This is the blog for Dream of Italy™, The Insider's Guide to Undiscovered Italy, a paid subscription travel newsletter. Dream of Italy™ (www.dreamofitaly.com) has been recommended by USA TODAY, National Geographic Traveler, U.S. News & World Report and American Way. Editor Kathy McCabe has helped thousands of travelers get the most out of their visits to Italy.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Florence at Your Fingertips!

Florence Concierge Information is an indispensable bi-monthly guide published in Italian and English now in its 20th year. The complimentary booklet is compiled by Florentine hotel concierges and published by the Golden Keys Association, an international organization founded in France in 1929 (guides are also available in Bologna, Milan, Palermo, Rome and Venice).

Each issue is jammed with updated information on exhibits, museums, markets, concerts, trains, planes, sports, nightlife, rental cars, consulates, spas, feasts, and fairs, and is more comprehensive than anything at the tourist office – pick one up soon after your arrival at shops or hotels, including the Helvetia & Bristol, Villa Medici, Villa San Michele, J. K. Place, Mediterraneo, Sofitel and Lungarno (you don’t have to be a guest to request a copy from the reception desk). -- Barrie Kerper

Pucci's New Island Outpost

Today's New York Times reports a new Pucci store on Capri:

Far from New York's steamy streets, Emilio Pucci has opened a turquoise colored boutique on the Italian island Capri, near the beaches where he began his career in the early 1950's. Inside are the classic graphic prints that elevate resort wear to high fashion worthy of the tropical getaway. At Via Camerelle 65, Capri, +39 081 8388200.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Dream of Italy's June Issue: Special Report: Florence

Dream of Italy's June issue is hot off the presses! The entire 12-page newsletter is dedicated to what's new and undiscovered in and around Florence. All of our paid subscribers will be receiving their copies in the mail or via the Internet.

If you're not a subscriber, subscribe today and you will receive the June issue as your first newsletter and we will give you a FREE copy of A Romantic's Guide to Italy.

We know how many of you are planning a trip to Tuscany this summer, so we have put together a special "Dream of Tuscany" folder just for you. The executive folder includes copies of our special reports on Chianti, villa rentals and Florence (the June issue). You can purchase it here for $30 and we will send it out ASAP!

Meanwhile, here's what is covered in the June issue/Florence special report:

  • These Small, Elegant Florence Hotels Feel Like Home (four reviews)
  • The Real Room with a View (stay where the movie was filmed)
  • Eat and Learn at Olio & Convivium
  • This Latini Brother's New Osteria Isn't a Chip Off the Old Block
  • The Dream Interview: Faith Willinger
  • Villa La Pietra's Window on Florence, Past and Present
  • A Good Tour Guide Is No Longer Hard to Find
  • ...and much more!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Florence Eateries: Favorite Finds

In the June 2005 issue of Dream of Italy -- our special report on Florence -- Barrie Kerper writes about the unique objects (pale -- Wonder what that is? Read the newsletter and find out!) she finds hanging in select places in Firenze, including the following restaurant. Here she tells us a bit more about the cantinetta and her other favorite Florentine eateries...

The Cantinetta dei Verrazzano is the kind of place I’ve long dreamed about only I didn’t quite know it, or rather, I didn’t know such a wonderful place really existed. I really enjoy reading about restaurants and trattorie, wine bars and pizzerias, and I often plan a day’s itinerary around the locations of places to eat and drink. And I don’t just frequent places that are famous or hold Michelin stars; in fact, I would consider a trip a failure if it didn’t include a variety of eating establishments.

That’s why, when I visit Florence, I always stop at least once at I Fratellini, a sliver of a place that is more like a booth built into the side of the wall at via dei Cimatori 38r. Patrons simply select from the menu of crostini and panini and order a glass of Chianti of the same name and stand in the street and eat. What’s particularly Italian about it all is not only that the sandwiches and snacks are really delicious, but that there are little shelves carved out into the wall where you put your wine glass when you’ve finished. You simply cannot have this experience anywhere in puritanical America, and it should be noted that there are always children around, watching adults have a sensible glass of wine taken with food.

