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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Fire Up The 'Copter Dahling, We're Going to the Games

One thing that scares me about attending the Olympic Games -- the traffic! While officials are doing their best to limit car traffic anywhere near the event sites, I'm afraid these mountain roads just weren't made for moving crowds like this. That's why if you have the money, the best way to arrive at the Games is by helicopter!

If money is no object, Classic Vacations has just the package for you: stay in a private villa in Tuscany or Umbria and get to the events in and around Torino via helicopter.

From their Web site: "Depending on the villa selected, travelers can simply walk outside their door to the helicopter, eliminating additional transfer time to another location. The helicopter can accommodate up to five passengers, and offers breathtaking views of the regions of Tuscany and Piemonte during the two-hour trip. And same-day departures and returns mean vacationers can join the crowds for an event and retreat immediately afterwards to their secluded and peaceful home away from home."

No prices are listed on the site (how tacky would that be?) but I hear the package is priced at about $100,000. Does that include event tickets?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Alitalia Wildcat Strikes Called Off

Whew! Just as I get ready to buy my tickets to Turin on Alitalia, the Associated Press reports that the airline workers who were responsible for this week's wildcat strikes have agreed to call them off.

Apparently, there may still be some delays on Alitalia flights this weekend as maintenance workers catch up, but everything should be okay well in time for the Olympic Games.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Torino: Private Apartments Are Best Option

As I mentioned earlier this week, the best option for securing accommodations ate the Olympic Games is to rent an apartment from a private owner. Bookmark this page on the Dream of Italy Web site because we keep updating it with new offerings. Here are a few that arrived in my e-mail today:

Maria Prat (e-mail: mprat@med.unipmn.it) is a local professor who is renting a double bedroom (with a private bathroom) in her Turin apartment, located five minutes from the Porta Nuova Train Station. She offers daily breakfast as well as high-speed Internet access. She is asking 700 euros per week for two people.

Andrea Dellavecchia (e-mail: andrea.DELLAVECCHIA@iveco.com) has a one-bedroom apartment with a washing machine and satellite TV available. It is located in Turin's Piazza Gran Madre, just across the Po River, and about a 10-minute walk from Piazza Castello. He's asking 350 euros per night.

Toot, Toot ~ Torino!

If there's ever a time to toot my own horn, 4 a.m. should be as good as any. Your favorite insomniac is perusing the Web for up-to-the-minute information on travel to Torino - (oh dear, I have gone to the other side, somewhere around yesterday, I gave up the fight to call it 'Turin'!). Just found out that USA TODAY quoted me today on those wildcat strikes in Italy. Here's an excerpt:

"It's the perfect time for the workers to bring attention to their issues," said Kathy McCabe, editor and publisher of a subscription travel newsletter, Dream of Italy, in Washington. "It's the worst time for the government."

Berlusconi, who is in a tough re-election campaign, had wanted to showcase the Olympics.

"This is a huge black eye for Berlusconi," McCabe said, because the strikes are occurring at the same time there is a last-minute demand to travel to the Olympics. "It's playing into a stereotype. It's Italy ...is a striking nation. They'll call a strike, then call it off, then call it again and call it off."

Here's some of the other great publicity Dream of Italy has received this past week:

Hear Kathy McCabe on Turin on Travel Hub Radio This Thursday

I'm Talking Turin on Peter Greenberg's Radio Show

Our Olympics Info. Page Recommended on Jaunted.com!

Our Olympics Info. Page Recommended on Gridskipper.com!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Uh, About That Strike Truce for the Olympics

As I have told you before, the Italians like to strike or at least threaten a strike -- not as much as they used to -- but it is still in their blood. Over the past week or so, wildcat strikes by Alitalia workers opposed to splitting off the company's ground operations, have disrupted flights. One strike two days ago paralyzed Turin's airport.

As Reuters reports today, Prime Minister Berlusconi, who must get this straightened out to save Italy's and his own reputation, is walking a very delicate line in making accusations about the unions' (who agreed to a strike truce for the Olympics) potential involvement in these latest actions.

