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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What to Eat for An Italian Christmas Eve Dinner

Hard to believe Christmas Eve is just around the corner. Thinking about celebrating it in Italian style? Then get ready to visit your favorite fishmonger, you will be making at least seven seafood courses!

That's because Italians celebrate the Feast of Seven Fishes on la vigilia di Natale (Christmas Eve). As Toni Lydecker writes, "The idea of serving seven fish dishes or varieties of seafood is often linked to the number of sacraments or the days God required to create the world. But the numbers three (Trinity), twelve (apostles) and thirteen (apostles plus Christ) are considered equally propitious. And the truth is that many Italian families don't bother to count-the important thing is gathering in the dead of winter for a celebratory feast."

Toni shares with us how Sicilians celebrate the Feast of Seven Fishes and recommends several recipes - for Baccalà and Potato (con patate) Stew and Octopus (Polipo) al Nero d'Avola from her recent cookbook Seafood alla Siciliana.

Win Cool Travel Prizes!
Today's stop on the Travel Bloggers' Caravan is: LuxurySafariExperts.com. Visit the blog and comment on today's post for a chance to win folding noise-cancelling headphones courtesy of Magellan's Travel Supplies.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rail Travel Between Milan and Rome Speeds Up

Last year, Associated Press Business Writer Colleen Barr sat aboard Eurostar Italia AV 9427 on its way from Milan to Rome and marveled at the recent high-speed train improvements. Reaching a maximum velocity of 186 mph, Italian Railway’s new Red Arrow would travel the 300-mile distance from Milan to Rome in three hours and 30 minutes shaving an entire hour off the previous travel time.

This year, Barry will be equally, if not more, impressed by saving an additional 45 minutes on the same route. According to the Independent, on Sunday, the latest Italian high-speed train service went into passenger operations. The new trains can now reach speeds of 225 mph delivering passengers to and from Milan and Rome in two hours and 45 minutes.

The new developments are due infrastructure improvements along 600 miles of track spanning the length of Italy over the last 25 years. The high-speed trains will provide major competition to airlines as Trenitalia predicts the new travel time will be almost an hour faster than the same domestic flight when travel to and from the airport and check-in are included.

Trenitalia is offering special introductory rates when riding the Frecciarossa (Red Arrow) or the Frecciargento (Silver Arrow) on the new high-speed routes. Deals include 48-euro, 2nd class tickets departing through February 28, 2010, 30% off tickets purchased 15 days in advance and 15 % off tickets purchased seven days in advance. -- Michael Lowe
Win Cool Travel Prizes!
Today's stop on the Travel Bloggers' Caravan is: EuropeUpClose.com. Visit the blog and comment on today's post for a chance to win a Fujifilm FinePix J28 10MP digital camera with 3x optical zoom.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Win Great Travel Prizes on the Travel Bloggers' Caravan

Win Cool Travel Prizes at the blog below on Saturday!
Today's stop on the Travel Bloggers' Caravan is: EllenBarone.com. Visit the blog and comment on today's post for a chance to win a day pack from First Ascent, a new extreme adventure line of gear and clothing form Eddie Bauer and partners.

Win Cool Travel Prizes on the blog below on Sunday!
Today's stop on the Travel Bloggers' Caravan is: MyItchyTravelFeet.com. Visit the blog and comment on today's post for a chance a $50 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble or a "Library Edition" of the most recent season of "Rudy Maxa's World", including six DVDs containing 13 shows on destinations in India, Turkey, Japan, Thailand, St. Petersburg, Estonia, and Argentina.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Events in Tuscany

Our friend Pamela Sheldon Johns writes about her experiences celebrating the holidays in Tuscany in our free Christmas in Italy guide. For those traveling to Toscana this holiday season, she highlights some special holiday events in and around Montepulciano:
  • Montepulciano: Natale alle Logge Christmas market and fair featuring artisanal food and wine products and crafts from the area.

  • Abbadia di San Salvatore, near Montalcino: Fiaccole di Natale, a procession of candles and torches on Christmas Eve.

  • Montepulciano: concerts, tastings, program still in development, Many of the local churches have concerts, such as Pienza on December 27th.

  • Chianciano Terme: "La Dolce Vita," a variety of concerts, dancing, shows, thermal offers, and shopping. Program still in development.

  • Montepulciano: Planetario Poliziano - projection of an image like that which the wise men saw. December 21 at 9 p.m., or December 27 and January 5 at 5 p.m.

  • Several spectacular presepi (nativity scenes), including an amazing living nativity that you walk through in nearby Pozzuolo.

