Over the weekend, I finally got the chance to check out Milan’s famed Duomo, that jagged, Gothic behemoth that defines the city’s traditional skyline. Also known as Santa Maria Nascente (Saint Mary of the Nativity), the Duomo is the second largest church in Italy (second only to Saint Peter’s in size) and it took more than 500 years to complete, with more than 78 architects and engineers heading the project from its groundbreaking in 1386 to its completion in 1965. Continue reading The Milano Duomo, Inside and Out
The Milano Duomo, an enormous Gothic cathedral that is recognizable for its 135 spires, is giving the public a chance to help with its upkeep. Like an “Adopt a Road” campaign, Adotta una Guglia (Adopt a Spire) is an initiative by the Veneranda Fabbrica to get locals, tourists, and businesses to help with the upkeep of the spires, which are topped with fragile statues of saints and angels.
According to Adotta una Guglia:
The Duomo could not exist without the people of Milan, nor could Milan exist without its cathedral, which gives the city its identity. This is why the population is being invited to share in an act of popular responsibility. All contributors will be recorded in the List of Donors of the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano, drafted in paper form and published online in the portal adottaunaguglia.duomomilano.it, obviously with the donor’s consent.
Donors who donate more than €50 can apply to receive a certificate of participation while top donors, those who donate more than €100K, will have their names engraved. (If you’re considering the latter, get in touch and let’s talk about adopting me…)
Browse on over to get a look at the map of the spires or the spire wall and learn how you can donate. The wall includes photos of the spires and has the names of the saints or angels represented. Also cool to note on the wall are the saints’ days, in case you want to make a donation to honor a loved one’s birthday.
As of now, the top three adopted spires are the Angel Pointing to Heaven, Archangel Gabriele, and Saint Cecilia. I wonder if anyone is going to adopt St. Napoleon?
Photo: Milano Duomo
Next month, the Italy Blogging Roundtable will celebrate our first anniversary. Jessica, Alexandra, Gloria, Rebecca, and I have enjoyed tackling a new topic each month, and we’ve especially enjoyed hearing from readers. In fact, we were so pleased with how our last invitation went for bloggers to join us at the Roundtable that we thought we’d extend another! This month, not only is the Italy Roundtable topic INVITATIONS, we’re inviting anyone who wants to participate to blog about one of the past year’s Roundtable topics. Our invitation details are at the bottom of this post. Now on to the post…
Let’s face it. Just about every spot in Italy is a lovely place to take a photograph. But there are some spots that are truly special, places that make friends and family go “Wow!” when they see the photos on Facebook or in the picture frame on the mantle piece. Far beyond the hokey photographs of “holding up” the Leaning Tower of Pisa or posing with modern-day gladiators in Rome, here are some lovely places to record some memories.
I have to admit that I got the idea for this post from looking at my friend Laura’s photo on her Ciao Amalfi blog. Take a look at her blog and her profile pic and you’ll see exactly why I picked this location as one of Italy’s most beautiful places for a photo op. The Faraglioni Rocks are a group of three mini rock islands that have been known since Roman times. I Faraglioni, which are named Stella, Faraglione di Mezzo, and Faraglione di Fuori (Scopolo), are some of the most photographed features in southern Italy and you can even get up-close photographs of the rocks on a boat tour around the Bay of Naples. Faraglione di Mezzo even has a natural arch in it, which is a thrill to go through.
The typical place that tourists go to take photos of Florence – with the giant Duomo dome in the background – is Piazzale Michelangelo, a hill high above the city that is accessible by motor coach and has a huge parking lot buzzing with postcard vendors and “professional” photographers. Don’t get me wrong – this is a lovely place for a photo op. But even better is in front of the church of San Miniato al Monte, which is only about a five minute walk from Piazzale Michelangelo. San Miniato itself is a beautiful, medieval, green-and-white-marble church with spectacular interior mosaics where you’ll sometimes hear Gregorian chanting. If you enjoy getting out an about rather than hopping on board a motorized tour, you can hike a small path from the Lungarno along the city walls up to San Miniato. It can be a bit of a challenge, but the views are so much more rewarding once you make it to the top.
