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Veneto Spa Hotel Has the World’s Deepest Thermal Pool

Diver in y-40 pool

About half an hour by train from Venice and even closer to Padua is Hotel Millepini Terme, a spa hotel that has the Guinness World Record for the world’s deepest thermal pool. The Y-40 The Deep Joy is 137-feet deep (40 meters) at its deepest, with four underwater grottos along the way. There’s a viewing tunnel at about the 5-meter mark. Fed by the warm waters of the Terme Euganee, one of the most popular thermal spa complexes in Italy, the Y-40 maintains a constant temperature of 30-32 degrees Celsius (about 90 degrees Fahrenheit).

Illustration of the Y-40

The Y-40 was designed for free-divers and scuba enthusiasts, who can book time at the concept pool separate from staying at the hotel. But pro divers and amateurs can stay at the hotel and take advantage of several dive and relax packages, including ones for families and beginners.

H/t Laughing Squid; Photos: Hotel Terme Millepini

Falling For Italy: Three Fun Activities to Put on Your Radar

Cascate delle MarmoreThis month for the Italy Blogging Roundtable, my colleagues and I decided we would write about “fall.” Not autumn, but fall. So that left me a little bit of room for interpretation. Without doubt, Italy is a wondrous place to be in the fall: leaves are changing, fall fashion is beckoning from store windows and on the perfectly trim bodies of Italian males and females, and truffles are appearing on menus throughout the country. But I decided to write about “fall” in a different way by highlighting a few interesting activities that take you away from the art and the shopping and the endless indulging of food and wine – all fabulous things but not the end-all-and-be-all of what Italy has to offer for active travelers. The following three activities are focused on “fall” but are not strictly reserved for autumn.

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Culinary Tour of Ravenna

Here is a fabulous video from The Guardian, which has been doing a video series called “My City.” This installment, starring cooking school teacher Angela Schiavina, offers an intimate look at her home town of Ravenna, a city in the region Emilia Romagna, the gastronomic heart of Italy. Join this affable host as she takes you on a ten-minute tour of Ravenna’s markets and culinary shops then shows you how to make a typical Romagnole (of the region of Emilia-Romagna) dinner. The Guardian also provides a companion map of Ms. Schiavina’s Ravenna tour.

LUXE City Guides: Now in Italian and On Sale

LUXE City Guide RomeIf you consider yourself a stylish traveler, then you’ve probably already heard of LUXE City Guides. These handsome little guides give you the low-down on the chicest restaurants, bars, boutiques, and more in some of the world’s most happening cities. Now LUXE has announced its first foray into foreign language publishing with its guides in Italian. These guides are available for purchase online at http://www.luxecityguides.it and in bookshops throughout Italy.

Chances are, since you’re reading this blog, you prefer to get your Italy travel information in English. Luckily, to celebrate the launch of LUXE’s new Italian-language line, the publisher is offering 20% off of its Italy titles through June 30. You can snap up one of their guides to Rome, Florence, Venice, or Milan by ordering online at http://www.luxecityguides.com and entering LUXEITALY at checkout. (Note that this offer is available for worldwide shipping with the exception of Italy.)

Reading this post after June 30, 2011? Visit LUXE City Guides on Amazon.com.

Romantic Hotels in Tuscany

Tuscany is, without doubt, one of the foremost locations in the world for your honeymoon. Whether you wish to visit the tiny, romantic, hilltop villages or simply watch the olive groves and cypress trees gently sway in the wind, Tuscany offers some of the most romantic hotels that you are likely to come across and allows you the opportunity to enjoy a perfect honeymoon. Here are a few romantic hotels in Tuscany available for booking from Escapio.com by guest blogger Holly Maguire.

Monsignore della Casa Country Resort Tuscany Hotel
Monsignore della Casa Country Resort
, situated in Borgo San Lorenzo, is a four-star country house hotel with breathtaking views of the Mugello. Within 5 km of the resort are a variety of bars/pubs, discotheques, restaurants, cinemas, and shopping opportunities. The extensive grounds of the hotel offer fabulous gardens, a pool and spa area inviting to relaxation. This is ideal for couples happy to spend their honeymoon without lifting a limb, as every necessity and modest luxury is available on the hotel grounds. The hotel was named after Giovanni Della Casa, best known as the official secretary of Pope Paul IV. (Melanie: nothing says romance like the Pope’s personal secretary!)

UNA Palazzo Mannaioni Tuscany Hotel
UNA Palazzo Mannaioni
, located in Montaione, is an enchanting castle hotel with a distinct historic character encompassing 400 years of romance and history. Montaione has forged a reputation as one of the most spellbinding areas of Tuscany. It is also home to the much celebrated Montaione Castle. The original building was constructed in the year 1500, and over the years the hotel has undergone many renovations, most recently in 2006. The local area sings with vineyards, olive groves, oak and lemon trees – perfect for hand-in-hand strolls, or even one of Tuscany’s many bicycle tours. You can also take advantage of the many in-house facilities that this sublime hotel has to offer. The De’ Mannaioni restaurant in the old mill will cater to candelit dinners after days sunbathing and sipping exotic cocktails by the outdoor pool.

