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The Best Places to Live in Italy

Duomo of Bolzano Italy

Bolzano tops the list of best places to live in Italy. Which other cities made the top 10?

Florence, Rome, Venice – you already know the names of the cities you must add to your Italy travel itinerary. But, do you know which cities in Italy are the best places to live? Each year, the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore publishes the Italy Quality of Life Survey, which calculates factors such as employment, free time, air quality, and public services in order to determine which Italian city dwellers are faring the best.

Not surprisingly, almost all of the towns that made it into the top 10 are not tourist hot spots. Although, Siena took the #5 spot and Bologna entered the top 10 this year at #8. Also not surprising is that most of the towns are in northern Italy, which is traditionally healthier and wealthier than the south.

And where did Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples, and Milan place? Of those five tourist hotspots, Florence was the highest, ranking at #16. Milan was next at #21. Rome #35. Venice #46. And Naples ranked dead last at #107 (the trash problem, perhaps?).

Are you thinking about retiring in Italy? Relocating to Italy? Getting a summer home in Italy? Perhaps you want to consider the cities listed in the latest quality of life survey.

Following are the top 10 Italian cities with the best quality of life:

1. Bolzano

2. Trento

3. Sondrio

4. Trieste

5. Siena

6. Aosta

7. Gorizia

8. Bologna

9. Oristano

10. Belluno

Photo © firing_tower

Rome’s New Archeology Czar

News outlets are reporting that the Italian government has appointed Guido Bertolaso, of Naples garbage crisis fame, to head a new effort to address the poor state of Rome’s archeological treasures. According to the International Herald Tribune, Bertolaso will be in charge of whipping into shape some of Rome’s most famous – but crumbling –  buildings, particularly those on the Palatine Hill (including Nero’s Golden House) and in Ostia Antica. The czar will only have until December 31 to set a plan into action, so it’s not sure how much will get done. On the other hand, after he was appointed to handle the trash problem in May 2008 the emergency was over by July. Good luck, Mr. Bertolaso!

Foreign Food Ban in Italy

Now I love Italian food as much as the next person. But, a ban on foreign food in some municipalities and regions is, in my opinion, a kind of gastronomic racism (as described by Italian chef Vittorio Castellani).

I learned of the foreign food ban in such towns as Lucca from the Hugging the Coast blog. There, Doug DuCap provides links to information about this food flap from the Chicago Sun Times and the Lega Nord, the Italian political party that is behind much of this.

It’s true, so much of Italian cuisine has been influenced from the outside. Just look at the cuisine of Liguria, largely influenced by traders from Asia and the Middle East who long ago docked in Genoa. Or consider the food of Sicily, which includes northern African cous cous as part of its repertoire.

I’m curious…I bet there are some great foreign restaurants in Italy as well as many celebrated “Italian” restaurants that find gastronomic inspiration from other countries. If you have any recommendations, please comment at the end of this post.

Catchall Catch-Up Post: More Articles About Italy

Here are just a few notable articles on Italy that I’ve come across in the past month or so. I need to get them off my plate, as it were, so I can move on to more tips, hotels, and news that has come my way…

One Fish, Two Fish – This article my Mimi Sheraton in the New Yorker looks at the origins of brodetto, a fish soup that is most prized in Abruzzo and Le Marche. This link is to an abstract, but if you have a New Yorker subscription you can plug in your account info and read it online (if you haven’t already).

Italy Against Itself – Another abstract, this article by regular Italy columnist Alexander Stille looks at recent politics in the country.

An Italy Variety Plate from – Last month, the food magazine had articles on Christmas pandoro from Verona and Chicken Liver Crostini from Central Italy. This month is Gourmet’s Italian-American issue, which explores recipes inspiration from Lucca to Lecce. Also, it seems that has a more searchable archive now. So, just go to their search engine, type in “Italy,” and you can find articles going all the way back to 1954!

Water World

The Tiber breaks its banks.

Flooding in Rome.

Talks of Italy and flooding usually make one think of Venice. While Venice has suffered – and flooded – because of the latest bout of heavy rain, it’s Rome and its Tiber River that weather watchers are concerned about now.

The New York Times has put together an interesting slide show of the flooding throughout Italy, with most pictures of Rome and Venice. And, going beyond the newsy reports of the flooding is Canada’s Globe and Mail report Eric Reguly with a personal dispatch from the Eternal City.

