Dream of Italy Header


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February 2013 - Best Tour Guides in Central and Southern Italy

The February 2013 issue of Dream of Italy - a special report on the best local tour guides in central and southern Italy - is hot off the presses.

If you're NOT a subscriber, subscribe today to instantly access the PDF version of this issue, our previous issue on best tour guides in northern Italy and nearly 100 back issues of our award-winning print newsletter.

Our paid subscribers (who can log-in here) are reading the following articles this month:

Great Local Tour Guides in Central ItalyProfiles of dozens of local tour guides and touring companies-- expert in art, history, wine, gastronomy, adventure -- in Florence, Tuscany, Rome, Le Marche, Umbria, Abruzzo and more.

Great Local Tour Guides in Southern Italy
Profiles of dozens of local tour guides and touring companies-- expert in art, history, wine, gastronomy, adventure -- in the Amalfi Coast, Campania, Puglia, Basilicata, Molise, Sardinia, Sicily and more.

How We Chose the Best Tour Guides
So how do you curate the best guides in one area of Italy? We personally toured with many of these guides, asked trusted contacts for recommendations and took nominations online from readers and subscribers.

Visit The Famous Cinque Terre on The Italian Riviera

Your golden opportunity only happens once a year. We take just 12 lucky women.

Get spoiled rotten with:
  •  A personal trainer 
  •  Shopping trip with a personal shopper
  • A deluxe wine tasting
  • Two cooking classes
  •  A room with expansive views
I’ve lived in the Cinque Terre and promise you an insider experience. 

Click here to see more

-- Bianca Gignac, The Italian Fix

(This is an ad.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pope Resigns: Where Will Pope Benedict Live?

The Papal Palace
Details about Pope Benedict's transition to retirement are emerging. On February 28, the Pope will be helicoptered to Castel Gandolfo, the papal vacation and summer residence in the Alban Hills outside Rome. The site, a short train ride from Rome, is popular with pilgrims from around the world who on summer Sundays catch the 8:37 train from Rome to hear the Pope say Mass. In addition to the train, Carrani Tours organizes buses from Rome to Castel Gandolfo.(Their site is under construction, but you can email for details.)

Obviously, Pope Benedict is not expected to make any public appearances during this time, as Rome and the Vatican prepare for the influx of cardinals who will participate in the conclave that will select a new pope. The next pope of course will use Castel Gandolfo as a vacation residency, and the tradition of Sunday Mass will then resume. Castel Gandolfo is larger than Vatican City by 11 hectares (approximately 27 acres) and is made up of gardens and farm tracts and several residences, including the Papal Palace and the Barberini Palace, which houses employees.

According to the Vatican website, the property also includes: "buildings in the Villa Cybo set aside for the religious community of the Maestre Pie Filippini and their school, and two cloistered convents housing the Poor Clare and Basilian Nuns. In the piazza in front of the Papal Palace, the parish house assigned to the Salesians stands alongside the Pontifical Church of St Thomas of Villanova." After a new pope is installed, Pope Benedict will take residency at the Vatican, in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery.

As National Geographic reported on its website, the monastery was recently renovated, though it is not clear if the renovation was tied to the Pope's imminent and not-yet-announced retirement. Nor it is clear how long the Pope will remain at the monestary, which has a short but vibrant history, per the National Geographic piece:
The Mater Ecclesiae monastery was founded in 1992 by Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, "to create a place to house an international convent for contemplative life within the walls of Vatican City," according to the Vatican City State website.
It has housed small communities of cloistered nuns whose main task has been to provide spiritual assistance to the pope and to the Roman Catholic Church as a whole by praying in Latin and singing Gregorian chants.
The nuns would also embroider papal garments and cultivate a small organic orchard and a rose garden next to their residence. In a 2009 interview with the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, the monastery's then abbess said that Benedict particularly appreciated the special-recipe marmalade that the nuns would prepare out of the oranges and lemons they picked in the Vatican orchard. 
Dream of Italy will continue to post updates on the Pope's retirement and the events around it, including next month's conclave. -- Barbara Benham

Photo by travelswithrosemary, flickr.com

Video: Steve Perillo and Kathy McCabe Share 10 Italy Travel Planning Tips

I was thrilled to join my friend Steve Perillo of Perillo Tours at his headquarters in New Jersey (my home state) recently to put our collective Italy travel experience together and come up with 10 tips for planning a great vacation in Italy. We also talk about the uninvited fellow traveler - jet lag - and how to avoid it!

