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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Rome: Renting an Apartment Long-Term

New Yorkers have a notoriously difficult time finding apartments that match their needs and the size of their wallets. That might be why The New York Times chose to chronicle a young American couple and their four-year quest to find the perfect Rome apartment rental.

Sienna Reid, her husband Yves Jacques and their son Marcel started out living in Castelli Romani, the suburbs south of Rome. They loved their homes terrace and the views it afforded but the commute to Rome could be an hour or more. They set out to find an apartment in the center of Rome with some outdoor space. Little did they know how tough it would be.

From 2000 to about 2005, said Benedetta Barendson, a real estate agent with the Rome-based agency Studio Ruzzetti, “apartments with terraces in the city barely even came on the market. Everyone wants a terrace and, in that period, the owners could ask almost any price and get it rented within a day.”

It took a few years but Reid especially did not give up. From a classified ad, she found a wonderful apartment with a 215-square-foot terrace.

“It’s made a complete difference in how we live in Rome,” Ms. Reid said. “It really feels like the country. I grow fruit trees, herbs and roses. And I’ve realized there is a whole other world up there. I can chat with my neighbors on the other terraces; it’s like being in a village. But without the commute!”

No word on exactly what Reid pays in rent but real estate agent Barendson says a similar 1,900- square-f00t unit with terrace now costs "5,000 to 5,600 euros ($7,343 to $8,224) a month." Americans who want to live in Rome shouldn't be discouraged though. There are more apartments on the market now and American tenants (Italy has notoriously strict rental laws when Italians rent) are in demand.

“The ‘perfect Americans’ that every owner hopes to find, aren’t there any more due to the low dollar,” Ms. Barendson said. “Rental prices are slowly coming down, so at the moment you can actually find great places, and I would always suggest bargaining these days.”

Issue: Dream of Italy's Special Report: Rome
Issue: Dream of Italy's Special Report: Living the Dream (Moving to Italy)
Roma Decoupage Window Box
Roma Decoupage Bucket

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Italian Public Holidays in 2008

Keep these holidays in mind when planning your trip to Italy-

March 24: Easter Monday
April 25: Liberation Day
May 1: Labor Day
June 2: Anniversary of the Republic
August 15: Feast of the Assumption
November 1: All Saints' Day
December 8: Feast of the Immaculate Assumption
December 25: Christmas Day
December 26: St. Stephen's Day

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

2008 Anniversary Celebrations in Italy

Palladio: 2008 is the 500th of the birth of the great neo-classical architect, Andrea Palladio. Celebrations are planned throughout the Veneto region where Palladio designed his famous villas and churches. The city of Vicenza will also host events and exhibitions. Paid subscribers can learn more about Vicenza and a fantastic local guide in Adventures in the Veneto, a DOI article published a few months ago. More on the Palladio anniversary can be found at http://www.palladio2008.info/

Puccini: Italian love opera and they love the great composer Giacomo Puccini. His hometown of Torre del Lago hosts an incredible annual summer opera festival with the stage set right on a lake, but this year it will be even more special as it is the 150th anniversary of Puccini's birth. Tosca, Turandot and Madame Butterfly will be performed at the Puccini Festival. The famed opera house La Scala will put on La Boheme in July in honor of the anniversary.

Padre Pio: It might sound a little grisly but the Vatican has announced that in honor of the 40th anniversary of the death of Padre Pio, his body will be exhumed and put on display. Seven million pilgrims annually already visit the burial site of the popular Italian saint, formally known as St. Pius, located in San Giovanni Rotondo, Puglia. See Dream of Italy's Special Report: Puglia for travel information.

