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Seven Longobard Sites Newest Additions to UNESCO Heritage List

Saint Michael at the Sanctuary of Saint Michael in Apulia

Saint Michael at the Sanctuary of Saint Michael in Apulia

Last month, UNESCO inscribed Italy’s newest World Heritage sites: The Longobards in Italy. Places of the Power (568-774 A.D.). Treated as one entity, these seven sites stretch from as far north as Castelseprio, a small village in Lombardy where is located Santa Maria Fortis Portas and the castrum with the Torba Tower, to as far south as Benevento and its Santa Sofia church complex. All of these sites represent, according to UNESCO, “the high achievement of the Lombards, who migrated from northern Europe and developed their own specific culture in Italy where they ruled over vast territories in the 6th to 8th centuries.”

While the Longobard sites are the newest ones to be recognized by UNESCO, they are among the least well known of the many UNESCO buildings and sites in Italy, which now leads the world with 45. To learn more about each of the “Longobards in Italy” sites, including where they are, how to visit them, and the treasures they contain, visit Italia Longobardorum, the website of the group responsible for formally submitting these sites for UNESCO World Heritage consideration. You can also click on the links below for the individual sites:

Ask the Italy Expert: Outlet Shopping and Rome Pastry Shops

Ask the Expert: Italofile MailbagI get lots of emails from readers asking for Italy travel advice. And while I like to think of myself as the Italy travel resource, I know that there are tons of bloggers, writers, tour operators, travel consultants, and many other Italophiles who have knowledge on specific subjects, like villa rentals, Tuscany antique markets, or wines of the Veneto. Previously, I have just answered readers’ questions as best – and as quickly – as I could. But I started thinking that everyone could benefit from the knowledge I’ve earned as a result of researching some of these inquiries.

So, today I am starting a new feature called “Ask the Italy Expert,” in which I utilize my network of Italy experts to answer your travel questions. I’m really excited about the first installment of this feature because it is all about SHOPPING!

Two readers, Dominika and Niek, recently asked me questions about shopping in Italy. Dominika, who is getting married in Rome, was particularly interested in finding out about factory outlets and pastry shops/cake makers in and around the capital while Niek wanted to know about outlets in the southern Italian regions of Basilicata, Calabria, and Puglia.

As soon as I saw that I had two specific shopping questions, I knew exactly who to ask. Stefania Troiani is the creative founder and owner of Rome Shopping Guide, a private tour company that offers personalized shopping tours of the Eternal City, from food markets to outlets to luxury boutiques. While I have never actually “met” Stefania, I have enjoyed reading her shopping advice on her website and Twitter for quite some time now. Certainly, she specializes in Rome, but I had no doubts of her ability to tell me about other shopping experiences south of the capital. Here are her superb shopping suggestions:

Question 1: Factory Outlets and Cake Makers in Rome
The best factory outlets for designer label handbags and clothes and shoes around Rome are:

Castel Romano Designer Outlet elegantly built around a style reminiscent of Imperial Rome that boasts 110 designer name shops with prices reduced from 30% to 70%. Many shops also offer tax free (from a minimum of 4% up to a maximum 16% of the selling price of the goods purchased). The outlet is located 30mins outside Rome (how to get there).

Another perfect place to find special accessories is the Bulgari outlet that carries all the end of series and unsold items from Bulgari shops. It is possible to find handbags, crocodile purses, ties, house furnishings, scarves, sunglasses, glasses, modern silver and also jewelry for which Bulgari has been famous for over 100 years, all to be discounted 30%. The staff speaks English and Japanese. The outlet is located on Via Aurelia, 1052 only a few miles outside Rome.

When in Rome you can also get some great buys on designer handbags, clothes and shoes and if you are looking for Miu Miu, Cavalli, Chloé, and Burberry you should pop into Outlet Gente conveniently located near the Vatican on Via Cola di Rienzo 246.

Antonella e Fabrizio is a discount store for men and women near Piazza Navona, on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 247 selling Armani, D&G and Just Cavalli as well as other popular Italian labels.

Il Discount dell’Alta Moda is a boutique near Piazza del Popolo on Via Gesù e Maria, 16 overstocking at up to 50% off goods by Fendi, Gucci, Sergio Rossi, and Roberto Cavalli.