You can scale the heights of the Duomo in Florence, the dome of St. Peter’s in Rome, and go up into the domes and attics of countless churches and bell towers in Italy. But none of these locations give you the kind of fabulous backdrop that you get from the top of the Duomo in Milan. The gorgeous Gothic church in the heart of Milan is a great photographic subject in itself and you can certainly capture some lovely pics of the whole cathedral while standing in the vast Piazza del Duomo. But take a trip to the Duomo’s roof and it’s as if you’re walking atop an intricately decorated wedding cake. A trip to the top also affords you nearer views of the church’s spires, statues, and gargoyles as well as a panorama of the Alps (on a clear day)
Rome – the Bocca della Verità
When you’re in Rome, there is pressure to get that perfect shot with either the Colosseum or St. Peter’s Basilica in the background. Indeed, you should get those shots – for the Colosseum go up to Colle Oppio Park for a good angle and for St. Peter’s, the perch of the Pincio Park above Piazza del Popolo can’t be beat. But I like to suggest two classic places for a Roman photo op.
The first is the Bocca della Verità (the Mouth of Truth), an ancient manhole cover that is located in the entryway of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin around the corner from the Campidoglio. You may remember this landmark if you’ve seen the film Roman Holiday which starred Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. The legend is that if you place your hand inside the mouth of the god/monster depicted on the cover that your hand will be chopped off if you haven’t been telling the truth. A photo in front of the Mouth of Truth is a fun diversion. And if it’s good enough for Audrey Hepburn, then it’s good enough for you.
Rome – The Tomb of Cecilia Metella
Another great locale to have your photo snapped is among the ruins along the Appia Antica. In the days of the Grand Tour it was de rigueur to have your portrait painted among the remnants of antiquity. One of the most evocative portraits of this kind is of the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who lived in Rome in the late 18C. The artist Johann Tischbein painted Goethe in the Countryside with the distinctive tomb of Cecilia Metella in the background. This is still a major monument in the Appia Antica park, and you can still enjoy a nice hike to the tomb on the weekend when the thru-ways are closed to traffic. While you won’t get the completely uncluttered panorama that Goethe enjoyed when he sat for his portrait, you will have a unique shot for the mantle. Kudos if you can also strike the same leggy pose!
The pastel houses of Portofino, a fishing village turned wealthy tourist haven in the region of Liguria so lovely that developers in Orlando, Florida, had to replicate it, make for a romantic backdrop for an Italy travel memory. Ideally, you want to get a photo of yourself in front of Portofino’s colorful port while on board a yacht. But if you can’t make that happen, there are a couple of options. One overlook is from the grounds of Castello Brown, a fortress located high above the bay. This ancient castle (some hypothesize that its foundations have been there since Roman times), however, is typically rented out for private events like weddings and conferences. It’s also a little high up for my liking. Another even better place to go to get a shot of the picturesque bay is to the church of San Giorgio, located on the Salita San Giorgio. Of course, there are also plenty of hotels located along this street where you can pay to see that bay view from your window every morning.
So these are just a handful of some of my favorite Italy photo locations. Where else would you suggest? Please comment below or find me on Twitter @italofileblog.
While it’s true that the travel industry is taking a hit in light of the world financial crisis, there are still plenty of people making trips to Italy. And, with the dollar improving against the euro (at least for the time being), some Americans are looking to do Italy in style.
Luckily, thanks to USA Today/Forbes Traveler, there’s now a list of Italy’s 25 best hotels. Compiled by Forbes, this is a grouping of the most luxurious and elegant lodgings “ranging from urban grande dames to breathtaking coastal villas.” Forbes Traveler has also created a nifty little slide show to showcase each of the 25.
We’ve certainly mentioned some of these hotels in The Unofficial Guide to Central Italy and/or on this site. But here are the links if you want to check them out yourself:
Italy’s 25 Best Hotels According to Forbes Traveler
Grand Hotel a Villa Feltrinelli (Gargnano)
Hotel Splendido (Portofino)
Villa d’Este (Cernobbio)
Sometimes I’m not always sure if anyone is actually reading Italofile. As I’ve said, it is a true labor of love. Still I like to imagine that there are regular readers out there who enjoy discovering with me the destinations, hotels, art, schools, churches, etc., that make traveling in Italy so rewarding.
