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Saturday, November 29, 2008

FREE SHIPPING at DreamofItaly.com!

We're all set for Cyber Monday...

Okay kids, time to do a little shopping. FREE SHIPPING (to the U.S. and Canada) on EVERYTHING in Dream of Italy's Online Store now through Wednesday! That's right, free shipping even on our gift baskets (shipping on those suckers is usually $16.95). Good time to stock up on Italian Christmas Cards and check out the discounts on every single one of our books and DVDs! And before I forget, check out these amazing framed photographs of Italian scenes - definitely a gift I'd like to get.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Way to Help Abandoned Dogs in Puglia

Anyone who knows me personally or who reads this blog regularly knows that I am absolutely bonkers over dogs! I love all animals really but dogs have a special place in my heart. I rescued my own dog - Cooper, an amazing fox terrier, eight years ago. I've fostered rescue dogs and volunteered for rescue organizations.

Given my love of animals, I find it so painful to see so many abandoned dogs (and cats) in Italy. There's not one corner of Italy I have visted where I haven't seen these poor creatures. MANY, MANY of them were once someone's pets and were left on a whim. You'll see all sizes and shapes - mutts and purebreeds. I have NEVER encountered one that was unfriendly. I have encountered so many who are used to human contact and just want to be petted and fed. It seems on every trip, I meet at least a half dozen I would love to bring home.

You may think that I am living my dream but my real dream is to make enough money to buy a big farm in Italy and turn it into an animal rescue...in the mean time, I'm always on the lookout for ways to help. Tonight I was surfing the Net and discovered Puglia Pooches!

Puglia Pooches
is really a couple - Val who is British, Mino who is Italian - who live in Puglia and instead of ignoring the plight of abandoned dogs (unfortunately more common in the south of Italy) have decided to do what they can to help by taking these dogs into their home. Val and Mino not only feed and house these dogs, they take care of any medical problems they encounter. And according to Val's latest blog post - a crate of eight abandoned puppies left on was just left their doorstep.

While I don't know this couple personally - I'd love to stop by and meet them the next time I am in the region - it truly looks like they are doing incredible work with very little resources and clearly need help. They need donations to keep their work going but also offer those of us far away the chance to sponsor one of the dogs. And...and trust me I've thought about this...they're happy to place some of the dogs with a loving home in Italy or abroad.

Maybe a donation or sponsorship with Puglia Pooches would make a great Christmas present for a dog lover in your life?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

November 2008 Issue- Rome, Florence, Naples, Valle d'Aosta

The November 2008 issue is out! Paid newsletter subscribers can login here to download the PDF version of the issue (mail subscribers will receive issues in about a week).

A Roman Christmas
Our writer has spent four of the past five Christmases in the Eternal City and explains how to spend the holidays in Rome, following local traditions and creating your own.
Link Following Florentines to Their Favorite Eateries
Known for their discriminating palates and frugality, Florence natives lead the way to good food at fair prices. An insider's guide to Florentines consider the city's best restaurants and lunch counters.

A Naples Street Devoted to Christmas (Free Access Article!)
Naples is famous for its Christmas Nativity Scenes (presepi). Visit the street where artisans create traditional Nativity figures as well as those of famous people, such as Barack Obama.

On the Trail of Fontina Valle d'Aosta
Italy's smallest region produces amazing cheeses, including Fontina, the perfect ingredient for winter cooking. Where to taste Fontina in Valle d'Aosta and a recipe to make at home.

Meet Mr. Pantoloni Pepperoni

I've been getting requests from those who were there on pizza making night at Fattoria del Gelso for a photo post of Pantoloni Pepperoni or did we call him Pepperoni Pantoloni? No matter. Ladies, you know who you are and this is my Thanksgiving present to you. Without further ado...

Introducing Sant'Antonio Country Resort

Sant'Antonio is the oldest farm in the countryside around one of Tuscany's most noteworthy towns, Montepulciano. Originally a 12th-century Franciscan monastery, Sant' Antonio Country Resort enjoys an unparalleled location at the base of the ancient Etruscan sacred mountain Totona, allowing for cool breezes to keep the olives and farmland cool, even during the hottest hours of the day.

Today, Sant'Antonio is comprised of five buildings offering 13 completely renovated cottages, villas and apartments available for private rental. Four acres of leveled gardens surround the dwellings featuring a kilometer of bay leaf hedges, olives groves and centenarian trees. Spacious terra cotta terraces allow for privacy and sweeping views of the Valdichiana and Lake Trasimeno on one side of the property and the famous rolling hills of Tuscany on the other. The large swimming pool with Jacuzzi is constructed from travertine stone blending in with the staggering landscape.

Since Sant'Antonio is an historic estate, architectural changes are limited. That makes each villa, cottage and apartment unique. Owing to their special attributes each unit has been given the name of a great artist of the Renaissance, reminding visitors that they are in the cradle of history, just minutes from some of the greatest art and architecture in the world.

