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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Italy: You Can Get a Parking Ticket Unloading in Front of Your Hotel

A few months back, in this article in the Washington Post by travel expert Chris Elliott, I talked about the issue of traffic tickets in "limited traffic zones" in Italian cities. When I shared the article and advice with my readers, one (M. Briglia) had these interesting comments about being cautious about where you park when pulling up to a city hotel:

Additional pointers on the Italian traffic ticket issue. The mere act of pulling up in front of your hotel to check-in prior returning the rental car will / can get you a traffic ticket. I stayed at the Marriott Grand Flora Hotel in Rome and had this happen to me. The hotel is located on a "limited traffic zone" street and there is no way to get to the hotel (in your rental car) without traveling on the road illegally.

I ultimately did get my situation resolved satisfactorily, and the resolution process actually worked more smoothly than I expected. The nice woman who handled my ticket resolution said that the proper procedure is for travelers to inquire of your hotel (before you leave for your trip) whether they are located in a limited traffic zone. If they are, they are supposed to submit your name and travel info into the municipal traffic system which issues the tickets, and your name should be cleared when any traffic infraction comes through. Travelers should make sure that this has been done upon check-in.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Reason to Fly to Italy: The Florence Gelato Festival

Florence, what some consider the mecca for gelato lovers, will host the Florence Gelato Festival from May 28th through the 31st. Gelato (to call it ice cream is to not do it justice) is practically a staple food in Italy and especially in Florence. The festival expected to draw 300,000 visitors to the city for the weekend event.

Piazzas and squares all over the city will turn into outdoor gelato markets where the public can line up to sample the rich, creamy ice cream served in biodegradable, earth-friendly cups. The Gelato Festival will also incorporate gelato-making demonstrations and games for children.

Visitors can also attend meetings and seminars in Piazza Santissima Annunziata to learn about the history and consumption of gelato in Florence, starting with the man who invented gelato – Bernardo Buontalenti, a 16th-century Florentine architect, painter, and food enthusiast – and continuing to present-day gelato artisans. These workshops will also educate participants about the range of techniques used in the production of gelato.

The festival aims not only to provide visitors with delicious ice cream, but also to educate foreigners about the quality and importance of gelato as an indispensable Italian product. Besides its large contribution to the Italian and global economy – gelato has increased in sales and production during the current recession – the unique ice cream is also recommended by some Italian doctors for the reported “happy effects” it produces in consumers. -- Elaine Murphy

Monday, April 19, 2010

Become a Newsletter Subscriber and Save on Your Trip to Italy!

Ready to rent a villa in Italy or book a cooking class or choose a tour? We can help you save big on all of these Italy travel services!

Here's another great reason to become a subscriber to Dream of Italy's award-winning print newsleter - subscribers are now entitled to exclusive discounts on Italy travel services as well as Italian products!!

All of the discounts below can only be accessed with a code or password - a list of them is available to current subscribers in the Subscribers Center or will be automatically e-mailed to you when you become a newsletter subscriber today! We will be adding more discounts each month. You can more than make up the cost of a subscription with the hundreds of dollars in savings available with Dream of Italy's exclusive subscriber discounts including:

Villa and Apartment Rentals:
Doorways- $500 off any villa/apt. rental in 2010 that costs $2,000 or more
Papavero Rentals- 10% off villa/apt. rentals
Italian Vacation Villas- 5% off most villa/apt. rentals for 2010 (several exceptions)
Summer in Italy- 5% off villa/apt. rentals
Truly Venice- 10% off apartment rentals for stays through 8/31/10 and between 11/1/10 and 12/22/10
Fattoria del Gelso(Umbria) - 20% discount on any weekly rental booked by 6/1/10 for a stay in 2010
Brigolante(Umbria) - 10% off weekly rental
La Tavola Marche(Le Marche) - 10% off stays through 2010
Sant' Antonio(Tuscany) - 10% off weekly rental of three newest apartments (anytime before April 2011)
Casina di Rosa (Tuscany) - 5% off weekly rental
Behind the Tower(Tuscany) - 10% off weekly rental

