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Monday, September 29, 2008

Add Our Italian Travel News Widget to Your Site

Boy, oh boy, I found a great way to procrastinate tonight! I built a widget for Dream of Italy at Widgetbox.com. My hard work is your gain. You can put our widget on your blog, Web site, Facebook page and probably lots of other places I don't know about. I'm new to this widget thing. (You can customize the size and color of the widget so it matches your layout.)

What's a widget? Well, it is a piece of code that can be placed on any Web page that allows you to display the latest stories from Dream of Italy's Blog. It is a great way to keep up on Italian travel news and share it with those who visit your pages. The more information you give your visitors, the more they will come to your site.

I placed the widget on a couple of pages on the main DOI site. Click here and scroll down to see one in action.

And I've already started building a Dream of Italy Facebook App. Be scared, be very scared!

Book Italian Train Tickets, With a Side of Dream of Italy

Planning a trip to Italy in the next few months? If you buy your train tickets ahead of time through ItaliaRail.com, you'll receive immediate downloads of five of Dream of Italy's special reports! That's a $50 value. You'll get copies of the Abruzzo, The Lakes, Rome, Sicily and Tuscan Hideaways reports. Of course you can also become a Dream of Italy subscriber and access these reporter as well as 50 other back issues...

DaVinci's Drawings on Tour in the U.S.

On Friday, the exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: Drawings from the Biblioteca Reale in Turin, opened at the Birmingham Museum of Art and will continue through November 9. The show explores da Vinci's most celebrated notebooks, the 18-page Codex on the Flight of Birds, and 11 important drawings. This is the first time the items are being shown outside of Italy. The da Vinci exhibition moves to the San Francisco Museum of Art, November 15 to January 4.

Find out more about Italian events in the U.S. and events in Italy with Dream of Italy's Events Calendar.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

First Time Renting a Villa in Italy? Follow These Tips

In our Special Report: Villa Rentals II, villa rental expert Pauline Kenny details six tips for first- time renters.

Here's her #1 tip:

Don't go "off the beaten path" for your first trip. Stay somewhere central, like the Chianti region in Tuscany, the area around Montepulciano and Pienza in Tuscany, central Umbria or the Amalfi Coast. There will be more services -- shops, restaurants, entertainment -- and since these are tourist areas, more people are likely to speak English.

Paid newsletter subscribers can log-in to read the rest of Pauline's tips for first-time renters.

Not a paid subscriber? Buy an instant download of this special report or subscribe to Dream of Italy today and you'll save $15 and receive this special report on villa rentals as your first issue (immediately downloadable and/or mailed this week).

Monday, September 22, 2008

Free Italian Classes in October

To celebrate Italian American Heritage Month, the National Italian American Foundation is offering a series of FREE Italian language courses in various cities across the United States. The events last the entire month of October and are open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. All classes are free of charge, however, each school charges a one-time $10 material fee. These beginner classes will be held in Chicago, St. Louis, Washington, DC, Wisconsin and La Jolla, CA.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

September 2008 - Special Report: Villa Rentals II

How many of you would like to rent a villa or apartment in Italy or have done so and plan to do it again? I know that that answer is most of you. That's why September's Dream of Italy print newsletter is a special report devoted to villa rentals.

No one knows more about renting villas in Italy than Pauline Kenny - that's why I recruited her as a guest editor for this issue. Not only has Pauline rented 20 properties in Italy over the past dozen years, she founded the Internet's best vacation rental review Web site, SlowTrav.com (and has a new site called SlowEurope.com) (That's her in a Fiat Cinque Cento!)

In this information-packed issue, Pauline (with Valerie Schneider, another guest editor) details the changes she's seen in the villa business over the years and how that impacts all of us, she gives step-by-step instructions for finding the best villa rental agency for your needs and advises on the pros and cons of renting from an agency vs. renting directly from an owner.

The absolute best part of this issue is our listing of over 50 agencies, apartments and villas we recommend throughout Italy. If you're even thinking about renting in Italy, you must have a copy of this list!! Here's how to get this special report:

La Tavola Bella Offers 20% Discount

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 October 15th, will get *20%* *Off*. Upon checkout enter "Dream" in the discount code. Order now and get 20% off.

(This is an ad.)

