Win the 2014 DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to Italy

DK Eyewitness Guide to Italy

Dorling Kindersley has asked me to help them give away a set of their 2014 Eyewitness Travel guides. Included in the 4-pack are the guides to Italy, New York City, Paris, and London.

I have been toting around DK guides since the first time I visited Rome and I think they are hands-down the best travel guides for visual learners who love art, architecture, and maps. Yes, yes–I know everyone uses fancy smartphone apps now. But there’s something comforting about thumbing through a guidebook before and during one’s travels (it also saves you from paying huge data usage fees!)

If you’d like to win the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to Italy plus three more titles for your library, visit this post on my personal blog and leave a comment *there* to enter the contest. Comments left on this blog, while appreciated, will not count towards entry to the giveaway.

An Italian Wedding

100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go
June is the classic month in which to schedule wedding, and this holds true in Italy, too. Therefore, with the marriage month fast approaching, I am delighted to be able to provide readers with an excerpt from Susan Van Allen’s wonderful new book 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go.

An Italian Wedding

If you get an invitation to an Italian wedding, don’t waffle about how you’re going to pay for airfare or take time off work. Go for a once-in-a-lifetime unforgettable event. Prepare yourself for an extravaganza of delicious food and dancing until the wee hours.

It’ll be a rare invitation. These days Italians say it’s not practical to get married, so most are shacking up together for years, and the statistics for Italian marriages are at a historic low. Along with that, there’s the trend of “mammoni” or mamma’s boys, that is, men living at home and having their mothers cook for them and do their laundry until they’re well into their thirties. It’s inspired the government to step in to get things moving, and beginning in 2008 tax breaks will be offered to those earning low incomes who leave home to live on their own.

Still, if you’re in Italy, especially in June (thanks to Juno, Goddess of Marriage), you’ll run into Italian weddings in churches. I spent a week in Palermo one June where almost every church I peeked into had a marriage ceremony going on, with wonderful music and stunning get-ups from the bride on down. You’ll never see a real Italian wedding on a Tuesday or Friday, as that’s considered not a good day to begin any venture. Which is why when I was last visiting Ravello’s Villa Cimbrone on a Friday, the wedding party posing for pictures were Americans from Massachusetts.

Speaking of which, you may be considering getting married in Italy. It’s naturally a great place for a wedding, completely romantic, with locations from castles to vineyards to cliffs overlooking the sea that can satisfy every fairytale fantasy.

A major advantage to getting married in Italy is that you can cut your guest list down to a core group of dearest family and friends, who’ll be thrilled to be in on the adventure. Plus, what
better place is there for a jumping off point for a honeymoon?

As far as the nitty-gritty, it’s better to have a symbolic wedding in Italy rather than an official one, as the paperwork to make things official is complex and time consuming. To help get things set up, here are some companies that specialize in Italian weddings:

Doorways, Ltd.
One of this company’s top “I Do” spots is a sixteenth century villa on the outskirts of Lucca, which sits on 300 acres of vineyards, olive groves, and woodlands. A special perk is a pre-wedding cocktail party exclusively for the bridal couple and all the service people involved in the festivities. Here, according to Doorway’s President Kit Burns, “Everyone becomes a family and the bride’s pre-wedding anxiety vanishes when she’s met everybody who’ll be doing
the work.”

There’s a fantastic frescoed bridal suite at the villa, an arts and crafts workshop area for younger guests, and it’s perfectly located for day trips before the big event, such as a boat ride to the Cinque Terre.

Italy 4 Real
Intimate country weddings in Tuscan and Umbrian agriturismos, are Italy 4 Real’s specialty. The company’s philosophy is for clients to fully experience the environment they’re in, so they bring in local expert chefs and musicians and it’s all very traditional. Marriage ceremonies feature stunning backdrops of vineyards and olive groves. Brides and grooms are whisked off to nearby picturesque hill towns such as San Gimignano or Assisi for photo shoots. The company is owned by Rem Malloy and his Roman-American mother, Deborah de Maio, who Rem made a point of telling me he does not live with.

The Italy Specialists
Silvia Giardin, company founder and Veneto native, has been planning Italian weddings for thirty-three years. “Nothing is impossible” is her motto. I would love to have been invited to just one of the weddings she told me her company put together: a sunrise ceremony on a Venetian dock where the bridal couple wore pajamas and the party continued with a palazzo brunch…an extravagant affair at the Lake Como estate now owned by George Clooney…a wedding in Taoromina, Sicily where the ceremony took place at the Greek amphitheater and was followed by a reception at The Grand Hotel Timeo.

