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Friday, January 15, 2010

Where to Ski in Italy: Cervinia

Editor's note: For years, I've wanted to do a detailed piece on skiing in Italy. Noted ski journalist and expert Everett Potter makes this dream come true in Dream of Italy's December 2009/January 2010 issue. His entertaining piece describes why you need to be properly dressed for Italian skiing and why you might be the only one in the lift line in the morning. Here's an excerpt about one of the six ski resorts he profiles - Cervinia:

Many Americans discover Cervinia almost by accident. The discovery comes when they've booked a ski vacation in adjacent Zermatt, Switzerland and then learn then can ski over to Cervinia for lunch. That lunch run is a glorious seven miles of cruising, and the wide open and frequently sunny cruisers exemplify this popular resort that lies in the shadow of the Matterhorn. While the architecture won't win any awards, the snowfall is justifiably acclaimed. Cervinia is one of the highest ski resorts in the Alps, with a village height of 6,500 feet and a ski area that rises up to 11,400 feet. Which means that it has the most reliable snow from early December until late April in all of Italy. Considering that you can live la dolce vita and ski over to Zermatt's slopes, there's a lot to offer. The Hotel Hermitage Cervinia is a Relais & Chateaux property offering the most comfort in the village.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Make Cheap Calls Home From Italy on Your Cell Phone

If you own a mobile phone with GSM (meaning it works overseas), you know what an expensive proposition it can be to make calls from abroad to the U.S. (And I'm not even talking about data charges which can make your iPhone into a cash cow for AT+T - more on that in a moment.)

Now I usually recommend folks go to the corner Tabac (look for the brown sign with a white T) in Italy and buy a international calling card. You can get several hours of call time for just 5 euros! Just use the toll-free number on the card on a landline phone.

But many of us love the convenience of our cell phones. Even if you have an international calling plan, as I do on my iPhone, calls are expensive - I pay 99 cents per minute and that fee also applies to calling my cell phone voicemail!

This awesome New York Times article entitled "Cheap Mobile Calls Even Overseas" can save you tons of money as it outlines how to use some new apps provided by Skype, Fring and Truphone and make calls potentially for free. A must read.

And back to those data charges. A friendly warning - AT+T charges significant fees for using data (i.e. downloading your e-mail) overseas. Your first step should be to call AT+T and ask for an international plan before heading to Italy or abroad. Then, turn off data roaming and try only to access the Internet or your e-mail using WiFi at a hot spot or your hotel. Many travelers have come home with bills of $500 or more because they did not understand these charges!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Matt Tyrnauer on Valentino and Rome

Editor's note: As any editor would be, I was ecstatic when Matt Tyrnauer, special correspondent for Vanity Fair, wanted to write for my humble publication Dream of Italy. What a thrill! Here is an excerpt from the piece he wrote for our December/January issue.

As with any film production, there were moments of extreme difficulty during the making of my recent documentary, Valentino The Last Emperor (now available on DVD). Principle photography on the movie took place in 2007 and 2008, and, for those twenty-four months, my crew and I shadowed the maestro of Italian high fashion at work and at play, mostly in Europe, where Valentino has homes in Italy, Switzerland and England. The city in which we spent the most time was Rome, where Valentino, until his retirement in July of 2008, had his fashion house and main residence.


Valentino was a challenging subject for a filmmaker. He is a perfectionist with very high standards, and very little patience for anyone's agenda but his own. Though he had agreed to be the star of my movie, I am quite sure that he did not know how challenging a film shoot can be when he agreed to take the staring role. Film shoots go haywire: There are moments of frustration as equipment misbehaves. There are soundmen, and P.A.s and grips and producers and wires and cables and scuffed metal cases laying about.

All of this chaos imposed on the designer's otherwise very ordered, and aesthetically correct world, caused more than a few meltdowns. The star on more than one occasion, quit the movie, which was rather inconvenient, as tens of thousands of dollars were being spent on every shoot. Even in the final cut, you can see Valentino furiously declaring his departure from the set.

I am often asked if the stress got to me, and, if so, how I dealt with it. My usual answer is, “downward dog.” I intensified my yoga practice during this time.

But the real answer is that, as long as we were filming in Rome, which was the majority of the time, I was fine. The film crew was always relieved when things went wrong in Rome, because I was always in a Zen-like state of calm. As my producer, Matt Kapp, frequently said to me, “There is no explaining how much you love this city. You are a different person here.” I like to think I am relatively even-tempered no matter where I am, but something about Rome fascinates me endlessly, and also amuses and soothes me.

I can occupy myself in any Roman street at any time of day or night, staring at the pattern of the blue-gray paving stones, or inspecting the elegant font used for the signs above the stores, or giving myself an Italian spelling lesson, looking at the ubiquitous professional nameplates: “Psicologo” “Ortodontista,” “Veterinario”. Then there is the endless parade of Roman characters: Elegantly suited business men with their carefully knotted ties, the street sweeper in his stylishly worn coveralls, the gaggle of nuns, the pair of priests, the grandma in her cardigan and sensible shoes, the elegantly uniformed Carabinieri. It is all “Felliniano,” as the Italians say.

On a typical day when I saw my movie melting down around me, I would suggest to Fred Tcheng, the co-producer of the film, that we take a walk from the fashion house, next to the Piazza di Spagna, across town, to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, where the crew apartment was located. Along the way, we would stop in a bar for aperitivo, and, further along the route, stop for dinner in a ristorante or a trattoria.