Lo and behold, this weekend I found that I have at least one reader! Maribel wrote in to tell me that last year I missed a New York Times article on “Tortellini Lessons at the Source” in Bologna. Thanks, Maribel! And, with that, I thought I’d provide another round-up of recent articles, from the NYT and elsewhere:
Yes, this is an exhaustive list. But I’m sure I didn’t find everything. So, I’m depending on all you Maribel’s out there to help me out by sending me links to articles and other tips you think would be worthy of posting on Italofile. Thanks again!
Fashion designers have known for a long time that it’s good to diversify. Not only have Italian fashion houses like Armani, Versace, and Dolce & Gabbana ventured beyond clothing to include perfume, accessories, and restaurants among their branded items, they’ve also gone into the business of designing and/or maintaining luxury hotels and suites. This weekend, in the wake of the end of Milan Fashion Week, Sophy Roberts profiles Ferragamo’s Tuscan Estate Castiglion del Bosco for the Financial Times. As the writer points out, discussing this vast estate in today’s economic climate seems “absurd.”
The numbers involved in the project – by spring 2010 it will include 20 villas, 26 “hotel” suites, a Tom Weiskopf-designed golf course, spa, two restaurants, winery and stud – are clearly not for the credit-crunched. Nor are the sums easily accessible: Castiglion del Bosco has been set up as a membership club where fees are confidential. One source recently estimated it to be 120 memberships at €2m each.
Nevertheless, Castiglion del Bosco does allow non-members (“discerning guests,” according to its website) to stay at Il Borgo, the so-called heart of the 4,500-acre estate, for roughly €600-€3000 per night, based on availability. This latest Ferragamo venture is located in Val d’Orcia, but the Ferragamos also own other (more reasonably priced?) properties in Tuscany that are open to guests. Il Borro (not to be confused with Il Borgo, above), near Arezzo, has villa and farmhouse accommodations starting at $475 per night. In addition, the family also runs Lungarno Hotels, which includes several hotels in Florence and some suites in Rome.
Of course, the Ferragamos aren’t the only designers in the hotel game in Italy. The FT article also lists The Bulgari Hotel in Milan, the (Alberta) Ferretti’s Castello di Montegridolfo and Carducci 76 near Rimini, and the Bottega Veneta suite in Rome’s St. Regis Hotel.
If luxury and design are important criteria for you when choosing a hotel, you can also check out the Fashion Designer Hotels round-up from Forbes Traveler, which includes properties from around the world designed by Italians and other big names in the fashion world.
Photo of Castiglion del Bosco
I’m always fascinated to learn about Jewish heritage in Italy. So, here’s a Jewish cultural event that will be going on this fall.
September 7 marks the European Day of Jewish Culture, and, according to Ruth Ellen Gruber’s blog Jewish Heritage Travel, “Italy is consistently probably the most enthusiastic country that takes part.” This year’s theme for Jewish Culture Day will be “Music,” and Italy is expected to host events in some 58 towns and cities, including Milan and Mantova.
To see a schedule of events and information about the programs, visit the Giornata Europea della Cultura Ebraica website. Note that the information is in Italian, but the times and locations are pretty easy to understand.
If the price of an Italian vacation has you down, here’s your chance to win one. Through October 1, 2008, you can register win an Italian Cooking School Vacation from La Cucina Italiana. The winner gets:
- Round-trip airfare for two to Italy*, with transfers to and from the airport.
- 4 nights accommodation in a 4-star hotel in the center of Milan, including daily breakfast.
- 5 hands-on cooking sessions at La Scuola de La Cucina Italiana.
- A fabulous Tuscan-themed dinner and wine tasting.
We’re not quite sure why guests will learn to cook Tuscan food in Milan (which is, of course, in Lombardy), but it sounds like a nice time, nonetheless. No purchase is necessary to register for the prize. But, if you love to eat and cook Italian food, a subscription to La Cucina Italiana can be a prize in itself.