I have also very much enjoyed Trattoria Garga (via del Moro) , Cibreo (via dei Macci 118r) and Caffe Rivoire (piazza della Signoria 5), but my most favorite place, one I can return to various times in one trip, is Cantinetta dei Verrazzano (via dei Tavolini 18/20 r, 055.268.590). -- B.K.

NOTE: If you're not a paid subscriber to DOI, subscribe today and you will receive the June issue as your first newsletter and we will give you a FREE copy of A Romantic's Guide to Italy.
You may also purchase the June issue as part of our special "Dream of Tuscany" Folder! The executive folder includes copies of our special reports on Chianti, villa rentals and Florence (the June issue) -- perfect if you are planning a trip to Tuscany this summer! You can purchase it here for $30 and we will send it out ASAP!

That Language We Love -- Italiano

Italian is currently spoken by about 70 million people around the world, in Italy and 29 other countries. It is the official language of Italy, San Marino and the Ticino and Grigioni cantons of Switzerland. It is the second official language in Vatican City and in some areas of Istria in Slovenia and Croatia with an Italian minority. It is widely used by immigrant groups in Luxembourg, the U. S., Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, and Australia, and is also spoken in neighboring Albania. Italian is also spoken to a lesser extent in parts of Africa formerly under Italian rule such as Somalia, Libya, and Eritrea. On Malta, too, Italian is widely known and taught and served as the official language until English was adopted in its 1934 Constitution.

Italian enthusiasts may be interested in subscribing to one or more of Accademia La Crusca’s periodicals, which are, in typical Italian fashion, beautifully printed. The organization has three annual publications and La Crusca per voi, published bi-monthly.

Readers interested in learning, or improving upon, Italian will find no shortage of classes to take or language courses to peruse. A few resources are:

Self-Study Courses

Living Language: the pioneer in foreign language self-study courses, founded in 1946. Courses are available in book, CD, cassette, video, and DVD formats for beginner, intermediate, and advanced students. Courses include Complete Course: The Basics, Drive Time, In-Flight, Ultimate Beginner-Intermediate, Ultimate Advanced, Parla Italiano?, All-Audio, Without the Fuss, Languages for Travelers, Baby’s First Steps, Learn Together for the Car, Learn Together in the Kitchen, Bravissimo!, and a new interactive program, 2,000+ Essential Italian Verbs.

Acquerello Italiano: a bimonthly audiomagazine for students of Italian language and culture, but not for beginners. Editions are available in either cassette or CD and each program, featuring topics ranging from politics, music, film, travel, opera, interviews, and current events, is one hour in length. The broadcasts are presented in Italian by native speakers. An annual subscription on cassette is $99 or $189 for two years; on CD, subscriptions are $110 for one year and $211 for two. Each recording comes with a magazine that includes a word for word transcription, an extensive glossary, and URLs for related websites.

Italian Classes in Florence

British Institute of Florence: founded in 1917, the British Institute is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote British culture in Italy and Italian culture to English-speaking visitors. The BI also maintains a library of English books, housed in Palazzo Lanfredini, which it inherited from Sir Harold Acton. Language courses are offered for beginners, intensive beginners, and intermediate as well as intensive study courses offered for one week and Living Italian offered for three months. A two-week Italian Summer School is also offered in August. Language courses range in price from about $190 a week to $1,750 for 12 weeks. Drawing, watercolor, art history, Tuscan cooking, wine and food, and opera courses are also offered. The BI also has an accommodation advisor to help students find living quarters if needed, and it has access to a limited number of rooms in self-catering accommodations often shared with Italian or foreign students to be booked at least three months in advance. The British Institute is located at piazza Strozzi 2, (39) 055.2677.8222

Centro Lingua Italiana Calvino: CLIC is an Italian language school authorized by the Italian Ministry of Education. Language courses offered are superintensive (6 hours per day), standard (4 hours per day), and holiday (2 hours a day). Courses range in price from about 140 euros for one week to 2,160 euros for a three week individual program. In addition, a great number of organized activities are arranged, including visits to museums, dinners, concerts, games, lectures, cinema shows, guided walks around Florence, and trips to other towns in Tuscany. CLIC also offers cooking and computer graphics classes, and offers housing in apartments, even for families. The school is located at viale Fratelli Rosselli 74, 055.288.081

Classes in the U. S.

