Paris Through the Eyes of a Roman [Video]

I love Paris. But, Rome will forever be the Caput Mundi. La Città Eterna. La Città Più Bella del Mondo.

This video, from the guys from the Ritals web series, does a humorous job of breaking down what makes Rome great even in the face of Paris’s beauty and comparative orderliness. Continue reading Paris Through the Eyes of a Roman [Video]

Italy’s Alpini Corps: The Traditions Beyond the Feathered Cap

The grey felt cap adorned with a black raven feather worn by old northern Italian men and some modern-day camouflaged troops is known as the Cappello Alpino. This recognizable cap signifies that the wearer is or was a member of the Alpini, an elite corps of the Italian army that is most closely associated with World War I and is the oldest mountain infantry in the world. Continue reading Italy’s Alpini Corps: The Traditions Beyond the Feathered Cap

New App Wants to Protect ‘Made in Italy’ Brand By Helping Consumers Spot Fakes

The “Made in Italy” brand is one of the world’s most recognized and coveted labels. Given this cachet, many manufacturers have tried over the years to pass off everything from olive oil to handbags as authentic Italian products.

Continue reading New App Wants to Protect ‘Made in Italy’ Brand By Helping Consumers Spot Fakes

Amatrice As It Was Before

There won’t be a next time.

Amatrice has been on my “next time” list for the past two years. We have talked about visiting the town for a Sunday lunch because of its famed amatriciana. But at a distance of approximately two hours from Rome, it was just beyond the range of our driving limits for a day trip. Continue reading Amatrice As It Was Before

On This Day: ‘La Dolce Vita’ Wins the Cannes Film Festival

Fifty-five years ago today—May 20, 1960—Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Watch “Three Reasons” why this film remains a classic.

For more details on where “La Dolce Vita” was filmed, explore this list of Fellini’s film locations from Rome and Rimini.

Lovely Time Lapse Video of Rome

I always love a good time lapse video. Here’s a very recent one that shows Rome in her late summer splendor. It was shot by Josh of jandrewfilmandphotography.com, who used 7,000 images to create this 2-minute, 37-second clip. Hyperlapse has a long way to go to get results like these.

Italy Hit Parade Vol. I

Discovering new or new-to-me music has always been one of my favorite things about traveling and living abroad. So I plan to use this space to bring you some of the songs that I’m listening to in Italy. Some of the music will be bubbly pop, some hip hop, some…I don’t know what. But most, if not all, will come from the radio and MTV (which actually plays videos here).

Note that some of these videos may not play because of region restrictions or on mobile. I really have no way of knowing if every video will work. So consider IHP Vol. I the first test.

Rocco Hunt is one of the more successful (and accessible) hip hop artists in Italy. Continue reading Italy Hit Parade Vol. I

Surf Italiano

Two films about surfing in Italy have come across my inbox in the past week.

Peninsula

The first video is Peninsula, a documentary about surf beginnings in Italy. On the occasion of the film’s debut in Milan this week, Corriere della Sera tells the story (in Italian) of Alessandro Dini and his friends who introduced surfing — both the sport and the lifestyle — to the Italian peninsula. The film will begin a world tour after its showing in Milan, so look for it at your local indie theater in the coming months.

PENINSULA from BLOCK10 on Vimeo.

Bella Vita

Bella Vita is a video about American surfer, artist, and environmentalist Chris del Moro who goes to Italy to reconnect with his ancestral homeland, his family, and tasty waves. This film came out in 2013 but it seems to be making the rounds now that it has received several film festival awards, such as the Official Selection for the San Sebastian Film Festival in 2013 and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in 2014.

There’s Only One Rome

This well-produced vimeo short captures Rome quite well.

I chose to put this 9-month-old vid on the blog today to let everyone know that my family is set to move to Rome this summer. It’s going to be a big, very busy year. But I’m looking forward to getting to the other side so I can share the Eternal City (and Italy side trips) with all of you.

Happy 2014, everyone! Buon anno!

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!

Centuries of History and 300,000 Wheels of Cheese Destroyed in Deadly Italy Earthquake

The latest reports about the earthquake that hit Emilia-Romagna this weekend state that at least seven people were killed, 50 injured, and more than 13,000 have been displaced. The 6.0 earthquake struck early Sunday morning north of the city of Bologna in the town of Finale Emilia. According to The Guardian, the quake “wrought havoc in small towns and villages dotting the countryside between Bologna, Ferrara and Modena.” Continue reading Centuries of History and 300,000 Wheels of Cheese Destroyed in Deadly Italy Earthquake

Dreaming of Basilicata

Bad experiences can happen in Italy. You may lose your wallet, have to deal with a brusque waiter, or turn your ankle while walking on a cobbled path.