So what does this mean for those of you (and me) traveling to the Olympics? I hope I am not being naive, but I am still planning on buying a ticket on Alitalia to fly to Italy in early February. They happen to have the only non-stop from Washington, DC to Milan. Those of you who have a choice, may want to book on another airline. But as I told a newspaper reporter this morning, I have been to Italy nearly 20 times and have never been caught in a strike (knock on wood), so I am optimistic.

BUT always pays to be informed -- these are wildcat strikes, so there may be no warning of them -- but if and when you're traveling to Italy, it is a good idea to check the Italian's Government's Strike Authority Web site.

Where to Stay in Torino? Private Apartments

Forget staying in an hotel in or around Turin for the Olympic Games -- focus instead on renting a room or whole apartment from a private owner. I believe this is the best way to get last-minute accommodations. I can't personally vouch for any of the owners I am listing, so use caution, but have had good communications with all that I am listing here. See post below and the new apartment I just added:

Umberto Scotti (e-mail: Umberto.SCOTTI@iveco.com) has a 2-bedroom apartment in the center of Turin, less than 1 km from where the medals ceremonies will take place. It is currently unfurnished, but he will put in the beds, sofas, tables that you require. He'a asking about 4,800 euros for the duration of the Games, but willing to entertain offers.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Finding Last-Minute Rooms at the Olympics

How do I know so much? I spent all weekend securing my own accommodations! Keep checking this space for the very latest (I will have more information on private owners renting apartments):
  • Cartan Their packages cost nearly $1,000 per person, per night for a stay in Turin, about half that for their "mountain program."
  • CoSport (also official U.S. agent for event tickets)
  • Craig's List (Milan) This is how I found the apartment I am renting for the duration of the Games!
  • Expatriates.com Private owners have a few apartments listed.
  • Extra Torino Hotel rooms in Turin starting at 270 euros per night. Rooms in mountain lodgings starting at 320 euros a night.
  • ItalyWinterGames.com They have a number of apartments still available in Turin, including the center. Prices start at $160 per person, per night.
  • Jumbo Grandi Eventi
  • Ludus Tours Has more availability in the mountain towns.
  • Mary Nicotra (e-mail: maria.nicotra1@tin.it) is a Torinese resident who has a number of apartments available in decent locations for decent prices. Tell her what you are looking for and she can find what you need.
  • Montagnedoc
  • Select Italy They have apartments still available in Turin and mountain towns, at about $5,000 per week. They still have hotel rooms in Turin at $500 and up per night.
  • Somewhere Tours Has a a double room in a centrally located Turin apartment for 280 euros per night.
  • Vacation Rentals By Owner Worth a search for "Turin" and some e-mails, but I only heard back from one owner and her apartment is taken.

Ten Things You Don't Know About Turin

In just a few weeks the eyes of the world will be turning to an Italian city that has long been overshadowed by its larger and better-known cousins. But as host to the XX Winter Olympics, Turin (or Torino in Italian) may finally be getting its day in the sun. Italians and foreigners alike often think of Fiat (the Italian carmaker) and Agnelli (the family who built the company) when they think of Turin yet, this city is hardly the Detroit of Italy. From world-class museums, to charming baroque architecture, to some of Italy’s best cuisine, Turin is a city of surprises. Here are some fascinating facts about Turin:
  1. Turin is considered a “city of magic.” Lying on the 45th parallel, Turin is, one of the three vertexes of the triangle of white magic with Prague and Lyon, and of the triangle of black magic with London and San Francisco. Other reasons: Nostrodamus lived here. The Holy Grail is said to be buried in Turin.
  2. Turin’s Museo Egizio holds the second-largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside Cairo.
  3. This city is a chocoholic’s dream destination! Giandutto, a blend of chocolate, hazelnuts and sugar, and a pre-cursor to Nutella, was invented here. Sample the luscious offerings of chocolate-makers Cafferel, Ferrero and Stratta.

