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Adopt a Spire on the Milano Duomo

Aerial of Milano Duomo Spires

The Milano Duomo, an enormous Gothic cathedral that is recognizable for its 135 spires, is giving the public a chance to help with its upkeep. Like an “Adopt a Road” campaign, Adotta una Guglia (Adopt a Spire) is an initiative by the Veneranda Fabbrica to get locals, tourists, and businesses to help with the upkeep of the spires, which are topped with fragile statues of saints and angels.

According to Adotta una Guglia:

The Duomo could not exist without the people of Milan, nor could Milan exist without its cathedral, which gives the city its identity. This is why the population is being invited to share in an act of popular responsibility. All contributors will be recorded in the List of Donors of the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano, drafted in paper form and published online in the portal adottaunaguglia.duomomilano.it, obviously with the donor’s consent.

Donors who donate more than €50 can apply to receive a certificate of participation while top donors, those who donate more than €100K, will have their names engraved. (If you’re considering the latter, get in touch and let’s talk about adopting me…)

Browse on over to get a look at the map of the spires or the spire wall and learn how you can donate. The wall includes photos of the spires and has the names of the saints or angels represented. Also cool to note on the wall are the saints’ days, in case you want to make a donation to honor a loved one’s birthday.

As of now, the top three adopted spires are the Angel Pointing to Heaven, Archangel Gabriele, and Saint Cecilia. I wonder if anyone is going to adopt St. Napoleon?

h/t @moscerina

Photo: Milano Duomo

Milan Invites Visitors to Discover the Art of Nobel Winner Dario Fo

Dario Fo "Earthquake in L'Aquila"

Dario Fo's "The Earthquake in L'Aquila"

Next month, the Italy Blogging Roundtable will celebrate our first anniversary. Jessica, Alexandra, Gloria, Rebecca, and I have enjoyed tackling a new topic each month, and we’ve especially enjoyed hearing from readers. In fact, we were so pleased with how our last invitation went for bloggers to join us at the Roundtable that we thought we’d extend another! This month, not only is the Italy Roundtable topic INVITATIONS, we’re inviting anyone who wants to participate to blog about one of the past year’s Roundtable topics. Our invitation details are at the bottom of this post. Now on to the post…

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Beautiful Places in Italy for a Photo Op

Let’s face it. Just about every spot in Italy is a lovely place to take a photograph. But there are some spots that are truly special, places that make friends and family go “Wow!” when they see the photos on Facebook or in the picture frame on the mantle piece. Far beyond the hokey photographs of “holding up” the Leaning Tower of Pisa or posing with modern-day gladiators in Rome, here are some lovely places to record some memories.

The Faraglioni Rocks, Capri
The Faraglioni Rocks off the Island of Capri ItalyI have to admit that I got the idea for this post from looking at my friend Laura’s photo on her Ciao Amalfi blog. Take a look at her blog and her profile pic and you’ll see exactly why I picked this location as one of Italy’s most beautiful places for a photo op. The Faraglioni Rocks are a group of three mini rock islands that have been known since Roman times. I Faraglioni, which are named Stella,  Faraglione di Mezzo, and Faraglione di Fuori (Scopolo), are some of the most photographed features in southern Italy and you can even get up-close photographs of the rocks on a boat tour around the Bay of Naples. Faraglione di Mezzo even has a natural arch in it, which is a thrill to go through.

From San Miniato al Monte, Florence
Panorama of Florence Duomo from San Miniato al MonteThe typical place that tourists go to take photos of Florence – with the giant Duomo dome in the background – is Piazzale Michelangelo, a hill high above the city that is accessible by motor coach and has a huge parking lot buzzing with postcard vendors and “professional” photographers. Don’t get me wrong – this is a lovely place for a photo op. But even better is in front of the church of San Miniato al Monte, which is only about a five minute walk from Piazzale Michelangelo. San Miniato itself is a beautiful, medieval, green-and-white-marble church with spectacular interior mosaics where you’ll sometimes hear Gregorian chanting. If you enjoy getting out an about rather than hopping on board a motorized tour, you can hike a small path from the Lungarno along the city walls up to San Miniato. It can be a bit of a challenge, but the views are so much more rewarding once you make it to the top.