Tours + Trips:
ItalyVacations.com- $100 off min. 7-night custom orescorted tour with air (book before 5/31/10, travel by 8/31/10)
Tuscany Tours- $250 off Rome to the Renaissance tour
Gourmet Travel- $200 off all trips except Carnevale
DaVinci Capers- 10% off trips booked before 7/1/10
La Piazza Di Carolina- 10% off Tuscany summer camp tuition

Cooking Schools:
Divina Cucina- 10% off cooking class and/or market tour
Ciao Laura- 10% off market tours & cooking lessons in Florence,Bologna, Rome / 10% off Simply Delicious hands-on cooking in Sorrento
Mama Margaret- 10% off any 2010 cooking tour booked by 6/30/10

Walking Tours:
Context Travel- 10% off walking booked before 5/31/10
Nancy Aiello Tours - 10% off private guided tours booked before 5/31/10

Ditalia.com- 10% off your order
All-Things-Italian.com- 10% off your order
Olio2Go.com- 10% off orders over $100 through 7/31/10

Ciao Laura Culinary Vacations Booking for 2010

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Ciao Laura offers a wide variety of Cooking Vacations, Market Tours & Hands-on Cooking Lessons throughout Italy. BOOK NOW - 2010 is selling out quickly! Visit our Web site at www.ciaolaura.com

Ciao Laura offers 10% off market tours & cooking lessons in Florence, Bologna, Rome and 10% off Simply Delicious hands-on cooking in Sorrento EXCLUSIVELY for Dream of Italy's paid newsletter subscribers

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Get Your Pasta on in Bologna Next Week

Next week, the city of Bologna will turn into a pasta lover’s paradise as it hosts the first-ever major pasta fair, Pasta Trend. Pasta Trend celebrates all things pasta and presents a variety of exhibits and workshops for manufacturers and consumers. The event will be held from April 24 through 27 at the BolognaFiere exhibition center.

The making of pasta, its history, ingredients, recipes, and culture are all represented at this fun, educational event. Pasta manufacturers will have a chance to show off the newest technology and a wide range of raw materials, including flours and seeds, which are utilized in efficiently making, storing, and packaging pasta. This event will give pasta manufacturers an opportunity to improve their pasta-making ingredients and equipment by viewing the latest examples of innovative technology and cutting-edge research.

An array of sauces will be exhibited, ranging from those containing traditional ingredients such as tomatoes and mushrooms to unusual, Asian-style and spicy sauces. In addition to sauce, hundreds of different kinds and shapes of fresh and dried pasta will be on display, as well as pasta fillings such as cheese, meat and fish.

Professional chefs and home chefs will benefit from an area dedicated to the cooking process, including information on how to serve and cook pasta, how to make better sauces, and how to present pasta to dinner guests or restaurant patrons. Pasta Trend will also feature famous chefs participating in cooking demonstrations and contests – and of course, a pasta fair wouldn’t be complete without the opportunity to taste fresh pasta! --Elaine Murphy

Umbria Photo Workship This October

Join husband and wife photographers Frank Van Ripher and Judith Goodman for a workshop in one of Italy's most beautiful regions.

The authors of Venice in Winter will share their expertise with a small group. Six nights in the restored villa Fattoria del Gelso, in the shadow of Assisi.

Guided excursions to several of Umbria's hill towns. Individual attention during daily critiques. Information: www.experienceumbria.com

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Shroud of Turin Now on Display

One of Christianity’s most sacred relics, the Shroud of Turin, is now on display at the Cathedral of Turin through May 23. Accompanying the exhibit are a few unique, related activities. One such plan, which church authorities do not endorse, is the sale of 3-D glasses to enhance viewers’ ability to see minute details on the shroud, including the wounds on the feet, side, and wrists of the man pictured on the cloth. The Times Online reports that the Salesian religious order plans to sell the two-filter 3-D glasses for 2 euros each in its bookshop in Turin. According to Discovery News, these glasses are called HI-Rex-1 and HI-Rex-1L, and allow wearers to view the blood traces and the outline of a man’s body through two filters in the glasses lens.

