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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

World Hotels: Pay in Dollars in Italy

With the euro coming in at stomach-turning highs, you may think that to Italy is too costly. (Personally, we never think that.) However, World Hotels may save the day. This summer, the international hotel company is offering a "Stay in Europe, Pay in Dollars" deal to North American visitors offering hotel rooms at a one euro to one dollar exchange rate. Where a hotel room that might cost 150 euros (over $235), will only cost $150 dollars -- an easy $85 savings right there! The offer applies to 15 World Hotel properties throughout Italy, from Abano Terme to Genoa,
Milan, Naples and Rome, on stays Thursday through Monday through August 31 2008. -- Justine Gregory

P.S. -
Scroll down this blog for more hotel deals in Italy. There are some good ones!

Castellina Fortress Opens in Tuscany

For the first time in its history -- a history that stretches back to the time of the Etruscans, if you must know – the Tuscany town of Castellina in Chianti is opening the doors of its Rocca Comunale di Castellina to the public. This medieval fortress was built in the 14th century, when the Castellina became part of the “League of Chianti,” which functioned primarily as a military association serving Florence. No longer needed as a military fortress against feuding Italian legions, the Rocca remained little more than a testament – albeit an intimidating-looking one – to centuries past until last year, when renovations began to make the fortress suitable for public viewing. A year of work has restored the ancient stronghold, even adding a retractable roof that allows visitors to access the tower, and has brought this ancient monument into the 21st century for your wonder and enjoyment. -- Justine Gregory

Dream of Italy's Special Report: Chianti (purchase download)
At Home in Chianti: One Italian Dream Come True (subscribers only)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Shooting Stars, Saracens and Pizza: Events in Italy This Summer

Our fr*ee online calendar of events is back and filled with tantalizing festivals, concerts and celebrations taking place this summer and fall in Italy. Here are some highlights:

Donnafugata (Sicily): Calici di Stelle (Goblets of Stars)
August 10, 2008
Italians throughout the land celebrate Notte di San Lorenzo (celebrating San Lorenzo on August 10th) outside, under the stars. It is the night when dreams are said to come true. If you're a wine lover, your dream might come true by spending the evening sipping the vintages of Donnafugata, at their
Contessa Entellina estate. (Donnafugata was featured by Dream of Italy in a recent article. Photo above is of their night harvest which will be demonstrated. )

Positano: Landing of the Saracens
August 15, 2008
Costumed actors gather this evening on the beach of this Amalfi Coast resort town to re-enact the battle the historic battle that took place on the night of August 15, 1558. The landing of the Saracens is also celebrated with music, food and a certainly gorgeous sunset, making this an event for the whole family

Naples: Pizzafest 2008
September 11 to 21, 2008
For two weeks this September, the birthplace of pizza celebrates its most famous food with Pizzafest 2008. Demonstrations, contests and plenty of pizza eating takes place at Mostra d'Oltremare, Naples' main convention center.

All of our calendar items are linked to related items from the more than 600 articles Dream of Italy has published to date. Receive immediate access to all of these articles (in over 50 back issues), plus 10 additional issues and a bonus e-book when you subscribe to the newsletter voted Best Consumer Subscription Newsletter 2007. What are you waiting for?

Hot Summer Hotel Deals in Italian Cities

The Deal:
149€ ($210) per night plus tax for a Hilton King room at the 5-star Hilton Molino Stucky Hotel during the months of July and August.
The Details: This is a steal since the regular nightly rate at this new luxury hotel is over $400 per night! You must book 21 days in advance. Use the discount code:PR20AP

The Deal: 88€ per night at the 5-star Le Meridien Gallia, a Starwood hotel
The Details: Book online for your stay between now and September 10, 2008.

The Deal: 69€ per night at the 4-star UNA Hotel Vittoria in the center of Florence
The Details: This special summer rate includes a room upgrade and buffet breakfast for stays until the end of August. Open to TravelZoo subscribers (registration is free). Use the promotion code: TVLZOO

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Oprah, J. Lo: Celebrities Love Italy, too!

Your faithful editor's love of celebrity gossip news (really, I'm trying to quit) comes in handy this time of year to report to you where are the big stars are vacationing in Italy this summer. Just like us mere mortals, the celebs love Bella Italia. Here's a rundown on who's where, doing what:

  • Oprah Winfrey was spotted earlier this month in the lovely Ligurian coastal town of Portofino. Best friend Gayle was along too. I love Oprah and hate to report that the British rags were taking photos of her eating and noting her weight gain. Let the woman eat people, it's Italy!
  • Did you know British Oscar winner Helen Mirren has a home in one of our favorite Italian regions, Puglia? She and her husband bought a 500-year-old castle near the beautiful city of Lecce. Mirren has the paparazzi buzzing with these sexy bikini shots. She's 63 and has the body of a 20-year-old. Go Helen!
  • Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria and husband Tony Parker celebrated their first anniversary in early July with a visit to Italy. They enjoyed Florence and cruised around Sardinia.
  • Diva Jennifer Lopez and husband Marc Anthony cruised around the Med on the yacht of designers Dolce & Gabbana. They stopped into Portofino for a port call.
  • Brothers & Sisters star Balthazar Getty has been all over the rags for his extramarital affair with British actress Sienna Miller. They've taken the affair public on Italy's Amalfi Coast. Balthazar is a member of the Getty oil family who owned the exquisite villa La Posta Vecchia on the Lazio coast which is now a high-end hotel.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

5-Star Venice Hotel At a Steal!