Atop the Duomo, Milan
On the roof of the Duomo of Milan ItalyYou can scale the heights of the Duomo in Florence, the dome of St. Peter’s in Rome, and go up into the domes and attics of countless churches and bell towers in Italy. But none of these locations give you the kind of fabulous backdrop that you get from the top of the Duomo in Milan. The gorgeous Gothic church in the heart of Milan is a great photographic subject in itself and you can certainly capture some lovely pics of the whole cathedral while standing in the vast Piazza del Duomo. But take a trip to the Duomo’s roof and it’s as if you’re walking atop an intricately decorated wedding cake. A trip to the top also affords you nearer views of the church’s spires, statues, and gargoyles as well as a panorama of the Alps. Book your tickets to the Duomo rooftop.

Rome – the Bocca della Verità and Tomb of Cecilia Metella
Hepburn and Peck at the Bocca della Verita in Roman HolidayWhen you’re in Rome, there is pressure to get that perfect shot with either the Colosseum or St. Peter’s Basilica in the background. Indeed, you should get those shots – for the Colosseum go up to Colle Oppio Park for a good angle and for St. Peter’s, the perch of the Pincio Park above Piazza del Popolo can’t be beat. But I like to suggest two classic places for a Roman photo op.

The first is the Bocca della Verità (the Mouth of Truth), an ancient manhole cover that is located in the entryway of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin around the corner from the Campidoglio. You may remember this landmark if you’ve seen the film Roman Holiday which starred Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. The legend is that if you place your hand inside the mouth of the god/monster depicted on the cover that your hand will be chopped off if you haven’t been telling the truth. A photo in front of the Mouth of Truth is a fun diversion. And if it’s good enough for Audrey Hepburn, then it’s good enough for you.

Goethe nella Campagna RomeAnother great locale to have your photo snapped is among the ruins along the Appia Antica. In the days of the Grand Tour it was de rigueur to have your portrait painted among the remnants of antiquity. One of the most evocative portraits of this kind is of the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who lived in Rome in the late 18C. The artist Johann Tischbein painted Goethe in the Countryside with the distinctive tomb of Cecilia Metella in the background. This is still a major monument in the Appia Antica park, and you can still enjoy a nice hike to the tomb on the weekend when the thru-ways are closed to traffic. While you won’t get the completely uncluttered panorama that Goethe enjoyed when he sat for his portrait, you will have a unique shot for the mantle. Kudos if you can also strike the same leggy pose!

Portofino Bay
Portofino Bay in Liguria ItalyThe pastel houses of Portofino, a fishing village turned wealthy tourist haven in the region of Liguria so lovely that developers in Orlando, Florida, had to replicate it, make for a romantic backdrop for an Italy travel memory. Ideally, you want to get a photo of yourself in front of Portofino’s colorful port while on board a yacht. But if you can’t make that happen, there are a couple of options. One overlook is from the grounds of Castello Brown, a fortress located high above the bay. This ancient castle (some hypothesize that its foundations have been there since Roman times), however, is typically rented out for private events like weddings and conferences. It’s also a little high up for my liking. Another even better place to go to get a shot of the picturesque bay is to the church of San Giorgio, located on the Salita San Giorgio. Of course, there are also plenty of hotels located along this street where you can pay to see that bay view from your window every morning.

So these are just a handful of some of my favorite Italy photo locations. Where else would you suggest? Please comment below or find me on Twitter @italofileblog.

Photos © giorgiopix, rvega, Italian Notebook, Roman Holiday trailer, onlinekunst.de, buteijn

Italy Exhibits Guide Fall 2009

Here is a sampling of exhibits beginning or ending this fall in Italy. For a longer list, check out Ansa, the Italian news service, or visit our tourism boards page and click on the area you are interested in.

