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Italy Hit Parade Vol. I

Discovering new or new-to-me music has always been one of my favorite things about traveling and living abroad. So I plan to use this space to bring you some of the songs that I’m listening to in Italy. Some of the music will be bubbly pop, some hip hop, some…I don’t know what. But most, if not all, will come from the radio and MTV (which actually plays videos here).

Note that some of these videos may not play because of region restrictions or on mobile. I really have no way of knowing if every video will work. So consider IHP Vol. I the first test.

Rocco Hunt is one of the more successful (and accessible) hip hop artists in Italy. Continue Reading →

Ancients Doing Modern Things

I posted this silly tweet on my personal account one week ago and people are still retweeting it. Some replied with suggestions that it was Marcus Aurelius attempting a selfie. While quite a few suggested photos like this could become a trend. Is this a meme in search of a hashtag?

Either way, I hope to be doing more of these while I’m in Rome. Stay tuned for photos and musings posted on my personal and italofile twitter accounts. I’ll also be posting more Italy stories, how-tos, and travel news as I get settled.

Video: Italian Hand Gestures

Even if you’ve never been to Italy, you’ve seen them. I’m talking about the hand gestures that Italians use to complement their vocal language. Indeed, sometimes all you’ll get is a hand gesture so “fai attento” – pay attention – and learn a few with this video from Nada’s Italy. This is also a lovely little primer because you get a glimpse of some piazze, cafes, alleyways, and the countryside while the gesture demonstrators give their little lessons.

Favorite Italian Words: The Sequel

Text in ItalianEver since Jessica at Italylogue wrote a guest post about her Five Favorite Italian Words, I have been getting great feedback about the post via comments, Twitter, and Facebook. For the past three months, the post has been one of the most popular posts on Italofile and I credit that to Jessica for her wonderful writing and to the Italian language itself.

So many people enjoy learning Italian. It is so melodic – it’s the language of beautiful poetry, music, and the closest to Latin, the “dead” language that spawned dozens of others. While not everyone can travel to Italy, everyone can try to learn Italian, which is the reason that the five favorite Italian words post struck a chord with so many readers.

One of those readers – we’ll call her N.A. – recently wrote to me asking where she could learn even more Italian words using the five-words-per-day method. Here’s a snippet of her email:

Recently I have started the plan to learn Italian by myself. I used to have a phrase book, and I also brought a better (Colorful) one with a CD. However, I found it hard to learn things too quickly, mostly sentences gave me the hardest time.

So I went back to the basics and rules, learned and reviewed them, and used sites which helped such as Then I suddenly realized an easier way for me which is learning five different words everyday. Those words are preferably random, and not categorized, such as: family members, colors…etc.

So I started searching about this online when I found your blog which had a topic ”Five Favorites: Italian Words” I really liked the way they way [sic] written, the words are differently nice, the pronunciation is there, and the meaning with a lovely story also there.

This got me thinking: wouldn’t it be great to get a meme going around of other travel bloggers and Italian language learners to share their five favorite Italian words on their own websites? This way, we could help out N.A. (and maybe others?), promote the Italian language, and get to learn some new Italian vocabulary words ourselves.

The way that it will work is like this:

1) Write a post on your own site about your five favorite Italian words. You can choose anything you want, but do refrain from curse words. Also provide a short back-story on why you chose the words that you did…why are they meaningful/amusing/helpful/memorable to you?

2) Within your post, link to this post using “five favorite Italian words” as the anchor text. Also link to the friend or friends who tagged or linked to you (see #3).

3) Also within your post, tag (link to) 2 or 3 other friends’ blogs who you think would enjoy writing about their own five favorite Italian words.

4) When you’ve finished your post, also leave a comment here. This way N.A. or anyone else following this meme will know where to look for their next language lesson.

So, who is up for this challenge? I’m hoping that the following friends and Italian language lovers will consider writing a post of their own or spreading the word to others:

Cherrye of My Bella Vita

Madeline J of Italy Beyond the Obvious

Alex of Blog from Italy

Vince of

Robin of My Mélange

Jessica from Italylogue is, of course, off the hook. But if you’re reading this, Jessica, I’d love for you to spread the word (or, um, la parola)! And thanks again, Jess, for the great post!

