Italians Launch RFID Smartbuoys

A new electronic mooring system billed as a boon for pampered boaters is also good for the environment since it eliminates the need for dropping a coral-killing anchor.

The Italian-engineered MarPark system, launched on an experimental basis last summer in a few protected areas in Liguria and Sardinia, lets boaters cruise into idyllic bays and hook a rope with a rubber ring to a smartbuoy. Simple as that, they’re safely harbored, no anchor necessary. Full story by zoomata editor Nicole Martinelli on Wired.

Rome Restaurant Gets Grannies to Cook

If you happen to eat at Primo al Pigneto in Rome on the right day, you may be treated to a home-cooked meal from a neighborhood grandma.

At age 30 — when many Italian men are still living at home feasting on la nonna’s cooking — chef Marco Gallotta had the brainwave of recruiting local women to “guest star” in his kitchen for one week a month. Continue reading

One night free in Italian B&Bs

To celebrate the mushrooming number of bed and breakfast acommodations in Italy, thousands of B&B owners are offering a free one-night stay on March 3.

It’s called B&B Day but guests get a to spend the night gratis at establishments throughout the Bel Paese, from Florence to Lipari.

One catch: you do have to book at least one other night but the celebration falls on a Saturday, so think of it as a half-price weekend.

For more info:

Italy Tracks Tardy Trains

Trains in Italy still don’t run on time, but at least passengers have real-time information about how late they are.Now the nation’s rail and telecommunications providers are hoping to rival that trick — not by making the trains actually run on time, but by telling frustrated travelers how late they will be.

Via internet, cell phone or handheld, a new service from the state railways called ViaggiaTreno (“train trip”) lets travelers check delays on their routes.

“Even if the system were perfect, things happen and we want to provide passengers the most accurate information possible,” said Paolo Russo, a Trenitalia representative. Read the full story by Nicole Martinelli on wired.

Traveling to Italy: Safety Concerns

Since 9/11 the U.S. government has issued gloom and doom travel advisories for Italy, the main point being to scare the bejesus out of tourists who were coming anyway.

For example: “The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas. Americans are reminded that demonstrations and rioting can occur with little or no warning.” Continue reading

Venice Biennale: art after the brouhaha staff

The critics are gone, the parties are over: now is the best time to soak up a lagoon full of contemporary art at the Venice Biennale. Held in the cave-like 12th-century Arsenale and the Giardini until November 6, visiting the Biennale may be the only way to take two steps in Venice without being immortalized in someone’s vacation photos. Every other year La Serenissima provides a stunning backdrop to one of the oldest and largest art exhibitions; there are 1,000 works by over 200 artists from 73 countries making this year is one of the biggest Biennales ever.

There is no mistaking that the Biennale 2005 is all about women.
Continue reading

Plan to visit Sicily’s Aeolian Islands? Take a number staff Day-trippers beware: this summer the stunning Aeolian Islands off the coast of Sicily will admit only 500 visitors per day from June until September.
Former Greek colonies on the UNESCO world heritage list because of volcanic activity, these Italian islands have been suffering from their own popularity. The Aeolians are seven sister isles populated by fewer than 15,000 locals that attract 200,000 visitors every summer. Officials hope to avoid overcrowding and trash troubles caused by peaks of up to 8,000 people a day in hotspots like Panarea and Stromboli.
Those trying to circumvent the closed number by arriving with chartered boats on beaches would do well to think about the 206 euro ($260) fine and possible jail sentence for ‘trespassing.’

Although Capri, another well-trampled island destination off the coast of Naples has long threatened to limit tourism in the same manner, Lipari Mayor Mariano Bruno is the first to have actually done it, using mandate a the Italian government gave him to do something about the ‘tourism emergency’ facing the islands.

It is not clear how officials will regulate the flow of visitors from various companies doing the island hop from the coast and from Sicily. Hydrofoils may be the way to go, they cost twice as much but take half the time so visitors on slower boats may arrive to find quotas filled.

Restaurant owner Pina Cinotta worries about the logistics of this take-a-number tourism: “Who is going to act as a traffic light? The coast guard and the local police have other things to do,” she said in a public hearing. “Will the ‘reject’ tourists be piled on the pier like our trash waiting to be taken somewhere else?”
It is a strong measure that seems destined to have a domino effect. Even less-trod destinations, like Ginostra, regularly swell an estimated 2,400%, from 25 locals to 600 tourists per day during peak season. The overflow from visitors on hot spots is bound to glut the quieter areas. ? text 1999-2005
Play nice. Please use contact form for reprint/reuse info.