BOLZANO – Museo Archeologico dell’Alto Adige: Iceman joined by more than 60 mummies from Ancient Egypt, Asia, South America and Oceania; until October 25.

FLORENCE

-Medici Chapels: show on life and times of Ferdinand I de’ Medici, powerful third grand duke of Tuscany (1549-1609), marking 400th anniversary of his death; until November 1.

-Palazzo Strozzi: Galileo show marking 400th anniversary of his first observations of the night sky; 250 exhibits including the middle finger from Galileo’s right hand; until August 30.

MARSALA – Convento del Carmine: Monochrome; 70 works from post-war Italy to the 1970s by artists including Alberto Burri, Lucio Fontana and Mimmo Rotella; until October 18.

MILAN

Palazzo Reale: 250 paintings from influential 19th-century Scapigliatura movement; until November 22.

– same venue: Robert Wilson’s ‘Voom Portraits’, celebrities like Mikhail Baryshnikov, Johnny Depp, Robert Downey, Salma Hayek, Isabelle Huppert, Jeanne Moreau, Brad Pitt and Princess Caroline of Monaco; but also ordinary people and animals; until October 4.

– same venue: 20 Monet water lily works from Musee’ Marmottan in Paris; until September 27.

– same venue: 36 years of cartoons by political satirist Giorgio Forattini; until September 27.

ROME

– Palazzo Venezia: The Mind of Leonardo, The Universal Genius at Work; acclaimed exhibit already seen at Uffizi and in Tokyo; until August 30. HURRY!

– Palazzo delle Esposizioni: Bulgari, Between Eternity and History, 1884-2009; 125 Years of Italian Jewels; the first retrospective in the brand’s history, featuring 400 pieces; until September 13. HURRY!

VENICE – Biennale: 53th and biggest-ever edition of world’s oldest arts festival; 90 artists at 77 national pavilions, including Joan Jonas, Lygia Pape, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Xu Tan, Thomas Saraceno, Nikhil Chopra and Anawana Haloba; until November 22.

Photo from the Venice Biennale website

What’s On In Italy: April 2009

We missed March’s event round-up and we’re late for this month’s. So here we go…

Easter: Last month, we posted the Vatican’s Holy Week Calendar. The website whatsonwhen.com lists two of Italy’s most famous Easter celebrations: Florence’s Scoppio del Carro and Madonna che Scappa in Piazza (Madonna who runs in the square) in Sulmona (Abruzzo). Taranto, in Puglia, is also known for its hours-long Holy Week processions, a tradition from the days when Puglia was a Spanish territory.

Spring! A profusion of flowers and outdoor events usher in spring in Italy. Milan puts on the annual Fiori e Sapori gardening show and food fair on April 5. If you’re in Rome this month, you can expect to see the Spanish Steps abloom with flowers of pink, red, and white.

Food and Wine. In addition to the Fiori e Sapori fest in Milan (see above), there are a number of food festivals this month. From April 17-20, Genoa will  host Slow Fish, a tribute by local restaurants to fish and seafood done the traditional (slow) way. There will be wine festivals in Rome (April 25-26) and Porto Cervo in Sardinia (24-26) and, through April 6, Verona will host VinItaly, which brings together wine producers from all over the country.

Sport: In Rome, there’ll be the derby between Lazio and Roma (April 19). On the same day in Venice will be the Su e Zo per i Ponti, a sort of walkathon “up and down” the canal city’s bridges.

April also sees the celebration of Liberation Day (25) and the birth of Rome, which, on April 21, will be too old for me to calculate!

What’s On in Italy: February 2009

Here’s the event round-up for February:

Carnevale 2009: Carnival celebrations will run for approximately 2 weeks, from February 13 to 24, with big events, parades, and fairs. The biggest of these, of course, will be in Venice and Viareggio. Other Carnival festivals, according to the Italy Guide on About.com, can be found in Sardinia and Sicily.