As I write this, it looks as if the flood warnings have been called off for Rome, thankfully avoiding another Florence 1966. But it will be interesting to see what the rain has damaged. Hopefully, there weren’t too many masterpieces hiding in basements…

Avoiding ‘The Law’ While in Italy

By now, you’ve probably heard about the case of the American girl and her Italian boyfriend accused of murdering British student Meredith Kercher. As it stands now, American Amanda Knox is set to serve 30 years in an Italian prison. Is she guilty? I really don’t know, as I haven’t followed the details of the case very closely. Though, after (finally!) finishing Douglas Preston’s The Monster of Florence, I am now highly skeptical of the Italian judicial system. I had doubts before, sure. But Preston really painted such a picture of grand ineptitude that I started thinking how horrible it would be to be on the wrong side of the law in Italy.

Suspected murderers and (according to Preston) snooping journalists (who make public prosecutors look like idiots) certainly stand to serve some time in jail or at least endure some intense police inquiries. But what are some of the other violations that could get you into hot water? I was curious, so I found a few:

1) A dip in the fountain. It’s actually illegal in Rome (and probably other cities) to take a dip, “skinny” or otherwise, in any of the city’s many fountains. Doing so will get you a €100-500 fine in Rome; not sure what other cities may charge.

2) Failing to validate your bus or train ticket. You can see a fine of at least €50 if you don’t validate your bus or train ticket prior to or upon getting on one of those vehicles. The Italians don’t make it easy to understand this, as there’s never anyone posted next to the “convalidare” boxes in train stations and on buses. It almost seems like an honor system and you can probably buck the system a few times before you actually see any sort of law enforcement authority. But, you certainly don’t want to end up like this poor traveler.

3) Don’t insult the Pope or Italian president. Italians certainly seem like they practice freedom of speech. But Italian comedienne Sabina Guzzanti recently learned that making fun of the pontiff in public could possibly result in up to five years in jail. Have you heard the one about Pope Benedict and Berlusconi in a bar? Me neither!

Those are just a few of what I’m sure are dozens of local and state laws that could get you in trouble in Italy. Of course, if you do find yourself in trouble (or a victim of it), you should contact your country’s embassy or consulate for assistance. Below is some embassy contact info.

Australian Embassy
Via Antonio Bosio, 5
00198 Rome
06 852 721/fax 06 8527 2300

British Embassy
Via XX Settembre80
00187 Rome
06 4220 0001/fax 06 422 023 34

Canadian Embassy
Via Zara, 30
00198 Rome
06 445 981/fax 06 445 989 12

Irish Embassy
Piazza di Campitelli, 3
00186 Rome
06 697 9121/fax 06 679 2354

New Zealand Embassy
Via Zara, 28
00198 Rome
06 441 7171/fax 06 440 2984

United States Embassy
Via V. Veneto, 119/A
00187 Rome
06 467 41/fax 06 467 422 17

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So, What’s the Deal With Alitalia?

In case you haven’t seen the headlines, Alitalia, Italy’s national airline, may not exist after this week. The troubled airline has long been looking for a buyer. But, says PM Silvio Berlusconi, “buyers are not queueing up for Alitalia.”

To learn more about this drama, check out one of the latest reports from Reuters. You can also find a surprisingly lengthy explanation of the company’s financial crisis on Wikipedia.

In the meantime, if you’ve already booked a flight with Alitalia for later this year, the Wall Street Journal’s Middle Seat Terminal Blog has a step-by-step checklist for what to do if the airline goes belly-up.

More Italy Hotels Available Online

Savvy travelers have long looked to, a hotel review and reservations website, to find accommodations on the beaten and not-so-beaten trails of Italy. With more than 26,000 hotel listings in Europe, it’s easy to find hotels from Piemonte to Puglia on the venere site. Now it may be even easier.

CNN reported yesterday that U.S.-based travel website Expedia will buy and begin adding approximately 1,000 hotels per month to its database. In other words, for Italy travelers, Expedia may just become a one-stop shop – airfare, hotel…and you’re done.

Even More Italian Beaches Get the Blue Flag

There are now 104 beaches in Italy that have been awarded the “blue flag” for clean water and sand. According to Italy Magazine, the Foundation of Environmental Education (FEE) found that the top beaches in Italy were in Tuscany and the Marches, each of which have 15 blue flag beaches. Liguria and Abruzzo came in second and third, with 14 and 13 blue flags, respectively.

For more information about FEE and to get a full list of blue flag beaches, check out and

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