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King Of Italian Wine Families: Marchese Piero Antinori

Posted by: Giovanna | November 24th, 2016 | No Comments »

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Reprinted from John Mariani’s Virtual Gourmet Newsletter (

“When Marchese Piero Antinori first produced a single vineyard blend of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc in 1978, it was a wine that deliberately diverted from government regulations as to what grapes could and could not go into traditional Tuscan appellations like Chianti Classico. As a result, Solaia and other renegade Tuscan wines like Sassicaia, Ornellaia, and Antinori’s own Tignanello were only allowed to be labeled as “vino da tavola,” later “IGT” (Typical Geographic Indication).Yet it was clear from the start that these non-traditional  wines were far superior to Chianti Classico and, with the exception of the great Brunello di Montalcino, most other Tuscan reds. In the trade they were dubbed “Super Tuscans.”

“Solaia coincided with the incredible revolution in Italian wine when vintners began focusing on quality rather than quantity,” said Antinori at a wine media tasting and luncheon at New York’s Le Cirque restaurant, where Solaia was first introduced in the U.S. back in 1979.

“It has now been 30 years we have been making Solaia,” he said, “and it has evolved over that period depending on what we’ve learned and what we want to express about elegance and finesse. The first two vintages were blends of only cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, but eventually we began to add sangiovese, and each year adjusted the amounts of the varietals in the blend.”

Imperially slim and impeccably dressed in a dark gray suit and blue tie, the Marchese, 69, whose family has been making wine for more than 600 years, epitomizes Tuscan nobility in the 21st century.  Together with his daughters Albiera, Allegra, and Alessia (right),  he is intimately involved with the business of Antinori wines and tirelessly promotes them throughout the world, along with the company’s other labels, which include holdings in Piedmont, Puglia, and Umbria, as well as in California, Washington State, Hungary, Chile, and Malta.

Antinori reeled off his own stipulations for a wine to be great: “First, it needs complexity; it cannot be a simple wine; next it must have consistency: it should be at least as good 30 minutes after you drink the first glass. Third, it must have aging potential, and last, a great wine should give you both intellectual and mystic pleasure.”

All these attributes were amply on display at Le Cirque that afternoon, with 10 different vintages poured, from the first, 1978, to the yet-unreleased 2005.  One vintage, the 1985 ($380), had lost all appeal and showed oxidation; others, like the 2001 ($170), tasted delicious right now, with silky tannins and layers of flavor, though Antinori insisted “one must be patient for four or five years with this vintage.”  The 1978 ($520)was remarkably sound, with enormous depth, while the 1988 ($260), from a very small vintage, had lively vegetal and spice notes, with semi-firm tannins.  The 1990 ($400) was richly masculine, a wine of brawn, with years to go; Antinori declared it a “great vintage, though not as elegant as we first thought.”  One of his own favorites was the 1994 ($200), a more feminine wine with brilliant color, vibrancy, and freshness. The 1997 ($450), once considered the greatest vintage of the last century in Tuscany, was thinner than I expected, its tannins mellowed out. The 1999 ($220) clearly needs at least two more years to open up and to mellow out the oak and tannins.  The 2005, which should be released next year, had a medium body and backbone, having spent 24 months in new oak and then being bottled last December. “Solaia absolutely needs bottle aging to realize its potential,” declared Antinori.

At the luncheon the estate’s delicately fruity white wine from Umbria, Cervaro della Sala 2005 ($40), a blend of 85 percent chardonnay and 15 percent grechetto, was served with a lustrous lobster risotto. Then, with a succulent roasted loin of veal in morel cream sauce, the 1997 Solaia was poured, and with the Italian cheese course the 2004 ($170), whose youth was a virtue with strong cheeses like gorgonzola cremificato, piave, and robiola bosina.

By day’s end I came away convinced that Solaia is indeed one of the greatest red wines of Italy or anywhere else, and that, despite so many variations and adjustments over the years, the wine has kept its essential Tuscan character of velvety elegance and complexity.  I can hardly wait for its 40th birthday.  The prices quoted above are an average of listings at for various vintages of Solaia.

Italy’s Top Ten Golf Courses

Posted by: admin | November 23rd, 2016 | No Comments »

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“Italy has it all for a holiday destination, that’s why it’s surprising that it’s not one of the most popular golf destinations in Europe. reveals some hidden gems.