Photo © dneese_l

iPhone Apps for the Italophile

Ever since getting my iPhone last summer, I have become a completely obsessive iPhone addict. And with iPhone addiction comes app addiction. As of this writing, I have 48 (FORTY-EIGHT!) apps and counting, and that doesn’t include the apps that come pre-installed, such as iTunes and Maps.

Having an affinity for Italy, travel, and photography has definitely influenced my app choices. There certainly are a lot of travel apps that are scrollable guidebooks and audio guides of top attractions. These are useful, but pretty easy to find on your own. In this post, I want to share some of my favorite apps as well as a few others that I think fellow Italophiles will enjoy. By the way, almost all of the apps I list below are free or very cheap ($0.99-$2.99).

Italy-Specific Apps
I haven’t had the pleasure of being in Italy since getting my iPhone, but I like the idea of the following apps. If you have any first-hand experience with these or any other useful, Italy-specific apps, please comment below or contact me on Twitter @italofileblog.

Nike Goal
The first time I came across this free app, I emailed it to Jessica, writer of the Why Go Italy blog and BootsnAll’s resident soccer (calcio) fanatic. Jessica has the iPod Touch and told me she had been enjoying this app for quite a while. It gives you the low-down on upcoming Serie A and Serie B matchups, Italian soccer players, and the shoes that they wear when they score their goals (the last one is the embedded Nike ad hook). All around a fun app for followers of the beautiful game and you don’t have to even be in Italy to appreciate it.

Comuni d’Italia
If you write about Italy or just like to know the basics about its regions and towns, this app allows you to have that information at your fingertips. In Italian, the app lets you drill down by region, province, and comune to find stuff like zip codes, population, telephone prefix (less important in these days of the cell phone), altitude, and patron saint, among other things. The app is not highly interactive, though it does have GPS functionality that I haven’t been able to use. Probably the neatest aspects of this app are that you can quickly find the official website of the community you’re interested in learning about (not always so easy, take it from me) and the list of upcoming festivals (which is, sadly, only a list – no further info is provided). A little wonky, this app, but I like it nonetheless.

First of all, let me just say how much I love the fact that the ubiquitous “i” in iPhone apps also assists in making Italian app names grammatically correct (the trains= i treni, or iTreni). Here’s an app that I like in theory though it hasn’t gotten a lot of great reviews. That may be because the developer is not the Italian train authority Ferrovie dello Stato but an independent app creator who has tapped into the FS’s database. Still, having information about train schedules and real time arrivals and departures on your phone sure beats the old system of checking the board at the station.

iSea: Al Mare
Here’s another app that’s only in Italian, but I can imagine it being a great resource for summer travelers with some basic knowledge of Italian. iSea provides real-time information about Italy’s Blue Flag (Bandiera Blu) beaches, which are the beaches with the safest, cleanest waters. I don’t know how the app taps into this information, but I suppose it could be helpful if you can’t make up your mind between going to Sperlonga or Ansedonia.

This restaurant locater app is in Italian AND English and lets you search for restaurants around you – great if you’re wondering around the backstreets of Florence wondering where to grab a bite without resorting to the tripe truck. You can do a search by city, cuisine, and price, read restaurant reviews and menus, and add any gems you find to your list of favorites. Cities included range from Agrigento to Viterbo and everything in between. So this has the potential to be a very fun app, indeed.

Italian Language Apps

Conjugation Nation (Italian)
If you’re like me – an Italian language learner always looking for the right word – then you will like this app. The app is an interactive quiz that helps you learn verb conjugation, which can be invaluable if you’re in Italy and need to explain what is happening or what just happened.

Flash Cards for Kids (Italian)
I made the mistake early on of downloading a few flash cards apps to entertain my son while we were at restaurants, in airports, or other situations that required his undivided attention while I TCBed (took care of business). He really took to one flash card app that had both English and Spanish components. By “took to” I mean he constantly steals my phone. So I decided to mix it up a bit and find a flash card app for learning Italian. This particular app actually has Italian and French, perfect if you’re an Italo-Francophile like Robin at My Mélange. I’ve written about more iPhone apps for kids over on my personal blog in order to be entered in the iPad contest. Wish me luck!