Valentine’s Day: If you want to spend lovers’ day in the home of St. Valentine, head to the town of Terni in Umbria. Another ideal spot for you and your valentine on the 14th is in Verona, which holds the Verona in Love festival each year in honor of young lovers Romeo and Juliet. Stagings of Shakespeare’s play, as well as art exhibitions and sweet markets, complete the love fest.

For Record Lovers: Vinilmania (vinyl mania), a huge fair for the buying and selling of LPs, 45s, and other records, is held three times a year at Milan’s Parco Esposizione Novegro. The first fair of 2009 will be held February 7-8; the other two – May 16-17 and October 17-18.

And there’s lots more going on this month. Check out italiantourism.com and whatsonwhen.com for more details.

What’s On in Italy: December 2008

Dear readers,

I realize I’ve neglected you for a while now. But, for good reason. I gave birth to my second son – Leo – on November 19. So, since then, I’ve been recovering and getting to know the little fella. Blogging has been furthest on my mind, as you can imagine, but now I’m back (slowly but surely) to provide you with a very short list of some Christmas happenings in Italy this month.

Rome. Rome is magnificent around Christmas, not least of all because of the Christmas Market in Piazza Navona. This year, the Eternal City will also be filled with music, thanks to events like Natale all’Auditorium at the Parco della Musica. The Christmas festival, which will run for a month between December 6 and January 6, will feature numerous Italian acts singing holiday standards and will also play host to the Roma Gospel Festival, among whose acts will include Anthony Morgan’s Inspirational Choir of Harlem. Elsewhere in the city, from December 20 through 30 you can catch the Nutcracker (Lo Schiaccianoci) at the Teatro Nazionale. If you happen to be in Rome on December 8, you may be able to catch a glimpse of Pope Benedict XVI himself as he travels across town to lay a wreath at the Spanish Steps in commemoration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Milan. Milan’s annual contribution to the Christmas landscape is the “Oh Bej! Oh Bej” Festival, which happens around the feast day of the city’s patron St. Ambrose on December 7. Essentially, Oh Bej! is a traditional Christmas market selling artisanal crafts and local fare that the whole city comes out for. It is held annually at the Castello Sforzesco.

Venice. Christmas in the Lagoon, which takes place in the city’s Campo Santo Stefano, is Venice’s answer to the annual Christmas fair. There, you can pick up Murano glass, artisanal soaps and perfumes, and all manner of Italian snacks and sweets. This year’s fair goes through December 23. And, according to the Natale in Laguna website, the itinerary remains unchanged despite the recent flooding.

There are, of course, tons of other Christmas markets going on in Italy this month. For a more exhaustive run-down, check out this list from About.com or surf on over to whatsonwhen.com.

The Top 25 Hotels in Italy

Grand Hotel a Villa Feltrinelli: One of Italys 25 Best

Grand Hotel a Villa Feltrinelli: One of Italy's 25 Best

While it’s true that the travel industry is taking a hit in light of the world financial crisis, there are still plenty of people making trips to Italy. And, with the dollar improving against the euro (at least for the time being), some Americans are looking to do Italy in style.

Luckily, thanks to USA Today/Forbes Traveler, there’s now a list of Italy’s 25 best hotels. Compiled by Forbes, this is a grouping of the most luxurious and elegant lodgings “ranging from urban grande dames to breathtaking coastal villas.” Forbes Traveler has also created a nifty little slide show to showcase each of the 25.

