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Upcoming Fundraiser at the Sistine Chapel Turns Heads

Sistine Chapel

Each day, as many as 20,000 visitors pay up to €16 per person to enter the Vatican Museums, the highlight of which is the Sistine Chapel. This coming weekend, reports Crux, approximately 40 fans of German automaker Porsche will get to pay up to €5,000 each to take a private tour of the Vatican, which includes dinner in the museums and a concert in the famous chapel.

Porsche has advertised the event on its website as the Exclusive Porsche Tour of Rome, which includes these tour highlights:

  • Access to the Vatican Museums outside the official opening hours
  • Magnificent concert in the stylish setting of the Sistine Chapel arranged exclusively for the participants
  • Unforgettable dinner in the midst of the exhibition at the Vatican Museums
  • Visit to the papal gardens at the Vatican and the Necropolis on the Via Triumphalis
  • Porsche Travel Club driving tour (two days) in the southern Lazio region

Meanwhile, Monsignor Paolo Nicolini, the managing director of the Vatican Museums, maintains that the event is the “debut of ‘Art for Charity,’ an initiative to exclusively support the charitable projects of the pope. This initiative is organized directly by the Vatican Museums and is directed at big companies. With the payment of a ticket, they can contribute to financing charity projects.” Nicolini told reporters on October 16 that, “The Sistine Chapel can never be rented because it is not a commercial place.”

The one-off event stands to raise about €200,000—almost half of what the Vatican Museums could raise in a full day off of tourist admissions, with only a fraction of the wear and tear. Artnet added:

“Since his inauguration, Pope Francis has put significant emphasis on the plight of the poor and has gained a reputation for his pragmatic and forward-thinking interpretation of scripture. This latest move may indicate that he is prepared to capitalize on the Vatican’s rich cultural heritage for the benefit of those in need.”

Best Places to Stay on a Roman Holiday

Mood 44 - Hotel in Rome

I recently wrote about some of the best hotels in Rome for travelchannel.com. There really are so many more places I could have included. So stay tuned here for more suggestions.

Where to Stay on a Roman Holiday

Photos: On the Capitoline Hill

Marcus Aurelius statue on the Capitoline Hill. Note that this statue is a copy. The original is housed inside the Capitoline Museums, also located on this hill.

Marcus Aurelius statue on the Capitoline Hill. Note that this statue is a copy. The original is housed inside the Capitoline Museums, also located on this hill.

If you climb the Capitoline Hill from the back, it is not really clear what wonderful views await you. It’s also not clear that this was once the site of ancient Rome’s most high profile executions. Roman executioners flung the empire’s traitors off of the Tarpeian Rock, which is today an overgrown, nondescript spur on an otherwise illustrious hill. (Side note: Rome probably has more history hidden from view than other cities have in total.) Continue Reading →

Rome’s Fountains, Brought to You By…

La Barcaccia - After

The restored “La Barcaccia” fountain a few days after it was re-opened to the public.

Recently, city officials in Rome unveiled the Barcaccia fountain, which had been under wraps for the past year so it could be cleaned. The Barcaccia is now gleaming, as you can see in the photo above, and provides a pleasing visual for all those tired souls taking a breather on the Spanish Steps. Continue Reading →

Lovely Time Lapse Video of Rome

I always love a good time lapse video. Here’s a very recent one that shows Rome in her late summer splendor. It was shot by Josh of jandrewfilmandphotography.com, who used 7,000 images to create this 2-minute, 37-second clip. Hyperlapse has a long way to go to get results like these.

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

Italy’s One-Legged Cyclist Turned World War I Hero

Enrico Toti, Italian WWI Hero

Enrico Toti may have the most fascinating World War I story I’ve ever read:

Enrico lost his left leg while working for Italian railways, at the age of 24. After his injury he became a cyclist. In 1911, riding on a bicycle with one leg, he cycled to Paris, and then through Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark, up to Finland and Lapland. From there, via Russia and Poland, he returned to Italy in June 1912. In January 1913 Toti started cycling again, this time in Egypt; from Alexandria, he reached the border with Sudan where the English authorities, considering the trail too dangerous, ordered him to end the journey, and sent him to Cairo where he came back to Italy. When war broke out between Italy and the Austrian Empire, Toti tried to volunteer for the Italian army but was not accepted due to his injury. Undaunted, he reached the frontline with his bicycle and managed to serve as an unpaid, unregistered, fully non-regulation “civilian volunteer” attached to several units.