All of the residences are furnished to the utmost comfort and style. Most of the furniture is original to the 17th and 18th century. The orthopedic mattresses are covered in linens made from the highest quality Egyptian cotton. In the kitchen, guests will find Italian china and German cutlery as well as a supply of local Capoverso wines, water, beer and soft drinks. Each unit also has a satellite television.

Every detail has been taken care of in order to give guests the most authentic Tuscan experience possible. Even the parking is situated underground so as not to disrupt views of the stunning Tuscan landscape! Depending which one you choose, Sant' Antonio's affordable rentals can accommodate between two and six guests. Prices start at 500 euros per week in the low season and 720 euros weekly during the high season. Contact Sant' Antonio's genial and conscientious owner Nico Pannevis for further information about this Tuscan gem!

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Live in N.Y.C.? Swap Your Pad for One in Umbria

Given the economy, the idea of home swapping for vacations is one that will only grow in popularity especially for travel to Italy. After all the dollar is stronger which makes a trip more enticing but accommodations are often the biggest expense. So what about swapping places with someone who's interested in visiting your city?

My friends Art and Barb Skinner (that's a photo from when I recently saw them in Umbria) would like to swap their small house in Umbria this May for an apartment in New York City. Here's what they are looking for:

We'’d like to exchange our house for an apartment in Manhattan for two to three weeks, beginning in mid or late May. All we need is a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment, but we definitely want Manhattan, not one of the other boroughs.

Because we've documented our life in Italy for the past five years, it would be easy for a potential exchanger to read about our life, our house, and our town on the blog at www.artnbarb.com. By clicking on the "House For Sale" section in the right hand column all the info about our house is right there, including tons of photos. Our house is simple yet up-to-date, and can house two adults and two (smaller) children, or three adults.

If you're not in the market for a N.Y.C. -Umbria exchange, you can check www.homeexchange.com for other possibilities!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Christmas Markets in Italy's Trentino Alto Adige

The Telegraph (U.K.) recommends the region of Trentino Alto Adige in northern Italy as a great place to experience Christmas markets and a little skiing. Close to Germany and Switzerland, this lesser known region shares a long history of Christmas markets with its neighbors. "The town of Arco, three miles from Lake Garda, is particularly popular with families during the festive period, thanks to the presence of Father Christmas, his reindeer and a special Christmas train, in addition to small wooden stalls that dot the gardens in the town’s historical centre, laden with toys, dolls, foods, ceramics, glassware, candles and baubles," the article notes. The Arco Christmas market takes place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from November 21 to December 21, and on December 22 and 23. Visit www.nataletrentino.it for more information on the Arco market as well as those in Trento and Levico. For those who want to get a little skiing in along with the shopping, the Telegraph recommends "the stylish resort" of Madonna di Campiglio, about an hour away.

Christmas Cards Featuring Italian Landmarks
Free Access Article: Celebrate Christmas and New Year's, Italian Style

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Rome's Most Expensive Christmas Dinner

Rome is a popular destination for Christmas travel. As we'll be detailing in the November 2008 issue of Dream of Italy, while many restaurants in Rome close for the Christmas holiday, many more, especially some of the top tier eateries and those in hotels, stay open to serve travelers and Roman natives alike. One of these is La Pergola in Rome's Cavalieri Hilton Hotel.

La Pergola is one of the best restaurants in Italy boasting three Michelin stars. It is the only restaurant in Rome to have so many stars. La Pergola, featuring a stunning view of Rome's cityscape is a destination unto itself. Executive Chef Heinz Beck has received numerous awards for his work here. If you're in Rome for the holidays and have some cash to spare, you can do no better than a Christmas meal at La Pergola. There are still some reservations available. Both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinner are served between 7:30 and 11:30 p.m. and accompanied by live music. Here are the pre-fixe menus and gulp, prices:

La Perogla Christmas Eve Dinner Menu
Crispy bread cannoli with amberjack and a brunoise of melon and celery
Grilled oysters with pumpkin purée and parsley puff
Vegetable ravioli with cuttlefish
Five flavours risotto with scampi and flowers
Scallop and cherry tomato composition on coffee-flavoured chickpea purée
Fillet of red mullet with winter herbs
Sea bass cooked in garlic-flavoured olive oil on cannellini beans and salt cod snow
Grand dessert
Champagne Moët & Chandon and wine selection “La Pergola”

Price: 425 euros per person

La Perogla Christmas Day Dinner Menu
Crusted terrine of duck foie gras with date sauce and persimmon
Smoked consommé
Capon tortellini with pumpkin purée and Parmesan sauce
Fillet of red mullet with winter roots
Turbot ravioli with red prawns on lentils and basil
Shoulder of Iberian suckling pig with apple purée
Olive coated lamb with ratatouille and glazed sweetbreads
Christmas dessert
Champagne Moët & Chandon and wine selection “La Pergola”

Price: 395 euros per person

Italian Christmas Cards Featuring Rome's Vatican and Pantheon
Our BEST Subscription Deal EVER Includes a FREE Rome E-Book - Great Gift Subscription!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Best Tour Guide in Rome, No, All of Italy!