Royal Golf and Country Club

A host to the Italian Open is located near Turin in Piedmont. Designed in 1971 by Robert Trent Jones Sr, it is set neatly into the undulating landscape of La Mandria National Park. The course itself presents a strategic challenge with its innovative use of bunkers and water hazards. Piedmont offers some of the best cuisine in all of Italy and the home of Slow Food and Braollo can offer you a culinary experience to rival anything you experience on the course.


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Known locally as ‘Le Betulle’ the John Morrison-designed course at Valcarozza was built in the 50′s and is set in the slopes of the Sera Moraine. A 73 par course at altitude along the Biellese Alps it is a stunning backdrop to one of the more testing rounds in Italy. Not only will you have the cuisine of Liguria to distract you but the area is renowned for its history and culture. Picture Medieval monasteries set in bleak wintery landscapes, stunning architecture and Unesco sites abound. Play in Autumn to coincide with the season of truffles and mushrooms.


Villa d’Este

A very challenging par 69 course designed by Peter Gannon. The setting is stunning, set amongst the Como hills with panoramic views of lake Montorfano. Clean Alpine air and lush greenery provide respite from the intense summer heat. A prestigious club in the heart of one of Italy’s most historically prosperous regions.


Is Arenas

A beautiful combination of sand, forest and water provide almost the perfect golfing experience. Situated on the West coast of the beautiful island of Sardinia you will avoid the visiting hordes even in peak season. Designed by golf course architects Von Hagge, Smelek and Baril it is well integrated into a landscape that is as yet still untouched and undiscovered. A serene vacation on the Mediterranean with perfect links golf could be paradise on earth.



Commissioned by the Aga Kahn the course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Snr and opened in 1972. It has been one of Italy’s best-kept golf secrets for over 40 years where Italy’s jet-set anchored their yachts and enjoyed La Bella Vita. The Mistral – the northern wind which shaped the rocks of the area adds another dimension to play on the Par 72 course.

Milano Golf Club

Milan’s most prestigious golf club and one with quite a bit of history to boast about the Milano Golf Club for many is the rightful home of golf in Italy. The course is a bit flat but very pleasantly wooded it is the perfect place to do business just outside Italy’s centre of commerce and industry.


Is Molas

Another of Sardinia’s hidden gems the microclimate means it is perfect for golf the whole year round. The largest and oldest course on the island it is somewhat American in style, but the surrounding countryside and the history and food of the Sardinian island are anything but.

Terme di Saturnia

Set in the exquisite environs of Tuscany, close to the sea the site ha a long history and association with the Romans who believed it to be the birthplace of Saturn. The whole area is dotted with natural hot springs so after wearing yourself out on the course relax in the splendour of the natural spas as the Romans did. Relaxing, that is, not golfing. More than a golfing experience, a vacation to really rest and replenish.


Lido di Venezia

The exclusivity of Italian golf is physical here as you need to take a boat to the Lido di Venezia to play the 18 hole golf course. A sandbar situated within site of the city of Venice was supposed to have been constructed in the 1930′s at the request of Henry Ford who wanted to play golf while visiting Venice. One of the most incredible cities in the world also hosts an excellent course within touching distance. Just make sure your balls don’t end up in Piazza di San Marco.


Roma Aquasanta

Once Rome was instated as the capital city of Italy in 1871 it was not long before the city realised it needed a world-class golf course for the world’s business tycoons to make deal on. Roma Aquasanta duly obliged anfd the course was built in 1903. Built on beautiful agricultural land the course was, until recently, self-sustaining with the income brought by hay and grazing. The setting, slightly hilly, allows a view of the Claudian aqueduct, the Roman Castles, the crest of Appia Antica, and the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella.  It was also possible to get a glimpse of the facade of San Giovanni and farther away, the dome of Saint Peter’s.


Source: Hugo Mc Cafferty/

Milano’s Hip Bar: Ricci

Posted by: Laurena | November 22nd, 2016 | No Comments »

Ricci Bar - Milano

Ricci Bar - Milano

Located a few blocks from Milan’s main train station: Stazione Centrale.

Review from an A&B client: “Ricci – recently opened, owned by Joe Bastianich – so more expensive than it needs to be – aperitivo is perfect – with queso fondedo and guac and chips and real shrimp cocktail with ‘horseradishy’ cocktail sauce – great when you have been out of the states for a few months. Service is spotty, but it is hip. Very american bent to do the food, but some italian standards as well.

Ricci Bar & Restaurant
A: Via Fratelli Zoia, 71 (zona SAN SIRO) Milan
T: 0248202174

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Q. Where is this in Italy?