Pastry shops in Rome are all very good. I know many great good cake makers. My two favorites are the historic Marinari pastry shop in the Trieste neighborhood also well known for its delicious “torta della nonna,” it offers a wide range of desserts from ricotta cakes to Sicilian cannoli.

Another one to recommend to dessert lovers is Antonini on via Sabotino, 19 that offers one of the best selections of pastries in town.

(Those pastry shops sound delicious! Best bet is to shop for shoes at the outlets so you can indulge in the cake without worrying about fitting into designer duds!)

Question 2: Factory Outlets in Basilicata, Calabria, and Puglia
There are not many quality outlets in Basilicata and Calabria, whilst in Puglia there are several places to visit for value conscious travelers.

  • Vestebene Outlet Storeon Piazza Dante Alighieri 85 – Galatina – Lecce
  • Filanto Shoes Outlet – Casarano Industrial Park – Lecce
  • Leather Company Outlet (excellent value and quality) – Via Provinciale Uggiano 44 – Otranto – Lecce
  • Molfetta Fashion District (80 shops) Via dei Portuali, Molfetta- Bari

Great tips for outlets in Puglia, Stefania! If anyone else has tips on outlets in Basilicata or Calabria, let me know.

I really hope that you have enjoyed this new Q&A on Italofile. If you’d like to submit a question or if you are an Italy expert who’d like to offer some advice, contact me. Hopefully, we can collaborate on the next installment of Ask the Italy Expert!

Photo © http://www.flickr.com/photos/ezioman/ / CC BY 2.0

Four Great Golf Courses in Italy


Golfing has grown increasingly popular over the past decade, thanks in no small part to one Tiger Woods, who has proven to be a diligent, exacting, and exciting player both on and off the green. Woods’ celebrity has meant a ton of new golf watchers and enthusiasts, who jump at the chance to work on their handicap, especially while on vacation.

Italy may not be the first place one thinks of for a golfing vacation, but it does have some terrific courses set in stunning locations, many of which are near the tourist routes of Rome, Florence, and Milan. So if you’re a golfer interested in hitting the links in Italy, you’re in luck!

Golf in Italy is still very much a wealthy (wo)man’s sport in Italy, but there are a number of public courses in Italy, too. As this is a travel site, this post is going to focus on some of the most beautiful golf courses in Italy, rather than the most challenging. Bear in mind that it can be difficult to obtain access to many of the private courses in Italy unless you are traveling with a golf vacation agency or are staying in the golf resort’s respective hotel. Ready to tee off? Continue Reading →

Round-up: Italy in Winter, Hidden Salami, Timelapse Tuscany, and more

This installment of Italy travel articles includes two videos that I thought were worth sharing. Enjoy the round-up! Continue Reading →

Round-up: Parma, Body Scanners, Sightjogging, House-Sitting

Stendhal in Parma [NY Times]
The Cursing Mommy Cooks Italian [The New Yorker – humor, of course!]
Italy’s Reality is a Vita Not So Dolce [The Globe and Mail]
Italy Made Easy [The Telegraph]
Body Scanners Coming to Rome, Milan Airports [USA Today] Continue Reading →

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!

2008 Year-End Article Round Up

I am still trying to figure out how to manage a toddler and a newborn and find time to keep this blog up-to-date. But I have been keeping track of the numerous articles about Italy that have come out in the past couple of months. So, enjoy the following links and have a Felice Anno Nuovo!!

Boston Globe
Eating Up Miles, Drinking Up Scenery, Motoring From Nice to Tuscany
(road tripping between France and Italy)

L.A. Times
American Military Cemeteries in Europe Honor Heroes in Both World Wars
(profiles Sicily-Rome Cemetery)

The Globe and Mail (Canada)
Roman Holiday, Reconsidered
Your Palazzo in Florence Awaits
Escape From San Domino

The Independent (U.K.)
Madama Butterfly, Floria Tosca – They All Came From Lucca
Puglia Is a Food Lover’s Paradise

The Guardian (U.K.)
Flying Visit to Florence
Flood-Hit Hoteliers Offer Packages With Free Wellies (Venice)
Go With the Flow (Skiing on Mt. Etna)
A Taste of Italy at Harvest Time (Le Marche)
Turin On A Plate
On the Trail of the Leopard (Sicily)