While longtime newsletter subscribers may already know him, it is worth introducing the extraordinary Enrico Bruschini to everyone once again - especially if you have plans to visit Rome anytime soon. Bruschini shows visitors the Vatican and ancient Rome like no one else. There's very good reason why he has been named the Official Guide of Rome and has authored the official guide to the Vatican - yes, the one you can buy as you enter! Our article about Bruschini is now available for all to access and read. Is someone on your holiday shopping list just crazy about Rome? Bruschini has signed rare, first-edition copies of his book, In the Footsteps of Popes, just for our readers!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Where Not to Go in Italy

The premise of travel guru Peter Greenberg's new book got me thinking...where NOT to go in Italy. Greenberg's book Don't Go There!: The Travel Detective's Essential Guide to the Must-Miss Places of the World details "must-miss" destinations around the world. I must say I was curious about what he might have included about Italy that I just stopped by the bookstore to check. Our favorite country gets off relatively unscathed. At the time he was writing the book Naples was in the midst of that gigantic garbage crisis and thus Greenberg advises travelers to skip the city. Though I'm sure he would agree that sans garbage, though a little wild Naples is well-worth visiting for the archaeological museum to the pizza to everything in between. I like how Greenberg focuses on pollution and places that we may not know are polluted. Apparently the Sarno River, which empties into the Bay of Naples which encompasses the Amalfi Coast, Ischia, etc. is horribly polluted. So especially if you're trying to avoid toxins you might want to avoid swimming there. Though the water looks enticing...

I'm going to think about my "must-miss list" for Italy. I don't think there will be many places on it. But please contribute - what towns, sites, hotels, restaurants in Italy would you tell fellow travelers to avoid? Post a comment!

Special Prices at La Tavola Bella

At La Tavola Bella, we provide you with the finest hand-made Italian dinnerware, tableware and gifts. Check out our blog for new items arriving daily.

Dream of Italy readers who order before November 30th, will get *25% to 40%**Off*. Site wide sale now on. Don't wait to get your holiday shopping done!

(This is an ad.)Link

Monday, November 10, 2008

Our Elegant Italian Christmas Cards Are Back!

Did you know that only 22% of Italians send Christmas cards? I can't find a statistic for Americans, but over 80% of Britons send these holiday greetings and I bet it is a similar percentage for Americans. Well, our Italian friends may not be sending many cards, but we can spend the Italian holiday cheer with these elegant Christmas cards from Allison Cross. I think this is our 3rd or 4th year carrying them and I'm always excited when this time of year rolls around because these cards seem to make our customers so happy!

I've looked high and low for comparable Italian Christmas cards - even checked some cards shops on my recent trip to Italy and couldn't find anything like Allison's (featuring everything from Roman angels to Venice's Piazza San Marco in snow to the Pantheon with a Christmas wreath), though some of the cards I did see priced out about a $4 each!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Introducing Ciao Laura!

Ciao Laura - Hands-on Cooking Lessons and Excursions to Wineries, Fresh Markets & more!

Let the FLAVORS of Italy DANCE in your mouth and SING in your heart on a CIAO LAURA culinary vacation!

We offer our travelers the opportunity to explore the “real” heart of the Italian culture – its cuisine.

Savor the experience! Visit our Web site at http://www.ciaolaura.com

(This is an ad.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Seen in Italy: My "Obama Mama"

Although it is Election Night, since I am just back from Italy, I'm by the TV trying to get work done (rather than out watching the results) but I just keep surfing the Internet for election news. So I thought I would post about Italians, American politics and my mama!

My mother was never incredibly political but she's just crazy about Barack Obama and insisted on wearing either her Obama button or Obama baseball hat (that just screamed "American" - an Italian woman would never wear a baseball cap) throughout our Italy trip the last two weeks. The hat in particular started conversations EVERYWHERE in Italy and it turns out every Italian who commented was crazy for Obama too!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Experience Bond's "Quantum of Solace" in Tuscany

The latest James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, premieres this month. This installment follows Daniel Craig's Bond as he seeks revenge for his lover's death by pursuing a ruthless businessman trying to take control of one of the world's most important natural resources. Scenes for the film were shot all over Italy including in Lake Garda, Carrara, Siena. We've got the scoop on how you can rent a Tuscan seaside villa that appears in the flick as well as details of a a Bond-themed rental package that takes you into the tunnels below Siena where some scenes were shot. Read this free access article!