Posted by: Giovanna | November 21st, 2016 | No Comments »

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 2.09.09 PM Read the rest of this entry »

USA TODAY’ 10 BEST Napoli Pizzerias

Posted by: Lorenzo | November 20th, 2016 | No Comments »

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Trying to find the best Pizza in Naples? 10Best has you covered. Our editors and locals search the city and suburbs for the top places. Then, we showcase popular restaurants like ‘O Calamaro, and we highlight eateries with great user reviews, likeMarino.

Found in USA Today at:

See also A&B post”Top Ten Napoli Pizzerias” :

Pizzaria Brandi
Pizzaria Brandi was first opened in 1780 under the ownership of Pietro Coliccio, who earned the nickname Pietro il pizzaiuolo (Peter the Pizza maker). Eventually, this little shop fell into the hands of Raffaele Esposito, husband to Maria Brandi. Esposito was asked to cater a banquet for the queen, Margherita di Savoia, for which he made three kinds of pizza for her to taste. Her favorite was the one made with tomato, basil, olive oil, and mozzarella ­ the colors of the newly united Italian Flag. The pizza was then named after her, and thus the Pizza Margherita was born. Today you can still have wonderful pizzas here, starting around 7000L. (081-416-928)

‘O Calamaro
BAGNOLI. ‘O Calamaro’s pizza maker is known internationally for his skill and talent. People crowd this restaurant for a slice of the pizza. The seafood selections are also worth a try. (081-570-4387)

Antica Pizzaria da Michelle
You can’t be in Italy without having pizza, and Antica Pizzeria da Michele is a great place to start. The restaurant still has its original tables from the 1800’s. Da Michele only serves classic pizzas, like margherita (mozzarella and tomato) and marinara (mozzarella and garlic). (081-553-9204)

Lombardi a Santa Chiara
SPACCANAPOLI. Lombardi’s is famous for its traditional Italian cuisine. Lombardi’s will serve you some of Italy’s finest pizza, from one of Italy’s oldest pizzerias. The interior decor is simple and inviting. (081-552-0780)

Pizzaria Trianon
Trianon is a popular pizza parlor among the locals. You can order from a wide selection of different pizzas. Order by the slice, starting at 5000L. This pizzeria has been pleasing its clientele since 1930. (081-553-9426)

Pizzeria Port’Alba
By now, pizza has probably become a staple food for you ­ it’s quick and it’s delicious. This is one of Naples’s oldest pizzerias, founded in 1830. Port’Alba was at the start of a great Italian tradition, which is great Italian pizza that will leave you saying, “Buono!” (081-459-713)

If you follow the crowds at lunchtime, you may find yourself at Cibo, where the it seems everyone gathers for lunch. Look around and it will be easy to see that pizza is by far the most popular choice. Pick your favorite kind from a list that includes pizzas like Margherita and Neopolitan. Their pastas and fish dishes are also good choices if you need a change of pace. Enjoy the bustling Italian streets from your outdoor table while you indulge in your meal.

Da Ettore
SANTA LUCIA. Da Ettore offers a menu based on ancient Napoleon cuisine, with a specific emphasis on exquisite pizzas. If you are craving something a little different, try the pagnotiello, a calzone filled with mozzarella, ham, and mushrooms for around 8500L. Da Ettore is located near Piazza del Plebiscito on the waterfront. (081-764-0498)

Located just around the corner from Piazza del Plebiscito, Marino is a charming little pizzeria with an extensive antipasto, or appetizer menu. The pizzas themselves are also delicious. You can order a typical, traditional pizza or add new, inventive toppings that the creative chef has added to the menu. (081-762-2280)

Ciro a Mergellina
CASTEL DELL’OVO/CHIAIA. Saturday nights are by far the most crowded time to visit Ciro a Mergellina. People come here for the pizzas and the fresh fish entrées and appetizers. The Maxi-Pizza will feed four famished adults, with leftovers. (081-68-17-80)

Il Sereno – Modern Luxury on Lago di Como

Posted by: Giovanna | November 20th, 2016 | No Comments »

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With the iconic lake at its feet, Il Sereno is the epitome of elegance and luxury. The hotel brings a new era of luxury to the banks of Italy’s iconic Lake Como. Awarded the title of “Most Anticipated New Luxury Hotel Opening in 2016″ by Luxury Travel Advisor magazine, Il Sereno’s ethos of understated elegance presents a freshness to this well-established destination. Designed by Patricia Urquiola, Wallpaper* Magazine Designer of The Year 2015, the all-suite hotel promises modern style and an authentic flair, all in the name of effortless comfort. Il Sereno incorporates the unparalleled beauty of Lake Como in its seamless design with panoramic view from every inch of the outstanding property.