Despite unfortunate circumstances, it seems like everyone I have ever talked to who has visited Italy thinks of it the way that Matthew Brown does: Italy as fever dream. It is a place of red roofs, blue grottoes, smiling nonnas, and never-ending glasses of wine.

This video uses spinning imagery to convey the whirlwind pace of a vacation in Italy, where even if you are moving slowly, your senses are absorbing every small detail.

Matthew Brown is the creative genius behind the above video, “Dreaming In Italy,” which was one of several videos sponsored by the Basilicata Tourism Board with their project cantforget.it{aly}.

The cantforget.it project invited seven photographers, videographers, animation artists, and bloggers all under the age of 35 to create “viral videos” on Basilicata, the region situated in the Italian boot’s instep not known for its thriving tourist industry. These Digital Diaries – check out the YouTube channel or view the videos in HD on the cantforget.it website – are all in English and are great places to get lost if you feel like daydreaming about Italy for a while.

Do these videos make you want to visit Basilicata? I’m ready to pack my bags.

Culinary Tour of Ravenna

Here is a fabulous video from The Guardian, which has been doing a video series called “My City.” This installment, starring cooking school teacher Angela Schiavina, offers an intimate look at her home town of Ravenna, a city in the region Emilia Romagna, the gastronomic heart of Italy. Join this affable host as she takes you on a ten-minute tour of Ravenna’s markets and culinary shops then shows you how to make a typical Romagnole (of the region of Emilia-Romagna) dinner. The Guardian also provides a companion map of Ms. Schiavina’s Ravenna tour.

See the Shirt John Paul II Wore On Day He Was Shot

Visitors to a small convent in Rome’s Prati neighborhood can now have a look at Rome’s newest relic – the blood-stained shirt that Pope John Paul II was wearing on the day Mehmet Ali Agca attempted to assassinate him in St. Peter’s Square in 1981. The relic is housed in the convent of the Figlie delle Carità di S. Vincenzo de Paoli, Via Ezio 28, near the Lepanto Metro stop. RomeReports.com offers the full story of the relic and how it came to reside in the convent.

If you want to make sure you don’t miss this relic on your next visit to Rome, the Figlie della Carità offer rooms for budget travelers who don’t mind staying at a place with a curfew. According to Santa Susanna, the American Catholic church in Rome, room rates at the sisters’ Casa Maria Immacolata start at €40 single/€75 double and include breakfast. Curfew is at 11pm.

How Does Venice Work?

Although Venice has been sinking into the Adriatic sea for centuries, visitors, as well as many residents, pay little mind to this fact other than keeping close watch on the acqua alta forecasts. Few of the millions of people that tread on Venice’s cobblestones and stroll over its storied canals know how the city manages to preserve itself amid threats such as global warming, rising tides, and the inevitable erosion that accompanies them.

Enter Insula, the company charged with Venice’s maintenance, which has launched a website called Venice Backstage. Venice Backstage is a fascinating trove – in English and Italian – about the unusual landscape of Venice and how workers toil daily behind the scenes for its upkeep. The website contains educational tidbits on water levels and what happens when a sandbar builds up the lagoon; bridge construction and maintenance; a gallery of construction projects showing workers efforts to counteract building erosion; a glossary of terms; and videos.

I really enjoyed the video titled, “Venice Backstage: How Does Venice Work?” and I think that you will, too. So, have a look at this video, then head over to Venice Backstage to learn even more about the everyday efforts to save Venice and its iconic cityscape.

Ancient Aphrodite Sculpture Back in Sicily


On Tuesday, the Museo Archeologico di Morgantina, a small archeological museum in Aidone (Enna), Sicily, held an inauguration for the repatriation of an ancient sculpture of Aphrodite. The stone deity, known in Italian as the Dea Morgantina, had been a prized possession of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles until L.A. Times journalists Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino uncovered that the Getty had illicitly acquired the Aphrodite and several dozen other ancient works of art that had been stolen from Italy and sold on the arts black market. This fascinating tale of the underbelly of the antiquities trade and the Getty’s role in the acquisition of looted art is the subject of Felch and Frammolino’s new book, “Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum.”

The Getty and many other top American museums are part of a long history of illicit art trade. Looted art has been trafficked for as long as art has been in existence, and Frammolino says this is due to the overpowering effects of antiquity.

“People who come in contact with antiquities — the history of it, the beauty of these antiquities, the thought that maybe somebody great had once possessed this — they lose reason”

[Listen to the full audio of the journalists’ interview with NPR’s Renee Montagne]

While Los Angeles and the Getty Museum may still be reeling over the loss of such an iconic statue, Aidone has been readying for the repatriation of the Morgantina for decades. The Morgantina museum has devoted a new room for the display of the Aphrodite, which will complement Demeter and Kore, two other looted-and-since-returned statues, and other artifacts unearthed from this area of Sicily which was once part of Magna Grecia (Greater Greece). Following is a short video (in Italian) which provides a comprehensive look at the Dea Morgantina and its new home.