Related resources:
List of ferry and hydrofoil companies. Reservations by phone only.

Lonely Planet Sicily

Gucci Opens Designer Café

by Nicole Martinelli After rival fashion houses Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana have opened store cafés, Gucci is the latest in designer coffee with a new java boutique in Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

More pragmatic than part of a business strategy, Gucci decided to enter the realm of java after city officials agreed to allow them three display windows onto the galleria only if they added a café.

The proviso was a nod to neighboring café Il Salotto and an attempt to keep some of the galleria’s character as the center of Milan’s coffee culture despite its recent appeal for designer shops.

Gucci Cafe is a tiny alcove tucked into the front of the accessories shop where the coffee is served with a cube of dark chocolate and tiny arrow-like spoons. Gucci’s espresso-ing of itself is, all things considered, slightly chilly.
A spare design mitigated by one metal trough with tiny shrubs and only outdoor seating with mushroom heaters made for some blue-fingered fashionistas in its winter debut. Gucci joe may also be memorable for a jolt not related to caffeine: priced at €3.50 ($4.50) a cup, it’s 20% more than mosaic-adorned and well-heated Caffé Zucca just across the way.
Can Prada be far behind? text + photo 1999-2007
Play nice. Please use contact form for reprint/reuse info.

Italy’s top town? For number gurus, Bevagna (Umbria) staff

For the third year in a row statisticians wrote a love letter to Bevagna, a medieval hamlet in Umbria, naming it highest for standard of living in Italy.

Research institute Censis studied over 100 cities and towns throughout Italy, finding many of them like Milan and Rome growing and dynamic but choked by traffic and smog or small but drained of life in the city center.

Censis president Giuseppe De Rita says he fell for Bevagna in 2001, after attacks on the Twin Towers. “We were all expecting a world war and it occurred to me that this war would never come to a place like Bevagna, ” he commented in the cities report.

With good reason: many Italians would be hard pressed to locate it on a map, although Bevagna lies 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Perugia and about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Rome. This walled city with a population of 4,700 features Roman baths with mosaics, an arena, nearly a dozen historic churches and plays host to a medieval market in June.

De Rita coined the awkward term “bevagnization” to describe what Italian towns should strive for: a place where one can walk to work, let children play in the streets and leave the front door unlocked but with a vital trade in tourism.

Bevagna, close to where St Francis is said to have preached to the birds, made a rare appearance in the national news recently for allowing locals to shoot pesky pigeons cluttering up the city center.

? text 1999-2004
This is an original news story. Play nice. Please use contact form for reprint/reuse info.

*image courtesy @ copyright city of Bevagna

Related resources:
Bill Thayer’s extensive photo journal of Bevagna (English)

Italian Country Hideaways: Vacationing in Tuscany and Umbria’s Private Villas, Castles, and Estates
Bevagna @ beyond…

Milan?s opera house La Scala restored to former glory staff Italy?s premier opera house La Scala has come out from under wraps after a three-year restoration.
Inaugurated in 1778, the theatre had to be renovated extensively to meet modern building codes and safety standards. The decision to make over other parts of La Scala during the restoration led to nearly-operatic and very Italian drama that began as soon as the ink was dry on the plans.

Both camps will be eager to view the new theatre on December 7, when the season opens with Antonio Salieri’s “Europa Riconosciuta,” the same opera that La Scala opened with in the 1700s.

After a smattering of performances in December and January, La Scala productions will return to the interim Arcimboldi theatre while technicians perfect the new set-changing equipment. A key feature of the renovation, these prototypes developed specially for La Scala are expected to double the number and variety of offerings per season from the current 80 operas and 40 ballets.

Visitors should keep a close eye on the schedule because throughout the spring some of the productions, including Giselle and The Barber of Seville, are offered at La Scala. In the interim the public can view the face lifted La Scala on organized tours. All the great Italian composers have written for the opera house, notably Verdi, Puccini, Bellini, Rossini and Donzinetti.?photo + text 1999-2004
This is an original news story. Play nice. Please use contact form for reprint/reuse info.

Related resources:

2004- 2005 schedule in English