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The 30 spacious rooms, ranging from 65 square meters in size to The Penthouse at 200+ square meters, all make full use of the natural light and awe-inspiring scenery with floor-to-ceiling windows and views of the peaceful waterfront. Keeping with the Sereno promise that there is no substitute for space and a view, this intimate yet sophisticated property complements the breath-taking mountains, and tranquil waters with ease. The property features a private beach, as well as a dock, allowing guests to arrive via one of the hotel’s boats, custom-built by Ernesto Riva. The 60-foot-long freshwater infinity pool suspended over the lake is without a doubt one of Il Sereno’s show-stopping features, and the large sundeck is perfect for spending a leisurely afternoon under the Italian sun.

Il Sereno Hotel
Via Torrazza 10, 22020 Torno CO, Italy
T:+39 031 547 7800

15 of Italy’s Best Beaches by Travel & Leisure

Posted by: Claudia | November 20th, 2016 | No Comments »

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Italy’s extra-ordinary coastline added by the islands of Sardinia and Sicily afford sun-worshippers a phenomenal range of beaches.

Thanks to Travel & Leisure, here in no particular order are 15 of the best of Italy’s beaches:

Acquafredda di Maratea Beach, Basilicata
Six miles outside of the hamlet of Maratea, this rugged stretch of shoreline has the same blue water and dark gray sand of the Amalfi Coast, but it’s further north with none of the accompanying throngs of tourists. It’s a prime place for beachgoers in search of rustic beauty: In spite of neatly arranged sun loungers and beach umbrellas placed by local hotels, the rocky shoreline and cliffs jutting up on either side of the cove preserve the untamed feel of the area.

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Marina Grande Beach, Positano
As if the views of deep greenish-blue seas weren’t enough, the stacks of pastel houses hugging the cliffs make Positano’s main beach feel like something plucked from a midcentury postcard. With over 300 yards of dark sand—large swathes of it dedicated to tidily arranged rows of beach umbrellas and lounge chairs in Technicolor shades of orange and blue—this spot always feels open and roomy in spite of summer crowds. Start in town with a leisurely outdoor lunch overlooking the Mediterranean, then sleep off the limoncello buzz with a snooze on the sand.

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Camogli Beach, Liguria
Northwest Italy’s coastal towns tend to live in the shadow of the neighboring French Riviera, but that means beaches like Camogli’s have all the Mediterranean beauty with a fraction of the crowds you’ll find in Nice or St. Tropez. The beach in this little fishing village is pebbly but picturesque—the ancient Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta is perched on a promontory at the harbor’s northern end, with mountains rising up behind it. This spot has something for every traveler: swimming lessons to keep the kids busy, beachside drink service for the laid-back crowd, and rowboats, canoe rentals, and diving lessons for the adventure-seekers.

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Scalo Maestro, Marettimo
Just off the western tip of Sicily, the island of Marettimo (population: 700) has the kind of wild beauty that gives every moment here a dreamlike quality. The tiny beach of Scalo Maestro is one of the few you can access from the shore, and its gentle slope and clear, calm waters are particularly swimmer- and snorkeler-friendly. Once you’ve had your fill of beach time, charter a boat for a tour of the island: it’s the only way to access Marettimo’s hidden sea caves. You can’t truly appreciate the magic of the Aegadian Islands until you’ve gone swimming in a sun-dappled Mediterranean grotto.

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Porto Campana, Sardinia
Three miles of golden sand make up the Campana beachfront, and within that expanse you’ll find something to suit every type of beachgoer. Look for rental kiosks to try your hand at surfing, kiteboarding, or paddleboarding; kick back on a rented lounger with a cocktail; sign up for a scuba session with a local outfitter; or admire Campana’s dunes—some as high as 65 feet.

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Otranto Beach, Otranto
This bay in the center of Italy’s easternmost town is all soft white sand and shallow turquoise water—a tiny sliver of the Caribbean perched on the Adriatic. And while the beach itself is as all-purpose as they come (great for swimming, sunning, snorkeling…), the best way to enjoy this place also happens to be the easiest: Stop in town to pick up a crisp white wine, a hunk of fresh bread, and a ball of Puglia’s creamy, buttery burrata, then while away a few hours sipping and snacking on this little seaside slice of heaven.