We’ve certainly mentioned some of these hotels in The Unofficial Guide to Central Italy and/or on this site. But here are the links if you want to check them out yourself:

Italy’s 25 Best Hotels According to Forbes Traveler

Rome
Hotel de Russie
Hotel Eden
Hotel Hassler Roma
Portrait Suites
St. Regis Grand Hotel

Florence
Hotel Lungarno
Hotel Savoy
Villa La Massa
Villa San Michele

Tuscany
Il Pellicano Hotel (Porto Ercole)
Relais Il Falconiere (Cortona)

Milan
Bulgari Hotel Milano
Four Seasons Hotel Milan

Venice
Bauer Hotel
Luna Hotel Baglioni

Capri
Capri Palace Hotel and Spa (Anacapri)
Grand Hotel Quisisana

Lake Garda
Grand Hotel a Villa Feltrinelli (Gargnano)

Amalfi Coast
Hotel Caruso (Ravello)
Hotel Santa Caterina (Amalfi)
Il San Pietro (Positano)
Le Sireneuse (Positano)
Palazzo Sasso (Ravello)

Cinque Terre
Hotel Splendido (Portofino)

Lake Como
Villa d’Este (Cernobbio)

October 2008 Article Round-Up

Sometimes I’m not always sure if anyone is actually reading Italofile. As I’ve said, it is a true labor of love. Still I like to imagine that there are regular readers out there who enjoy discovering with me the destinations, hotels, art, schools, churches, etc., that make traveling in Italy so rewarding.

Lo and behold, this weekend I found that I have at least one reader! Maribel wrote in to tell me that last year I missed a New York Times article on “Tortellini Lessons at the Source” in Bologna. Thanks, Maribel! And, with that, I thought I’d provide another round-up of recent articles, from the NYT and elsewhere:

New York Times
In Turin, the Olympic Glow Hasn’t Yet Faded
Monastic Doors Open For Travelers
Milan: Princi (a must-visit bakery)

The Washington Post
2,000 Years After Vesuvius (Stabiae)
In the Eternal City, Walk in a Roman’s Sandals
Rome On Two Gelatos A Day
Good Libations: Bassano del Grappa, Still the One (Veneto)

Los Angeles Times
Art Springs to Life in Gardens Near Rome
Planning Your Trip to Rome’s Gardens
Planning Your Trip to San Marino
Planning Your Trip to Vatican City

Wall Street Journal
Venice Crossings: A Traghetto Tour
In Italy, A Monastery Getaway (Umbria)

The Independent (UK)
City Slicker: A Guide to Genoa
The Hip Hop Guide to Tuscany’s Treasures

The Guardian (UK)
The Insider’s Guide to Cortina d’Ampezzo
Instant Weekend: Florence
Flying Visit: Le Marche Is Olive-Town
Letting Catania Out of the Bag
Going Solo: Venice
Flying Visit to Lake Garda

Sydney Morning Herald
Dining in the Sky the New Way to See Milan
See Ya Later, Gladiator
Floating Through a Dream (Venice)

The Telegraph (UK)
Rome: Eternal Love
Palladio: 500 Years of Architectural Wonders
Sicily: Golf in the Shadow of Mt. Etna
Michael Howard’s Venice

Yes, this is an exhaustive list. But I’m sure I didn’t find everything. So, I’m depending on all you Maribel’s out there to help me out by sending me links to articles and other tips you think would be worthy of posting on Italofile. Thanks again!

The 2008-2009 Opera Season

Although many cities in Italy incorporate opera events as part of their summer festivals, the opera season typically begins in the fall and runs through spring. According to UK’s Italy Magazine, this year’s opera offerings are expected to excite, with Milan’s La Scala staging an opulent Aida; Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera performing Aida and La Traviata, and Tosca ; and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly taking flight at Venice’s La Fenice in the spring. Here’s a brief rundown of what else is on tap this season:

Teatro La Fenice, Venice
Nabucco by Giuseppe Verdi, 10/19-29/2008
Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini, 5/22-31/2009
How to Get Tickets

Teatro Alla Scala, Milan
Don Carlo by G. Verdi, 12/2008 and 1/2009
Tristan and Isolde by Richard Wagner, 2/2009
Aida by G. Verdi, 6/2009 and 7/2009
How to Get Tickets, also check out their discount offers

