Spring Break is coming and if that vacation time is taking you to Italy and you want to get into to the spirit of things, skip watching Under The Tuscan Sun and Eat, Pray, Love and opt for some real Italian. (more…)
[caption id="attachment_3312" align="aligncenter" width="560" caption="The Beach at Lido"][/caption] I've noticed people planning trips to Venice fretting in travel forums about trips to Venice and wanting to avoid the film festival; I'm here to tell them that I don't think it's necessary. In fact, it seems like a great time to go. (more…)
[caption id="attachment_2453" align="aligncenter" width="580" caption="Isabella Ferrari and Valerio Mastandrea"][/caption] Here's the trouble with Ferzan Ozpetek - he's always walking a few steps behind the vanguard. If Italy was a closed society, untouched by and unaware of Hollywood and movies made by other countries, this wouldn't be such a bad thing, but Italians aren't cut off from foreign films. I can't imagine that the themes that Ozpetek are new to many of them, so in trying to tell stories that have been told before and better in the US. He ends up making movies that seem like Lifetime movies - Americans know all about these. Lifetime movies are made for TV movies in America that take stuff in the news and tell stories about them with clichés and without saying anything new about the topic. For instance, there are dozens of Lifetime movies about drug abuse, anorexia, and domestic violence. Ozpetek's "Un Giorno Perfetto" is a movie about domestic violence that would make an excellent Lifetime movie. (more…)
[caption id="attachment_1883" align="aligncenter" width="388" caption="My favorite movie theater in Rome, Teatro Adriano"][/caption] I always tell people that I go to Italy to go to the movies and I'm kidding - a little. I love Italy and would live there if I could. I have my eye on a little apartment in the Parioli section of Rome. When I'm in Rome I pretend that I live there. I rent an apartment instead of staying in a hotel. I speak Italian. I shop for fresh produce in the markets and I do a lot of cooking. And I go to the movies just about every day. It's so great. I know that not everyone would call this much of a vacation, but if you are like me and would like to try it, I have some ideas for you. First of all, study Italian in Rome. When I have a couple of weeks I attend the Scuola Leonardo da Vinci, an Italian language school not far from the Vatican. The students there are from all over the world and so, of course, you learn with the immersion method. Most of the students are there for longer periods of time; I met an opera singer who was there for a year to learn the language from scratch. I just go once in a while to brush up on it. Save money and have a more authentic experience by renting an apartment instead of staying in a hotel. I found a wonderful agency, the Bed and Breakfast Association of Rome, with listings for simple but affordable apartments all around the city. I've rented many for 100 euro or less. If you prefer a hotel check out Venere.com. I have a 100% success rate using it to find cheap places to stay all over Europe. The user…
[caption id="attachment_1857" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="The portici of Bologna"][/caption] When Americans are making their list of cities to visit when they are planning their vacations to Italy they talk about Venice, Rome, and Florence, but not often Bologna. The area around Bologna is the historical setting and also the filming location for "L'uomo Che Verrà. Watching the movie I was confused a little, not knowing anything about Italy in World War II. The beautiful countryside, the farms, and the snow. The dialect was thick and hard for me to understand. - it didn't seem much like southern Italian and yet most of the movies about poor Italian farmers are made in the south I haven't spent enough time in Bologna. I had a day trip there to meet a friend for lunch and got to see the beautiful portici - arched porches leading to the entrance of buildings and extended as a colonnade, with a roof structure over a walkway supported by columns. Bologna has more portici than any other city and the longest portico in the world. (more…)
If you enjoyed A Room With A View and wish you could have that kind of Florence experience; good news - you can. Grab your nasty old maiden aunt and head for Piazza Santissima Annunziata. Your room with a view is waiting for you at the hotel Loggiato dei Serviti. It's not really a pensione and you can't take meals there (except for the breakfast that comes with the room) but it has an old world feel that you don't see every day even in Europe. You get the feeling that it was once very elegant, and it is still beautiful, but with a faded opulence that is really charming. It was once a stop for the Knights Templar on the way to the Crusades in the 1300s. You can see the piazza, Santissima Annunziata in the movie and it's famous for several things; the world's oldest orphanage, designed by Brunelleschi, and a raspy throated drug dealer whose office is the south-west corner. Actually I didn't see him last time we were there so maybe he retired. I love Florence. If it weren't for all those American bars and the drunk American students wandering the streets on their semester abroad you'd think you'd gone back in time.
When I'm in Italy I spend a lot of time in Rome - I like the city. Next time I'm going to have to try out the agriturismo of Basilicata and a farm vacation. Americans that have gone there tell of being in a place with no other tourists. Rugged terrain, malaria outbreaks, and difficult communications kept the population down in the region and even now farm workers outnumber people who work in industry. Basilicata and Ohio have something in common; in both places the young people tend to leave for richer, more exciting parts of the country. [caption id="attachment_1085" align="aligncenter" width="259" caption="Craco - Italian Ghost Town"][/caption] The region was originally known as Lucania and some people still call it that. I've seen the dialect referred to as "Lucanian" and it is supposedly influenced by Albanian. The name "Lucania" was derived from lucus, Latin for forest and people have been living there since prehistoric times, way before the Greeks invaded in the 7th century BC. I think that when I go I'll find what I love best in Italy - real people doing real things and not trying really hard to entertain me, a tourist. I'll practice my Italian ( is the dialect really hard to understand? ) and study la cucina - I'm a vegetarian so the vegetable based diet looks great for me. And I know I will love this beautiful, relatively untouched part of Italy. [caption id="attachment_1084" align="alignright" width="259" caption="Procession of the Mysteries"][/caption] I want to go for the Good Friday processional - the "Procession of the Mysteries"- a religious parade with statues that are solemnly carried through the streets by guys in long hooded robes of either black or white cloth. I also have to see Craco. It’s almost 25 miles away from the Gulf of Taranto just…