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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dirt Cheap Airfares to Italy in May on Eurofly

Greetings from Sardinia where your intrepid editor just enjoyed her first full day, and we do mean full, of sightseeing after arriving via Eurofly and its partner Meridiana. En route I learned that Eurofly is offering a fantastic deal on flights to Italia during the month of May. Eurofly is offering non-stop flights to Rome, Naples, Bologna and Palermo from New York's JFK Airport for only $499 roundtrip. That's including the $230 fuel surcharge but not taxes and fees of $75 per passenger. Still, that is one of the best deals I have encountered all year and May is a great month to visit Italy -- before the summer crowds hit. Stay tuned for more updates from Sardinia!

Friday, April 25, 2008

April 2008: Golf in Italy, Vasari Corridor, Tuscan Hideaway

The April 2008 issue of Dream of Italy is posted online for paid newsletter subscribers. Postal subscribers will receive their copies next week. Here's what they will be reading about:

Hitting the Links, Italian Style
While only 100,000 Italians play golf, there are some incredible golf courses in the Lakes, Tuscany and Lazio where travelers can experience golf in Italy. Lots of details on where to stay, where to play and special Italian golf notes.

Tuscany's Newest Hideaway: La Bandita

An American music executive and his wife found their own piece of paradise in the UNESCO-protected Val D'Orcia and have opened it up to guests seeking beauty and relaxation.

Walk with the Medicis Over the Ponte Vecchio

Did you know that the top of Florence's Ponte Vecchio holds a private passageway filled with art? Here's how you can visit the Vasari Corridor on your next visit to the Uffizi.

Not a paid newsletter subscriber? Subscribe or renew today and receive an immediate download of our 78-page e-book Dream of Italy's Collected Venice, online access to OVER 50 back issues and 10 issues over the coming year! Don't even think about going to Italy without reading our insider advice first!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Go Veggie in Roma!

Seems all my old favorite restaurants are making a reappearance. I reviewed Rome's 'Gusto years ago in the newsletter, now comes word from Conde Nast Traveler of a sister restaurant, 'Gusto al 28, that has made the magazine's list of Hot Tables 2008. The menu is dedicated exclusively to fish and vegetables. According to the magazine, "The simple menu—one side for fish, cooked and raw, the other for vegetarian—belies the complexity of dishes such as sea bass tartare with almonds, basil, and spiced salt, and seaweed salad with quail eggs and red-and-black wild rice."

Monday, April 21, 2008

Introducing Gourmet on Tour

From time to time, we like to introduce you to travel companies that offer unique ways to see Italy - Gourmet on Tour is one such company, offering travelers a way to experience Italia through food and wine. Really is there any other way? Gourmet on Tour is offering Dream of Italy readers an exclusive discount on their Tuscany program, see below.

Perfect Gourmet Week in Tuscany
A unique place like Tuscany is best enhanced by locals sharing their stories and cuisine. The combination of luxurious hospitality, insider access, fine food and wine, and enthusiastic chefs are necessary ingredients for "one of the best vacations we have ever had" as many of our recent clients tell us.
Trip Highlights:
* Gain access to private cellars in Chianti and Montepulciano
* Sample everything from the vino nobile to Super Tuscans at a stunning
wine estate
* Enjoy people-watching over a meal in the piazza of a medieval village
* Roll up your sleeves and hand-craft fresh pasta
* Visit picturesque markets and taste finest olive oils and cheeses
* Cook up a Tuscan feast with our renown chefs
* In Florence, sleep in luxury just steps away from Ponte Vecchio and
Michelangelo's David
Reader offer: For Dream of Italy readers, we are offering a discount of 300 euros (approx. $470) per room for bookings between July 16 and September 9 and November 4 and December 31, 2008. Subject to availability.