Photo © AP/via NPR

Video: Italian Hand Gestures

Even if you’ve never been to Italy, you’ve seen them. I’m talking about the hand gestures that Italians use to complement their vocal language. Indeed, sometimes all you’ll get is a hand gesture so “fai attento” – pay attention – and learn a few with this video from Nada’s Italy. This is also a lovely little primer because you get a glimpse of some piazze, cafes, alleyways, and the countryside while the gesture demonstrators give their little lessons.

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 (http://www.italofile.com/2010/05/12/a-year-in-italy-video-giveaway/) 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.

More Hill Towns of Umbria

In my first round-up of the Hill Towns of Umbria, I discussed the towns of Assisi, Gubbio, Montefalco, and Orvieto. The list of hill towns in Umbria is, in fact, exhaustive, and also includes the region’s capital Perugia. In this post, I wanted to focus on a few more worth visiting. They are Spello, Spoleto, Todi, and Trevi.

[mappress]

Spello: Walls, Flowers, and Frescoes

Spello
The steep streets of Spello

Situated a few miles south of Assisi, this little walled town with a serene air overlooking the Valle Umbra reminds me of a miniature Assisi. Although it’s well-known for its medieval walls and Roman gates (built when the town was known as Hispellum), Spello has a softer, artistic side. The annual event Infiorate di Spello brings visitors from all over the region and Italy to view gorgeous, sweet-smelling portraits and dioramas made only of flowers. If you can’t be in Spello in early June (the typical date of the flower fair), it is still worth going on a side trip here to enjoy the astounding Pinturicchio frescoes in the Baglioni Chapel in Santa Maria Maggiore. These frescoes are considered some of the artist’s best work, prompting many to call the Cappella Baglioni the “Cappella Bella.”

Spoleto: Roman Past, Artsy Present

Spoleto Ponte
View of Spoleto and its famous bridge

Right along the Via Flaminia (yes, that same Via Flaminia that leads from Rome right outside Piazza del Popolo) is Spoleto, a strategic city for the Romans (then called Spoletium) and even site of a battle with Hannibal during the Second Punic War. Spoleto has tremendous Roman, medieval, and Renaissance roots, boasting a Roman amphitheater, the six-towered Rocca Albornoz citadel, and the Ponte delle Torri, the massive “towers bridge” that was an impressive feat of engineering in the 14C.

While the city has lots of the typical central Italian attractions, it is today known chiefly for the Festival dei Due Mondi, or the Festival of Two Worlds. The comprehensive arts festival goes on for two weeks each summer (usually from mid-June to July) and includes opera, theater, dance, and other performances. The festival was begun in 1958 by Spoleto native Gian Carlo Menotti, but is now run by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs resulting in quite a controversy in Spoleto and certain arts circles. You can learn more about the Menotti’s side of the controversy here or just visit the Festival dei Due Mondi’s official website. Let’s hope that this conflict over intellectual property rights and a family legacy will not spill over to end what has been one of Italy’s longest running and best known arts festivals.

Todi: “World’s Most Livable City”

Piazza del Popolo in Todi
Todi's lovely Piazza del Popolo

A town that’s been billed as the “world’s most livable” must be a nice place to visit, right? Absolutely! Spread on a hill overlooking the Tiber Valley, Todi has what some consider the most beautiful square in Italy. Three medieval palaces – the Palazzo dei Priori, the Palazzo del Capitano, and the Palazzo del Popolo – front the Piazza del Popolo, producing a scene so picturesque that the square has been used multiple times as a film set. Todi’s compact city center has also earned it accolades from a University of Kentucky architecture professor who, in the 1990s, proclaimed Todi as an ideal city because of its human scale. For better or for worse, that proclamation set off a real estate frenzy among buyers from all over Europe and the United States. But there are still plenty of Tudertini to keep the local traditions alive. Though Todi is charmer, the best reasons to visit are its antique fairs – the Rassegna Antiquaria d’Italia (in April) and the Mostra Nazionale dell’Artigianato (in August and September) and the spectacular temple of Santa Maria della Consolazione, a masterpiece by Bramante and one of the best examples of Renaissance architecture in Umbria.