Win Cool Travel Prizes!
Today's stop on the Travel Bloggers' Caravan is: CruiseDiva.com. Visit the blog and comment on today's post for a chance to win a copy of Fodor's The Complete Guide to Caribbean Cruises and a World Grounding Adaptor Set courtesy of Magellan's Travel Supplies.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Two Winter Fests in Puglia

The town of Tricase, almost at the tip of the Italian heel in Puglia, is often called “The Bethlehem of Italy.” That's because it hosts a living nativity or Il Presepe Vivente di Tricase. Supported entirely by volunteers from civic groups and schools, everyone from children to grown-ups (about 250 residents in total) dress in period costumes that transform the town into a nativity pageant. The tradition was started in 1976 by resident Andrea Rizzo. This free Christmas event is usually scheduled for December 25, 26, 27 and January 1, 4 and 6.

Fòcara in Novoli, a small town near Lecce, honors the town’s patron, Sant’Antonio Abate, on the eve of his feast day January 17. The origin of the fire ritual is said to date back at least 1,000 years and is credited to monks from the east who settled in Novoli. The fòcara is a bonfire constructed of olive branches and grape vines in Piazza Tito Schipa. Using a huge ladder to pile the branches on top, the fire builders make a “mountain” as high as a three-story house. Thousands of pilgrims walk from nearby towns to honor the saint. In addition to the bonfire, there are masses, religious processions, food, wine, and musical events. -- Sharon Sanders

Win Cool Travel Prizes!
Today's stop on the Travel Bloggers' Caravan is: JtheTravelAuthority.com. Visit the blog and comment on today's post for a chance to win a Mountainsmith Tour FX camera bag.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

In Italy: Honoring the Virgin Mary Through Art

Here's a wonderful guest post from one of Dream of Italy's favorite contributors - Susan Van Allen. Susan is also the author of 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go which is available in our online store (with two bonuses!)

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception! If you’re in Italy, you’ll notice schools and lots of businesses are closed. Italians are at home preparing for Christmas with their families. Traditionally, today’s the start of the Christmas season.

Many assume that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is all about Mary’s virginity. Actually December 8 was first called The Conception of Saint Ann, who was Mary’s mother. It’s a holiday that honors Mary’s pure beginnings, celebrating when God swooped in and freed her from Original sin.

No matter your beliefs, if you’re in Italy, you may enjoy the sights of dramatic processions. In Rome, the Pope will be leaving Vatican City and, with the help of the local fire department, a wreath will be hung around a statue of Mary that stands at Rome's Piazza di Spagna.

In 100 Places In Italy Every Woman Should Go, I write about a lot of places that honor Mary through art. Here’s one that seems appropriate for the Advent season - The Museum of Madonna Del Parto in Monterchi, Tuscany.

This may be the only museum on earth where pregnant women get in for free. There’s only one painting displayed here, the striking Madonna del Parto, that shows Mary in her ninth month of pregnancy.

It’s a 15th-century masterpiece by Piero della Francesca, who dedicated it to his mother who was born in Monterchi. Mary stands in a pale blue robe, her hand over her full middle, flanked by young male angels who draw back curtains of a regal tent. It’s dramatic and serene—capturing Mary in a meditative moment, completely involved with the life growing inside her.

Francesca was a mathematician and in all his paintings there’s an arresting symmetry of precise lines and lighting, combined with a gentle spirit of compassion. He created the Madonna del Parto for a Monterchi church that was built on a Cult of Fertility site. Back in pagan days pregnant women traditionally came to the site to bathe in a hilltop spring and pray for protection and abundant breast milk. The church built there, called the Momentana, was actually a cemetery chapel, so ceremonies for both birth and death took place there for centuries.

The Momentana became severely damaged over the years, and Francesca’s fresco barely survived. Even though the only way to save the Madonna del Parto was to move it, the local women were so attached to it being in their cemetery chapel that they put up a big fight over its transfer, and ultimately lost.

It’s been expertly restored and is displayed under glass in a sterile modern room in this museum that was once an elementary school. You’ve got to use your imagination to picture it in its original place, when all those Monterchi women would be kneeling in prayer before it. Now there’s a bench in the room (handy for pregnant women), so you can settle in and absorb the masterpiece. In other rooms of the museum there’s a theatre where you can watch a movie about Piero della Francesca, displays about the Madonna del Parto’s restoration, and a gift shop with books and prints.

Outside the museum, the tiny medieval village of Monterchi is a dreamy place to circle up cobblestoned streets and enjoy hilltop views of the valley. When I stopped by, I felt part of a classic Sunday afternoon, with two elderly town couples sitting next to me at a caffe, drinking beer and playing cards.

