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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Slick Sicily Hotel: Atelier Sul Mare

When Ann Cochran was visiting Sicily to write September's print newsletter stories on Cefalù and Siracusa, she heard about a funky, art hotel on the coast between Cefalù and Palermo. We didn't have room for it in the print newsletter this month but it is worth mentioning for those looking for an interesting hotel stay:

If you have a car, consider Atelier Sul Mare, an avant-garde art hotel about a half-hour from Cefalù in the direction of Palermo. Owner Antonio Presti transformed a boxy 1960's hotel into this quasi-modern art museum. Fifteen rooms, decorated by different artists, represent modern architecture, pop art, sexuality, and socialism.

The room pictured above is the Lunaria, inspired by Sicilian author Vincenzo Consolo who writes about the fall of the moon (notice the moon-shaped bed) as a metaphor for the decline of power but also of culture and poetry.

Art is on display in 20 "standard" rooms but they are not themed. On hotel review sites, you'll find former guests either love or hate it. Spend some time on the hotel's Web site, which has detailed photos and videos, before you book.

Atelier Sul Mare
Via Cesare Battisti, 4
Castel di Tusa
(39) 0921 334295
Rates: Art rooms start at 80 euros per person, per night, with breakfast. Standard rooms start at 60 euros.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Notes + Video From My Visit to the Dolomites

This was my first visit to the Dolomite Mountains in northern Italy. It is the perfect picturesque place to get away from it all and take in some fresh mountain air. Here are some notes and thoughts (and look for more detailed articles in upcoming newsletters):
  • It is easy to combine a visit to the Dolomites with a visit to Venice - you get the best of both of both worlds really. A city experience followed by an encounter with nature. Cortina d'Ampezzo, one of the major towns in the Dolomites, is two hours from Venice. You'd probably do best renting a car but there are options to join an organized outdoor-focused tour or arrange for other transportation options.
  • I learned that the Ladini people - an ethnic minority - are prevalent in the Dolomites. They have lived in these mountains for thousands of years and have their own language and culture. One of my hiking guides, Karen, is of Ladini heritage and their culture and history to me in this VIDEO.
  • The summer experience in the Dolomites is all about hiking to rifugios (mountain huts) for lunch, dinner or an overnight stay. There are over 100 rifugios open the public (and many more private ones). My friends at GuideStarMountain.com who hosted me offer a service where you can hike from hut-to-hut each day and they will take care of your luggage transfer! See VIDEO of hiking views, VIDEO of a mountain church and rifugio in the snow, VIDEO hanging out with goats at another rifigio.
  • Don't think there isn't luxury among the outdoor activities. I stayed at the incredible Rosa Alpina where my luxurious room (see VIDEO) was a treat to come back to each afternon. They have a two-Michelin star restaurant, a spa and have their own mountain rifugio for special meals (see VIDEO of my lunch there).
  • The weather can be nice this time of year - had some great days in the 60s and 70s most days BUT it also SNOWED a few inches which caught me by surprise! (See VIDEO)

Notes + Video From My Visit to Venice

This was my first time back to Venice in awhile. Here some notes and thoughts about my short time there on this trip (more to come in future newsletters):
  • Yes, Venice can be crowded. For some reason, I felt like the big tourist areas were more crowded than ever. Only 60,000 Venetians live in Venice but one of my guides told me that in the middle of summer as many as 80,000 tourists can fill the city on any given day. More and more of them are day trippers from large cruise ships.
  • That said, you can still get away from the crowds here and get lost in the maze of calle (alleyways) especially in the more residential neighborhoods. I spent my time in search of new and different experiences (especially those that get you away from crowds) and have written about the photography tour I took for the September print issue.
  • This was the first time I stayed in an apartment rental instead of a hotel. I went absolutely bonkers over the amazing views this apartment had - I could watch (and hear) the gondolas go by from three windows facing the canal. See photo above and definitely see this VIDEO.
  • When I booked my stay, I didn't even realize the Venetian Film Festival was going on! Perhaps I should have checked our own site's events calendar earlier (we're updating if for fall and winter now). When I found out, I got a ticket for a movie screening. See our YouTube Channel for a series of videos on the film festival venues.
  • I still think one of the coolest things to do in Venice is to sit at one of the cafes in St. Mark's Square at night and listen to the orchestras play. See VIDEO.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Learning About the Ladini of the Dolomites

As I did a bit of reading before traveling to the Dolomites, I knew that there was an ethnic minority - the Ladini - or Ladins, in English, who lived in this area of Italy. There are some 30,000 Ladini in the Dolomites who speak their own language (Ladino - which is taught in school) and try to preserve their ancient culture.

I was fortunate that one of our hiking guides with GuideStarMountain.com, Karen Pizzolini, is an expert on this culture of her ancestors. Since the Ladini are a recognized minority in Italy, television time is provided for programming in their native language. Karen produces monthly segments in Ladino that air on the television station, Rai 3.

In the video below, Karin shares a brief introduction to the culture, history and language of the Ladini:

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dog Days in the Dolomites of Italy

You would never believe that today it is SNOWING -- HARD! Look at the new friend I met on the trail of Cinque Torri while hiking on Friday...He's a better climber than I am!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hiking in the Dolomites: The Views!