Trevi: Ancient Temple, Fountains, and Olive Oil

Trevi
Vertical Trevi, a classic Umbrian hill town

Unmistakable Trevi and its medieval buildings flower on the Umbrian hillside like clusters of edelweiss on a mountain. Some visitors even compare Trevi to an Umbrian Positano (the famous town on the Amalfi Coast) because its appearance from a distance resembles the practically vertical nature of the cliff-side village. Trevi was yet another outpost during Roman times because it was at the crossroads of three roads (“tre vie”), including the Via Flaminia. Trevi boasts dozens of churches, including the church of Sant’Emiliano, whose belltower crowns the hill upon which Trevi sits.

Two of Trevi’s most famous attractions, however, aren’t in Trevi at all; they lie just below the town by the Clitunno River. The Fonti del Clitunno, a series of lagoons, islands, and springs, is an oasis in landlocked Umbria. The tranquil spot was lauded by Byron, Italian poet Giosué Carducci, and Roman poet Virgil. The other sight near the River Clitunno is the Tempietto del Clitunno (Little Temple of Clitunno), long thought to be a Roman construction but it actually dates  from sometime between the 6-8C. It’s a beautiful example of classical architecture that’s unusual to find in these environs. Finally, Trevi, which is surrounded by gorgeous, silvery olive trees (including the olive tree of Saint Emiliano, dated at about 1,700 years old) is known throughout Italy for its fine olive oil. That is some accolade given that the region as a whole is known for its oil! If you are passing through Trevi, stop by and pick up a bottle of its delicious, artisanal oil. Two good places to try are Frantoio Gaudenzi and Gradassi, located in the hamlet of Campello sul Clitunno. Gradassi also runs its own trattoria which features typical Umbrian fare.

A video of pure tranquility: The Fountains of Clitunno

If you are unable to see the video, click here.

If you are planning to visit any of Umbria’s hill towns, don’t just do it on a day trip from Tuscany. Consider renting a villa in Umbria to enjoy the slower pace of life and (relatively) smaller crowds.

Photos © BlueSky71, VisitSpoleto, VivianaG, TreviTurismo

Visiting the Vatican and Rome During Easter


Springtime is a very popular time to visit Rome and the Vatican City. And for good reason. The weather is warmer. The gardens and parks are in bloom, with huge pots of azaleas providing a burst of color on the Spanish Steps. And for the thousands of churches, it is time to celebrate Easter.

Of course, the most popular place to visit during Easter is St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro). The Pope presides over several services at the basilica during Holy Week, including morning and evening masses on Holy Thursday, an afternoon vigil on Good Friday, and an evening mass on Holy Saturday. The big event, Easter Sunday mass, is celebrated in St. Peter’s Square, where thousands gather to watch the Pope bless an icon of the risen Christ and hear the Pope’s “Urbi et Orbi” message delivered from the balcony of the papal apartments.

The Pope also travels to other churches in Rome during Easter time to perform holy rites. On Maundy Thursday, the Pope typically delivers the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at St. John Lateran (San Giovanni in Laterano), the church for the Bishop of Rome – the Pope’s other official title. After St. Peter’s, this is the second-most important basilica in Rome and worth a visit even if you aren’t in town during Easter. (Also in this area is the Scala Santa, purported to be the “holy stairs” that led to the throne of Pontius Pilate. Saint Helena, mother of Constantine, brought these stairs to Rome from Jerusalem in 326 A.D. and Christians have been venerating them ever since.)

The Stations of the Cross Vigil in the Colosseum

Click here if you are unable to see the video above.

Another intriguing site to visit during Easter is the Colosseum, where the Stations of the Cross are held during an evening vigil on Good Friday. The Pope presides over this rite in the arena where many ancient Christians are said to have been “thrown to the lions.” The Colosseum was consecrated as a church in 1749 to commemorate these early persecutions of Christians and stem the pillaging of the structure’s building materials.

Note that seating at the Colosseum on Good Friday and in St. Peter’s Square on Easter Sunday is very limited. Free tickets for these events must be reserved well in advance with your local diocese.

Leading up to Holy Week, there are several other opportunities to see and/or hear a blessing from the Pope, including on Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is also the the typical day on which World Youth Day, a celebration initiated by Pope John Paul II, is held in St. Peter’s Square. The Pope also delivers a blessing to general audiences each Wednesday throughout the year. For more information about applying to participate in a general audience with the Pope, review this information from the Prefecture of the Papal Household.

For more ideas on visiting holy Rome, have a look at the links below. You may also visit the official website of the Vatican for information on the Pope, the Holy See, and liturgical services.

Papal Basilicas of Rome
Santa Maria Maggiore
San Giovanni in Laterano
San Paolo Fuori Le Mura

Additional links of interest
Getting Into the Vatican Museums
Italy’s Most Unusual Religious Relics
Angels and Demons Tourism

Photo © WiltshireYan