Continue Reading →

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 →

Roma So Far

View of Piazza del Popolo from the Pincio

I stayed in Italy for a week and thought I’d write a book.

I stayed in Italy for a month and thought I’d write an article.

I stayed in Italy for a year and realized that I didn’t have to write anything at all.

A friend recently told me this quote. I don’t know if it’s a famous one–I’m paraphrasing so I haven’t been able to locate it online. But it hits home for me.

I moved with my family to Rome about a month ago and I’ve had a lot of writing inspiration. Of course, I’ve made it to a few tourist sites, the piazzas and parks and cobbled historic center. But I’ve also just hung out–walking the streets with my kids, enjoying gelato, straightening up the house, waiting for utility men to hook up wifi, fix cracked windows, etc. My brain is so full of sights, sounds, smells, and local quirks that I don’t even know which Italy story should begin this new phase of my blog. And so, I’ve been taking everything in instead of writing.

But many new posts are coming, so do stay tuned.

I’ll be blogging about Rome, day trips, nearby beaches, hill towns, and more in the coming months as I get intimately re-acquainted with Italy and its capital. I’ll also be sending out the occasional newsletter with my latest posts and links to other Italy travel news. Subscribe here to keep in touch.

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.

Posted in Sardinia

Tower in Cagliari, Sardinia

Before I had a chance to read this weekend’s New York Times article on D.H. Lawrence’s footsteps through Sardinia, my father-in-law interjected with a tale from his time spent in Sardinia while in the Italian Army.

Dante served in the army for 13 months, most of that time spanning the year 1960. He had been posted to the Piedmont, but his battalion was sent to Sardinia for a gun training exercise. “Our hands were purple when we left the Piedmont, it was so cold,” he said. “By Genoa, it was much warmer. Then when we got to Sardinia, we were bare back because it was so hot.”

“I remember we took the train from north to south, from Sassari to Cagliari through the middle of Sardinia. It was so dry and we were so thirsty, we jumped out the train at each stop so we could run into town and fill up our canteens with water from the village nasoni (the faucet-like fountains that are all over Italy). Only the first guy would ever get a cup of water because the water in the nasoni just went ‘drip drip drip.’

“The other thing I remember is that all up and down the island were plots of land with prickly pear bushes everywhere. We took to eating the fruit from the prickly pears as a way to hydrate. But I remember this one guy–Carnicella–who was an office guy, a real primadonna, who stood back on the train with a fork and waited for the others to come back with prickly pears. Now, prickly pears are tricky–they are prickly so you have to be careful to get the meat out of them. Carnicella used his fork to dig into a prickly pear but the pricks were on his fork as he took a bite. He couldn’t eat for three days after that!”

The train chugged along through Sardinia. “It was a coal train, so by the time we reached Cagliari, we were black from the soot. I ate mussels in Cagliari that made me so sick I was in the hospital for two days. I didn’t know if I was dead or alive.”

Photo: Flickr/rainshift79

Win the 2014 DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to Italy

DK Eyewitness Guide to Italy

Dorling Kindersley has asked me to help them give away a set of their 2014 Eyewitness Travel guides. Included in the 4-pack are the guides to Italy, New York City, Paris, and London.

I have been toting around DK guides since the first time I visited Rome and I think they are hands-down the best travel guides for visual learners who love art, architecture, and maps. Yes, yes–I know everyone uses fancy smartphone apps now. But there’s something comforting about thumbing through a guidebook before and during one’s travels (it also saves you from paying huge data usage fees!)

If you’d like to win the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to Italy plus three more titles for your library, visit this post on my personal blog and leave a comment *there* to enter the contest. Comments left on this blog, while appreciated, will not count towards entry to the giveaway.

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