Here's a quick look at some of the amazing views when hiking in the Dolomites. Italy's Dolomite Mountains are such a dramatic yet peaceful place to visit. If you're new to hiking or to the area, it is best you set out with a guide. Our guides for this trip are from GuideStarMountain.com

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Venice Film Festival: A Peek at the Venues

Just back to my apartment rental after seeing a terrific film - Il Grande Sogno - at the Venice Film Festival. This is not my best video work (and haven't figured out how to string my Flip videos together into one) but these short clips take you inside the venues on the Venetian island of Lido.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Gondolas Gliding Past My Windows

I've arrived in Venice and cannot believe the amazing views from my apartment windows. And such incredible sounds...everything you imagine Venice to be and more. The weather could not be better...

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Dream of Italy Seeks Travel Writing Intern(s)

Our award-winning subscription travel newsletter Dream of Italy is looking for one or two talented and motivated fall interns who want a chance to break into or advance in the field of travel writing. Interns should be current college students or recent college graduates who are passionate about Italy and equally passionate about journalism and online media.

Interns can work virtually and set up their own schedules with a minimum commitment of 10 hours per week. Interns will be paid a small stipend (or we can work with your college for you to get credit).

Interns will have the chance to write for Web site/blog and the print newsletter and will end the internship with well-respected travel writing clips. Former interns have gone on to great careers in journalism and public relations and the editor/publisher is very happy to mentor interns in all facets of travel writing, journalism and the publishing industry. Interns will gain an insider’s view of how a travel Web site works.

Preference will be given to those intern candidates who can speak Italian or who have studied in Italy or traveled there. Obviously excellent writing and research skills are essential. Strong Web skills – such as basic knowledge of HTML and a basic understanding of search engine optimization – are desirable. Also looking for interns who are not shy about reaching out to sources or to media in an effort to promote Dream of Italy – previous experience at a public relations agency would also be considered a plus.

To apply, please send a cover letter and resume ASAP to Editor and Publisher Kathy McCabe at kathy@dreamofitaly.com Please include a writing sample related to Italy and/or travel, please include that as well.

Overview of Dream of Italy Intern Tasks:

• Research article ideas, fact- check completed articles.
• Write short articles for print newsletter and e-mail newsletter.
• Locate sources for Italian travel news and write short blog posts.
• Locate photos and edit/post them to site.
• Research events in Italy for our online calendar.
• Assist in organizing and fact-checking Dream of Italy’s e-books.
• Assist in publicity efforts for Dream of Italy’s holiday gift subscription promotion – follow-up with media, use social media to promote deal.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Live Like a Local with Truly Venice

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Venezia in Style

Truly Venice invites you to experience the iconic city of Venice by living like a local - renting a truly Venetian apartment, not an impersonal hotel room or a standard tourist flat, but a real home away from home.

Plan now! What are you waiting for?

September and October are the perfect months for visiting this unique city, the Biennale D'Arte and the International Film Festival are on, the climate is stable and mild, the city is flourishing with events and interesting people. Lay back and relax the last warm days of the year!

Alternatively you can take advantage of our special offers and low season rates from early November to late March when the city is more quiet (no cues anywhere), the restaurants will treat you superbly (then there aren't too many people around so they must do an extra effort). The Acqua Alta (high tide) is no hitch at, if that should worry you, then you can still easily get around the city without any problems. It is part of the Venetian charm!

You only have a couple of days?

The minimum recommended stay is three to four nights to see the most important sights (we can point them out to you, if so desired) to start understanding the city's values and get a glimpse of the non-touristy places of the city as well. Not necessarily you need to plan a monthly stay. Venice's Marco Polo Airport is close to the city center with many daily flights.

However, if you wish to truly experience the Venetian way of living, explore the diverse sestieri (six districts) and feel part of the city then you should plan a weekly stay at least. Venice offers a wide range of entertainment (concerts, museums, art collections, the Biennale, the film festival, fine food and traditional wine bars) and is among the most beautiful and culturally interesting cities of the world.

We can help you...

Truly Venice manages more than 80 apartments for holiday rentals in the historical city center, selected for their great location, picturesque view or unique style. We carefully inspect them and make sure they meet our high standards. Only the finest apartments are published and the portfolio is always improving. We invite you to discover our newly listed homes such as the Cà Pesaro apartment , Veronese apartment or the San Trovaso apartment.

Every property is accurately described on our website and the photo galleries feature large updated pictures . At arrival you will be met and taken to the apartment by our staff and provided with insiders information such as (in)expensive local restaurants (where Venetians eat), boutiques and general information on how to get around. Please visit our Guestbook with hundreds of enthusiastic comments from past clients, some of whom visit us regularly.

We offer self-catering apartments for anyone's taste. Contact us today if you need any advice! I have no doubt that we can help you finding the accommodations suitable for your needs: be it for a romantic escape with your partner, a family holiday or a large group celebration. We are looking forward to assisting you planning your stay in Venice!

Yours Sincerely,

Daniela Scarcia
General Manager