Museum hours: April through October, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m and 2 to 7 p.m. and November though March, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m and 2 to 5 p.m.. Closed Mondays. Pregnant women and children under 14 get in free. -- Susan Van Allen
Win Cool Travel Prizes!
Today's stop on the Travel Bloggers' Caravan is: JohnnyJet.com. Visit the blog and comment on today's post for a chance to win Alaska and Seattle Toursaver books and a $50 Magellan's Travel Supplies gift certificate.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Introducing Perillo's ItalyVacations.com

I'm Steve Perillo. Three generations of my family have perfected the art of traveling to Italy through our tour company Perillo Tours. Now entering its 65th year, Perillo Tours is America's largest tour operator to Italy. We achieved this top position, one trip at a time, taking care of every detail for our guests while showing them the best Italy has to offer.

Escorted tours aren't for everyone or aren't for every trip however, and that's why I've started Perillo's ItalyVacations.com, to bring our 65 years of Italy travel planning experience to the individual traveler who wants a custom trip to Italy. Our custom services include hotels, transportation, cruises, cooking classes, wine tastings, villa rentals and wedding planning.

We've designed ItalyVacations.com to be easy to use, and with our vast experience in putting together quality packages that are exciting, well-paced and fun. It's never been easier to book a thrilling vacation to Italy. And while we love putting together all the details, we know you might love it too, so ItalyVacations.com allows you to build your own Italy vacation one element at a time. You can add, subtract, save, and come back later to finalize your plans. Best of all, we're always here to help - by phone, e-mail or chat.

At ItalyVacations.com you're entrusting your vacation to the most experienced team of Italy specialists around. Since we know our business so well, we know that traveling is sometimes not as smooth as we planned. Unknown companies, new tour operators, and giant booking Web sites can't offer you the support, advice, and experience that we can. Our specialists can make suggestions that make each trip unique and special - for every travel budget.

From time to time, we put together special promotional packages to take advantage of our best offers and put them together in an easy booking option for you. Our 7-day Discover the Amalfi Coast Package - created from all the component travel services ItalyVactions.com offers - is one of these. We're offering it for just $1699 per person, including airfare!

Here are a few of the highlights:

Roundtrip airfare on Alitalia between New York* and Naples
Transfers between Naples airport and the hotel
6 nights accommodation at the 4-star Hotel Cetus on the Amalfi Coast
6 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 3 dinners
Private coach excursions to Pompeii and Paestum
Cooking class with mozzarella making
Wine tasting
Visit to a pasta factory
Tour of Naples city center
All taxes and surcharges included
*Other departure cities available for an additional charge.

In order to get this incredible deal, you must book by December 16th. ItalyVacations.com will be here for you before, during and after your trip. That's our pledge and that's your peace of mind.

Whether you're traveling with us to the Amalfi Coast this winter or want us to custom plan your summer trip to Italy, ItalyVacations.com can provide everything you need with peace of mind. After all, our new site and services are backed by one of the oldest and most trusted travel companies in America!

Steve Perillo
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The Language of the Italian Holidays

For our free, downloadable Christmas in Italy guide, Dianne Hales, author of La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, The World’s Most Enchanting Language, writes about the language of the Italian holiday season. Here are a few excerpts:

Days of Celebrations

Festivities such as fairs and torchlight processions begin weeks before and continue weeks after December 25. Here are the key dates to keep in mind if you are planning a trip:

December 8: La festa dell'Immacolata, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a Catholic holy day honoring Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus. In Rome, the Pope comes to the Piazza di Spagna to drop a garland of flowers around the statue of the Madonna (Since she tops a high column, firemen on ladders do the actual placement.)
December 12: La festa di Santa Lucia, the festival of lights
December 24: La vigilia di Natale (the vigil, or eve)
December 25: Natale, which literally translates as “birthday”
December 26: La festa di Santo Stefano, Saint Stephen’s day
December 31: La festa di San Silvestro, Saint Sylvester’s day, or New Year’s Eve (la vigilia di Capodanno)
January 1: Il Capodanno, literally the top of the year
January 6: L’Epifania, Epiphany, which marks the arrival of the Magi, the three wise men, who brought gifts to the infant Jesus from afar

Holiday Greetings

If you want to wish your Italian friends happy holidays, here are some greetings:

Buon Natale e felice Anno Nuovo – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
I migliori auguri di buone feste – Best wishes for good holiday
I più cari auguri per un sereno Natale e per un anno nuovo ricco di soddisfazioni – Dearest wishes for a peaceful Christmas and a fulfilling new year
Affettuosissimi auguri per un felice Natale – Most affectionate wishes for a happy Christmas
I migliori auguri per il Santo Natale e per il 2010 – Best wishes for Holy Christmas and for 2010

Win Cool Travel Prizes!
Today's stop on the Travel Bloggers' Caravan is: CiaoBambino.com. Visit the blog and comment on today's post for a chance to win a Napa Valley Getaway with a one-night stay at the Westin Verasa and a gourmet lunch for two aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Win Prizes on Days 5 and 6 of Travel Bloggers' Caravan

Win great travel prizes by visiting the blog below on Saturday!
December 5: TheBrooklynNomad.com (Andrew Hickey)
Imagine: A Vagabond Story by Grant Lingel and $50 Magellan's gift certificate

Win great travel prizes by visiting the blog below on Sunday!
December 6: The Tranquilo Traveler (Joshua Berman)
A copy of Moon Belize, accompanied with personal travel advice from the author about your trip

Friday, December 04, 2009

Revolutionizing Taxis in Rome

With the most extensive network of taxis in Rome, Radio Taxi 3570 is leading the way to easy, fair and more courteous taxi service in the Eternal City.