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Poglinano a Mare Beach, Puglia
Nestled in an inlet bound by steep limestone cliffs, this spot is off the beaten path for most tourists, but it’s well worth the detour. Bring a beach chair for comfort—there’s no sand here, only smooth, salt-worn pebbles—and a pack a pair of water shoes if you’re the adventurous type. Then follow the lead of the locals: Climb a few feet up the cliffs, shimmy out until you’re over deep water, and take the leap. Toast your courage in a cliffside cove above the Adriatic at nearby Grotta Palazzese, possibly the most romantic restaurant in the world.

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Spiaggia di Tuerredda, Sardinia
Even in the off-season, this island idyll is a must-see: The sea here is such a perfect shade of pale blue it doesn’t seem real, and since it’s sheltered from the bracing Mistral winds, the water is warm enough for swimming well into fall. There’s a scattering of casual beachfront restaurants and amenities if you’re interested in paddleboarding or kayaking, but be sure to find time for a languid stroll along the shore. Between the pristine setting, the sound of the waves, and the occasional whiff of Sardinia’s juniper trees on the breeze, your blood pressure will be dropping in no time.

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Marina del Cantone Beach, Massa Lubrense
This beach is the place to go if you want authenticity: Despite its proximity to the Amalfi Coast’s tourist hotspots, Marina del Cantone is free of the overdevelopment (and accompanying sky-high prices) you’ll find in neighboring coastal towns, and you’re likely to be surrounded by locals. Be sure to wear sturdy sandals to shield your soles from the rocky beach, and if you’re feeling ambitious, hike the nearby footpaths for unbeatable views of the bay and the town from neighboring cliffs. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head into town for lunch with a view at Lo Scoglio. Their spaghetti con ricci di mare—pasta tossed with a sauce of sea urchin, olive oil, and garlic—is creamy, salty-sweet, and the perfect capstone to an Amafi afternoon.

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Rabbit Beach, Lampedusa
It takes a bit of determination to make your way to this secluded spot—the tiny island of Lampedusa is just over 100 miles off the coast of mainland Italy, closer to Tunisia than Europe—but the effort pays off. The water is shallow and perfectly clear even at the edges of the bay, and cliffs flanking the beach keep it sheltered from strong winds and waves. The visibility and abundant sea life (turtles includes) make snorkeling a must, but the remote location means you won’t find much in the way of facilities and amenities, so pack gear and provisions before you go.

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Spiaggia di Chiaia di Luna, Ponza
This is Italy’s answer to the white cliffs of Dover. Sheer golden bluffs plummet over 300 feet down to sea level, where they’re bordered by a thin crescent of sand. It’s amust-see destination year round: If it’s too chilly for swimming, Instagram-worthy tableaux abound if you take a stroll along the beach or atop the coastal cliffs. And though the beach is the main draw, be sure to carve out enough time for inland exploring. Ponza has been settled since the Neolithic era, so the island is scattered with Roman and Etruscan ruins that archaeology buffs will love. For bonus points, pack The Odyssey for beach reading: Ponza is rumored to be Homer’s inspiration for the isle of Aeaea, where Odysseus meets the enchantress Circe.

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La Cattedrale, Palmarola
From Ponza, charter a boat to the neighboring island of Palmarola for even more jaw-dropping scenery. The harbor beach on this uninhabited isle is beautiful enough, but for the real showstopper, head to La Cattedrale, a series of rocky arches jutting into the sea, so named for their resemblance to the vaulted naves of medieval churches. An afternoon spent swimming in the grottos, dozing in the shade of the cliffs, and spotting the dolphins that play offshore is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime experience you don’t want to miss.

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Lido Beach, Lido di Venezia
Every visitor to Venice should make a visit to Lido Beach a mandatory part of theitinerary. When you find yourself maxing out on museums and piazzas, take the vaporetto to this seven-mile island on the edge of the Venetian Lagoon. At the height of summer, rent a cabana and kick back with a negroni to capture a bit of la dolce vita without having to do battle for towel turf on the public beach. In the off season, take a long walk on the empty expanse of shore, snag a few seashell souvenirs, and recharge—the quietude and open air are guaranteed to leave you feeling refreshed and ready to dive back into the Venetian sightseeing fray.