If you’ll be in Venice this summer (checking out their film festival, perhaps?), but still haven’t found a place to stay, let us offer you a taste of the good life. The luxurious 5-star Hilton Molino Stucky Venice Hotel (we've reviewed it in our Venice e-book) is offering an incredible deal: $210 a night (excluding tax) for a Hilton King Guest Room – an unbeatable offer, considering that the regular rate in $430 a night! This deal is applicable on the hotel’s advance purchase rooms, which must be booked 21 days before your stay, so perhaps (for once!) procrastination can pay off! If you would like to turn your luxury visit into a bed and breakfast experience, the Molino Stucky will provide as well – advance purchase bed & breakfast rates are $267 with 21-day advance booking (use code: PR20AB). Check out the Hilton Molino Stucky Venice Web site for more details, and remember to use discount code: PR20AP. Enjoy! -- Justine Gregory

Live Like a King For a Night At Tuscany's Castelletto di Montebenichi

If you’ve always dreamt of living like a king, we may be able to give you a taste of the royal treatment – TripAdvisor has rated the top 10 best castle hotels in Europe, and Italy has made the list with its Castelletto di Montebenichi, in Bucine, Italy. This four-star hotel, comprised of five double rooms, three suites and one mini-suite is housed within a 12th century castle 20 miles from the Arezzo region of Tuscany.

A stay in this gorgeous castle is a beautiful marriage of ancient and modern, with period pieces and antiques finding a home next to satellite TV’s, DVD players, and Wi-Fi internet. Luckily, accommodations fit for a king will not cost you a king’s fortune, however: A standard room is 280 euros a night (about US$439) for two people, including a buffet breakfast, drinks offered in the in-room fridge and hotel bar, as well as use of the swimming pool, sauna, gym and car parking. -- Justine Gregory

Rachael Ray's Tuscan Wedding Castle (free access article)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Movies in the Open Air in Venice, Baltimore

Here’s a chance to catch a feel of Italy and a film, no matter which side of the Atlantic you might be on! Despite fears in the past few months that the festival would have to be cancelled due to budget issues, Venice’s Estate al Cinema (Summer at the Movies) festival opened on the 29th of June in the arena of the Campo di San Polo. Sixty films will be shown through August 27th 2008, ranging from Italian (including Anna Negri’s Riprendimi, the only Italian film to be selected at the Sundance Film Festival), to American (Juno for the teens, Ratatouille for the kids, Indiana Jones for the kids-at-heart), and beyond. Regular tickets tickets are 5 euros. Kids, seniors and Venice Card holders can get a slight discount.

If your only hope of getting to Italy this summer is through the movies, however, we may have a Plan B for you (B for Baltimore, that is) – Baltimore, Maryland’s Little Italy hosts their annual summer movie festival from July 11th through August 31st. Every Friday night, movie-lovers gather, bringing blankets, folding chairs and picnics to sit in the parking lot at the intersection of High and Stiles Streets. They watch movies projected onto a giant screen on an adjacent building (the screen was to become a billboard for local advertising, but when city hall declared it illegal, the Little Italy Restaurant Association decided to turn it into a movie screen with the help of local resident John Pente, who volunteered his bedroom and bedroom window as the place from which the projector could show films onto the screen). Classics, both Italian (Cinema Paradiso), American (Hairspray, The Blues Brothers, etc.), and even Italian-American (Moonstruck) will be featured this summer, so even if fuel surcharges and exchange rates have kept you close to home, you may still be able to have a taste of Italy under the summer evening sky. -- Justine Gregory

Thursday, July 03, 2008

HOT Deals on Flights to Italy, $99 Florence Hotel

Kick back and relax watching the fireworks on this long Fourth of July weekend -- we’ve taken all of the work out of finding great deals to Italy! We’ve searched the web far and wide and found discounts that will last you from now until the winter months. Here are our best discoveries:

  • Delta is offering sales on flights from New York to Milan (one-way from $499) and Rome (one-way from $599), but tickets must be purchased by July 7, 2008, so move fast!

  • Alitalia is offering “early-bird” winter flight sale specials from New York, Boston, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles to Florence, Milan, Rome, Venice, and other destinations starting at $706 round-trip, including taxes and fees. Tickets must be booked by July 8th, so again, best to look now!

  • The Irish airline Aer Lingus is offering on its Web site August deals to Naples (one-way from $544), Milan (one-way from $507) and Rome (one-way from $507).

  • The website http://www.cheapoair.com/ is currently advertising tickets (taxes and fees additional) from New York to Naples on Iberia airlines for $594, and to Milan on Lufthansa for $575, as well as offering a $10 savings on Europe Flights with the code “EURSAVE” at check-out (Hey! Every dollar counts, right?)

  • Swiss International Air Lines is also offering economy class summer (until August 31st) and fall (until October 26th) deals from New York (JFK), Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and Miami to Milan, Rome, Naples and Venice. Check out their Web site for more details.

  • Once you get to Italy, you’re going to need a place to rest your head, right? Here is a hotel deal for you too -- The four-star UNA Hotel Vittoria, located in the heart of Florence, is offering a summer rate of $99 (69€) per room, per night, with a free upgrade to a Superior Room, buffet breakfast, welcome drink on arrival, and free welcome kit. This offer applies to Travelzoo subscribers (registration is free) through August 31st, just quote the reference TVLZOO.

So enjoy that long weekend…but don’t forget to move quickly on these deals, because as you can see, many of them will be gone before you know it! -- Justine Gregory

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Get Connected to Dream of Italy via Facebook, Twitter

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