Flavors of the Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast is the darling cover girl of glossy travel magazines for a reason. It provides breath-taking views of the Mediterranean and a perfect locale for quintessential dolce vita.
Trip Highlights:
* Cook in a cliff-top kitchen 300 meters above the ocean
* Walk quiet paths high on the mountainside while soaking up the stunning
* Savor a delicious 2 Michelin-star dinner on a cliff-top terrace
* Slumber in a deluxe hotel overlooking the coast
* Explore picturesque Positano, or swim in the Mediterranean sea
* Cross by boat to the island of Capri and explore this stylish island,
lemon groves and vineyards
* Listen to a classical concert under the stars in Ravello

Gourmet Adventure: Venice & Veneto
Imagine waking up in a luxuriously restored 16th century palazzo in Venice, overlooking the canals, knowing that today you will have a total immersion in Italian food, wine and life.
Trip Highlights:
* Arrive by private water taxi via the canals of Venice
* Join a renowned chef and cook up a feast in her palazzo
* Indulge in the homeland of Prosecco Italy's famed sparkling wines
* Enjoy a guided visit to the famous Rialto market
* Sample fine Veneto wines in a true Venetian bar, far off the beaten
* Sleep in luxury aside a romantic canal

For further information, please email info@gourmetontour.com

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Florence's Cammillo Trattoria: Revisiting an Old Friend

My mom called me on Sunday to tell me that "Cammillo" was in The New York Times. I hadn't thought about this Florence restaurant in a long time and wondered what made it newsworthy to appear in the paper now. You see my mom and I ate at Trattoria Cammillo in 1995 on our first trip to Italy. We went back several times in the late 90s but with my transition to editor of Dream of Italy, it became necessary to try new restaurants on every trip and to be honest I fell in love with a new Florence find, L'Osteria di Giovanni.

But being reminded of Cammillo was like connecting with an old friend. Turns out the author of the article, Mimi Sheraton, feels the same way. She has eaten at the trattoria every time she has visited Florence since 1953. (The restaurant opened in 1945) She hadn't been in 15 years when she recently revisited the place. It was as she remembered despite the time that has passed.

"Through the years, however, Cammillo’s came to be shrugged off by local cognoscenti as too touristic and old-hat. Never mind that the rustic wine canteen setting was always packed and alive with a multilingual din, through which the Italian language clearly held its own. Never mind also the enduring appeal of the simple, soul-warming food, the still moderate prices and the hectic but convivial service," she writes.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Receive a FREE DVD of an Italian Film Classic!

One of my favorite things to do is to give away new travel books or DVDs related to Italy. Well, here we go again...

This month three films by Italy's Taviani brothers are being released on DVD for the North American market. Don't know the Tavianis? Well here's how The New York Times described them: "Before the Coens, the Hugheses, the Quays, the Wachowskis and the Farrellys, there were the Tavianis, Paolo (born in 1931) and Vittorio (born in 1929): the greatest cinematic brother act since Louis and Auguste Lumière, who pretty much invented the movies just over a century ago."

The Tavianis are truly the greatest Italian filmmakers you may not even know. Their semi-autobiographical film The Night of the Shooting Stars, depicting how beauty emerges in a Tuscan town despite the horrors of World War II, is one of the highest grossing films in Italian cinema history and winner of numerous awards including the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. (The Tavianis also set Fiorile in their native Tuscany. Kaos, the third DVD released this month takes place in Sicily.)

Well, here's your chance to have your own copy of the Taviani masterpiece The Night of the Shooting Stars for FR*EE! Spend $50 at DreamofItaly.com (not including shipping) on or before this Tuesday, April 22, either in our online store or by purchasing a newsletter subscription or renewal (current subscribers can renew anytime), and I will send a copy of the DVD, priced at $26.95, for FR*EE. (There's no special coupon code or anything to click, just spend over $50 and you will receive e-mail confirmation that you're receiving the DVD!)

You might want to break out the popcorn before the DVD arrives however, perhaps right now, because below I'm going to tell you about how Tuscany played a starring role in the Taviani film and a few others, providing some inspiration for your own Tuscan travel plans!

Movie Travel: "The Night of the Shooting Stars"

Titled La Notte di San Lorenzo in Italian, The Night of the Shooting Stars takes place in the fictional Tuscan town of San Marino, based on the real town of San Miniato, where the filmmakers were born and lived during World War II.