For the rest of the list, click here

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Update: Turin Event Tickets

My editorial assistant is very thorough and I had her look into the status of purchasing Olympic Event tickets in the U.S. (through CoSport - the official seller here). This is what she found:

Many event tickets have sold since I last checked, and many more events are completely sold out at all ticket price levels (certain competitions for speedskating, snowboarding, skiing, figure skating). I suppose it is more important for you to know what IS still available:
  • opening and closing ceremonies (only most expensive level: $1,260 for opening, $910 for closing)
  • freestyle skiing
  • figure skating pairs short program
  • figure skating men's short program
  • the figure skating gala (towards end of competition)
  • women's snowboarding
  • biathlon
  • women's speed skating
  • women's downhill skiing
  • figure skating
  • ice dance competition
  • cross-country skiing
  • curling
  • women's ice hockey quaterfinals, semifinals (available in the most expensive ticket level)
Another way of looking at this: out of the Type I (more coveted) tickets available on CoSport, 50 events have sold out completely (out of 86 events); for Type II tickets on CoSport, 34 events out of 89 have sold out.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Travel Hints from Slowtrav Founder

I've told you how much I enjoy the Slowtravel Web site and their sister site Slowtalk. I've been a part of their community for a few years now and every year founder Pauline Kenny adds more bells, whistles and real substance and makes both sites better and better. She recently shared some of her philosophy for enjoying travel at a "slow" pace. These are greats tips for anyone planning a visit to Italy:
  • Don't try to see Rome, Florence, Venice and Siena in ten days. Choose one or two vacation rental accommodations for a two-week stay. Plan some excursions in nearby neighborhoods or towns. Enjoy the simple pleasures of shopping for groceries and taking in the local culture.
  • Spend some time trip planning. Read the guidebooks, books written by expats living in the country, novels by locals. All these give you the "feel" for a place. Book a tour of a winery, or an art workshop. These are the "extras" that can make a trip memorable.
  • Think like a local. Avoid heavily toured sights during peak hours.Focus instead on visiting markets, parks, and neighborhoods.
  • If popular sites are on your must-see list, you can tour during off-hours. Staying in arental for a longer period affords you the luxury to have a stress-free vacation.
  • Above all, take it slow. Your vacation is all about you and yourcompanions. Don't feel bound by other travelers' rules. If you want to spendevery morning in the local café, do that. If you want to spend the daydriving and exploring, do that. There are many ways to vacation, find the one that you like best.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I'm Talking Turin on Peter Greenberg's Radio Show

Want to find out more about planning a last-minute trip to the Turin Olympics? Tune in this Saturday, January 21 when yours truly appears on Peter Greenberg's Travel Today Radio Show. As many of you know, Greenberg is the NBC Today Show travel editor (Do you know he travels over 400,000 miles a year?)

The show airs 10 a.m. to noon ET. Go to www.traveltodayradio.com, enter you zip code and find out the station in your neck of the woods. Otherwide, you can download the podcast at www.iradionow.com or www.knews970.com and click on the 'listen' icon to hear the show while it is live.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Turin: City of Museums

One of the reasons I love Turin is for its museums. Turin is home to some 40 museums, most of them world-class. Turin's most famous musuem may be Museo Egizio, home to the best collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Cairo. On my November trip to Turin, I visited the Museo del Risorgimento - the average visitor might find this museum a little dry, but as a student of Italian history, particularly during the period of Italy's reunification, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. One highlight is the chamber that served as Italy's first parliament.

Olympic visitors are in luck - three of Turin's museums have reopened in time for the Winter Games:

  • Palazzo Madama, (see photo above) an art museum that contains a famous staircase constructed by Filippo Juvarra, has reopened in order to serve as the offices for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during the Games.
  • Museo Nazionale della Montagna (Mountain Museum) reopened on International Mountain Day (December 11th) and boasts more modern facilities as well as a panoramic view of the mountains overlooking Turin.
  • Ameria Rele di Torino (Royal Armour), housed in Palazzo Rele houses some 1,200 arms that once belonged to the Savoy family.

