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Friday, August 29, 2008

Delta Sale on Flights to Italy

If this Labor Day weekend has you on the hunt for a fall ticket to bella Italia, check out Delta. The airline is offering a roundtrip fare of $758 between New York and Rome. which is pretty decent considering fees and fuel. There may be sale rates available on other Italy routes as well. This fare is valid for travel Monday through Thursday, September 1 through October 29. A Saturday-night stay is required. Maximum stay is 30 days You must book by Monday, September 1, 11:59 p.m. ET.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mama Mia! Pasta Prices Rising

The price of gas ever-rising? Italians have taken it in stride, not letting it faze la dolce vita. But rising prices of pasta? Mamma mia, che casino! Pasta prices have risen more than 30% in the first half of this year, reports the Italian news agency ANSA, nearly the highest rise in any product in Italy, and second only to diesel’s 31.9% rise in the past six months.

The controversy behind these rising costs lies not only in the pricey pasta, however, but in the fact that the price of wheat used to make pasta, durum wheat, has fallen some 25% in the past six months, reports ANSA, which also quotes the farming association Coldiretti as stating that there has been a 369% rise in price from farm to consumer! Whether Italians can expect to see a drop in pasta prices in the near future is yet to be seen, but one thing is for certain – Italians show no possibility in parting with la pasta quotidiana anytime soon! -- Justine Gregory

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Efforts to Legalize Moonshine Grappa in Italy

Looking for a taste of the homemade hard stuff? Two Italian Northern League senators can empathize! ANSA reports that Enrico Montani and Sergio Divina presented a bill last week that would allow individuals to distill 30 liters of Grappa for their personal consumption and for that of their guests.

Grappa, a clear brandy made from the skins, pits and stalks of grapes after the fruit has been pressed into wine, has been tightly regulated by the Italian government for both hygiene and economic reasons.

“The tradition has hardly disappeared,” said the senators of the moonshine liquor production. If the bill should pass, individuals would be allowed to brew 30 liters of Grappa each a year, to be consumed by the producer or the guests of his or her residence, if the producer runs a holiday farm or agriturismo. And with holiday farm residences’ prices staying low this year, you may be relaxing in the countryside, sipping a homemade glass of Grappa before you know it! -- Justine Gregory

Tourist Calls Police Over 10-Euro Sandwich

10 euros for a panino? Believe it: A British tourist reported a bar in the Sicilian seaside village of Tusa to police after he was handed a bill for 30 euro for three sandwiches, reports Italian news agency ANSA.

“We told the cashier there had been a mistake, but he said everything was correct and that we had to settle the bill,” said an Italian who was with the British tourist. “I pointed out that these were sandwiches with salami and certainly not caviar or salmon, but tension was brewing so we paid up.”

The complaints over the pricey panini have not gone unnoticed: the mayor of Tusa, Angelo Tudisca, apologized to the tourists on behalf of the city, and promised to shed light on the bar owner and his costly sandwiches. “What happened was serious, and we will intervene,” Tudisca promised.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My Dog is Trying to Tell Me Something

Back from Puerto Rico at 2 a.m. this morning. I went out to get coffee earlier and came back to find my dog Cooper sleeping soundly inside my suitcase. Do you think he's trying to tell me that he definitely wants to come on the next trip?

Want to see what he looks like when he's not napping? Click here to see my fabulous fox terrier!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Italian Summer Treat: Pistachio Gelato

Pistachio gelato is the benchmark by which many gelaterie are judged. You can tell at a glance if an artificial base has been used, just by the color. If the gelato maker is using real pistachio nuts, the color will be almost drab green. If the bin flashes a neon green, keep walking.

1 cup (6 ounces) shelled pistachios, lightly toasted (about 12 ounces in the shell)
3 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar

In a food processor or coffee grinder, coarsely chop the pistachios, reserving a few whole ones for garnish. In a medium saucepan, combine the pistachios, milk, and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved, and bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Remove from heat, cool, cover and refrigerate overnight. Strain the milk mixture through a fine-meshed sieve, pressing on the nuts with the back of a large spoon to get as much liquid from the nuts as possible. Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Makes 1 quart; serves 4.

Reprinted with permission from Gelato! Italian Ice Creams, Sorbetti and Granite by Pamela Sheldon Johns. Photography by Joyce Oudkerk Pool and Pamela Sheldon Johns. © 2008. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA

Friday, August 15, 2008

July/August 2008 Issue of Dream of Italy

The July/August 2008 issue is available online for paid subscribers (and will be mailed early next week for postal subscribers). Here's what's inside:

An American Family in Tuscany
A cookbook author, her artist husband and young daughter make a new home at a Tuscan bed & breakfast.

Gelato: A Sweet Taste Of Italy
Everything you've always wanted to know about the history of gelato and how it differs from ice cream, plus recipes.

Summer Reading for Italophiles
New travel guides, memoirs and history-inspired books to fill your beach bag or suitcase this summer.

News, Tips, Deals and Events
How to See Art Restoration at the Uffizi; Viewing Pisa's Ancient Ships; A Unique Florentine Tour Company; The Perfect Guide for a Capri Boat Tour; Updates on Past Dream of Italy Articles

Not a subscriber to the award-winning travel newsletter Dream of Italy?
Subscribe now and receive:

* immediate online access to this issue
* immediate access to over 54 back issues covering everything from cooking schools to villa rentals, Chianti to Calabria
* 10 information-packed issues over the coming year
* a BONUS download of Dream of Italy's Collected Venice e-book ($39 value)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Special Offer From La Tavola Bella

At La Tavola Bella we provide you with the finest hand-made Italian dinnerware, tableware and gifts. Ask us about custom orders and having your initials added to any piece. Dream of Italy readers who order before Sept 15th, will get FREE shipping. Upon checkout enter "Dream" in the discount code. Order now and have it shipped for free.