The film is told in flashback by a mother (Cecilia) of her experiences as a 6-year-old caught in the middle of war. The story is set on the night of August 10, 1944, the feast of San Lorenzo, the day when Italians all over the country escape to the countryside hoping to witness shooting stars, or the "tears of San Lorenzo," so they can make wishes and have their dreams come true. Knowing the American Army is approaching to liberate the town, the village's Fascist sympathizers turn on their neighbors, many of whom are lifelong friends or relatives, unleashing unspeakable terror. For anyone who wants to understand the complexity and raw emotion of the Italian war experience, there are few better ways to get a glimpse than through the eyes of the Tavianis.

Italians still celebrate August 10th by looking up the skies for shooting stars. The medieval town of San Miniato, not far from Pisa, is well worth a visit. One of the town's landmarks, a tower built by Frederick II in the 13th century, was destroyed during World War II but rebuilt in the late 1950s. The town is most famous for its annual white truffle festival which takes place during the last three weeks in November.

Movie Travel: Italian Monastery from "The English Patient"

When director Anthony Mingella set sight on the former Benedictine monastery of Sant'Anna in Camprena, a little town outside Pienza, he knew he had found the perfect place to shoot the scenese where a convalescing English patient reveals his tragic past to his nurse in the film The English Patient. The interior features frescoes by Sodoma (1477-1549).

Guests can now spend the night in the former sleeping quarters of the monks (be warned there is no heat) for a very affordable 70 euros per night for a double, including breakfast. In the evening, dinner is available for 20 euros per person. For more information, call (39) 0578 748037 or e-mail camprena@diocesimontepulciano.it

Movie Travel: Tuscan Villa in "Much Ado About Nothing"

Sitting atop a hill two miles from the town of Greve in Chianti, Villa Vignamaggio didn't need Kenneth Branagh's 1993 film version of Shakespeare's classic Much Ado About Nothing to put it on the map. The estate was already famous as the birthplace of Mona Lisa in 1479.

Yet another of Vignamaggio's other claims to fame is that its red wine was the first vintage in the area to be referred to as a Chianti - way back in 1404. No doubt the stars of Branagh's movie imbibed in the local production while filming here as the movie's scenes called for much merriment making and frolicking through Vignamaggio's stunning grounds. The estate still produces award-winning wines as well as olive oil and hosts tours and tastings.

Vignamaggio is a fully operational agriturismo and is a particularly good choice for families as it offers two swimming pools, a tennis court, mountain bikes, fitness center, a playground and a pool table. Guests can choose among 20 rooms, suites and apartments housed in several old farm houses. The villa itself, surrounded by a Renaissance garden, has suites only. Rates start at 150 euros per night, with a minimum of a two-night stay.

Did you know Villa Vignamaggio is among dozens of Tuscan hideways featured in Dream of Italy's paid subscription travel newsletter? If you're not a paid subscriber, imagine what other Tuscan gems you're missing out on visiting...Subscribe or renew today and receive:

Friday, April 11, 2008

Invitation to Tuscany Villa Rentals

Invitation to Tuscany represents more than 130 carefully selected villas,apartments and restored farmhouses in Tuscany, Liguria and Umbria. Our three agents in the U.S. have visited them all and can give you intimate details. Call Hugh or Barbara at (703) 370-3868 on the East Coast or Colleen at (866) 297-1058 west of the Mississippi...and take a look at http://www.invitationtotuscany.com/ to see the full range of exciting properties. Mention Dream of Italy for a free catalogue.

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Americans Can Save 20% at Harry's Bar in Venice

The famous Harry's Bar in Venice has never been a cheap place to eat and drink, but it has just gotten a bit cheaper for Americans. Reuters reports that a sign hanging outside the landmark this weekend reads:

“Harry's Bar of Venice, in an effort to make the American victims of subprime loans happier, has decided to give them a special 20 percent discount on all items of the menu during the short term of their recovery.”

Harry's Bar was founded in 1931 when Venice barman Giuseppe Cipriani opened it with money an American named Harry Pickering had given him to pay off a loan. He named the bar and his first son Arrigo (Italian for Harry), who is also the current owner in Pickering's honour. Ernest Hemingway loved to drink here while visiting Venice and helped put it on the map.
Subscribe to the award-winning travel newsletter Dream of Italy today and receive an immediate download of our 78-page e-book Dream of Italy's Collected Venice, online access to 50 back issues and 10 issues over the coming year! Don't even think about going to Italy without reading our insider advice first!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Traveling Palette Art Workshops: D'Ambruoso Studios

Tuscany! Amalfi Coast! Sicily! Traveling Palette Art Workshops is celebrating 11 years of providing exceptional outdoor painting programs set in world-class venues. Each workshop is dedicated to instruction in drawing and painting techniques given by Sam D'Ambruoso, including demos, exercises and constructive critiques.