Monday, February 11, 2013

An Insider Shares More on the Pope's Resignation and What To Expect at the Vatican

As the world continues to absorb the enormity of Pope Benedict's sudden resignation and the changes it might represent, one thing is certain: St. Peter's Square will be teeming between now and Easter Sunday, as Pope Benedict winds down his papacy over the next two weeks and the Catholic Church selects and installs a new pope. Within hours of today's news, St. Peter's Square brimmed with journalists and television crews, many of whom are stationed near the Vatican City, as well as a sprinkling of locals and tourists.

Giovanni Tanoni, a celebrated and well-connected guide at the Vatican (and one of Dream of Italy's top tour guides, featured in our in our upcoming February print newsletter), said it was nearly impossible to walk through St. Peter's Square within an hour of the announcement. He shared the following observations in a phone call with Dream of Italy earlier today.

Why announce the news today of all days? This is a historic date in Vatican history. On February 11, 1929, the Vatican was recognized as a sovereign state with the signing of the Lateran Treaty, an official recognition by Mussolini of the Vatican and the Holy See's sovereignty. This followed sixty years of doubt over the Vatican's status, which was dubbed "the Roman question." Giovanni thinks the Vatican chose today for this reason, though when we spoke, the press wasn't reporting as much.

Is Pope Benedict keeping his schedule? As of this afternoon, Pope Benedict was expected to hold an audience this Wednesday and next (February 13 and 20th), as well as the Angelus Praying and Papal Blessing the next two Sundays (February 17 and 24th). Giovanni anticipates crowds will be in the thousands as people want to see Pope Benedict perform his final official acts as pope.

When will the conclave take place? Giovanni says that it's possible that it could take place the first week of March, but pending an official announcement, this is conjecture, and is earlier than the laws mandate.

What will be open and what will be closed during the conclave? Giovanni notes that both the Vatican Museum and St. Peter's Basilica were open during the last conclave in 2005. He personally took tours to both. Obviously the Sistine Chapel was closed, and while it's considered the highlight of the Vatican, people still like to tour the Vatican Museum during the conclave, knowing how close they are to history.

Dream of Italy will regularly bring updates about the Pope's resignation and what it means for people visiting Rome in the days and weeks ahead. -- Barbara Benham

Dream of Italy's Rome App Reveals Best of The Eternal City!
Just $2.99 on iTunes or Google Play (Android)

420+ entries (with a lifetime of free updates) on hotels, restaurants, must-see sites, art, museums, shopping, cooking classes, walking tours, private guides, apartment rentals, culinary tours and more.

Photo by malfet, flickr.com

Pope Resigns: Implications for Travel to Rome

Pope Benedict XVI stunned the world and resigned the papacy today, two days before Lent and seven weeks before Easter, the highest and holiest holiday in the Catholic Church. His resignation, effective February 28, is without modern precedent.

The last pope to resign, Gregory XII, stepped down in nearly 600 years ago, in 1450. The official reason given was Pope Benedict's advancing age. Speculation regarding the 85-year-old pontiff's possible successor, as well as any undisclosed medical diagnoses, will likely dominate traditional news and social media outlets for days and weeks to come.

The news has huge implications for visitors to Rome pretty much through Easter Sunday, which falls on March 31. Some are known. For instance, the Sistine Chapel will be closed to visitors during the conclave, the gathering of cardinals charged with selecting a new pope. It is to take place 15 to 20 days after a pope's death or resignation, which means the conclave will start between March 15 and March 20.  (Last time a pope was elected, St. Peter's and the Vatican Museums remained open - details from a Vatican insider here.)

The conclave draws thousands of spectators. Cardinals eligible to vote -- those under age 80 -- are sequestered in the Vatican. Voting takes place three times a day, once in the morning and twice in the afternoon, until there is a two-thirds majority vote. After each vote, the ballots are burned in the Sistine Chapel. Black smoke means no decision. White smoke means the cardinals have made a selection. Bells ring to affirm that a new pope has been selected, to avoid confusion over the ballot smoke's shades of gray.