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Lago di Braies, South Tyrol
It may not be on the ocean, but this gem nestled in the Dolomites is guaranteed to satisfy beachgoers in search of beautiful scenery and a refreshing dip. The lake boasts clear, blue-green waters and white sand—a striking visual contrast to the dense pine forest and snow-dusted peaks that surround it. A day hike is the best way to see everything Lago di Braies has to offer: Pack your swimsuit, a towel, and a lunch, then venture out on the beginner-friendly footpath that circles the perimeter, pausing to picnic and swim at the first beach that suits your fancy. Be sure to stop at the Braies bungalow—built on stilts over the lake, it’s a cross between an alpine ski lodge and a Tahitian overwater cabana—for photo ops and rowboat rentals.

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Scala dei Turchi, Sicily
One of the most visually striking beaches in the world, Sicily’s Turkish Steps are a must-visit for aesthetic reasons alone. The bright white marlstone has been slowly eroded, creating a sloping staircase that leads right into the sea. Go at low tide for the best views, and wear sturdy shoes for the journey—the climb is not for the faint of heart. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, pack a flashlight and stay until the sun sets. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better visual than that of the cliffs awash in gold and silhouetted against a fiery sky.

A long weekend in… Rome

Posted by: admin | November 19th, 2016 | No Comments »

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From cuisine to culture, handbags to hotels, the Eternal City’s appeal is sharpened of late with fresh interpretations of its timeless attractions, says Maria Shollenbarger:

From London Financial Times “How To Spend It” column:
Omnes viae Romam ducunt, the saying goes: all roads lead to Rome. Medieval scholars purportedly coined it to explain how diverging paths of inquiry would lead to a single conclusion, but ancient history more than backs up the literal statement. (Well, sort of; at the height of the Empire, all major roads in fact radiated out from Rome, to its various vanquished territories.) Cut to 2014, and the urbs caput mundi is a happily chaotic jumble of high culture and gritty street life, sacred beauty and canny commerce.

As everywhere, hip neighbourhoods come and go here; outlying areas draw the spotlight, only to inevitably lose it to the endlessly alluring centro storico. Its twisting, narrow streets are replete with felicitous collisions of light, space and colour, against a backdrop of architectural splendour: ancient ruins, medieval towers and classical Renaissance proportions that have accreted to combine, accidentally and magnificently, as nowhere else in the country – or the world. The centro storico was, and is, Rome’s eternal cultural crossroads, the place where today the borghese matron with the aquiline profile and the Fendi bag over her arm, inured to the tourist masses, weaves a nimble route through Chinese tour groups and backpack-laden students, trailing ineffable elegance behind her, like smoke eddies from a jewelled censer.
And for all its saturation, the historic centre remains thriving, a bit brash, utterly bella figura-obsessed: in short, very Roman. It’s here, on a ruler-straight street connecting two crookedly pretty squares, that Florentine hotelier and publishing entrepreneur Ori Kafri has opened his third JK Place hotel, a 30-room boutique showcase in a former school. From the flawlessly appointed library to the striped-marble bathrooms to the walls hung with large-format photographs by Massimo Listri (a signature of designer Michele Bonan, who also masterminded the decor at JK Place Roma’s sister properties in Florence and on Capri), it sets a splendid new bar for contemporary house-hotel style in the heart of the ancient city.

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JK Place Roma is arguably only the city’s second five-star boutique hotel, a niche hitherto owned by another Florentine family. Its scion, Leonardo Ferragamo, president of the Lungarno Collection, opened the 14-suite, ultra-discreet Portrait Roma above the Ferragamo flagship on the Via Condotti in 2007. Portrait Roma has no lobby, no restaurant; but the elegant rooms, with their ingeniously fitted oak kitchenettes stocked with treats from Moriondo & Gariglio, and the 360˚ views from the knockout roof terrace (complete with fireplace) – along with an unassailably able staff, armed with a roster of top restaurants and attractions on speed dial – keep it close to fully booked year round.

Of Rome’s grandes dames hotels, Rocco Forte’s Hotel de Russie has the corner on glamour, its Stravinskij Bar and garden a reliable locus of scene-making and air-kissing for luminaries of media and film. Rooms are understated and neutral in tone; the corner suites and those with a garden view possess a bit more character. The St Regis Rome, located above the centro storico fray between the Quirinal and the Baths of Diocletian, diffuses the 19th-century grandeur of its façade and public spaces with sleek, contemporary decor in many of the rooms (its Bottega Veneta and couture suites are favoured by celebrities and one high-profile ruling family) and utterly modern service, which is to say warm and efficient in equal measure. And Hotel Eden, newly under the aegis of the Dorchester Collection – with a leafy location above the Spanish Steps, and the firm’s top brass now masterminding a total renovation – is one to keep an eye on.