Italy, a Love Story edited by Camille Cusumano
In Love in Italy by Monica Larner

“An Italian Wedding” has such excellent tips for a destination wedding in Italy. But it is only one chapter in a book chock full of fun Italy travel suggestions for women. Van Allen also pays homage to must-see works of art, tiny villages, spas, shopping, family-friendly places, and other sights and activities that have either a feminine bent or that hold certain appeal for the female traveler. I especially love that Van Allen has included a calendar of Madonna Holidays and Female Saints’ Feast Days.

If you haven’t figured it out already, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go is a fantastic gift for the Italy-loving woman in your life.

(Thanks to everyone who participated in the iPhone app giveway! The contest is now closed.)

Want to know another great gift? The ‘100 Places’ iPhone App! Publisher Travelers’ Tales has created a lightweight app that you can use as a reference on your trip to Italy or when you simply want to do a little armchair travel while standing in line or sitting in the waiting room. And, I’m offering Italofile readers the chance to win a copy of the iPhone app:

100 Places iPhone App Giveaway
To win the 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go iPhone app, simply comment on the post below or re-tweet this post using the hashtag #100places. Deadline for entering the contest is 11:59pm EDT on June 3, 2010.

A Year in Italy Video Giveaway

A Year in Italy DVD by Steven McCurdyWhen I’m not visiting Italy or writing about Italy I really enjoy watching travel shows about Italy. The Travel Channel, PBS, BBC, and other outlets all show Italy travelogues from time to time and I love them. I’ll almost always pause to watch aerial views of Capri or listen to historical details about the Colosseum. But many of these videos leave me wanting more: more views of real life and real people in Italy.

Enter “A Year in Italy,” a new video by travel journalist Steven McCurdy. This video love letter to Italy begins with a montage of video clips from Italy trips from the 1960s and continues with gorgeous, modern-day shots of famous and not-so-famous spots from all around Italy, from fountains to gelato stands and from village markets to bustling ports. McCurdy introduces his film by answering the question he is often asked, “What is your favorite place in Italy?”

“It depends. It depends on whether I’m talking about art, or history, or sheer beauty. It depends on whether I’m talking about the people, the piazzas, the pizza. It depends on the time of year and time of day. It depends because I like so many different places for so many different reasons.

“The real answer may be that I try not to have favorite places. I try to have memorable places. I have so many memorable places I would hate to list them as favorites for fear that a new discovery would upset the whole balance. After all, I still have so many places yet to explore.”

I think all of us who have had the opportunity to see Italy on more than one occasion can certainly agree with McCurdy’s sentiment. I feel like I have so many more places in Italy to discover and I have discovered some new ones with “A Year in Italy.” Some of the less-visited corners featured on the 4-hour, 2-disc set are Sardinia, Procida, Gubbio, and Matera, and McCurdy also goes to hidden spots in Rome, Naples, and Venice. The titles on each of the discs are “My Private Italy,” “Bringing Home Sardinia,” “Postcards from Italy, ” and bonus features “Every time I come to Rome” and “Montage of Venice.” Here is a little sample of type of lovely film-making you’ll see on “A Year in Italy”:

Steve McCurdy’s Venice

McCurdy really does cover the whole of the boot. If you want to know more about this and other travel videos, visit the website for Questar Entertainment.

It has been a pleasure to watch “A Year in Italy,” so I wanted to give Italofile readers a chance to enjoy this lovely video set with my first giveaway!!

Here are the details of the contest:

  • To enter the “A Year in Italy Video Giveaway” contest, leave a comment below answering the question, “How would you spend a year in Italy?” Be as concise or as elaborate as you want.
  • Anyone can enter. Please note, however, that this DVD is NTSC Region “0” and will not play on all DVD players. See these DVD format guidelines for additional information.
  • If you want to write a whole tome on how you’d spend a year in Italy, you can write a post on your blog and have two chances to win! Blog entries, please link to this post ( and comment below with a link to your post.
  • Winner will be selected at random from all entries. There will be no extra points for creativity, though I may re-tweet the best blog entries on Twitter. 🙂
  • Contest deadline is 11:59pm EDT on Thursday, May 20, 2010.

Good luck and spread the word!

Full disclosure: Questar provided this video for my review and for the giveaway.