General Photography Apps
If you’ve got kids or just like to take a lot of photos, you definitely need a good photography app or two. There are a few apps on my phone that I use frequently.

PS Mobile
This app from Photoshop is a good app for on-the-go photo editing. You can crop, light-fill, saturate, make black/white or sepia, or utilize effects like sketch, soft focus, and sharpen. Did some tour group step into your otherwise perfect photo of the Colosseum? Crop ’em out!

Pixelpipe is both a web app and an iPhone app that allows you to upload photos to multiple destinations all at one time. My “pipes” include Picasa, Facebook, Flickr, and Kodak Gallery, but there are dozens more, even to FTP – perfect if you have a photo blog. If you’ve read my personal blog, you’ll see in my review of Phanfare that I wasn’t too keen on Pixelpipe. But several updates later, the bugs are sorted out and I am hooked (and less enamored with Phanfare as a result).

Qik Video
If you have an older generation iPhone like I do (in fact, I got mine one week before 3GS came out!), then you don’t have a video camera app installed. This app changes all that. While I love my Flip Camera, sometimes my phone is more handy than my Flip. And, well, with the Qik app I’ve got a video camera and wireless uploading capabilities in one device. Sweet.

Quick Note on International Roaming with the iPhone
Like I said, I haven’t internationally roamed with my iPhone yet. But, in advance of my husband’s recent work trip abroad, I checked into AT&T’s iPhone Tips for International Roamers. Some of the best advice on that sheet is to make sure you use WiFi connections whenever possible and turn off data roaming. And if you want to locate Italian wifi hotspots, there’s actually an app for that, too!

Photo from

Painting Italy: An Artist Profile

Tuscan Hills, a painting by William F. Renzulli

The beauty of Italy has inspired countless artists through the years, including ones who live here in the United States. Today, I am profiling artist William Renzulli, who was moved to paint his ancestral home Castelnuovo della Daunia in Puglia after a family reunion visit in 2008 and who will soon be headed to Bologna to paint that city’s gorgeous medieval lines and curves as well as the landscapes of Emilia-Romagna. Continue Reading →

Buon Natale

Here Comes Babbo Natale!

Like many of you, I have already started my Christmas vacation. So, I thought I’d check in one last time before December 25 and share with you some of the prettiest Christmas pictures from Italy this year. I’ve done this by creating a gallery on Flickr. My Buon Natale 2009 gallery will feature up to 18 photos (per Flickr, only 18 per gallery). If you’ve found some great Christmas photos from Italy this year, please comment below or go over to my gallery and let me know.

Enjoy your holiday!

Photo © Giorgio12.

Google as Tour Guide

google_city_tours_logoFirst they want to scan my copyrighted books and now Google wants to be a tour guide: has Google gone too far this time? I recently received a Google Wave invitation, so I was browsing Google Labs to see what else was on the backburner. It seems that Google will soon be launching City Tours, putting people like me – travel writers – out of business. Or will it?

Here’s Google’s thinking behind City Tours:

Making holiday planning as easy as searching the web. City Tours helps you identify points of interest and plan multi-day trips to most major cities. You just specify the location of your hotel and the length of your trip and City Tours will map out an itinerary for you.

I thought I’d look up Rome as a test. Google presented me with a three-day itinerary – complete with map, of course. The plan included walking time, distance, and links to the sites included on the tour. The first day had me going to locations such as the Museo del Risorgimento, the Pasta Museum, Les Musées du Capitole (Capitoline Museums – Google’s link was spelled the French way), and about five other place. Fine. Some of these sites, especially the Capitoline Museums, are worthy of a first-day visit even for a first-timer. But the itinerary didn’t tell me, for example, that the Pasta Museum is near the Trevi Fountain (though you can see that fact if you zoom in on the map), or that the Museo delle Cere (the Wax Museum) is totally lame.

I’ll give Google points for being able to add/delete sites from an itinerary and change dates. For example, if I were beginning my trip on a Monday (when many museums are closed), the auto-generated agenda ostensibly should steer me towards sites that are actually open. You can also choose the length of your tour, from 1 to 5 days. Unfortunately, when I chose a one-day tour of Rome, Google came up empty-handed. The program should at least generate a basic tour for one day – ya know, Vatican Museums, Spanish Steps, a handful of churches.

