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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June 2010 - Marcus of Umbria, Eating in the Castelli Romani

The June 2010 issue of Dream of Italy is out! Paid subscribers can login to see the PDF version (or read the articles on Web pages). Become a subscriber today (you'll get immediate access to this issue and nine more over the coming year, online access to nearly 75 back issues and some incredible Italy travel discounts, too! Here is what is in the June issue:

A Woman, A Dog and Umbria (Free Access to this Article)
The new book Marcus of Umbria: What an Italian Dog Taught an American Girl About Love traces Justine van der Leun's funny and illuminating time spent in Collelungo, a 200-person farming village in central Umbria. Justine, a Brooklyn resident, met Emanuele, a local gardener, on vacation and impulsively moved in with him. When she leaves a year later, the author has gained a newfound knowledge of language and family, a deep-rooted passion for animals and nature and a small, spotted dog that she'd adopted named Marcus.

In and Around Collelungo Umbria
The author of the new book Marcus of Umbria, Justine van der Leun introduces us to her former home village of Collelungo in Umbria and what there is to see and do around the more well-known town of Todi.

Food Tour of the Castelli Romani
The towns of Castelli Romani are traditional places for Romans to take a Sunday drive to enjoy peaceful panoramas, the local wine and a perhaps most of all, eat some great food..

Monday, June 28, 2010

Venice's Historic Palazzos on the Auction Block

Venice is suffering. Due to severe economic strain, Venice is auctioning off some of its historic palazzi, reports The Telegraph (U.K.) Who is buying these cherished buildings, and what will they do with them? Unfortunately, many of the palazzos are destined to an ill fate. Most will be converted into hotels—certainly not the best option for Venice or the buildings’ owners.

In the past decade, the number of beds available to visitors has grown from 14,000 to a 26,000 while the occupancy rate has dropped to a mere 50 percent. Anna Somers Cocks, the chairman of the UK’s Venice In Peril Fund, believes selling the buildings that line the Grand Canal to research institutes can help Venice and its tourist-based economy to avoid turning into a ghost town with too many hotels.

"Selling off the palaces is an ad hoc strategy driven by panic," Cocks told The Telegraph. "It's like auctioning the family silver instead of sorting out your estate. It's very recent – it's all happened in the last five years or so. We think it would be much better to offer some of the palazzos to research institutes, for instance."

If research institutes move in and take on the economic burden of maintaining the buildings, Venice has a chance of profiting from the revenue that the institutes would inevitably bring in. Extra money is something the canal rich city is in desperate need of since most of the city’s revenue is delegated to flood prevention. -- Shakira Mongul

George Clooney Returns to Abruzzo

Part-time Italy resident, George Clooney, returned to Abruzzo last week to reshoot a few select scenes from his new movie, The American. The film, based on Martin Booths novel, A Very Private Gentleman, is scheduled hit theaters this September (October in Italy).

Clooney plays Jack, a contract killer who retreats to a charming Italian town after a particularly taxing job in Sweden. Jack informs his contact that this next mission will be his last. His final assignment proves to be a difficult one as well, and by his own doing. Contrary to his normal behavior, Jack befriends the town priest, Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli), and falls for a local woman by the name of Clara (Violante Placido). The thriller offers a bit of a twist towards the end when the identities and motives of certain characters are not as they initially seemed.

After viewing the film in entirety, Dutch director, Anton Corbijn, decided to return to Sulmona, the small city (famous for confetti candy) in the province of L’Aquila, just for a day. However, the cast and crew scheduled two more last minute stops in the area upon arrival—to Castel del Monet and Castelvecchio Calvisio—before their departure on June 23rd.

The return of the Clooney and the cast caused a bit of chaos. Their presence, however, was appreciated. After the devastating earthquake in April of 2009, which killed 300 and rendered thousands injured and homeless, the province can use some serious attention.

