Italy’s First Wine Fountain Opens in Abruzzo — and the Wine is Free

The Local.it reports that the town of Caldari di Ortona in Abruzzo has opened the first free wine fountain. Continue reading Italy’s First Wine Fountain Opens in Abruzzo — and the Wine is Free

Three Italian Villages Where You Can Buy a House for Less Than A Cup of Coffee

Gangi, Sicily

The Daily Mail reports on three depopulated Italian towns — Gangi (Sicily), Carrega Ligure (Piedmont), and Lecce nei Marsi (Abruzzo) — that are offering real estate for about €1 down…plus a commitment of €25,000 in renovations and upkeep.

They are set in villages which are just a hairs-breadth away from becoming one of Italy’s fabled ‘ghost towns’ – places where natural disaster, lack of jobs and even pirates have driven locals from their homes in search of a better life.

Source: Buy a house in the gorgeous Italian countryside for just £1: Village homes being ‘given away’ to stop blight of ghost towns (but you’ll need to promise £18,000 to do them up) | Daily Mail Online

Abruzzo’s Beffi Triptych

Beffi Triptych from Abruzzo
Beffi Triptych from Abruzzo

In the wake of Abruzzo’s devastating earthquake of April 2009, many companies and countries have pulled together to aid the tremor-stricken region. The other day, while visiting the National Gallery in Washington, DC, I learned that this aid has been extended to the art world.

Since June 15, 2009, the National Gallery’s grand rotunda has been the home of the Beffi Triptych, a treasure from the National Museum of Abruzzo. The work is on loan “in gratitude to the United States for being among the first to offer assistance to the region after the earthquake and as testimony to the Italian commitment to restore fully the cultural heritage of the region.”

The triptych is quite a beautiful site, and I’m delighted that people in the U.S. are able to see this masterpiece on such an exclusive stage. However, I should also point out that while much of Abruzzo’s art has found a home, some tent cities still exist outside of L’Aquila. Let’s hope the Italian government – or another generous entity – is able to provide these people shelter before the cold really sets in.

Photo from the National Gallery website

L’Aquila Earthquake Info

The full extent of the damage to L’Aquila and the surrounding area after yesterday’s 6.3 earthquake is still not known. As of now, there are at least 179 confirmed dead and numerous buildings, including the Church of Maria di Collemaggio, lie in rubble.

Even though this is still a developing story, a lot of interesting info is available on the web, including ways you can help. Jessica over at Italylogue put together a comprehensive list of news links, Facebook groups, and how and where you can donate blood in Italy. Jessica and several other Italy bloggers also posted info for the NIAF/Abruzzo Relief Fund.

If you want to see some more first-hand accounts and maps of the quake damage, check out Google Maps Mania: Earthquake Hits L’Aquila. You can also head over to Flickr and search for terremoto, earthquake, L’Aquila, or a combination of those words or others to find photos of the devastation.

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.

Authentic Accommodations in Abruzzi

Those who may have watched CBS Sunday Morning* yesterday probably caught the Allen Pizzey “Postcard: Abruzzi” piece, which profiled a castle in the village of Santo Stefano di Sessania, Abruzzo (or Abruzzi, if you will) that has been converted into “authentic” accommodations for those few tourists who wander off the beaten track to this area of Italy. Pizzey talked to the owner, Daniele Kihlgren, about his method of sustainable hospitality, which meant including very few amenities (no phone, no internet but updated bathrooms), providing locally made linens (some up to 100 years old), and making sure this “boutique hotel” was in keeping with village traditions.

One thing that Pizzey forgot to mention in the piece, of course, was the name of the hotel! But, have no fear – we have found it for you. Sextantio Albergo Diffuso, located in the province of L’Aquila, is located about an hour and 45 minutes from Rome. The website is very handsome, but as of now contains no English translation. So, check out this short profile from the UK’s Conde Nast Traveller. The Times of London, The Washington Post, and The Guardian have also done small write-ups on Sextantio. Note, however, that authenticity has a price – according to CNTraveller, doubles start at €140.

*7/22/08 – I guess we were a little quick on the draw reporting on this. Since then, the video piece has been added to the web. Here it is on truveo.com. Enjoy!

Photo by Sextantio Albergo Diffuso

An Unspoiled Beach in Abruzzo

Vasto Beach

Earlier today, we wrote about the travel potential of the region Puglia, this year’s emerging star of Italian tourism. Well, if Puglia is the new Tuscany then some years from now Abruzzo will be the new Puglia.