San Biagio Relais Tuscany Hotel
San Biagio Relais
is an old patrician mansion which was converted into an intimate 41 room hotel in 2006. Situated in Orbetello, the hotel’s muted modern décor inside historic walls guarantees a unique experience, and this may well be the perfect place for star-crossed lovers to retreat. Take in the spectacular views of the Monte Argentario mountains from the stylish rooms and savor breakfast and outstanding cuisine in the Ristorante Wine Bar. Rooms offer large comfortable bed, stylish furniture, and wonderfully crafted historic arched ceilings. While romantic couples will find everything they need in the hotel, they can also enjoy the Orbetello peninsula, which has a lively nightlife district full of bars and restaurants.

Mediterranea Hotel Tuscany
Mediterranea Luxury House
is a small bed and breakfast offering four star luxury in a beautiful, romantic setting in Quercianella. Quercianella, known for its macchia – the evergreen Mediterranean vegetation enveloping the landscape – is a nature lover’s paradise and is just a stone’s throw from the sea. Mediterranea Luxury House is a private retreat which affords stunning views and personal service. This exquisite bed and breakfast serves up local hams, cheeses and home-grown tomatoes as part of the renowned morning fare. Owners Roberto and Vania will ensure your stay at this white villa is a memorable one, and can help you with recommendations for nearby activities including mountain climbing, sailing, surfing, and fishing.

Villa Campestri Hotel Tuscany
Villa Campestri
,  a 13th century country home, is set in the awe-inspiring natural surroundings of the village of Campestri, not far from the magic of Florence. Villa Campestri pampers honeymooners with homegrown fruits, vegetables, and finely tuned cuisine; enjoy regional specialties and vegetarian options accompanied by a glass or two of the local Oleoteca wine. From the outdoor pool, couples can enjoy views of vineyards, olive trees, forests, and meadows stretching out to the horizon. In addition to the attractions of Florence, the Medici fortress at San Piero a Sieve is a great day trip from here. This beautiful hotel offers high-flyers a helipad should they wish to arrive in style and horse-drawn coach rides are an opportunity to lap up romance and style with a timeless touch.

Contributed by Holly at Escapio.com. These are just a selection of the luxury, design and boutique Tuscany hotels available for booking. All photos courtesy of Escapio.

A Bribe-Free Holiday in Sicily

Vucciria Market in Palermo Sicily

You Wanna Pizzo Me?

The brave work of the anti-mafia organization AddioPizzo.org was recently brought to my attention. “Addio Pizzo” means “Goodbye, Pizzo,” the latter word meaning the protection money that hundreds of businesses throughout Sicily have had to pay to the powerful, omnipresent mafia. AddioPizzo was formed in 2004 after a group of young Sicilian entrepreneurs, afraid that they too would have to pay a racket if they wanted to open up a pub, began plastering Palermo with stickers that said:

Un Intero Popolo Che Paga Il Pizzo È Un Popolo Senza Dignità

An Entire People Who Pay the Pizzo Is a People Without Dignity

As more Sicilians spoke up to agree with this message, the anti-pizzo movement was born. Slowly but surely, businesses stepped forward bearing the “addiopizzo” label, which meant that because they refused to pay the pizzo, then their customers did not have to worry about funding the Mafia through their purchases. Today there is an ever-growing list of AddioPizzo businesses in Palermo, from sporting goods stores to pharmacies and from restaurants to industrial service providers. You can download the 2009 AddioPizzo Guide and Map to Pizzo-Free Businesses (PDF) here (the most recent guide available as of this writing). You can also print out this list, which is less handy because it is without a map but probably more updated.

AddioPizzo Banner - Anti-Mafia
AddioPizzo also now has an offshoot called AddioPizzo Travel, which takes tourists around Sicily to not only pizzo-free establishments but former homes and hideouts of mob bosses which have been reclaimed by the state and turned over to anti-mafia organizations such as Libera Terra. AddioPizzo Travel goes beyond the Sicilian capital of Palermo to explore many of the other beautiful – but mafia-scarred – cities of Monreale, Capaci, Cinisi, and Cefalù.

Libera Terra is in itself interesting anti-mob organization. It operates as a cooperative that has begun cultivating lands seized from the mafia and producing goods with the “from lands freed from the mafia” label.  Libera Terra also runs a B&B in the former home of mob capo Bernardo Brusca (Portella della Ginestra) as well as the co-op farmstay inn (Pio La Torre) in Corleone, renowned Cosa Nostra territory.

This is responsible travel at its core. Let’s hope that the AddioPizzo organization, label, and tours will spread north to other mafia-infected regions like Calabria and Campania.