New York Times
Florence, Then and Now
Venice: In Laguna Da Toni
Savoring Italy One Beer at a Time

The Telegraph (U.K.)
Mesmerizing Relics of Byzantine Brilliance (Ravenna)

Wall Street Journal
Starling Stalkers Try to Scare the Birds out of Rome

Italy Summer Article Round-Up 2008

Lots of Italy-related articles this time of year. So, here goes:

New York Times
Wandering Beyond Classic Rome (The Frugal Traveler Does Europe on a Budget)
On Venice’s Grand Canal in a Kayak
Prescription Med (Ischia)

Los Angeles Times
Exploring Rome’s Famous Seven Hills
Budget Travel in Rome
10 Books and Movies to Prep for a Trip to Rome
Italy: At Home in Rome

National Geographic Traveler
Rome Photo Gallery (Part of NGT’s Authentic Rome feature for the July/August 2008 issue)
Shopping: Roman Gold

The Washington Post
Smart Mouth: His Palermo Restaurant Is Popular, But It’s No Mob Scene
My Verona

Reuters
Travel Postcard: 48 Hours in Ferrara, Italy

Naples (FL) Daily News
From the Ground Up: Part-Time Naples Couple Found Their Italian Villa a Full-Time Restoration Job Over Two Years (Brindisi, Puglia)

The Guardian (UK)
The Amalfi Coast On a Budget
Caught in the Spell of San Pietro (Sardinia)
Hidden Gems (Sibillini Mountains, Le Marche)
Little Po Peep (Emilia-Romagna)
Flying Visit: Venice
A Greener Way to Umbria’s Capital

Sydney Morning Herald
How to Shop Up an Appetite (Milan)
Night in Italian Prison Promises Gourmet Fare (Tuscany)
Master of the House (Palladio in Venice)
Holiday in Harmony with Gregorian Monks (Tuscany)
A Bloodbath, Italian Style (Florence)

Puglia Has a New Tourism Website

Polignano a Mare is one of many special places in Puglia.

Thinking about basking on a beach in Bari or visiting the newest shrine to Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo? The region of Puglia has announced a new tourism website at ViaggiareinPuglia.it. The well-designed, easy-to-navigate site has the usual practical details (weather, how to get there, etc.), as well as searchable hotel and restaurant info (with links to maps), travel itineraries, and event ideas. As you may have heard before (either from this site or others), Puglia is the next hotspot for tourists in Italy. So, visit the website, book a trip, and go to Puglia before everyone else does.

Dirty Weekends in Italy

The Times UK’s Stephen Bleach had a fun article about romantic getaways in Europe this weekend titled “The Dirty Weekend Guide to Europe.” Bleach argues that a “place of [one’s] own” makes or breaks a romantic holiday and highlights a “dozen of the slushiest, smoochiest and downright sexiest hideaways on the Continent.” No surprise to us, four out of the 12 are in Italy:

And, not a Tuscan villa among any of them. Be aware, however, that romance this luxurious comes at a price!

Italy’s Newest Saint Venerated

Padre Pio Tomb

On April 24, the new tomb of Padre Pio was unveiled in the Puglian city of San Giovanni Rotondo. The new tomb now features the exhumed body of Italy’s most recent homegrown saint, who died in 1968 and who was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002. According to Ian Fisher’s San Giovanni Rotondo Journal in the New York Times, more than 750,000 pilgrims have made reservations to see the new Padre Pio shrine. You, too, can make reservations to see the saint’s venerated body by calling (39-088) 241-7500 (we found this number online at Catholic.org, whose website bears an uncanny resemblance to the NY Times).

If you want to learn more about Padre Pio and his shrine in Puglia, check out the Convento of Padre Pio website. You can also listen and watch sermons or hear the voice of Padre Pio on Tele Radio Padre Pio.

20 Things We Love About Italy – Part 2

Torino's Mole Antonelliana

We hope you enjoyed yesterday’s run-down of part 1 of 20 Things We Love About Italy. Hopefully, the list has given you more travel ideas and the inspiration to learn more about all of Italy’s 20 regions.