Villa Rentals: The #1 Question to Ask Before You Rent

Whether you're renting through an agency or directly from an owner, Guest Editor Pauline Kenny and I agree that the number one question to ask before you commit is:

Is there someone we can call if there's a problem in the villa or apartment?

And that's not a simple yes/no question. Be sure to follow up and find out:
  • Where is that person located and how long would it take he/she to get to the proparty to look at a problem? It is a big difference if he or she is in the villa next door or at a call center somewhere else in Italy.
  • In order to call, you need a phone, so ask: Is there a working phone in the villa? If not, is it easy to get cell phone coverage? (and plan to bring a GSM phone or rent a cell phone)
  • Does the emergency contact speak English? Don't take for granted that he or she does. Check before there is a problem.

When I rented a villa in Tuscany a few years ago, the toilets didn't work. Not a situation you want to be stuck with for days. There was no phone in the villa and my GSM cell phone didn't get coverage in the area. There was a happy ending however. I called the agency from a pay phone and they sent someone over. Luckily, I could speak to him in Italian and he quickly fixed the problem by turning on a water valve.

In Dream of Italy's September issue - Special Report: Villa Rentals II, we go over other questions you must ask an agency or an owner before plunking down thousands of dollars...

$10 to download this issue or as little as $64 for a full online Dream of Italy subscription (with a total of 66 issues) is a small amount to pay for the right information before making such a large investment!

Villa Rentals: A Sample of Our Recommendations

The highlight of this month's Special Report: Villa Rentals II is our well-researched list (we or close associates personally experienced every agency or property on the list) of over 50 agencies, villas and apartments. Here's a randomly selected sampling:

Amalfi Coast: Agency

Summer in Italy
(800) 509-8194; www.summerinitaly.com
Agency in Salerno with properties on the Sorrento Coast, Amalfi Coast and in Cilento National Park (Basilicata). Enthusiastic staff to help you plan your stay.
Why it made our list: Great personal experiences. Family run business with everyone actively involved in the daily operation by visiting properties, talking with owners and helping clients. Their office is close to where they have most of their villa rentals.

Tuscany: Rent From Owner

Le Manzinaie
(39) 0578 738724; www.lemanzinaie.it
Four apartments and a two-bedroom villa on a countryside estate outside of Montepulciano. The owners host a weekly dinner for their guests: you get to meet the other visitors and have a good home-cooked meal.
Why it made our list: Very involved owners in a popular location.

We obviously couldn't include every great rental on our list. Have your own recommendation of a rental agency, apartment or villa? Post it in the comments below.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Introducing Villa Cappelli

If you’ve been to Italy but never to the region of Puglia, now’s your chance to experience what the real Italy is all about...

Come to Villa Cappelli and immerse yourself in an authentic, luxuriously rustic Medieval villa.

But if you can’t come to Puglia yourself, get a taste of it’s edible pleasures -- like our unfiltered extra virgin olive oil -- right here at www.villacappelli.com

(This is an ad.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dollar at One-Year High Against Euro

How lovely to wake up this morning and read the news that the dollar has reached a one-year high against the euro. Earlier this summer, the euro was trading at around $1.60. Now it is down to around $1.40. Makes travel to Italy much more pleasing!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Major Italy Fare Sale: $399 Roundtrip Total!

ANOTHER UPDATE: The actual price is $399 plus $86 in taxes. Here are the flights that are part of the sale:

GJ957 (JFK-ROME) Sep. 13,14,19,20,21,23,26,27,28 Oct. 3,5,10,12,17,19,24,31
GJ956 (ROME-JFK) Sep. 16,20,26,28 Oct. 3,10,12,17,19,24,26

GJ941 (JFK-NAPLES) Sep. 15,24,26 Oct. 6,10,17
GJ940 (NAPLES-JFK)
Oct. 7

GJ933 (JFK-PALERMO) Sep. 28 Oct. 5,12,19,26
GJ932 (PALERMO-JFK) Oct. 20

GJ929 (JFK-BOLOGNA) Sep. 18,20,27 Oct. 2, 4, 9, 16,18,21,25,28
GJ928 (BOLOGNA-JFK) Sep. 26 Oct. 3,17,19,24

LATEST UPDATE:
According to one of my subscribers who just purchased tickets at 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday, the sale is now live on the Eurofly Web site.