According to Italian news agency ANSA, Clooney stated, “filming there was the best way of lending a hand for its recovery.” Clooney is absolutely right. The presence of the cast and publicity of the film will inevitably and monetarily aid the areas reconstruction. -- Shakira Mongul

Monday, June 21, 2010

Venice's San Pellegrino Cooking Cup

This Saturday, June 26, the annual San Pellegrino Cooking Cup will take place in Venice Italy. The event combines a competitive regatta with a prestigious cooking competition. The race sets sail at 12:30 p.m. from this Ventian island of Lido. Sixty star chefs and their crews from all over the world compete in this original contest. The goal is to cook the best dish and finish first in the 12-mile race. The head chef of the winning team takes home the esteemed title of San Pellegrino, or Head Chef of the Year. After the victor is announced, a party thrown in his or her honor in Piazza San Marco. -- Shakira Mongul

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Celebrating San Giovanni in Florence Italy

Sometime in the 6th century, the city of Florence replaced their first patron, or protector (God Marte), with San Giovanni Battista (John the Baptist) In honor of their patron saint, Florence puts on an annual four-part celebration for residents and tourists alike each June 24th. The day’s events include a parade, a particularly violent soccer match, a flag waving show and finally fireworks!

The Parade: Piazza della Signorina is great place to watch the day’s commencing activity. There you can view the fabulous display of participants dressed head to toe in 15th-century garb. The colorful and ornate attire is a tribute to the Florentine aristocratic families, military, tradesmen, musicians, etc.

The Soccer Match: The shirtless, padding-free players are revealed towards the end of the procession. The game, known to the Italians as calcio storico, takes place in a makeshift arena constructed for the occasion in Piazza Santa Croce. The historical game, a traditionally aggressive one, used to have only one rule—it was prohibited to kick an unconscious player in the head. In 2006, a few safety rules were instated after one player’s ear was ripped off during the match.

The Flag Show: Once the parade makes its way back to Piazza della Signoria, the flag throwing, waving, and catching takes place. The spectacle is enhanced with acrobatic stunts preformed by the flag throwers themselves while dressed in authentic, Florentine attire. Crowds of people are entertained with music in the square until night falls over Florence.

The Fireworks: Ponte Santa Trinita is the best place to catch a glimpse of the fireworks over the Arno River. It is by nightfall when the people who have been hiding in their homes in attempt to avoid the crowds give up and emerge from their various domains and finally join the fun. -- Shakira Mongul

Want to find out what else is going on in Italy this summer? Visit Dream of Italy's Italy events calendar...

Photo by mihr*, flickr.com

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Best Beaches in Italy

In time for summer, The Telegraph (U.K.) recently came out with a guide to the best beaches in Europe, including Italy. Their guide focused on three regions in Italy where they say the sun and sand are more than fine:


  • "Cala Piccola is a rocky cove with a small pebble beach and translucent aquamarine water."
  • "Viareggio beach in Tuscany is popular with Lacoste-wearing yachties and Italian families, and provides a full-on Italian beach experience."

  • "The four-mile stretch of Marina di Alberese in Tuscany is one of the wildest beaches on the Italian mainland."


  • "This beach in Brindisi is known as Torre Guaceto and its location in a nature reserve makes it an attractive escape from overdeveloped beach resorts."

  • "The beach at Gallipoli is known as Spiaggia della Purità and is renowned for its vibrant party scene."

  • "This beach in Otranto is known as Porto Badisco and its sheltered waters make it an excellent spot for snorkelling."

  • "The secluded beaches on San Domino are worth a visit and Cala delle Arene, Cala Matano and Cala Tramontana are among the island's best."

  • "Cala Luna beach, south of Cala Gonone, is a crescent of white sand backed by high limestone cliffs, popular with Italian families."

  • "Discovered by the Aga Khan, Sardinia's Spaggia del Principe on the Costa Smerelda is a perfect crescent of fine sand enclosing a blue-green bay."

  • "The pristine series of bays near Chia on Sardinia have pale apricot sand lapped by turquoise water, and attract local surfers and Italian families."

Is surfing more your style? Check our our guide to where to surf in Italy!