Now, without further ado, the remaining 10 favorites on our list:

11) Termoli, Molise. If Puglia (see #13) is the next Italian travel spot, surely Molise will follow. This beautiful beach town in Italy’s second smallest region is little known outside of the country and blissfully free of the tourist throngs (so far).

12) La Mole Antonelliana of Torino, Piemonte. This iconic building (perhaps you remember it as the symbol of the 2006 Winter Olympic Games?) may be one of the younger structures in the region, but it certainly has a cool history. Originally built to be a synagogue, the Mole now houses Italy’s National Cinema Museum. Besides a collection of thousands of movie posters and exhibits about early cinema in Italy, the museum presents a huge roster of films each month. This is great if your Italian is up to snuff.

13) Padre Pio, Puglia. If you’ve spent any time tooling around the shops near the Vatican, you’ve most certainly seen images of Padre Pio, the white-bearded Capuchin monk (originally from Pietrelcina in Campania) who lead a congregation at San Giovanni Rotondo and was canonized in 2002. Unofficially, for better or for worse, Padre Pio is Italy’s modern patron saint. What’s really random is that he’s now the patron saint of the New Year Blues.

14) Neptune’s Cave, Sardinia. Long known as a playground for the jetset, Sardinia is more than just beaches. Because of the island’s geography of rocky promontories spilling into the sea there is a vast network of underwater caves, or grottoes, to explore. Chief among them is the Grotta of Nettuno, which spans about 1 kilometer, includes impressive stalagmite and stalactite formations, and is a great cure for beachside boredom. Take a boat tour of Neptune’s Cave or, if you’re feeling more active, approach the grotto from the 656-step staircase that leads from Capo Caccia.

Beautiful Taormina Sicily

Beautiful Taormina, Sicily

15) Taormina, Sicily. Like the region of Campania (see #4), much of Sicily lives in the shadow (or under the legend) of a volcano: Mt. Etna. Taormina, with its Greco-Roman theater, bougainvillea draped hillsides, medieval town, and views of Etna, epitomizes the beauty, history, and geology of Sicily. We’re also fond of Taormina’s cultural attractions, including Taormina Arte and Taormina Filmfest.

16) Ötzi the Iceman, Trentino Alto Adige. Europe’s oldest mummy was found in 1991 in the ice-packed mountains above Trentino Alto Adige, the alpine region that borders Austria’s Südtirol. After years of research, the 5,000-year-old Ötzi was placed on display at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano in 1998. Also on exhibit are the Iceman’s tools and clothing, and information about the preservation measures being taken to keep Ötzi in peak condition for many millennia to come.

17) Botticelli Gallery, Galleria degli Uffizi, Tuscany. It’s too hard to single out just one thing in Tuscany, of course. But the Botticielli Gallery at the Uffizi has to be one of the most special rooms in Florence. Upon seeing Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera in the flesh, we are transfixed, barely even noticing the dozens of other museum-goers trying to elbow us out of the way. For more information about the Uffizi, including how to get tickets, visit the museum’s official website. We also like this unofficial site that provides a virtual tour of the Botticelli Gallery and others.

18) Orvieto, Umbria. One of our favorite day trips from Rome has to be to the town of Orvieto. Situated atop a huge mountain of tufa, Orvieto shines because of its gorgeous, Gothic Duomo, its ancient Etuscan caves and wells, and the superb Orvieto Classico white wine. Actually…forget the day trip. Why not stay overnight?

19) Fiera Sant’Orso, Valle d’Aosta. How can you not appreciate the Fiera Sant’Orso, Aosta’s traditional craft fair which has been going strong for more than 1,000 years?! The fair usually takes place at the end of January – so you just missed this year’s edition – and it is known for its wooden handicrafts, artisanal metalworks, ceramics, and sculptures. No doubt, there aren’t many events that can boast a 1,000 year history – not even in Italy.

20) St. Mark’s Lion, Venice, Veneto. Leave it to us astrological Leos to love the symbol of the city of Venice: the lion of St. Mark. From atop a column in St. Mark’s Square to Madonna’s Like a Virgin video, the lion has been an effective marketing tool for Venice for hundreds of years. You can learn more about the symbol and the city in Garry Wills’ excellent Venice: Lion City, one of the most gratifying biographies about a city that you will ever read.

Photos © Comune di Torino, Joe Routon

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