Dream of Italy will provide updates, specifically aimed at those planning to visit Rome during this historic transition, as we speak to our network of Rome-based experts, guides and friends over the coming days and weeks. -- Barbara Benham

Dream of Italy's Rome App Reveals Best of The Eternal City!
Just $2.99 on iTunes or Google Play (Android)

420+ entries (with a lifetime of free updates) on hotels, restaurants, must-see sites, art, museums, shopping, cooking classes, walking tours, private guides, apartment rentals, culinary tours and more.

Photo by Chris Wee, flickr.com

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Some Great Northern Italy Tour Guides From Our Special Report

Our latest issue - a special report on the best local guides in Northern Italy - is the first of two issues  on some of the best tour guides in Italy! We revealed more than 30 of our favorite tour guides and tour companies in Northern Italy. These are passionate locals who lead 1/2-day and one-day private and scheduled tours.

Subscribers can access the full list PLUS access our next issue with our long list of favorite guides in Central and Southern Italy. Here are a few of our picks:
VENICE: L'Altra Venezia

(39) 338 6691364
Rates: from 30€ per person for half day
Specialty: gondola tours
Walter Fano, founder and front man for the group of ten Venetian guides who make up L'Altra Venezia, offers a variety of straightforward itineraries categorized by neighborhood or historic era. The tours are perfect for first-time visitors still getting their bearings and looking for an easily penetrable overview of the city and its art and architecture. Where L'Altra Venezia shines is in its gondola tours, which offer a unique way of visiting Venice along its winding canals and majestic lagoon.
For Subscribers: More local tour guides in Venice

EMILIA-ROMAGNA: Italian Days Food Experience
(39) 338 4216659
Rates: start at 60€ per person
Specialty: local food producers
Alessandro Martini specializes in bringing travelers to the high temples of Emilia-Romagna's second-to-none local cuisine. This is the home to immense wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano, Modena's fine aged balsamic vinegar, sweet prosciutto from Parma, and Bologna's stuffed tortellini and ravioli. Alessandro will schedule visits to local producers of these delicacies and more, with, of course, tastings at each one.
For Subscribers: More local tour guides in Emilia-Romagna

TURIN/PIEDMONT: Gabriella Bossina
(39) 335 6685231
bossinagabriella [AT]libero [DOT] it
Rates: from 120€ per group for two-hour city tour
Specialties: Turin and environs
When you talk to Gabriella about Turin, one of the first adjectives to come out of her mouth is "magic". Indeed, she is able to bring out the extraordinary in this modern industrial capital by introducing visitors to the city's art, architecture, and monuments in the context of Turin's historic cafè culture, rich narrative of myths and legends and--of course--famous chocolate production. She also knows the beautiful countryside outside the city, leading travelers through the breathtaking Susa Valley and the medieval mountain abbey of Sacra di San Michele, the Reggia di Venaria Reale castle and park and the Canavese area.
For Subscribers: More local tour guides in Piedmont

(39) 346 9749902
Rates: 350€ per group for full day
Kate has that unique passion that many expats do for their adopted homes. A resident of Liguria since 1989, she fell so in love with the region's wine and cuisine that she has since become both an AIS sommelier and earned a Master's degree in Italian Gastronomic Traditions from the University of Rome-Tor Vergaata. She finds special delight in cooking, eating, and drinking with her clients but also is an avid walker and leads a number of breathtaking hikes over the dramatic Cinque Terre coastline. She often collaborates with Bella Vita Italia for custom tours throughout the region.
For Subscribers: More local tour guides in Cinque Terre

Look for our list of best local guides in Central and Southern Italy in the upcoming February 2013 issue of Dream of Italy! Subscribe today so you can receive it hot off the presses.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Capture Italy Offers Discount on Photo Tours

Let Capture Italy Boutique Photography Tours take you to some of Italy’s most beautiful locations - Rome, the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany, Venice – where you will learn how to perfectly capture historic architecture, ancient monuments, stunning landscapes and the everyday life of Italy and its people.

Dream of Italy readers receive $500 per person discount on our May 2013 Photographers Tour, must book by February 8, 2013.

(This is an ad.)