Large parts of Italy were once united under the Spanish flag, with conquests in Naples and Sicily by the houses of Aragon and Bourbon, among others. Even Milan and Parma were under Spanish rule at one point. I confess that I am not an expert on Spain’s influence on Italy, so you may want to read more about it here or here. This article from Best of Sicily Magazine even discusses the Spaniards of Sicily. While I still need to brush up on my Spanish-Italian history, I do know there are a number of interesting sites to visit in Italy that have a Spanish past.
For example, the city of Caserta, north of Naples in Campania, is known for its breathtakingly large Royal Palace, built on the orders of Charles of Bourbon by Luigi Vanvitelli in the late 18th century. The Campania Regional Tourist office lists several regal itineraries including this Itinerary Fit For a King.
The Caserta Palace was one of four palaces used by the Bourbon Kings of Naples. The other three are in Naples, with one on the Capodimonte Hill, one in Portici, and the other at Piazza del Plebiscito. You can read more about the Bourbon palaces from the Royal House of Bourbon Two Sicilies, which still exists, if by name (and wealth) only.
Speaking of Sicily, the island has tons of Spanish leftovers, as it was ruled by the Houses of Aragon, Bourbon, Bourbon of Two Sicilies, and the Spanish Hapsburgs, among others. This brief history from the travel agency Think Sicily has a good rundown of what each dynasty left behind and what there is to see today. The Sicily Tourist website provides an itinerary of the castles and forts on the island, including the Spanish Fort (Portopalo di Capo Passero) on the southeast coast.
For more palaces, go north. The Palazzo Ducale di Colorno in the province of Parma was a Bourbon residence. Milan also has a Palazzo Reale, which houses the city’s contemporary art museum. Some of the Royal Palace in Milan was destroyed during World War II, but underwent a long restoration that ended in 2006.
Then, there’s the island of Sardinia, which was ruled for many years by Spain before becoming a kingdom in its own right. Sardinia has a very diverse history, and many of its feasts and festivals, such as Sartiglia, held each year in Oristano, features a medieval Spanish-style jousting tournament. Here, too, is The Complete Guide to Sardinia, a fantastic, in-depth article written by Frank Partridge of London’s Independent in 2007.
Of course, I have only touched on a few Spanish-related gems in Italy. Certainly the maritime territories, such as Genoa and Venice, have Spanish connections, and areas throughout Sicily and the Mezzogiorno (Abruzzo, Basilicata, etc.) also have leftovers from the Spanish era. I hope to bring you more about these sites in the future.
Photo from Caserta.nu
Lots of Italy-related articles this time of year. So, here goes:
The Washington Post
Smart Mouth: His Palermo Restaurant Is Popular, But It’s No Mob Scene
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)
Italy is not short on luxury accommodations, as is often highlighted by A Luxury Travel Blog. We have gathered several recent tips from that site for hotels that go the extra mile (or kilometer, as it were):
We recently got such a good response from our posting on Designer Outlets in Italy, that we thought we’d try to find more bargain shopping resources. What we found was Entrepreneur’s How to Shop in Milan – Without Spending a Fortune, a short article with tips on outlet shopping.
This isn’t a cheapskate’s guide to Milan, but a way for fashion-conscious bargain hunters to get the most out of Italy’s fashion capital. There’s contact information for outlets such as The Place, Fidenza Village, 10 Corso Como Outlet, Basement, and Il Salvagente. Sale items included a black cashmere Miu Miu coat for €235 (reduced from €650), Furla handbags for €185, and Dolce & Gabbana men’s shoes (from the Dolce and Gabbana Outlet) for €168.
Italy’s leading paper Corriere della Sera has a small English language section that delivers news and the occasional lifestyle article. While digging, we found this recent nugget on Low Cost Italy’s Ten Euro Trattorias. While the article doesn’t provide an exhaustive list of cheap eats (it is a mere round-up of some other food articles), it does name a few, including Buffet da Pepi (Trieste, Friuli-Venezia Giulia), Taverna del Leone (Positano, Campania), and Antico Forno Roscioli (Rome).