Teatro dell’Opera, Rome
Tosca by G. Puccini, 1/14/-23/2009 and 4/22-27/2009
Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, 5/31-6/1/2009
Carmen by Georges Bizet, 6/17-28/2009
Aida by G. Verdi (at Terme di Caracalla), 7/10-24/2009
Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti (at TdC), 7/18-31/2009
Madama Butterfly by G. Puccini (at TdC), 7/27-8/3/2009
How to Get Tickets

Teatro Massimo, Palermo
Carmen by G. Bizet, 11/4-6/2008
Aida by G. Verdi, 11/26-30 and 12/2-7/2008
Lohengrin by R. Wagner, 1/24-31/2009
Cosi Fan Tutte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 6/10-17/2009
Cavalleria Rusticana (by Pietro Mascagni) with Pagliacci (by Ruggiero Leoncavallo), 7/4-9/2009
How to Get Tickets

Teatro San Carlo, Naples
Don Carlo by G. Verdi, 11/22-23/2008
Various medley evenings featuring the works of Verdi, Bellini, Puccini, etc., performed by the Teatro San Carlo Orchesta
How to Get Tickets

The Italian Tourism Board has listings of Italian opera houses (and their websites) if you’re interested in learning more.

Italian Fashion Designers and Their Hotels

Castiglion del Bosco

Fashion designers have known for a long time that it’s good to diversify. Not only have Italian fashion houses like Armani, Versace, and Dolce & Gabbana ventured beyond clothing to include perfume, accessories, and restaurants among their branded items, they’ve also gone into the business of designing and/or maintaining luxury hotels and suites. This weekend, in the wake of the end of Milan Fashion Week, Sophy Roberts profiles Ferragamo’s Tuscan Estate Castiglion del Bosco for the Financial Times. As the writer points out, discussing this vast estate in today’s economic climate seems “absurd.”

The numbers involved in the project – by spring 2010 it will include 20 villas, 26 “hotel” suites, a Tom Weiskopf-designed golf course, spa, two restaurants, winery and stud – are clearly not for the credit-crunched. Nor are the sums easily accessible: Castiglion del Bosco has been set up as a membership club where fees are confidential. One source recently estimated it to be 120 memberships at €2m each.

Nevertheless, Castiglion del Bosco does allow non-members (“discerning guests,” according to its website) to stay at Il Borgo, the so-called heart of the 4,500-acre estate, for roughly €600-€3000 per night, based on availability. This latest Ferragamo venture is located in Val d’Orcia, but the Ferragamos also own other (more reasonably priced?) properties in Tuscany that are open to guests. Il Borro (not to be confused with Il Borgo, above), near Arezzo, has villa and farmhouse accommodations starting at $475 per night. In addition, the family also runs Lungarno Hotels, which includes several hotels in Florence and some suites in Rome.

Of course, the Ferragamos aren’t the only designers in the hotel game in Italy. The FT article also lists The Bulgari Hotel in Milan, the (Alberta) Ferretti’s Castello di Montegridolfo and Carducci 76 near Rimini, and the Bottega Veneta suite in Rome’s St. Regis Hotel.

If luxury and design are important criteria for you when choosing a hotel, you can also check out the Fashion Designer Hotels round-up from Forbes Traveler, which includes properties from around the world designed by Italians and other big names in the fashion world.

Photo of Castiglion del Bosco

Italian Program for European Day of Jewish Culture Announced

I’m always fascinated to learn about Jewish heritage in Italy. So, here’s a Jewish cultural event that will be going on this fall.

September 7 marks the European Day of Jewish Culture, and, according to Ruth Ellen Gruber’s blog Jewish Heritage Travel, “Italy is consistently probably the most enthusiastic country that takes part.” This year’s theme for Jewish Culture Day will be “Music,” and Italy is expected to host events in some 58 towns and cities, including Milan and Mantova.

To see a schedule of events and information about the programs, visit the Giornata Europea della Cultura Ebraica website. Note that the information is in Italian, but the times and locations are pretty easy to understand.

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