So Google City Tours is still in the Labs stage. And, in my opinion, has a long way to go to get it right. Thankfully, I think this tool, like an online translator, is helpful and pretty cool. But, in a field as subjective as travel, nothing beats the human touch.

Am I right?

Photo from Google

Italy Is A-Twitter

It happens to the best of us. We stop to check out a new technology/trend/what-have-you and forget about our blogs.

For the past several months, as I’ve relocated to the U.S. once again and tried to make a nice summer for my two young sons, I’ve certainly had my blog on my mind. Unfortunately, I’ve had the attention span of a [insert distractable creature here – toddler?] and have not had the opportunity to really sit down and write any meaningful blog posts about Italy – my passion.

This is where Twitter comes in.

I signed up for twitter in the spring to see what was all about. What I found was a parallel universe of people dishing out travel, writing, technology, humor, etc., in 140 characters or less. I’ve become hooked – to the detriment of this blog.

You don’t need me to tell you about twitter, of course. It’s a worldwide trend. Lots of PR firms and tourism agencies are using the power of twitter for marketing. But I was particularly interested in which official Italy tourism boards were tweeting and where some of the most prolific tweeps were tweeting from (if you don’t understand the lingo, google it!). Here is a short run-down. I’m hoping that by getting this blog post/tweet out there that more tourism boards and people from areas not covered below will start tweeting and/or more of my twitter friends will send me leads for more.

Rome Tweeps
@WikiRoma (in Italian)

Venice Tweeps

Tuscany Tweeps

Umbria Tweeps

Campania Tweeps (Naples/Amalfi Coast/Capri)

Sicily Tweeps

Tourism Board Tweeps
@TuscanyTourism – Tuscany Tourism Board
@APTVersilia – the tourism board of the subregion of Versilia in Tuscany
@RegioneVeneto – Veneto region tourism board

You can find more fine tweeters, such as Jessica at Italylogue (@italylogue), by looking at the people I follow by going to my twitter account @italofileblog or checking out #italy via twitter search.

Photo by tentonipete.

Travel Partner Wanted for Calabria

Cherrye, an Italy blogger colleague in Calabria, posted the following information about Jennifer Rafferty, who is looking for a (preferably female) travel partner to accompany her as she searches for her family’s roots in the Catanzaro province of Calabria. You’ll have to pay your own way, of course. But what a nice story this is…

WANTED: Fun-loving, Free-Spirited Travel Partner to Tackle Calabria | My Bella Vita.

Become a Museum Reporter for Tuscany

As we reported last week, Tuscany has a brand new tourism website. We have also now learned that the regional tourism board is considering letting visitors weigh in on the Tuscan museum experience. According to the Florentine, the tourism board will be asking visitors in May to become “museum reporters” as part of the Amico Museo 2009 initiative.

Those who choose to become ‘museum reporters’ will be asked to send their photos and thoughts to [email protected]. The best entries will be featured in a virtual album on the region’s official Web site, in the ‘Culture’ subsection.

So here’s your chance to be heard and let others know how impressed (or underwhelmed) you were by a particular museum in Tuscany.

Caravaggio’s Innovative Painting Techniques

Caravaggio's "The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew" recently reported that the master 16th century artist Caravaggio used a “camera obscura” among other techniques to trace the models in his paintings. According to a Florentine researcher, Caravaggio made use of a dark room, first described by Leonardo da VInci, and was able to fix the outline of his subjects in order to paint them.

It’s unclear whether the artist used or needed optical instruments to paint his famous scenes of food and banquets. These, of course, were the subject of a book we mentioned in an earlier post titled Caravaggio’s Kitchen by Gianni Ummarino. Several readers have written to us to ask how to obtain this book. We haven’t been able to find it on or through other vendors. But we did find the author/photographer’s website. Go to for more information.

Update! The title of the Ummarino book is 15 Ricette del Rinascimento (15 Recipes from the Renaissance) and can be ordered directly from Ummarino’s website.

Photo from Discovery, Inc.

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