Istituto Italiano di Cultura: the Italian Cultural Institute not only offers language classes but is a great organization to help keep you immersed in all things Italian. If you live in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Washington, D. C. you may partake in all the classes, lectures, and special events organized by the ICI. But if you do not, you may still find the ICI’s website (http://www.italcultny.org/) a useful reference as it has links to scholarships and grants for American citizens to study in Italy; Italian private schools offering language courses; Italian public institutions offering courses for foreigners; and scholarships for studying Italian language and culture in Italy available through the ICI.

All the North American offices of the Italian Government Tourist Board have a number of brochures for language classes both domestically and in Italy. Offices are located in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Toronto.

Finally, many colleges and universities offer language courses during the summer months that are open to adults at every level, and Italian students studying here often advertise their services for teaching Italian. If you really want to learn, it’s not that difficult to find a tutor or a class.

As an aside, if you need help translating a fax, e-mail, letter, or text of any kind, try logging onto www.altavista.com. Users simply click on the word “translate” (don’t worry that only English and Spanish appear on the right side of the screen), then type in the word or phrase you want translated, select from English to Italian, and click again on “translate.” It works from Italian to English, too. This is particularly helpful when viewing websites that are exclusively in Italian.

-- Barrie Kerper, special contributing editor to the June issue of Dream of Italy and author of the The Collected Traveler series of books

Monday, June 20, 2005

A Very Special Italian Cruise

A once-in-a-lifetime trip has come to our attention -- offered by the National D-Day Museum, the Victory in Europe Cruise (on the luxurious Seabourn Legend) will explore the history of Italy's role in World War II by visiting important battlefields. This eight-day tour leaves from Nice, France sailing to Livorno (on the Tuscan coast) through the Tyrrehnian Sea, along the Amalfi Coast, ending in Rome. Stops will be made at Salerno, Pompeii, Monte Cassino, Anzio, Nettuno and other noteworthy places.

A distinguished group of authors, historians and WWII veterans -- including brothers Raymond and Irvin Wells, members of the 36th infantry division, former Air Force pilot Senator George McGovern, historical consultant Hugh Ambrose (son of author Stephen Ambrose), author Robert Katz and WWII war correspondent Peter Tompkins -- will lead the tour. These men will bring to life the unforgettable events of the war through a series of lectures, presentations, on-site accounts and even casual mealtime conversations.

Guests will also have the opportunity to explore other eras of Italian history along with way, through optional visits to art museums, monuments or perhaps by just strolling around a Renaissance town nibbling gelato and soaking up the rich regional culture.

The result is a singular/one-of-a-kind tour through Italy to discover the rich, yet haunting history of WW II in Italy, which forms the backdrop for the breathtaking culture and sights of Italy today. Keep in mind that all of this takes place on one of the most luxurious sea liners around—the Seabourn Legend, which accommodates only 208 passengers, making this a highly personal experience. The Victory in Europe Cruise runs October 16 to 23, 2005. The cost starts at $7,990 per person. – Cailin Birch, Dream of Italy editorial assistant

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Special Thanks to Our June Sponsors

Amalfi Life - unparalleled access to the authentic life of Italy's Amalfi Coast through tours, villa rentals, weddings, cooking programs, etc.
Chiantionline - villa rentals, organic olive oil and information about Chianti
Dream of Italy Designs - fine Venetian glass jewelry created by the masters
Giovanni Musella's Limo Service in Rome
Shop Wine and Dine- luxury oeno-gastronomic tours
Tripinsurancestore.com - discover how to protect yourself and your trip for pennies on the dollar
Vatican Tours Inc.- private, personalized tours in Rome and beyond

File Under Weird: Berlusconi's Liposuctioned Fat

Yuck! At this weekend's Art Basel, the international art show featuring over 270 of modern and contemporary art galleries from around the world, a bar of soap, purportedly made from Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's fat, removed during liposuction, sold for $18,000!