Roberto Rizzo, the author of the article, also names staf chef Davide Oldani’s D’O, a budget-friendly restaurant in Milan’s San Pietro all’Olmo district that offers a two-course lunch menu for €11.50. D’O’s dinnertime tasting menu isn’t a steal at about €32, but it’s not bad for a one-star Michelin restaurant.
Here’s a hotel and restaurant that we hope Jessica over at Italylogue will have a chance to check out while she’s in Milan.
Located in the hip Tortona district, Milan’s Nhow Hotel, which opened last year in a defunct General Electric power plant, has put a high-design touch on all of its rooms and common areas. There are bedrooms decorated to look like comic strips, a “crystallized” Swarovski chair, and a flowering Alexander Calder-type installations in the dining room. According to the Nhow brochure (PDF file), the hotel changes the look of the common areas every four months. So, it’s like staying at a gallery almost every time you visit.
If the Nhow’s minimalist design starts to bore you, then head over to Dolce & Gabbana’s Gold, the fashion design duo’s restaurant/bistrot/lounge bar. Like D&G’s, Gold is deliciously over the top. Though we wonder if anyone actually eats there.
Update 5 August 2015: This is one of the most popular posts on Italofile. I’m not sure how so many readers arrive here, as the post is ancient by online standards. So here are a few more current resources for you:
- Where to Find Italy’s Best Outlet Malls from Walks of Italy
- Outlet and Factory Stores as listed in Where Milan
- Going Shopping at the Outlets in Tuscany by Discover Tuscany
- The Best Outlet Malls in Italy by Italy Beyond the Obvious
I have not had a chance to re-vet all of the places listed below, so I advise you to do some extra research before making your itinerary.
I do most of my shopping at sample sales in Rome, secondhand stores, and during the seasonal sales, so I am very keen to learn about other locations for discount shopping. Feel free to help me and other readers out with your recommendations by leaving a comment below!
And now, the original post…
We figure that few, if any, readers of this blog are flush enough to pay retail for Prada, Gucci, or any of the other Italian design houses currently showing their lines at Milan Fashion Week. That’s why we wanted to highlight Corriere della Sera’s helpful list of the fashion outlets, which are located all over northern Italy. We’ve provided the link. But in case CS’s list gets zapped from cyberspace, we’re recreating the list below. Please also note that this list is from a few years back. For a more updated list, with detailed descriptions of shops, check out Designer Bargains in Italy. Happy shopping!
Spaccio Luciano Soprani – Luciano Soprani’s outlet
(a bit less classic than Armani, but still very elegant)
Via Morosini 30, Milano, tel. 02-55183913
Spaccio Etro – Etro’s outlet
(clothings, tissues, scarves, shoes…)
Via Spartaco 3, Milano, tel. 02-798168
Factory Store Valextra
Bags, suitcases, shoes… by Valextra
Via Cerva 11, Milano, tel. 02-76003459
Factory Store Samsonite
Suitcases, bags, shoes… by Samsonite
Via Milano 18, Corsico (Milano) , tel. 02-4408363
Via Clivio 23, Viggiù (Varese) , tel. 0332-440200
Spaccio Kookai – Kookai’s outlet
(trendy clothing and so on for youth)
Inside via Quintiliano 33, Milano, tel. 02-58016368
Luxury factory outlet center with outlets by some of the greatest brands: Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Sergio Rossi, Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Loro Piana
Via Europa 8, Leccio/Reggello (Firenze), tel. 055-8657775I
Pellettieri d’Italia – Prada’s outlet
Località Levanella, Montevarchi (Arezzo) tel. 055-91901