Paid subscribers: Read the rest of Tyrnauer's article where he talks about Valentino's favorite restaurants and the 10 Roman eateries Tyrnauer frequented while living in Rome

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Introducing the Book "Up at the Villa"

Here's what people are saying about the book Up at the Villa: Travels with My Husband by Linda Dini Jenkins:
  • Named one of 2009’s “Ten Travel Books I’d Give My Girlfriends” by Journeywoman.com
  • “Anyone dreaming about renting a villa in Italy must read this book . . .” - Mario Scalzi, President, The Parker Company

  • “…Jenkins provides a window on all of those small things that make Italy so alluring.” - Kathy McCabe, Dream of Italy

Read more at www.upatthevillatravels.com and www.travelthewriteway.com

(This is an ad.)

Monday, January 04, 2010

Italian Children Await The Arrival of La Befana

Susan Van Allen, author of 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, shares the Italian legend of La Befana and why Italian children are eagerly awaiting her arrival this week:

“There is no Santa Claus in Italy,” my Nana told me when I was a kid. I had nightmares of how awful Christmas must be for children over there, where Nana was born. Nana said she had to wait until January 6, The Feast of the Epiphany, to get gifts.



The presents came from an old crone with a hairy mole on her chin who rode around on a broom. She was called La Befana. Many years later, I’m at the Piazza Navona in Rome, at the Epiphany Fair. It is two weeks after Christmas, but the celebration is still in full swing. Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers is surrounded by stands with twinkling white lights selling sweets, ornaments, and roasted pork sandwiches.

Nowadays, there is Santa Claus in Italy. They call him Babbo Natale. He’s skinnier than our version, and figures of him hang off the booths, side by side with the crone from my nightmares: La Befana. Tonight, January 5, I tell my husband, is La Befana’s special night. He looks between Babbo Natale and the crone and says, “If I saw that one coming down my chimney, I’d run the other way!”


Read the rest of Susan's article on Italy's La Befana

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Find Love at Rome's Fiumicino Airport

The next time you find yourself missing a connecting flight in Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, you might want to take a deep breath and open your arms to the possibility of another kind of connection – a love connection?

In a recent study commissioned by men’s grooming product AXE and Sperling’s Best Places, researcher’s found Fiumicino Airport at number 10, ranking third among overseas airports. The original 2007 study was expanded internationally this year taking into consideration the world’s 33 largest metropolitan airports and ranking them by on-time flight statistics, weather conditions and amenities per capita such as cafes, bars, stores, etc…

According to the report, Rome topped the list in delayed and cancelled flights which, admittedly, is not such a great statistic… until you consider the potential romance waiting to be had among Fiumicino’s terminals.

Here is the “Finding Love in Fiumicino” itinerary:

Prep for Success
Like any night out, the prep is as important as the play. Freshen up at Bunny’s Sun Solarium offering a full menu of beauty services from haircuts and styling to tanning beds and full body massages to ease the tension from a delayed or missed flight. Remember, feeling good is just as important as looking good. According to Kristyn Lewis from Health.com, getting a massage “reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol while boosting the feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine.” Relaxed and happy: the perfect precursor to meeting new people.

Look Sharp, Not Jetlagged
Nothing against traveling clothes, but if you want to spruce it up a notch and your clothes-bearing luggage is checked in, Fiumicino has the ticket. For casual or sporty-wear, drop into the Nike Store for the athletic jetsetter look. For the “I’m trying, but not really trying” look and some nice jeans, hit up Calvin Klein more some mid-range garb. For the trendsetters and high-rollers Hermes and Valentino should do the trick. Shoes? Not to worry! From Adidas to Dolce and Gabbana, Fiumicino’s got you covered. Now that you’re looking sharp from head to toe, it’s time to hit the terminal.

Drink
Either start at the Duck and Dog Pub over a nice Morretti or Peroni or Gran CafĂ© Illy getting acquainted while waiting in line for a cappuccino. Find a fellow stranded passenger and start with small talk. According to Leil Lowndes, author of How to Talk to Anyone, “Small talk breaks the ice with people. It allows each person to feel the other person out before taking conversation further.” Conversation topic? Being stranded in an airport is the pits! Or, how much you love Italy. You choose.

Dinner
For a bite to eat and some good conversation, suggest a sit down over a glass of Chianti at Wine & Food or grab a baguette to go from Rustichelli Pasticceria and take a leisurely stroll around the terminal. Jan Moir from The Guardian advises to avoid fresh pasta which may cause flatulence later on, but you’re in Italy. Rules are made to be broken.

And a Movie?
If you really have a lot of time and things continue to go absurdly well, pop into one of four Dixons Travel Electronics, grab a copy of Under the Tuscan Sun, and snuggle away in front of a laptop on an airport bench as Diane Lane romps through the land you are soon departing while you whisper sweet Italian nothings into the ear of your new traveling hunk or hunkette.

Ok, so it may not actually happen like this (ever), but one can dream. And now you have options.
According to an additional study commissioned by AXE, out of 1,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 34, two-thirds would consider going on a date with someone they met in transit and nearly 60 percent admitted to flirting with someone on a plane or in an airport. -- Michael Lowe

Photo credit: t-bet