Photo © Stefano@Benetti from Creative Commons

An Italian Wedding

100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go
June is the classic month in which to schedule wedding, and this holds true in Italy, too. Therefore, with the marriage month fast approaching, I am delighted to be able to provide readers with an excerpt from Susan Van Allen’s wonderful new book 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go.

An Italian Wedding

If you get an invitation to an Italian wedding, don’t waffle about how you’re going to pay for airfare or take time off work. Go for a once-in-a-lifetime unforgettable event. Prepare yourself for an extravaganza of delicious food and dancing until the wee hours.

It’ll be a rare invitation. These days Italians say it’s not practical to get married, so most are shacking up together for years, and the statistics for Italian marriages are at a historic low. Along with that, there’s the trend of “mammoni” or mamma’s boys, that is, men living at home and having their mothers cook for them and do their laundry until they’re well into their thirties. It’s inspired the government to step in to get things moving, and beginning in 2008 tax breaks will be offered to those earning low incomes who leave home to live on their own.

Still, if you’re in Italy, especially in June (thanks to Juno, Goddess of Marriage), you’ll run into Italian weddings in churches. I spent a week in Palermo one June where almost every church I peeked into had a marriage ceremony going on, with wonderful music and stunning get-ups from the bride on down. You’ll never see a real Italian wedding on a Tuesday or Friday, as that’s considered not a good day to begin any venture. Which is why when I was last visiting Ravello’s Villa Cimbrone on a Friday, the wedding party posing for pictures were Americans from Massachusetts.

Speaking of which, you may be considering getting married in Italy. It’s naturally a great place for a wedding, completely romantic, with locations from castles to vineyards to cliffs overlooking the sea that can satisfy every fairytale fantasy.

A major advantage to getting married in Italy is that you can cut your guest list down to a core group of dearest family and friends, who’ll be thrilled to be in on the adventure. Plus, what
better place is there for a jumping off point for a honeymoon?

As far as the nitty-gritty, it’s better to have a symbolic wedding in Italy rather than an official one, as the paperwork to make things official is complex and time consuming. To help get things set up, here are some companies that specialize in Italian weddings:

Doorways, Ltd.
One of this company’s top “I Do” spots is a sixteenth century villa on the outskirts of Lucca, which sits on 300 acres of vineyards, olive groves, and woodlands. A special perk is a pre-wedding cocktail party exclusively for the bridal couple and all the service people involved in the festivities. Here, according to Doorway’s President Kit Burns, “Everyone becomes a family and the bride’s pre-wedding anxiety vanishes when she’s met everybody who’ll be doing
the work.”

There’s a fantastic frescoed bridal suite at the villa, an arts and crafts workshop area for younger guests, and it’s perfectly located for day trips before the big event, such as a boat ride to the Cinque Terre.

Italy 4 Real
Intimate country weddings in Tuscan and Umbrian agriturismos, are Italy 4 Real’s specialty. The company’s philosophy is for clients to fully experience the environment they’re in, so they bring in local expert chefs and musicians and it’s all very traditional. Marriage ceremonies feature stunning backdrops of vineyards and olive groves. Brides and grooms are whisked off to nearby picturesque hill towns such as San Gimignano or Assisi for photo shoots. The company is owned by Rem Malloy and his Roman-American mother, Deborah de Maio, who Rem made a point of telling me he does not live with.

The Italy Specialists
Silvia Giardin, company founder and Veneto native, has been planning Italian weddings for thirty-three years. “Nothing is impossible” is her motto. I would love to have been invited to just one of the weddings she told me her company put together: a sunrise ceremony on a Venetian dock where the bridal couple wore pajamas and the party continued with a palazzo brunch…an extravagant affair at the Lake Como estate now owned by George Clooney…a wedding in Taoromina, Sicily where the ceremony took place at the Greek amphitheater and was followed by a reception at The Grand Hotel Timeo.

RECOMMENDED READING
Italy, a Love Story edited by Camille Cusumano
In Love in Italy by Monica Larner

“An Italian Wedding” has such excellent tips for a destination wedding in Italy. But it is only one chapter in a book chock full of fun Italy travel suggestions for women. Van Allen also pays homage to must-see works of art, tiny villages, spas, shopping, family-friendly places, and other sights and activities that have either a feminine bent or that hold certain appeal for the female traveler. I especially love that Van Allen has included a calendar of Madonna Holidays and Female Saints’ Feast Days.

If you haven’t figured it out already, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go is a fantastic gift for the Italy-loving woman in your life.

(Thanks to everyone who participated in the iPhone app giveway! The contest is now closed.)

Want to know another great gift? The ‘100 Places’ iPhone App! Publisher Travelers’ Tales has created a lightweight app that you can use as a reference on your trip to Italy or when you simply want to do a little armchair travel while standing in line or sitting in the waiting room. And, I’m offering Italofile readers the chance to win a copy of the iPhone app:

100 Places iPhone App Giveaway
To win the 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go iPhone app, simply comment on the post below or re-tweet this post using the hashtag #100places. Deadline for entering the contest is 11:59pm EDT on June 3, 2010.

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