Tag Archives | Tuscany

The Best Ever In-Depth Video of Siena’s Palio

Inspiration always seems to find me when I’m not looking and that is exactly what happened as I settled in to watch a few minutes of television last night. Lucky for me, I clicked over to Kenny Mayne’s Wider World of Sports, a show on ESPN that puts sports into a cultural context.

One of the segments was on the Palio, the famous, twice-yearly horse race in Siena. Mayne gained insider access to the Leocorno (Unicorn) contrada to cover the race from mane (ahem) to tail. We learn about Leocorno’s rivalry with the Civetta (Owl) contrada, the pre-race ritual of having the horse blessed in the district church, and the strategies and intrigue that go into competing in one of Italy’s oldest sports traditions. Both the footage and the commentary in this segment were compelling, so I wanted to share the video with you.

Fantastic stuff, Mr. Mayne. Mille grazie!

Give the Gift of Italian Culture

Flickr/mysza

When my colleagues in the Italy Blogging Roundtable and I decided to write on the topic “gifts” for our December post, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. I knew straight away that I didn’t want to write about Italian gifts you can buy in a store, though there are many I desire or would recommend. Similarly, I knew that I didn’t want to write about the intangible gift that Italy has given me. No, I wanted to write about so-called “gifts that keep on giving,” presents that will serve to enhance others’ understanding or appreciation of Italian culture.

The two “gifts” that I am highlighting below are 1) a documentary film project about a very famous town in Tuscany and 2) a charity devoted to restoring a town in Cinque Terre. I would love it if you, my readers, would consider contributing to one or both of these very worthy causes. To do so, you will be giving yourself and all others who appreciate Italy’s history and heritage the chance to enjoy it for years to come.

1) The Genius of a Place

Photo of a piazza in Cortona by Flickr user wyzik

Sarah Marder, an American who has been living in Italy since 1988 and has been visiting Cortona, Italy, since 1986, has been working for more than two years with Italian production company OLO Creative Farm on a documentary about the Tuscan town made famous by Frances Mayes’ book Under the Tuscan Sun. The book and its subsequent film starring Diane Lane were a rousing success, but the publicity has started to have a detrimental effect on Cortona, drawing in more tourists than the village can handle. Ironically, the hill town that so many tourists are coming to experience risks losing its look and atmosphere. The Genius of a Place takes an honest look at Ms. Marder’s beloved Cortona and its potential spoiling at the hands of too much tourism.

The Genius of a Place project is listed on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, and it seeks to raise $20,000 by December 31, 2011. As of this post, they are almost half-way to their goal. Donating to The Genius of a Place will help Sarah and her crew finish the massive editing process in time to submit their documentary into consideration for the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and can net you “grazie gifts” ranging from chocolate to a set of Tuscan watercolor paintings, not to mention the knowledge of having assisted in raising awareness about Cortona’s potential plight.

Take a look at the project video for The Genius of a Place to see if it’s something you’d like to donate to:

 

2) Save Vernazza

Photo of Vernazza by Flickr user pizzodisevo

You may or may not be aware that the region of Liguria, which includes the capital Genoa and the famous tourist area of Cinque Terre, suffered record flooding this past fall. On October 25, 2011, heavy rain buried city centers under feet of water and caused massive mudslides. The flooding led to emergency evacuations, and many residents have yet to return to the once-picturesque area to begin the process of rebuilding and restoration.

Hit particularly hard during the flooding was the town of Vernazza, one of those perfect, pastel villages that the Cinque Terre subregion is famous for. Vernazza, which was buried under more than 13 feet of mud, suffered more than 100 million in damages. In order to get Vernazza back to working order, three American expat women living in Vernazza created Save Vernazza, an Italian nonprofit to raise funds for construction projects and cultural preservation. Included in the mission statement of Save Vernazza is the commitment to rebuild the Muri a Secco, the terracing walls that are part of the heritage that merited Vernazza its UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

If you’re interested in joining Ruth Manfredi, Michele Lilley, and Michele Sherman, the three women behind Save Vernazza, in preserving this iconic village, visit the Save Vernazza website to learn about its projects and how to donate. Watch this video to see the Vernazza flood in action (warning: heart-wrenching):

This month’s Italy Blogging Roundtable topic was “Gifts.” Find out what the other members of the Italy Blogging Roundtable conjured up when they thought about “gifts” together with Italy. Click the links below to read their contributions to the Roundtable, and leave comments to join in the conversation. Tune in next month for another Roundtable round-up.