Another exhibition aims to bring life to the man that Christians claim as their savior by showing films that spotlight the life of Jesus, reports Italian news agency ANSA. The exhibit, called Ecce Homo, will take place at Turin’s National Museum of Cinema and include stills, posters, books, scores, and other related memorabilia from 30 recent films. The films, ranging from 1927 to 2004, include The King of Kings, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Last Temptation of Christ and The Passion of the Christ.

The exhibit invites visitors to analyze how filmmakers’ concepts of the life and times of Jesus have changed over the past century, and to explore different interpretations of major events in Jesus’ life, including birth, his miracles, faith, and followers, betrayal, the Last Supper, and crucifixion. All 30 films will be shown over the next few weeks at the museum’s cinema. The exhibit’s title, Ecce Homo, means “Behold the Man” in Latin and refers to the words Pontius Pilate allegedly announced to the crowd as Jesus was bound for his crucifixion.

Of course, many believe that the shroud contains an image of the face of Jesus Christ, and that it was used to wrap his body upon his burial in a stone tomb. Skeptics disagree with these claims, arguing that carbon-dating tests performed in the 1980s date the shroud to medieval times; more recent tests contradict these results and suggest that the shroud is around 3,000 years old. Last week, Discovery News announced that a new method of carbon dating could end this dispute and prove how old the shroud is. Unlike previous carbon dating methods, which rely on removing a sample of the object for analysis, scientist Marvin Rowe’s method involves placing the object in a chamber with a plasma, an electrically charged gas. The gas then oxidizes the surface of the object without destroying it, producing carbon dioxide for use in carbon-14 analysis.

The shroud, which is normally only displayed to the public every 25 years, was last on display in 2000 when the Roman Catholic Church celebrated the new millennium. Since its last public appearance, the shroud has been restored, as the patchwork repairs done by nuns in the Middle Ages were removed in 2002. The image on the cloth is only clearly visible under photographic negatives and is an image of a long-haired, bearded man with bloodied wounds to his feet, wrists, and side.

If you decide to visit the shroud, expect crowds and long lines – the city of Turin expects around two million visitors, each of whom will be given three minutes to view the holy cloth. Pope Benedict will make a pilgrimage to see the shroud on May 2nd, a day that will likely be especially crowded. Information on how to purchase tickets and tips for pilgrims is available here. Visitors must book (free) tickets in advance in order to see the Shroud. – Elaine Murphy

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

New Exhibit at Pompeii Site

A new exhibit dedicated to Pompeii’s destruction opened this weekend, according Italian news agency ANSA. The exhibit is located at the entrance to the Pompeii site and contains five parts, each of which give visitors a glimpse into the city’s fateful final hours. The exhibit incorporates archaeological evidence, virtual reproductions, films, photos, and ancient documents to realize the devastation that Mt. Vesuvius caused when it erupted on August 24, 79 A.D.

The first part of the exhibit aims to educate visitors about the large scale of volcanic destruction of the town of Pompeii, and remind the public that active volcanoes still pose. Mt. Vesuvius, the only mainland volcano in Europe to have erupted in the last century, is still considered an active volcano, and this exhibit allows visitors to explore the area’s relationship with Vesuvius and the damage caused by the volcano’s subsequent eruptions.

A display called “The Last Day of Pompeii” comprises the second part of the exhibit, using literary and historical narratives, visual aids, scientific accounts, and simulated reconstructions to express the tragedy that occurred when Mt. Vesuvius erupted. The next section focuses on the history of the site’s excavation and its various stages from 1748 until the present, while the fourth part allows visitors to put together a personal itinerary to guide them through their visit to Pompeii. The last section, entitled the “Experience Laboratory”, contains educational materials that will bring Pompeii to life for visitors, including a vibrating seismic table that simulates an earthquake.