What's On in Florence

Italy's ANSA news agency reports the following exhibitions are taking place in Florence:

Palazzo Pitti: Mythologica et Erotica (Mythology and Eroticism) at the Museo degli Argenti (SilverMuseum) until May 15, 2006. The show features 213 works fromItalian and foreign museums. The range of works on display isremarkably wide with paintings, murals, sculptures, ceramics,prints, jewellery, coins and various other precious items -all depicting erotic stories from ancient mythology.

Archivio di Stato: Leonardo da Vinci: The True Image; the life of Leonardo is recounted in a series of documentsand letters collected for the first time in this new show.One of the highlights is the only record of his birth onApril 15, 1452; until January 28.

Museo dell'Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo): Arnolfo, The Origins of the Florentine Renaissance, 100 works charting the career of great architect Arnolfo di Cambio and his influence; until April 21.

For more information on Florence, see Dream of Italy's Special Report: Florence, published in June 2005.

NBC's Today Show in Rome Feb. 6th

If you're in Italy February 6th and a fan of NBC's Today Show, you might want to head over to Rome's Piazza Navona, reports ExpatsinItaly.com. The popular morning show will broadcast from the piazza from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. local time.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Strike Truce Called for Turin Games

All of the major Italian labors have agreed not to strike while the Winter Olympics Games and Paralympics are taking place in Turin. According to the Associated Press, "The truce will last from Jan. 31 to March 23 and includes a prevision allowing strikes March 4. Local Turin unions signed an Olympic no-strike clause in November."

The AP adds, "The truce will also ban telecommunications and railways protests, Betti said. Local protests outside the Turin area concerning labor disputes that have no impact on the Olympics will be allowed, he said, offering a bus strike in Rome as an example."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Vanity Fair: Elba is Hot

The February issue of Vanity Fair names the Tuscan island of Elba, as the next "it" destination for jet setters:

Swim, tan, and shop. Napoleon's favored vacation spot, Elba, part of the Tuscan Archipelgo, in the Tyrrhenian Sea, is emerage as the destination resort for travelers from around the world. While Europeans have long ferried to the fish-shaped isalnd for its soft white-sand beaches, private rocky enclaves, quaint boutiques, and amazing gelato, the rest of us are only now just getting in on the secret.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

"Turin" vs. "Torino"

My poor friend Paul. We're about to enter into a period of true hell for him. You see, one of his biggest pet peeves is when people, especially newscasters, say "Torino" rather than "Turin" - the English version of the city name. He was moaning and groaning about this months ago and well, he's about to hear it a whole lot more often in the coming two months...

Paul has some allies -- Jeanne Cooper, the travel editor of The San Francisco Chronicle -- states her case against "Torino" in a recent column entitled, "You say Torino, I say Turin, let's call the whole thing off." Here are some of her key points:

  • My point is that when we're speaking English, it makes sense to do it whole hog. We don't say "The Colosseum is in Roma," or "Michelangelo's David is in Firenze," or "Gee, there are a lot of tourists in Venezia." So why make an exception for Turin?
  • When sportswriters talk about "Torino," it may signify nothing more than affectation, or ignorance of the city's long existence before the Olympics. But I fear that with Americans' love of figure skating, they'll hear or read "Torino" often enough to start spreading the ignorance around.
  • My Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition, has a separate section for geographical names, where it lists "Turin" as the first choice, and "Torino" (marked It, for Italian) as the second. Shouldn't that be enough?

So Paul, rest assured that you are not alone, but I fear you and Ms. Cooper are facing an uphill battle.

Short Takes: News From Italy

  • The law outlawing smoking in Italian restaurants, bars and offices turned one last week. Cigarette sales are down 10%. (more)

  • The Italian town of Narni, 50 miles north of Rome, is hoping to cash in on the popularity of the newly released film The Chronicles of Narnia. Town leaders are convinced that C.S. Lewis, who probably never visited Narni, had their town in mind when writing his famous book, as it was called Narnia in Roman times. (more)

  • The world's oldest map will go on display in Turin February 8. The 1st-century-BC Papyrus of Artemidorus, which contains a map of a trip to Spain by a Greek geographer, can be seen at the city's Palazzo Bricherasio. (more)

Securing Turin Tickets: Is This Way Worth the Risk?

Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that numerous event tickets are still available for the Winter Games in Turin. I noted with interest some advice printed in the article's sidebar:

Buy your tickets directly through the Olympic Committee at torino2006.org and ship them to a friend in the European Union. There are tickets available from around $23.

I wondered if this might be a good alternative to purchasing tickets through CoSport, the official ticket vendor in the United States, which along with foreign sales agents in other countries, is allowed to and does charge about 20% over the face value of the ticket. (European Union residents can purchase tickets at face value.) I meant to get back to researching this, but last night read an interesting post from Seth Zurer (yup, related to Jim -- see below -- Seth is his son) of Select Italy on Slow Travel's Italy forum:

At Select Italy, we've had some experience researching and ordering tickets for the games. As far as EU delivery, the ticketing agency is being very persnickety about delivery. They're sending all tickets by courier and the person receiving the tickets must be able to demonstrate that they are the same person that ordered them or they must fill out a notarized "delego" form to officially name another recipient. The couriers are going to call the recipient by cell phone before delivery to make sure that the person will be there to accept delivery. They explicitly rule out dropping off the tickets with doormen, porters, or in a lobby. So, unless you actually live in Europe, it'll be hard to get the tickets you order.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Is Naples Safe?

One of our contributing writers, Italian travel expert Jim Zurer, who wrote about Palermo in our special report on Sicily (Sept. 2005), lends his expertise on the safety of visiting Naples in today's Charlotte Observer travel section:

Jim Zurer, owner of Zurer Travel -- a Washington agency specializing in trips to Italy -- says the popular Piazza Garibaldi is also a spot in which to stay alert.

Zurer cautions, however, that a bigger safety concern than street crime is Naples' traffic. He warns pedestrians to be careful when crossing busy streets.

And while it's hard to avoid thinking about the city's reputation for organized crime -- a discussion most in the tourism industry tend to avoid -- Zurer says that tourists won't even notice it.

"I would liken it to Washington, D.C.," he says, "where drug gang activity, as far as it exists, is far from the tourist centers."

In the October 2005 issue of Dream of Italy, travel writer and cookbook author David Downie revealed The Best Little Pizzerias in Naples.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Italy in 2006

Looking for a reason to travel to Italy in 2006? Here's a list of some of the best events Italy has to offer in the New Year:

*Torino Olympic Games: February 10-26th – The world will be watching Torino this February as it hosts the XX Olympic Winter Games.

*Carnevale di Venezia: February 17-28th – Venice lives up to its reputation as a city of masks during two weeks of decadent balls and parades.

* The Italian Motorcycle: A Century on Two Wheels Between Art, History and Sport: through March 12th – Milan's Fondazione Antonio Mazzotta will host an exhibition of paintings, photographs, and models covering 100 years of the role of motorcycles in Italy.

*Giro d'Italia: May 8-29th – Italy's equivalent of the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia winds cyclists from Reggio Calabaria to Milan in pursuit of the maglia rosa.

*Naples Pizzafest: September 8-18th - Naples celebrates the creation of pizza with two weeks of concerts,shows, and great deals at pizzerias throughout the city. -- Shauna Maher

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Turin Olympics: By the Numbers

• 17 days of competitions: from February 10 to 26, 2006;
• 15 disciplines: biathlon, bobsleigh, Nordic combined, curling, freestyle, ice hockey, figure skating, speed skating, ski jumping, Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, short-track, skeleton, luge and snowboard;
• 7 competition sites: Torino, Bardonecchia, Cesana, Pinerolo, Pragelato, Sauze d'Oulx, Sestriere;
• 3 Olympic Villages: Torino, Bardonecchia and Sestriere;
• 84 titles at stake;
• 85 National Olympic Committees;
• 2,500 athletes;
• 2,500 coaches and national team officials;
• 2,300 representatives of the IOC, National Olympic Committees and Federations;
• 650 judges and umpires;
• 10,000 media;
• 6,000 guests of sponsors;
• 1,500,000 spectators.

Source: http://www.torino2006.org/evento/content.php?idm=100098