Richard Norton-Taylor writes about Vasto, a largely “unknown” beach on the Costa Abruzzese for the U.K.’s Guardian. And, believe us – if this spot is still largely unknown to sun-worshipping Brits, then it really must be unspoiled!

20 Things We Love About Italy – Part 1

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a favorite shopping spot in Milan

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we here at Italofile wanted to share with you some of our favorite foods, fashions, architecture, and other random things that make Italy our favorite destination. Yes, just about every one of our posts highlights the things we love about Italy. But this is our chance to feature some things that just don’t make it into every day posts.

And, why 20 things, you ask? Italy has 20 regions and we’ve selected a favorite thing from each of them. Keep in mind, this is hardly an exhaustive list: it was hard to pick just one thing from each region. Also note that this list is in no particular order (except alphabetically by region).

What kinds of things have made you fall in love with Italy? Please be so kind to share them by commenting below or contacting us on Twitter @italofileblog. If you want to know more about each of the 20 regions of Italy, click on the “By Area” categories to the right or visit our Tourism Boards page.

Today, we’ll tackle the first 10 – Abruzzo through Lombardy:

1) Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo. We love our Chiantis and Barolos, for sure. But we often find that when it comes to buying a good, everyday table wine for under $15, we return time and time again to Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. There are many good brands of Montepulciano out there. However, Wine Spectator recently featured Valle Reale as one of its daily wine picks. To learn more about this vintage, visit Winebow.com.

2) I Sassi of Matera, Basilicata. These cave houses, which are a lot like those of Cappadocia in Turkey, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The eerie dwellings were mentioned in Carlo Levi’s Christ Stopped at Eboli and the Matera landscape was used as a stand-in for Jerusalem in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ.

3) Sopressata and Caciocavallo, Calabria. Many an Italian-American household would be at a loss on what to serve for antipasti were it not for these delicious sausage and cheese items from Calabria. I’ve yet to try these foods in their native place. Though, we once shared some Arthur Avenue sopressata (sausage) with a visiting Italian friend and he said it was some of the best he’d ever tasted.

4) Mt. Vesuvius, Campania. From the ruins at Herculaneum and Pompeii to the jawdropping landscape of Naples – even to the rock formations on the island of Capri – Vesuvius was involved. This still-active volcano is a sight to see, which makes this trip seem pretty cool.

5) Byzantine Mosaics of Ravenna, Emilia Romagna. Yet another World Heritage Site, Ravenna is often overshadowed by other Emilian cities like Parma and the capital Bologna. But Ravenna shines because of its stunning, well-preserved, early Christian mosaics, particularly in the Basilica of San Vitale. If you’ve got an Italy “bucket list,” seeing Ravenna’s mosaics should be on it.

6) Gorizia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia. There are little pockets on the peninsula that defy Italian stereotypes. Gorizia, which lies on the border with Slovenia (Nova Gorica), is one of those places. Here is where central and Slavic Europe meets Italy in a melting pot of dialects, architecture, attitudes, and more.

Civita di Bagnoregio, a magical little village in Lazio

7) Civita di Bagnoregio, Lazio. Beyond the attractions of Rome, one of the most charming places in all of Central Italy is the tiny, hilltop town of Civita di Bagnoregio. Built by the Etruscans on soft tufa rock, the village is slowly but surely giving way to the ravages of time and gravity. So you may want to pay your respects before its too late.

8) Olive Ascolane, Le Marche. The earthy cuisine of the Marches (Le Marche) is finally getting its due thanks to the fantastic cookbook Cucina of Le Marche by Fabio Trabocchi. Certainly no book on the cucina marchigiana would be complete without a recipe for Olive Ascolane – fried, stuffed olives. Yum!

9) Portofino, Liguria. Liguria, the eyebrow shaped region of Italy, is very eye-catching indeed, what with its picturesque fishing villages, particularly those pastel painted cities of the Cinque Terre. Portofino, in the Genoa province, is a huge tourist magnet. But one glance at its tidy cityscape and port and you’ll understand why those big-time hotel developers have tried their damnedest to recreate the place.

10) Milan Fashion Week, Lombardy. Twice a year in Milan, we have the opportunity to see what Italy’s creative fashion minds have come up with for the catwalk. In my humble opinion, the Italian designers have always been on the cutting edge with sexy, yet wearable clothing. Think Valentino, Versace, Gucci, Prada, and Dolce & Gabbana, and you’ll see what I mean. Of course, Milan is Italy’s fashion capital year-round which is in evidence when you walk the city’s bustling streets, stroll through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and window-shop the chic shops on Via Montenapoleone.

Tomorrow…our favorites from Molise through the Veneto!

Photo © Traveler100, Alessio Damato