UPDATE:
Talked to a very reliable source... All of the details that Frommer notes are correct -- and the deal will be on the Eurofly Web site. During the three-day sale, Eurofly will not be charging the usual $320 per person in extra fuel charges!

I'm trying to confirm the details but there's little doubt the great Arthur Frommer could be wrong. He's got exclusive word that later this week Eurofly will be offering $399 roundtrip fares between the U.S. and Italy with NO FUEL SURCHARGE. $399 total for roundtrip travel in September and October.

According to Frommer, "If you phone Eurofly no earlier than Wednesday, September 10, you'll discover that on the three days from Wednesday through Friday of this week, September 10 to 12, Eurofly will be selling round-trip flights in September and October between New York and either Rome, Naples, Palermo, or Bologna, for the exceptional price of only $399 per person, including fuel surcharge. In other words, while other people are paying $1,100 and more, plus fuel surcharge, to fly between the U.S. and Italy, you'll be paying only $399, including fuel surcharge."

Eurofly's phone number is (800) 459-0581.

I'm thinking of buying tickets myself as I'm tempted to go to Slow Food's Salone del Gusto in one of my favorite cities, Torino!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Join Dream of Italy's Editor This Sunday in Maryland

Not only does September mark the sixth anniversary of Dream of Italy -- and we're celebrating by offering a $15 discount on our newsletter subscriptions -- it is the fifth anniversary of Bella Italia, that wonderful store of all things Italian in Bethesda, MD! I'm helping them celebrate this Sunday, September 7th by being at the store to hand out sample newsletters of Dream of Italy and answer questions on travel to Italy. If you're in the area be sure to stop by between noon and 5 p.m. The address is 4844 Bethesda Avenue.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Get Personal with the Italian Harvest

This is from a past newsletter issue of Dream of Italy:

Pretty soon, Italy's olive and grape harvests wil be in full swing. Travelers looking for a hands-on experience often wonder how they can take part in the harvest. Finding a farm where one can volunteer can be daunting because there are strict laws in Italy preventing voluntary labor and the penalties for any farm using such labor can be stiff.

One way to gain legal volunteer status is to join WWOOF Italia. WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms was started 35 years ago in the United Kingdom by a London woman looking to help out an organic farm for a weekend. An annual membership WWOOF Italia, costing 25 euros, includes a complete list of Italian organic farms seeking help as well as periodic e-mail updates. Membership also includes basic health and accident insurance valid only while you are volunteering at a registered farm.

In exchange for accommodations (anything from a tent to a furnished room) and food, volunteers agree to work up to six hours a day for five and a half days per week. Volunteers coordinate directly with the host farms about length of stay and other details. The work can be grueling and aches and pains are not unheard of at the end of the day.

The organization warns that "WWOOFing is not a cheap holiday and way to travel. It is a voluntary organization set up to teach people about the organic movement and give them hands on experience and to help out organic producers as organic production is very labor intensive." Still for those willing to put in the time and labor, it is a wonderful opportunity to participate in daily life on an Italian farm.

End of Summer "Clear Out the Stockroom" Sale

Some of Dream of Italy's most popular items are on sale - at our lowest prices ever - only on remaining stock:

* DVD: The Night of the Shooting Stars (one of the best Italian films, ever!)
* Book: In Love in Italy + Bonus: Amalfi Coast Special Report

* Italia Decoupage Window Box - Just $40
* Roma Decoupage Window Box - Just $40
* Venice Decoupage Window Box - Just $40
* Portofino Decoupage Window Box - Just $40

We just received a special shipment in from Rome - DOI is the only place to get this special book, signed by the author:

* Autographed Rare Book: In the Footsteps of Popes by Enrico Bruschini

Monday, September 01, 2008

New Year's in Italy with Music and Markets

Music and Markets Tours presents the best of live jazz from Umbria Jazz Winter in hilltop Orvieto, remarkable food and wine, and the unique winter beauty of Tuscany and Umbria.

Revel in a jazzy New Year's Eve, stroll Tuscan lanes, visit an olive farm and vineyard, and shop at world-class outlets. Complete details on our Web site, or call (877) 260-6383.

(This is an ad.)