Also this month, we opened up the Italy Blogging Roundtable to other bloggers interested in telling us a story about gifts in the context of Italy. Below are five posts that I enjoyed reading. And, I’ve also added a Twitter widget to the bottom of this post so you can find links to even more #ItalyRoundtable posts on Twitter. Thank you so much for tuning in!
  • No Onions Extra Pickles: What to Get the Italian Futurist Who Has Everything - I loved this whimsical post. Extra points (pickles?) for the art nerdiness.
  • Cross Pollinate: Made in Italy – Hand Made Gifts by Florentine Artisans - See the painstaking work it takes to create some of the beautiful products that are still made in Italy, from etchings to bespoke shoes. Great photos here.
  • A Sense of PlaceThe Gift of Learning Something New – Erin teaches me something new about a church in Rome whose marbled floor I’ve walked on countless times. Her explanation and photos were exquisite and made me want to get on the very next flight to Rome.
  • Sicily SceneGifts – Italy may be on the road to austerity this Christmas, but that doesn’t mean the season will be less joyous. I appreciate how Pat wove in her observations of how Italians confront Christmastime with her memories from the past 20 years of being an expat in Sicily.
  • Life…Italian StyleThe Gift of Becoming Italian – Becoming Italian, if that is at all possible, takes more than just marrying a person from Italy and/or moving there. It takes an attitude adjustment, especially with regards to time, food, and chiacchiere (talking), as Jennifer explains so nicely in her post.


Tuscany First Italian Region to Check In with Foursquare

Tuscany Tourism Checks In With FourSquare

Tuscany Tourism Checks In With FourSquare


If you follow this site or my personal website MissAdventures.com, you know that I am gaga for gadgets, social media, and the latest technology. So, I was delighted when Visit Tuscany, the tourism board of the famous Italian region, contacted me to get the word out about its partnership with FourSquare, the social media check-in application. I see this as a great opportunity for such a solid, well-known travel brand like Tuscany to embrace the future of travel marketing. (Just think – you could be the Mayor of the Uffizi Gallery!) But instead of listening to my opinion on the matter, let’s take a look at the announcement by Visit Tuscany on its new venture. Below is the press release in its entirety.

Visit Tuscany opens Foursquare branded page

Visit Tuscany is the first Italian tourism board to have a branded presence on Foursquare on which members of the region’s social media team provide tips to help travelers discover the best of Tuscany’s places, food, and art.

Foursquare is a location-based service and game that allows individual users to “check in” to places via a mobile application and receive tips – and sometimes special offers – for that location. Foursquare offers select institutions (from the History Channel to the New York Times) a customized branded page that users can “follow” to get tips and sometimes win badges.

The potential of branded pages for tourism was recognized early on by Explore Chicago, the first DMO (Destination Marketing Organization) to partner with Foursquare back in February 2010. They were followed by Visit PA in May of the same year; the first in Europe was Welcome to Yorkshire (September 1 2010).

Visit Tuscany launched its Foursquare page on October 1 2010, making it the first DMO in Italy to have one, and one of the first 10 in the world. Says Michela Simoncini, one of the channel’s administrators and a member of the social media team:

“We are constantly looking for new ways to interact with our visitors. Foursquare is pretty new in Italy but we’re all “tech geeks” here in the office and we see a lot of potential in the app. We hope that the tips we’re adding on Foursquare can help steer tourists towards the artistic and gastronomic excellencies of our region.”

Foursquare has a captive audience with the growing worldwide market of smartphone users – 29.7% in the USA and 28% in Italy according to recent Nielsen data; 4.5 million of these are already on Foursquare, and the Visit Tuscany team expects to see numbers in Italy (where it is still very much a niche market) grow quickly.

As of December 2010, Visit Tuscany has 1600 followers on its branded page and people have “done” 300 of the tips, from sampling street food in Florence to looking at Renaissance frescoes in Arezzo.

In fact, when it comes to tourism, the Region of Tuscany is full of firsts. Florence, in Tuscany, was recently voted by Tripadvisor as the number one culture and sightseeing destination in the world. Wanting to help travelers discover all that the region has to offer, in 2009 Tuscany was the first DMO in Italy to form a full-time “social media team” with official facebook fan page, vertical blogs, an iphone app and much more in its network. So being “first” also on Foursquare was a logical step within a larger digital strategy.

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Photo © FourSquare

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