The current exhibit runs until August 1st, but will eventually become part of the site’s permanent exhibit. -- Elaine Murphy

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Would You Like to Experience Umbria This Fall?

In late October 2008, I spent an amazing week with my friends Bill and Suzy Menard at their villa Fattoria del Gelso just down the road from Assisi. I wrote about many of my experiences in our special report on Umbria.

We ate our hearts out (the villa cook Teresa is not only a doll but an amazing chef), visited vineyards (lots of wine tasting) and small charming towns, ate some more at some of the region's best restaurants, explored the history of Assisi, shopped for ceramics, took a pizza making lesson, visited Perugina and learned how to make chocolates, watched the olive harvest, roasted chestnuts and drank wine in front of the villa's fireplace and chatted late into the night. The best part - we saw and did so much but it was RELAXING! And how could I forget, we also went truffle hunting with the most adorable dog!

This November, I would like to bring a group of Dream of Italy readers back to the villa for another incredible and convivial week. Before we set up the final intinerary, I'd love to get INPUT from those who might be interested in the trip. We will keep the price affordable and particularly welcome solo travelers. Should we do a women's only week, a food and wine week or something else?


ItalyVacations.com Hiring Italy Travel Specialist

Since so many Italy travel professionals read this blog, we're helping our friends at ItalyVacations.com (and you guys, too) by spreading the word about an open position in their New Jersey office-

Italyvacations.com seeks very technically skilled, energetic web savvy travel professionals to support online consumers and plan and create complex travel bookings. We offer custom designed itineraries, including flights, hotel, car, train, cruises, tours and transfers.
Detailed knowledge of Italy and the ability to convert a sale is a must.

Job responsibilities include:

-Creation of cusotm designed multi-city travel packages to Italy via phone, email and chat.
-Technical suppoort of user on our website.
-Overall assistance with planning travel to Italy.
-Handling of flight changes, air ticketing and customer service issues.
-Using multiple booking systems for various products.
-Converting calls and emails into bookings.
-Fulfillment of airline and train reservations/documents via various booking systems.

-Min 3 yrs travel industry experience preferably in a tour operator environment
-Expert knowledge of Italy
-Excellent telephone sales technique.
-Ability to multi-task and to handle complex transactions.
-SABRE or other GDS experience a must.
-Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
-Air ticketing or ARC certification is a plus.
-Knowledge of pricing and products a plus.
-A positive, upbeat attitude

This part-time position is located in Italyvacations.com's Woodcliff Lake, NJ office. It has the possibility to become a full-time position..

Send your resume to:resumes@italyvacations.com

Please use the subject line: Application- Part Time Italy Travel Specialist

Lazio Day Trip: Fossanova Abbey

In the March print issue of Dream of Italy, Ann Cochran writes about exploring the coast of southern Lazio. While her travels mostly take her to the seaside resort towns, Cochran says that a nice break from the sun and sand lies a short drive inland at Fossanova Abbey. Movie buffs might recognize it. The Sean Connery flick The Name of the Rose was filmed here:

Built in the 12th century and restored over the years, some of the original walls of Abbazia di Fossanova are still standing. This church complex is considered one of the earliest examples, if not the first, of early Gothic architecture in Italy. Austere (unlike most Italian churches) and peaceful, it has beautiful rose windows and pointed arches, twisted columns and colonnades and a faded fresco of the Madonna and Child. The abbey's light colored limestone sometimes looks gray and sometimes yellowed, depending on the light. St. Thomas Aquinas became ill while visiting the abbey in 1274 and died here. His remains were moved to France, but his room at Fossanova was turned into a chapel. Today, Fossanova Abbey (39-0773-939061) is an active Franciscan monastery and a parish church. The film, The Name of the Rose, starring Sean Connery, was shot here. Don't miss the chocolate shop and café across from the main entrance.

Photo by Sacred Destinations, flickr.com