The lanes surrounding the famous Via Condotti house the alpha and omega of Italian and international luxury-goods purveyors, with the requisite queuing and closed-to-the-public spree privileges. Better, then, to seek out the city’s independent designers and ateliers.

Via del Governo Vecchio

Via del Governo Vecchio

The Via del Governo Vecchio is a lightning rod for them. Among the most appealing is the white and green lacquer shop of jeweller Delfina Delettrez. Unerring taste is in her DNA (her mother is Silvia Venturini Fendi) and whimsical originality in her jewels, which feature motifs of eyes, skulls and bees in everything from gold to leather. Rome’s other great original contemporary jeweller is Iosselliani (Valentino co-creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri is a fan), whose shop, R-01-IOS on the Via del Leone, showcases statement pieces fashioned from gold-plated chain and chunky semi-precious stones. It is the received sartorial wisdom that Naples is home to great Italian menswear and its most venerated names, but Rome gets to play the Pope card. At Ditta Annibale Gammarelli (founded 1798), set almost in the shadow of the Pantheon, ecclesiastical splendour is the order of the day for His Holiness and innumerable clerics, cardinals and bishops. The layperson can also partake of bespoke suiting – or simply a pair of whisper-light woollen calze (purple and red being the favoured stock of these socks). Saddler’s Union – in its 1950s heyday the city’s signal leather-goods marque, recently rehabilitated by an enterprising young former PR – sells an elegant edit of satchels, briefcases and its signature riveted saddle-bag style from a spare space on the absurdly photogenic Via Margutta. And doyenne of Tuscan style Ilaria Miani showcases her chic linens and home accessories in a double-fronted shop on the Via Monserrato, a stone’s throw from the Palazzo Farnese.

From that palazzo’s Michelangelo-designed façade and Caracci frescoes to the denuded monoliths of the Baths of Caracalla, rugged battlements of the Castel Sant’Angelo and perfect interior space of the Pantheon, history’s narrative unspools everywhere. Deep peace can be found amid the tall pines in the parkland surrounding the Villa Borghese, and equally profound inspiration in the opulent Galleria Doria Pamphilij, densely hung with 17th-century masters (and still inhabited by the Doria heirs).

What draws the headlines these days, however, are 21st-century attractions. If an outpost of Gagosian Galleries doesn’t seal a city’s status as a legitimate centre of contemporary culture, it’s hard to say what does. At Maxxi, the Zaha Hadid-designed National Museum of the Art of the 21st Century, creations from the very recent past and present get enthusiastic billing. Last year’s exhibitions featured the work of South African William Kentridge and arte povera practitioner Alighiero Boetti.

And in the once working-class, now-gentrifying neighbourhood of Testaccio, a slick satellite of Macro, Rome’s museum of contemporary art, has been installed in a complex of 19th-century slaughterhouses beside the Tiber – themselves constructed on a site where two millennia ago imperial fleets would disgorge produce and livestock from the farthest reaches of the empire.

Roscioli Ristorante

Roscioli Ristorante

Which brings us to a topic close to the heart, and seminal to the contentions, of every Roman: where to eat. All foodie counsel – in print, blog or tweet form – will lead you to Roscioli, near the Campo de’ Fiori, which happens to live up to its hype; brothers Alessandro and Pierluigi Roscioli are men of few words but prodigious talents, and under their aegis standards such as bucatini all’amatriciana are elevated in the surrounds of a high-spec delicatessen.

Opinion divides as to the city’s best for fish; purists lean towards San Lorenzo, but Osteria La Gensola, on a tiny isosceles of a piazza in Trastevere, takes the vote for breadth and creativity of presentation – and for the crisp, salty panelle plonked down at each table as an amuse-bouche (the Roman classics are ably represented here, too).

For ages, Da Felice was the insider’s destination in Testaccio, until two chefs defected from its kitchens to open Flavio al Velalevodetto, set right in the side of Monte Testaccio, preparing a parade of Roman favourites, from guanciale and oxtail to artichokes and chicory. And you can’t go wrong at an alfresco table at appealingly bourgeois Pierluigi, on the lovely Piazza de’ Ricci, where the octopus carpaccio is parchment-thin and tender.

Finally, it’s worth venturing out to leafy, quiet Parioli to the place everyone is talking about – Metamorfosi. Postcard Italian this is not. The chef and sous-chef are Colombian and Swedish respectively, while the dining room has concrete floors and there’s bad-ish soft rock on the sound system. But the food plays brilliantly with traditional elements in unexpected presentations, from “lollipops” of cinta senese ham to a flourishy take on carbonara (complete with pecorino foam) to sublime spaghetti with a dusting of dried-mussel powder. Plenty of style, without forsaking substance, and respect for tradition. Sounds Roman enough.