Trying to hail a cab can be an ordeal. Dodging cars in the street while trying to squint in the distance determining if the little plastic light is on or off can be both frustrating and dangerous. Just finding an empty cab can be a luck of the draw.

Once you’re finally in the vehicle, communication with the driver who may only speak a foreign language can prove challenging and some cabs are not beyond charging unsuspecting tourists exorbitant prices. When all is said and done, finding, using and paying for a taxi can be more of a hassle than help. Radio Taxi 3570 is trying to turn that around.

For a convenient (and guaranteed) pick up, travelers can request cabs via phone or text message (the first taxi company in Europe to adopt such a service) and one of Radio Taxi’s 3,500 cabs will respond. Ten minutes before the taxi arrives at your location, Radio Taxi 3570 will give you a call to alert you with the taxi’s name and number.

At no extra charge, Radio Taxi’s booking system allows tourists to specify between a taxi, station wagon or sedan, if the passengers would like air conditioning or non-smoking cars and what kind of payment, including foreign cash or credit card. According to MSNBC.com , passengers can even request drivers who speak English, French, Spanish or German and book and pay online before they’ve even left.

Radio Taxi 3570 was the first Italian organization of its kind to obtain the Quality Certification ISO 9001:2008 for efficient and user-friendly service and the Travel Channel called Radio Taxi the “Best in Italy.” -- Michael Lowe

Win Cool Travel Prizes!

Today's stop on the Travel Bloggers' Caravan is: NovelDestinations.coms. Visit the blog and comment on today's post for a chance to win a literary prize pack, including a tote bag, the book Novel Destinations, Bliss travel kit, notecards, tea, bookmarks, and a key chain.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Travel Bloggers' Caravan "Stop of the Day": Win A Subscription Today!

Today the Travel Bloggers' Caravan stops right here at the Dream of Italy Blog. I'm giving away a one-year, online subscription to the award-winning newsletter Dream of Italy w/BONUS DVD ($79 value). Just what you'll need to plan the vacation of a lifetime to Italia!

Win a Subscription to Dream of Italy
One lucky reader will be randomly chosen from all eligible entries to win a subscription to the Dream of Italy newsletter. Contest starts at midnight on December 3 and ends the same day at 11:59 pm.

How to Enter
Comment on this post between 12:00 am (midnight) and 11:59 pm on December 3, 2009. You'll need to include your e-mail address so I may make contact if you are the winner. Good luck!

Win More Prizes This Month!
Don't forget to enter the daily Travel Bloggers' Caravan & Giveaway. The Caravan stops at NovelDestinations.com tomorrow. Visit, comment on the post of the day, and win a one-year subscription to Dream of Italy and a bonus DVD. See the entire Travel Bloggers' Caravan schedule here.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Crux Vaticana on Display at St. Peter's Basilica

After a year and a half at work, the Vatican has just finished restoration of a jewel-encrusted golden cross said to be the oldest reliquary of its kind, according to USA TODAY. The foot-tall, jewel-encrusted, golden cross, known as the Crux Vaticana, was given to the people of Rome by the Byzantine emperor Justin II in the 6th-century and bears the inscription “With the wood with which Christ conquered man’s enemy, Justin gives his help to Rome and his wife offers the ornamentation.”

The reliquary is said to contain pieces of the cross on which Jesus was crucified, hence its longstanding reverence by the Catholic church. However, beyond its theological significance, the Crux Vaticana is also historically important as the only reliquary gifted from an emperor and emblematic of the unity between Eastern and Western Christianity as well as the Byzantine emperor’s Christian faith.

For 1,500 years, it was used in the Vatican’s Christmas and Easter ceremonies, but after the gems and color began to dull due to candle wax and smoke exposure, it was tucked away for safe keeping and conservation. The restoration was paid for an anonymous donor who did not want the price tag released. The cross will be on display in St. Peter’s Basilica until Easter 2010.
-- Michael Lowe

Win Cool Travel Prizes!
Today's stop on the Travel Bloggers' Caravan is: LuxuryCruiseBible.com. Visit the blog and comment on today's post for a chance to win a $100 Marriott gift card.