Non-painting guests share in the fun, too, traveling to each site. Every village is unique in offering sightseeing, museums and cultural interests. We also arrange for cooking lessons! or simply enjoy la dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing). Experience the riches of camaraderie while creating art.

(This is an ad.)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Do You Know Johnny Jet? You Should

And to think, I knew him when...Back when I was working in the travel section of USATODAY.com, I somehow met a very cool guy named "Johnny Jet." Laugh if you must, but the "Jet" really fits as this guy (we've still never met in person; ah the world of the Web) must have more energy than five men put together. He's literally all over the world at once; wait, maybe Johnny has an evil twin OR maybe he's Superman? Anyway, I don't know who e-mailed whom but we became acquainted and I started to become a big fan of his Web site JohnnyJet.com which started out with links to nearly every travel site imaginable and now has become so much more, full of deals, etc.

Our Johnny Jet is now a global travel brand. His site is among the top 100,000 on the Web, he writes a column for Frommers.com and he's been quoted and featured in numerous articles. BUT this month, he's reached a new level - he's featured in Travel + Leisure Magazine. That's about as big as it gets in the travel world. So this blog is my public congratulations to Mr. Jet and a reminder to my readers to bookmark JohnnyJet.com so you don't have waste hours on the Web looking for the best travel Web sites and resources. (That's a photo of Johnny on the phone on the island of Ischia in Italy.)

Gluten-Free B+B on Italy's Lake Garda

Given my newfound interest in gluten-free travel in Italy (see below), I decided to do some quick Web research to see what I came up with. Fabio Massimo Rapanà, who himself suffers from Celiac Disease, runs a gluten-free bed and breakfast on Lake Garda. Domus Allessandra operates a 100% gluten-free kitchen and provides a gluten-free breakfast daily for guests. The proprietor offers guests the chance to cook gluten-free meals with him and can give advice on area restaurants that adhere to gluten-free standards. Rates start at 35 euros per person, per night depending on length of stay.

Celiac Disease: The Italian Connection

It is amazing how a personal connection will suddenly get you to write about a topic you've been meaning to explore for at least a year. I hadn't heard about Celiac Disease until about a year ago when I hired a personal organizer to come to my office and help me straighten things out. She brought her lunch one day and explained that she couldn't eat gluten because of Celiac. Even more interestingly, she told me many Italians and those of Italian descent have Celiac. I think she even mentioned how common it is in Ireland. My ears perked up for the moment as I have both Irish and Italian blood (about 1 in 250 to 1 in 300 people in these populations have Celiac). She suggested I do an article on how people with Celiac can travel to Italy -- just how do you eat your way through Italia without eating bread and pasta? Great idea, I thought...and filed it.

Well, now I've just been told I need to at least temporarily go on a gluten-free diet for medical reasons. I may well have Celiac and will get tested for that (it can develop at any time during life). So just how am I going to travel through Italy if I can't eat gluten. I've just started researching this topic and will share more as I go along. I'd also love to read your suggestions in the comments section of this blog. I didn't realize that I won't be the only one in Italy with this problem, consider this info from Keepkidshealthy.com:

In Italy, where celiac disease is common, all children are screened by age 6 so that even asymptomatic disease is caught early. In addition, Italians of any age are tested for the disease as soon as they show symptoms. As a result of this vigilance, the time between when symptoms begin and the disease is diagnosed is usually only 2 to 3 weeks. In the United States, the time between the first symptoms and diagnosis averages about 10 years.

Also today, I learned about a new Web site for gluten-free travelers: Glutenfreeguidebook.com Hilary Davidson hasn't covered Italian travel yet but does give tips for visiting other places.

And there's another great site, Celiactravel.com - they offer gluten-free restaurant cards in 38 languages including Italian!