Ready to embark upon a wonderful week hosting a group of 14 guests in Tuscany. October 25 – November 1, 2014. This is Harvest time in Tuscany and we will be sampling the amazing Brunello & Vini Nobile wines, fresh pressed extra virgin olive oil, pecorino cheeses, hunting for tartufo bianci with a truffle hunter and his dog and dining on all of the specialties of the season. I invite you to join us virtually as we discover all that this region has to offer.
Italy in the News
Last time in Italy I purchased an Italian cell phone on the hood of a taxi driver’s car on the recommendation of my driver in Positano…a friend he said and a “good guy”. 40 euros later I had a brand new phone with a headset and charger. Next to the TIM store to buy a SIM and phone time. I was set. Well not quite. Instructions came in Italian and I couldn’t even turn on and off the phone. I’m limped my way through and it was good in emergencies but not the tool I imagined. Fast forward 2 years and as I was preparing to depart for Italy I took out the phone and of course the battery was dead. EBay to the rescue in with a new battery installed I Googled the phone brand and model and voila found a English translation of the owners manual showing me a diagram of the phone. Now I know what the buttons do and can manage answering a call and making a call. It’s when I don’t catch the call it goes to voicemail and then I get a message all in Italian with a number at the end. Am I paying to get message? How do I text and retrieve a text? Is that costing me on my calling time? Actually I’m no more frustrated than going to the AT&T store before departing to ask what to do to avoid International charges. So when in Rome…I have a cute red mobile phone so am feeling more like an Italian but wait….they all have iPhones and Droids so mine looks like a collector’s item. By the way, the iPhone 5S was going for 795 euros for a 16GB! Mamma mia!
Follow me on the first Tuscany Harvest Tour starting on November 16th! A private small group tour based near Montepulciano & Pienza. We’ll be cooking together, learning to make wine, picking & pressing olives and enjoying the beautiful harvest time in Tuscany.
Visited the ruins of Herculaneum, a seaside resort which was buried after the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Most people visit Pompeii due to the size of the excavation. Herculanium, about 1/4th the size of Pompeii & receives about 20% of the visitors, making it a more intimate site. Only 1/3rd of the ruins are excavated due to the new city of Herculaneum occupied by residents above the ruins.
It was discovered in 1709 (2 years before Pompeii) by Prince Elbeuf while he tunneled for treasures that were thought to have been buried in the mud flows from the eruption.
Herculaneum was a seaside resort for the wealthy. Many of the houses were more elaborately constructed. The town is closer to Vesuvius and was buried under a heavy lava flow and mud thus preserving much of the town’s homes and town. We viewed preserved wood, the water system using lead pipes, and thermal baths. There are homes and the market showing shops and the way of life with many of paintings from the walls of the homes still in good condition. Thanks to the recent Packard foundation, additional restoration has taken place and it is a site well worth visiting. Our guide, Carmine was invaluable and very passionate about sharing the history of Herculaneum.
Arriving at Naples airport is a convenient port of entry for visiting the Amalfi Coast. Our private driver Alfonso navigated with the ease of a local and gave us an education of the land keeping us awake to enjoy the beautiful scenery. The views are amazing and much easier to enjoy when you have someone else driving the winding roads with switchback turns. The hillsides are covered with sheer rocks and terraced lemon and olive groves. It is the season for harvesting olives and we could see the setting of nets below the trees. Alfonzo said the picking is still done by hand and the window of time is only 10 hours from picking to crushing to get the best extra virgin oil. The weather is amazing and the warmest it has been in October for 125 years.
Beginning January 2011 there will be a fee applied to lodging in Rome. Introduced as an “overnight accomodation tax” the fee charged will be 2 euro per person, per night and applied at the end of the stay. Children aged 10 years or younger will be exempt from payment. The fee is intended to financially assist the city’s efforts in organizing urban services and aimed at ensuring the standard of the tourists’ stay be efficient and of the best quality. I wanted all of you traveling and staying in Rome to be aware this is now in effect and not to be surprised by the accomodation tax at the end of your stay. It is not quoted presently in the nightly rate and will be added to you stay at the end. Most hotels are listing this as an additional cost outside of the quote for the room per night. This will apply to hotels, apartments, rented rooms, holiday homes etc… 4 and 5 star hotels will charge 3 euro per person per night. The per night maximum is 10 days. Rome continues to be a wonderful city to visit! Hotel rates in New York continue to have high tax/service rates such as 14.75% and $3.50 per room, per night occupancy tax so Rome is still a bargin!
New activity from Mt. Etna in Sicily created spectacular fire fountains and lava flows on the eastern flank of the Southeast Crater. It started January 11 and stunning photos were captured. It closed the Catania airport for a short time but has reopened today, Thursday, January 13th. Read more about this amazing event along with pictures from Dr. Boris Behncke & others.
A very rare event when Florence and much of Italy received snow! As you can imagine, motorways, rail, air and local traffic around Tuscany were at a standstill. Rome also had snow for the third time in 42 years. Check out some great pictures from Living Venice blog…amazing photos!
Next time you are in Rome you may get access to part of the Roman Colosseum never before open to the public. Special funds & conservation projects made possible public entry through the back entrance “Porta Libidinaria” where in Roman times gladiators made their grand entrance to the arena. Through a glass elevator you are taken down into the underground area of the arena. Entry started in October but ended in November due to the rainy season and will be closed until Spring 2011. Also opened was a section of the Colosseum’s third and highest tier, reserved for middle-class Romans giving you a sweeping view of Palatine Hill and the Forum. Tickets will be required and can be include in our Customized Ancient Rome tour so you will have no waiting in lines.