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Farm Vacations Grow in Popularity with Italians

As Ferragosto -- August 15th, the Italian holiday celebrating the Feast of the Assumption -- draws near, vacation farms and agriturismi are expecting full occupancy. Italian news agency ANSA reports that approximately 550,000 overnights are anticipated in the 18,500 holiday farms in Italy over the three-day holiday weekend this year.

These numbers may be impressive, but they may not spell big business for the farmhouse owners themselves, who can expect to see reduced profit margins as the total number of farmhouses continues to grow. The Italian travel magazine Gente Viaggi reported earlier this year that the number of holiday farms in Italy has almost doubled since 1999. That fact, combined with the trend of visitors to stay fewer days (now an average of five) than previous years and the fact that only 1% of holiday farms raised their prices from last year, means that farmhouses owners can expect reduced profits during this holiday weekend.

With rates for farmhouses remaining low, compared to so many other sectors of the travel industry, consider staying at a vacation farmhouse or agriturismo on your next trip to Italy. Most popular in Tuscany, followed by Sicily and Lombardy, farmhouses provide a new take that is uniquely Italian, as only 25% of farm tourists were foreigners last year. --Justine Gregory

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Introducing Truly Venice Exclusive Rentals

Truly Venice offers charming holiday homes and apartments to rent in Venice Italy, by days, weeks or months. All our Venice apartments are selected and serviced with great care to make your stay as relaxing and comfortable as it can be. Our portfolio features apartments in Venice with breathtaking Grand Canal views, secret gardens or panoramic rooftop terraces. Have a wonderful time discovering our apartment selections!

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What's August in Italy Really LIke?

The entire city of Rome shuts down.
It's difficult to find a spot of empty sand on any beach.
The heat is unbearable.

Although each of these statements is based on a grain of truth, these are some of the popular misconceptions about visiting the land of la dolce vita during the month of August, the most important vacation time of the year for Italians.The average Italian citizen gets 42 days of vacation per year. Most Italians take at least a week or two off each August, and many are on vacation for the entire month. Businesses shut their doors for all or part of this vacation period. In fact, the productivity of the entire country takes a dive during the eighth month of the year. The Italian National Statistics Institute reports that production falls by approximately 50% in August and the volume on the national stock exchange reportedly diminishes by a third.

But just because Italians are on vacation doesn't mean you can't be. Click here to find out what August in Italy is really like and why it might be a good time to visit...

Introducing "The Secrets of Venice and the Veneto"

"The Secrets of Venice and the Veneto" is a very exclusive cultural travel program for travelers, seven days and seven nights of exceptional private visits and receptions, Sunday, October 19 to Sunday, October 26, 2008

As a participant of this most exclusive tour, in this year marking the 500th anniversary of celebrated classical architect Andrea Palladio, you will be invited by members Venice’s cultural and social world to private visits of renowned institutions with expert lecturers and officials, as well as cocktail receptions and dinners in magnificent private palazzos and villas of Venetian nobility, very rarely opened to outside visitors.

For more information about this extraordinary opportunity, please visit the Events of Prestige Web site or download the pdf version of the entire program. You can also e-mail
pdarling@eventsofprestige.com The program will be limited to 18 participants; your response is requested at your earliest convenience.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

3,000 Soldiers Deployed...To the Streets of Italy

Reactions have been mixed to the Italian government's decision to put 3,000 soldiers in the streets of Italian cities in an effort to help police fight crime. Rome in particular will receive 1,000 troops in the decision, which has been put into effect starting today and which will use the troops to patrol embassies, government buildings, metro stations and an immigrant holding center in the outskirts of the city

"It's ridiculous. It's like being under a military regime, as if Rome were in (the Pinochet regime's) Chile," declares a bus driver quoted by ANSA.it. "The use of the armed forces is a sign of weakness for a democracy. During the time of the Red Brigades urban terrorism (in the '70s and early '80s) it made sense to use the army, but now it's useless and just spreads fear among the citizens," he continued.

Some see the deployment to be a positive measure, however, including another citizen quoted by ANSA.it, Laura, a cashier in a Milanese jewelry store: "There's too much crime here -- I was robbed last week and my friend was almost mugged. It's good to see the army intervene."

Many have welcomed the soldiers with open arms, as was seen at the Roman suburban metro station of Anagnina, where commuters broke into applause at the sight of the arriving troops.

Rome's mayor, Gianni Alemanno, has pledged that the capital will not look like a city under siege, and has promised that mixed street patrols of troops and police will not patrol the historic center, so as to maintain the tourist-friendly image that visitors to Rome so depend on. -- Justine Gregory

Friday, August 01, 2008

Say "Ciao" to the Chow(-down): Rome Bans Snacking at Monuments This Summer

Dreaming of eating a panini while sitting on the Spanish Steps or enjoying a gelato with your stroll through the Roman Forum? Think again, says Roman officials, who have banned eating and drinking at the historical sites in Rome's city center from July 10th until the end of October of this year.

The ordinance, which also cracks down on the homeless, drunks, litterbugs and noisy nighttime revelers who cause disturbances in central areas, warns that unless such actions are brought under control, they will "irreparably damage the preservation of historical and art areas and monuments and the possibility to enjoy them." Many are frustrated with the no-snacking ordinance, which is not posted publicly in the protected monuments, yet raises a hefty fine: 50 euros ($80) if disobeyed, which may make you think twice before swiping a lick of that gelato at the Pantheon! -- Justine Gregory