Fendi – Fendi’s outlet (clothings, parfums, shoes…)
Via Giuseppe Di Vittorio 9, Rignano sull’Arno (Firenze), tel. 055-834981
San Marino Factory Outlet
Via Tre Settembre n. 3 (1 Km dopo il confine)
REPUBBLICA DI SAN MARINO
Spaccio Della Valle
Factory outlet of the top shoes in the casual-chic style: Tod’s and Hogan
Via Garibaldi 134, Sant’Elpidio a Mare (Ascoli Piceno), tel. 0734-871671
(Gucci, Prada, Versace, Ferrè, Krizia, Dolce &Gabbana, Bottega Veneta, Missoni-Les Copains, Bally, Diesel, Esprit, Nike, Replay, Adidas, Johnny Lambs, Superga, Ralph Lauren, Richard Ginori, Etro, Samsonite…)
A great factory outlet center in a post-modern building very close (seven kilometres) to the border between Italy and Switzerland. There are 140 top Italian and international brands
Via Maspoli 28, Mendrisio – Canton Ticino (Svizzera) – tel. 0041-848-828888
McArthur Glen Designer Outlets
(Aspesi, Byblos, Dolce & Gabbana, Cacharel, Clarks, Lacoste, Fratelli Rossetti, Invicta, Levi’s/Dockers, Marina Yachting, Nike, Reebok, Stonefly, Valextra, Versace, Slam, Phard, Fiorucci, La Perla, Bulgari, Loro Piana…)
First italian outlet village. Near Serravalle exit on the motorway
Milano-Genova: there are over one hundred outles of the top brands, national and international
Via della Moda 1, Serravalle Scrivia (Alessandria), tel. 0143-686003
Spaccio Alessi – Factory outlet of the famous kitchen and tableware by Alessi
Via privata Alessi 6, Crusinallo di Omegna (Verbania), tel. 0323-868648
IN MORE THAN ONE REGION
Timberland Factory Outlet (shoes, clothes…)
* Via Piave 24/26, Pero (Milano) Lombardia, tel. 02-3536687
* Via Nazionale 9, Tavagnacco (Udine) Friuli Venezia Giulia, tel. 0432-46087
* Via dei Castelli Romani 15/a, Pomezia (Roma) Lazio, tel. 06-91602237
* Strada Statale 12 del Brennero 46, Vipiteno (Bolzano) Trentino Alto Adige, tel. 0472-767670 Armani Factory Store – Giorgio Armani’s outlet
* Strada provinciale per Bregnano 13, Vertemate CO, tel. 031-887373
* Via Merloni 10, Matelica MC, tel. 0737-782352
Dolce & Gabbana outlet
* Località Santa Maria Maddalena, Pian dell’Isola/Incisa Val d’Arno (Firenze) – Toscana -tel. 055-8331300
* Via Rossini 70, Legnano (Milano) – Lombardia – tel. 0331-545888
Diffusione Tessile – Factory outlet by Max Mara group
(Max &Co., I Blues, Marina Rinaldi…)
* Galleria del Corso 2, (Milano) – Lombardia – tel. 02-76000829
* Strada statale Rabuiese angolo provinciale Farnei, Muggia (Trieste) – Friuli Venezia Giulia -tel. 040-235089
* Strada Pontina Km. 28,400 – Pomezia (Roma)- Lazio – tel. 06-9105673
* Via Padana Inferiore Ovest 15, Legnago (Verona) – Veneto -tel 0422-602811
* Corso Francia 313, Collegno (Torino) – Piemonte – tel. 011-4157840
* Inside Centro Commerciale Valle Scrivia ,via Isorelle 15/B, Savignone (Genova) – Liguria – tel. 010-9761200
* Via Goleto 13/B, Boretto (RE) – Emilia Romagna – tel. 0522-964415
Photo © brooy
Didn’t the NYT just run 36 Hours in Florence? Well, now you can check out 36 Hours in Milan, a weekend’s worth of culture and cuisine. Take these two pieces, along with NYT’s previous 36 Hours in Rome, and you’ve cobbled together a nice little vacation for yourself. See our Travel Articles category for links to articles from the New York Times and other publications.
I’m very lucky. The very first time I tasted risotto was in Milan. We were en route to Verona and ate the creamy, saffron-tinted risotto milanese at the train station cafe. Even given the locale, it was still an epiphany.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who has dreams about one of Milan’s most prized dishes. Mimi Sheraton’s Times’ piece A Cook’s Tour of Milan shows us that the city of high fashion also turns out fine cuisine.