Tag Archives | Sports

A Snowy Staycation in Rome

You must be thinking: there are two things wrong with this post. First, it’s too early to be talking about snow. And, second, how can you have a “staycation” in Rome if you don’t even live there?

I defer to a recent press release from onthesnow.com. In “The No. 1 Snow Sports Web Site Picks Top 10 Ski Staycations,” onthesnow says:

The newest buzzword in the travel vocabulary is “staycation.” It means staying home and still doing the things one loves to do. That’s difficult for skiers and riders who don’t live in tiny mountain towns and villages.

OnTheSnow.com’s 17 regional editors, based in alpine regions around the world, have selected 10 excellent ski and snowboard options, all within a tank of gas, from a metropolitan area. That’s staying, at least, close to home and still indulging in a favorite sport.

Coming in at number 4 on the list is Rome. The Gran Sasso subregion (listed as the San Grasso region in the release, unfortunately), with its Campo Felice ski area, is within about a tank of gas of the Eternal City and offers, according to onthesnow’s editors, “varied skiing and snowboarding experiences, and there are a surprising number of challenging pistes. The weekends get crowded, but there are 16 lifts. There’s not much nightlife at Campo but, after all, home is Rome.”

And to address the part about it being too early to talk about snow? Well, snow in August is not unheard of in Rome. In fact, legend has it that the papal basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore was built on a hill where a miraculous snow fell on August 5.

On a personal note, this talk about “staycations” gives me the opportunity to plug a colleagues newest book. Backyard Adventures may not be about travel in Italy. But, it just may give you some good ideas for activities to do while you’re planning next year’s trip to Italy.

Golfing With George Clooney

You know that if you want to catch a glimpse of George Clooney, you’re more likely to find him in Como than in Hollywood. Now Jaunted.com reports that Clooney likes to hit the links at Como’s Menaggio & Cadenabbia Golf Club. Lord knows I’d let him play through… :-)

Menaggio had its centennial in 2007. And though it appears to be a haughty, members-only kind of place, mere mortals (i.e., people other than Clooney and his cronies) can play here, with weekday greens fees starting at €60.

Siena Ready For Tourists and the Palio

Siena's Piazza del Campo Before the Palio

According to TripAdvisor, by way of Italy Magazine, the Tuscan town of Siena ranks 5th among the most-visited cities in Europe. No doubt, one of its allures is the twice-annual Palio, which takes place on July 2 and August 16.

This year’s first installment kicks off tomorrow (!) and you can watch a live feed (!!) from Piazza del Campo (the main square) on the official Palio website (in the left column, click on “Palio 2 luglio 2008 – video e diretta,” then on the following page “Diretta dalla Piazza.” We’re unsure if the live feed will be available during the race itself, but you could give it a try.

Two Of Summer’s Most Intriguing Reads Are Set in Italy

The Monster of FlorenceRome 1960

I am supremely excited about two new nonfiction books this summer: The Monster of Florence and Rome 1960. Both describe tumultuous times in central Italy, the first being a period of time in Florence when an unknown predator or predators who “stalked lovers’ lanes in the countryside,” and the second describes the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome.

Set in Florence and the Florentine hills, ‘Monster’ trails author Douglas Preston on his quest to solve – or, at least, learn more about – the case of the horrific murders of scores of young lovers from 1968-1985. Chosen by Amazon.com as one of the best books of the month for June 2008, and here’s the review:

When author Douglas Preston moved his family to Florence he never expected he would soon become obsessed and entwined in a horrific crime story whose true-life details rivaled the plots of his own bestselling thrillers. While researching his next book, Preston met Mario Spezi, an Italian journalist who told him about the Monster of Florence, Italy’s answer to Jack the Ripper, a terror who stalked lovers’ lanes in the Italian countryside. The killer would strike at the most intimate time, leaving mutilated corpses in his bloody wake over a period from 1968 to 1985. One of these crimes had taken place in an olive grove on the property of Preston’s new home. That was enough for him to join “Monsterologist” Spezi on a quest to name the killer, or killers, and bring closure to these unsolved crimes. Local theories and accusations flourished: the killer was a cuckolded husband; a local aristocrat; a physician or butcher, someone well-versed with knives; a satanic cult. Thomas Harris even dipped into “Monster” lore for some of Hannibal Lecter’s more Grand Guignol moments in Hannibal. Add to this a paranoid police force more concerned with saving face and naming a suspect (any suspect) than with assessing the often conflicting evidence on hand, and an unbelievable twist that finds both authors charged with obstructing justice, with Spezi jailed on suspicion of being the Monster himself. The Monster of Florence is split into two sections: the first half is Spezi’s story, with the latter bringing in Preston’s updated involvement on the case. Together these two parts create a dark and fascinating descent into a landscape of horror that deserves to be shelved between In Cold Blood and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Less gruesome but no less engaging in its subject matter is David Maraniss’s Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World. Though not particularly about Rome, rather about the last Olympic Games that were held in Italy, Maraniss’s book covers one of the pivotal episodes where sports and politics collided. This book is due to be on shelved July 1. So, if you need to get in the mood for what is sure to be an interesting Olympics in Beijing, check out the review and decide for yourself:

Overshadowed by more flamboyant or tragic Olympics, the 1960 Rome games were a sociopolitical watershed, argues journalist Maraniss (Clemente) in this colorful retrospective. The games showcased Cold War propaganda ploys as the Soviet Union surged past the U.S. in the medal tally. Steroids and amphetamines started seeping into Olympian bloodstreams. The code of genteel amateurism—one weight-lifter was forbidden to accept free cuts from a meat company—began crumbling in the face of lavish Communist athletic subsidies and under-the-table shoe endorsement deals. And civil rights and anticolonialism became conspicuous themes as charismatic black athletes—supercharged sprinter Wilma Rudolph, brash boxing phenom Cassius Clay, barefoot Ethiopian marathoner Abebe Bikila—grabbed the limelight while the IOC sidestepped the apartheid issue. Still, we’re talking about the Olympics, and Maraniss can’t help wallowing in the classic tropes: personal rivalries, judging squabbles, come-from-behind victories and inspirational backstories of obstacles overcome (Rudolph wins the gold, having hurdled Jim Crow and childhood polio that left her in leg braces). As usual, these Olympic stories don’t quite bear up under the mythic symbolism they’re weighted with (with the exception perhaps of Abebe Bikila), but Maraniss provides an intelligent context for his evocative reportage.

Gosh, I hope that I find the time to buy and read these fascinating sounding books before the summer is over!

Giro d’Italia Underway

Giro d'Italia

The 2008 Giro d’Italia – Italy’s answer to the Tour de France – kicked off in Sicily this past weekend. And, before it’s all over on June 1, pro cyclists will have traversed a big section of “the boot,” riding along the west coast up to Civitavecchia, then over to Tuscany and the Marches. You can learn about the various stages and read live spectator comments on Eurosport’s Giro coverage. Additionally, steephill.tv and versus tv offer live video, photos, and news.

Touring Italy by bike is a great way to see the country, and there are quite a few companies that specialize in cycling tours. To learn more, check out cicloposse.com, ibikeitaly.com, ciclismoclassico.com, and vbt.com.

Italy Article Round-Up From the Past Few Months

Here are some of the Italy travel articles you may have missed over the past few months.

New York Times
Prato, Italy: In Tuscany, the Revealing of a Forbidden Love
Bread-Making and Truffle-Hunting in Italy (Piemonte; actually a short review of two tours)
Bologna, Italy: Finding New Life in the Arts
La Dolce Vita, Both Day and Night (Readers Picks in Rome)

The Washington Post
They Got Game. In Several Languages. (About European (and Italian) basketball leagues)

The Daily Telegraph (UK)
Italy: An Insider’s Guide (a list of the 30 best things in Italy; a bit similar to our recent posts “20 Things We Love About Italy” parts 1 and 2.)

The Guardian (UK)
Eternal Attraction (Rome)
Venetian Bites
Big City Bites: Parma

Los Angeles Times
20 Ways to Take Back the 20% Our Dollar Lost to the Euro (great advice from Rick Steves; not specific to Italy, but there are several Italy tips)

Bend Weekly (Oregon)
Serene Pleasures of the Veneto (via Copley News Service)

Sydney Morning Herald
Life in Ruins (Siracusa, Sicily)
A Cloister Walk with Thee (Assisi)

New Zealand Herald
Venice Calls – and to Hell with Explanations (a sort of Eat, Pray, Love piece on traveling alone to Italy)

And the winner is…

Siena, Palio

Siena, Palio,
originally uploaded by pedro prats.

Contrada Leocorno won the second round of this year’s Palio. So they will have bragging rights until next July. Auguri!

By the way, some spectators at the August 16 event noticed that Daniel Craig (the new James Bond) was in attendance. According to UPI, the Palio will be featured in the 22nd installment of the James Bond franchise. What a surprise that such a world famous race hasn’t been filmed for a Bond (or Bourne) film already…

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