. Peter's Square on Christmas Eve as midnight mass takes place inside the Basilica. If you plan ahead, you can get tickets to attend the mass inside.