Basilicata: Hot Destination for 2008

The London Times named the region of Basilicata - south of Campania - as one of its 100 best summer destinations of 2008 and I have to agree. I've always thought that this region is one of Italy's best-kept secrets. The Times points to one town in particular - "Matera...looks like any other pretty town in southern Italy, a collection of brick and stone buildings tumbling down a hillside. Thing is, many of those are just facades: behind them lies the Sassi, a network of man-made caves hewn deep into the rock 9,000 years ago and inhabited ever since. One of these has been converted into the simple but elegant Hotel Sant'Angelo, which has just 16 beautiful rooms." I visted Matera just as it was gaining exposure after Mel Gibson filmed The Passion of Christ there. Paid subscribers can read my article here.

On that same trip, I visited Maratea, a beach resort that lies on the small amount of land Basilicata has on the coast. It was love at first sight. If all the throngs of tourists that visit the Amalfi Coast only knew about Maratea (2.5 hours south). Shh!! Don't tell them. Click here to read my fr*ee article about this magical place.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Learn Travel Writing in Italy

For several years now, I've been interested in running a travel writing course in Italy. So many people have the dream of becoming a travel writer, even if it is just a hobby, and I'd love to share my passion and experience with them. Well, I haven't set up a program...yet...but in the last few days I've learned about several opportunities to work on the craft while visiting Italy.

A few years before I started this newsletter, while I was working in journalism but not specifically travel journalism, I attended the Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference in Corte Madera, California. The conference is held every August and I highly recommend it, especially for those who are in the earlier stages of exploring travel writing. The well-known faculty members are generous and informative. The chair of the conference is travel writing guru Don George, he's the former editor in chief of Lonely Planet. This April, Book Passage is sponsoring a 10-day writing workshop on Lake Garda and Don George is the teacher. What an incredible opportunity to learn from a master - and in a heavenly setting!

Also this April - okay clearly all travel writing-related events in Italy are happening in April travel writers Marcus Donner and Amanda Castleman will be teaching a 6-day travel writing course in Rome. Together they have 35 years of experience and their work has appeared in the publications such as the The New York Times, National Geographic Traveler and The Christian Science Monitor. This one is less pricey than the Book Passage option.

And if you already are a professional travel writer, you should absolutely consider attending the Travel Classics conference - this year (in April) it is in Lake Como! The conference is geared towards marketing your work and meeting with editors one-on-one. I think I have attended three times in the past and director Maren Rudolph does an amazing job. If there's room available when I figure out my 2008 travel schedule, I just might head to Lake Como myself!

Is Sicily Part of Your 2008 "Dream of Italy"?

Our friends at the wonderful online Italian food store DITALIA are taking their love of all things Italian on the road - to Sicily in May! Their 7-night tour focuses on the incredible foods of this island, while taking in the sights and sounds of cities and towns like Palermo, Ragusa, Modica, Agrigento and Erice. Participants will dine at some of Sicily's best restaurants as well as tour specialty producers of olive oil, honey, chocolate, tuna and cheese. There's even an entire dinner in Ragusa devoted to chocolate. Mama mia! The tour takes place between May 14 and 21, 2008. There is only room for two more participants so find out more pronto if you are interested in experiencing and eating your way through - the Sicilian dream!

(This is an ad.)

Dream of Italy on the Radio

Yours truly was interviewed on the syndicated radio program The Travel Show with Arthur Frommer today. The radio program is a family endeavor by the first family of travel - the Frommers - and I talked to Arthur's daughter, Pauline Frommer. Pauline released her own series of travel guidebooks about a year ago and I quizzed her on her own Italy travel tips for Dream of Italy. Pauline and I discussed how to save money while traveling to Italy and why Puglia and Abruzzo are great places to visit this year. Click here to go to the show page and listen to the interview.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Thousands of Brightly Colored Balls Bounce Down Spanish Steps

The same man who dyed the waters of the Trevi Fountain red released hundreds of thousands of brightly colored balls went cascading down Rome's Spanish Steps on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. TV cameras caught organizer Graziano Cecchini and several others emptying bags full of red, green, yellow and blue balls down the 18th-century steps. The Italian news agency AGI reports that some balls, scooped up by tourists and Romans alike, are already for sale on Ebay.