Rome's Via Veneto & A Tennessee Williams Story

One of our favorite Dream of Italy contributors, Susan Van Allen, recently returned from the Eternal City. While staying on Rome's famed Via Veneto, she found inspiration from a Tennessee Williams character:

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone by Tennessee Williams brought inspiration to my recent time in the Eternal City, taking me back to its glamorous post-World War II era: Negronis at the Doney and Rosati, strolls along the Via Veneto, sublime times in the Borghese Gardens, dinner in Trastevere . In the novel, Mrs. Stone is a wealthy, middle-aged signora who lives in a luxurious villa flanking the Spanish Steps in Rome. Recently widowed, feeling lost and alone, she becomes entangled with a devastatingly handsome young Italian named Paolo. The only thing I have in common with Mrs. Stone's story is the middle-aged signora part. My trip lacked her melodrama, but I still went after the novel's atmosphere, which proved to be a beautiful background for fun Roman days…

MAXXI Museum Finally Opens in Rome

The ancient city of Rome, a place that has continuously impressed its inhabitants, visitors, and distant admirersfor centuries with its mastery of antiquity now presents us devotees, with something veramente nuova, truly new. With the inspired help of London-based architect, Zaha Hadid the decaying military barracks of Flaminio, in northern Rome, have been whipped into modern, artistic and architectural shape.

More than a decade and over $200 million in the making, the MAXXI museum of modern art was finally revealed to the public in a free, three-day event at the end of May. The opening attracted boatloads of eager onlookers— and unsurprisingly so. In a city starved of modernity, 50,000 citizens (as well as foreign guests) bombarded the new gallery’s web site in the feverish hope of commandeering at least one of the free passes for opening event in the first few hours that they were offered.

The entrance to the MAXXI gallery of modern art is both angular and organic. It resembles a cross between M.C. Escher’s Relativity and black-and-white, psychedelic piano keys with the black notes of thekeyboard acting as undulating staircases. Once past the grand entrance, Hadid lures her spectators with mysterious corners that beckon visitors onward to the next, and the next remarkable nook or cranny of the gallery.

While the building itself is enough to suffice even the mostenthusiastic modern art lover’s insatiable pallet, Hadid’s modern contribution to Rome houses 300 permanent modern works of art and in a dynamic atmosphere. The building, entirely unique in form and interior, still manages to exhibit display spaces that act as blank canvasses, allowing for each individual work occupying the space its own moment to shine.
Though it is no longer possible to visit the MAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts for free, it is still an affordable stop on anyone’s itinerary. The admission fee is 11€ ($13). It is located on Via Guido Reni, 4 A, Rome. If traveling via public transportation, take Metro A to Flaminio and the Tram 2 to the Apollodoro stop. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 11a.m. to 7 p.m., and until 10p.m. on Thursday. You can reserve tickets at http://www.fondazionemaxxi.it/.

Rome’s new MAXXI gallery is history in the making and you don’t want to miss it!
-- Shakira Mongul

A New Kind of Art Vacation in Rivello, Italy

Calling all artists in need of a cheap, productive, and possiblylucrative vacation in beautiful San Costantino di Rivello, Italy. Located in the region of Basilicata, just 15 minutes from the beach the tiny and unique town of Rivello is trying something new, according to Springwise.com. Until the 10th of June the UHM (Unconventionall HolidayMarket) will be accepting applications from artists residing in all orners of the earth to spend just 90 euros and at least one week in July or August in the southern town of Rivello. Along with 149 other artists,designers, and artisans, they will produce art and then selling it at the Unconventionall Market.

The motivation behind this project is to enhance the town’s tourism-based economy and give travelers a diverseand unique selection of souvenirs to choose from and better remember Rivello by. For a full list of the requirements and how to apply, visit Unconventionall.com. The web site does first load in Italian but in the bottom left-hand corner of the page’stoolbar there is a translation button. Or try calling (39) 348 040 9014 -- Shakira Mongul