Gianni Monti's work called "Clean Hands" -- the title is a play on the name of an anti-Mafia group -- was purchased by a private Swiss collector. See the famous or infamous bar of soap here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Tuscany Trip for Breast Cancer Survivors

I learned about a unique small tour to Italy today -- Classic Journeys has organized a week-long tript to Tuscany for breast cancer survivors and their loved ones. In the U.S. today, there are more than two million breast cancer survivors. All of the profits from the trip will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The trip, September 4 - 10, 2005, begins in Florence and ends in Cortona.

We follow a web of magical footpaths that lead us along vineyard trails and cobbled-stone lanes to the castle-topped hills of Chianti. Among our delights are private visits to friends' houses, a cooking demonstration, wine tastings and sampling plenty of sumptuous Tuscan cuisine. Siena, Pienza, San Gimignano and Montepulciano are all names that quickly roll off your tongue, but the memories each of these special places evoke will surely last a lifetime. Over the week we'll walk and talk, laugh and cry as we celebrate everyone who has shown us what true strength, determination and courage are all about.

The $2,995 land-only cost includes all breakfasts, five dinners, one lunch and one cooking class. There's an additional $355 charge for single supplement.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Summer Deal: Rome's Lord Byron

I had the pleasure of staying at Rome's Lord Byron Hotel in February. I have long heard about this 5-star property and wanted to try it for myself. While I had a wonderful experience, I concluded that the hotel is not for everyone.

If you're on your first trip to Rome or plan to spend most of the time in the center, this may not be the place for you (you need to take a bus or 10-minute taxi ride to get to the center). But if you're planning on spending some time in the Borghese Gardens and the Villa Borghese, the location is ideal and might be of interest to those who have already spent plenty of time in Rome.

The best feature of the Lord Byron -- undoubtedly, the excellent service! The staff are simply the best, helpful yet, understated and have the perfect response to any situation. I have been told that they are particularly good with children -- a friend just raves about how nice they were to her kids.

My least favorite aspect -- the decor in the rooms. I'm not sure that all of the rooms look like this, but I likened the furnishing in my room to that of a Russian dacha! Later, I learned that the Byron does get a number of Russian visitors. The carpeting was red, the furniture was white and if I remember correctly, the walls were tan. It just wasn't my taste.

The price is right for a stay at the Lord Byron. The hotel has a summer deal: stay a minimum of two nights (arrive any day of the week) in a double classic room with daily breakfast for the excellent rate of 180 € per night, plus tax.

There's a similar deal available at Lord Byron's sister hotel in Florence, the Hotel Regency. For 180 € a night, plus tax, you can stay in a double classic room with daily breakfast. (Two-night minimum.)

Know of any other summer deals? E-mail me at kathy at dreamofitaly dot com

Saturday, June 11, 2005

"Decameron" Brings Hollywood to Tuscany and Rome

Did you enjoy Hayden Christensen in the Star Wars flick "Revenge of the Sith"? You'll be seeing more of him oncscreen next year. Christensen has been in Tuscany and Rome filming "The Decameron," a film based Giovanni Boccaccio's classic 14th century novel, chronicling the stories the citizens of Florence tell each other as they succomb to the Plague.

Christensen is only one of the big names associated with the movie: "The O.C." actress Mischa Barton co-stars; Roberto Cavalli is designing the costumes; Dino De Laurentiis directs.

In other movie news, filiming of "The Young Hannibal," prequel to the 2001 film "Hannibal" is set to begin in Tuscany in September.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Preview: Dream of Italy's June Issue

Going to Florence this summer? Don' t miss our June issue! Its a 12-page special report devoted exclusively to Firenze -- from reviews of three new hotels to a conversation with one of the grand dames of Florentine cusine -- packed with must-have information that I promise you won't find in guidebooks.

Subscribe to Dream of Italy now and receive the June issue hot off the presses and a FREE copy of the new book, A Romantic's Guide to Italy. The subscription price includes online access to THREE YEARS of back issues with dozens of articles on all corners of Italy.

Here are some of the features in the June issue (out next week) include:
  • Three Elegant Hotel-Residences in the Heart of Florence
  • A Visit to Harold Acton's Villa La Pietra
  • The Dream Interview: Faith Willinger
  • How to Really Stay in A Room With A View
  • A New Restaurant From One of the Famed Latini Brothers
  • Florence's Newest Gelato Shop
  • ...and much more!