Matera in Basilicata Gets Hot: European Capital of Culture for 2019

Posted by: Giovanna | November 19th, 2016 | No Comments »

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“Jubilation and joy broke out in Matera when the city was selected to be one of the European Capitals of Culture for 2019, beating out fellow Italians on the short list: Cagliari, Lecce, Perugia-Assisi, Siena and Ravenna. Making the announcement in Brussels on October 17th, the European Commissioner responsible for culture congratulated Matera on its successful bid, saying that “the competition for the title in Italy was one of the strongest ever, with 21 initial contenders narrowed down to six finalists.”

The rigorous selection process meant that Matera had to submit a rich program of specific cultural events that would have a lasting impact and contribute to the long-term cultural and social development of the city. Sustainability, a strong European dimension, and the involvement of the local population are other requirements of a successful bid that must promote European cultural diversity while conveying an attractive image of the city at the international level. Matera hopes that there will be significant long-term cultural, economic and social benefits, as has happened with previous European Capitals of Culture since the program began in 1985.

This is only the fourth time that Italy has been the chosen country, and the very first time that a Southern Italian city has won (past cultural capitals were Florence, Bologna and Genoa). For Select Italy this is an extra-special occasion to celebrate since we already started singing the praises of Matera and the Basilicata region back in 2012; that’s when our founder, Andrea Sertoli, chose Basilicata as his “Dream Trip” for Travel + Leisure’s prestigious A-List, published in the magazine’s September 2012 issue. This was followed a month later by our special edition newsletter about all things Basilicata: Matera’s ancient Sassi, the region’s hidden treasures, sleeping in a cave or an American movie director’s palace hotel, the sounds of the city, and its delicious food including bread, the “staff of life,” which has a deep and traditional significance conveyed by the large, golden-hued loaves of pane di Matera.

Travel + Leisure magazine made a dream trip into a reality when it deemed Basilicata one of the hottest travel destinations of 2013, singling out the region’s 7,000-year-old cave dwellings, peasant-style cuisine, and thermal springs as worthy attractions to tempt tourists down to the instep of Italy’s boot. Off-the-beaten track it may be, but that’s part of the region’s charm: our prehistoric ancestors might have been here before us, however, hordes of 21st century travelers have not. The Sasso Caveoso and the Sasso Barisano reveal their paleolithic secrets in a half-day or full-day guided tour of the Cave World of Matera which is a good introduction to this UNESCO World Heritage Site (it has been one since 1993).
Using the capital city as the starting point, the picturesque towns of Venosa and Melfi will be visited on a full-day excursion on the trail of Basilicata’s famed Primitivo, Negromaro, Sussumaniello and Aglianico wines. An ample country lunch is included in the price of the tour, but if you feel inspired to create your own then a hands-on cooking lesson might be more your speed. Fresh pasta in one of the dozen shapes Basilicata is known for is the basis of a menu that will teach you kitchen skills you can use back at home.

Matera has four years to get ready for its debut as European Cultural Capital for 2019, however, all of the Italian contenders for the honor made a valiant effort to capture the judges’ attention.”

Source: Select Italy

A Week in Sicilia designed by Frommer’s

Posted by: Claudia | November 19th, 2016 | No Comments »

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Designed to let you see the highlights of the island on a very tight schedule, this itinerary touches upon the classical vestiges of Sicily, yet allows for some outdoor fun and relaxation: The splendid temples and ruins that outnumber those in Greece itself, amphitheaters and a plush villa that are a testament to Roman opulence, and three breathtaking heights from which to admire the island — Erice, Taormina, and Mount Etna are all included. The tour winds up in the capital city of Palermo, where medieval jewels stand side-by-side with baroque treasures.

Day 1: Arrival in Catania
Flights to Fontanarossa Airport or trains from Messina will bring you to Sicily’s second-largest city. Once you’ve checked into your hotel or B&B, spend the rest of the day on a walking tour, viewing the vestiges of the centuries side-by-side (Roman theaters, baroque gems, hideous new buildings), all against the backdrop of the menacing Etna. If you get there early enough, make your way to the fish market, close to Piazza Duomo, to feel the pulse of the city. (Be sure to wear slip-resistant shoes that you won’t mind being soiled by the putrid waters on the ground.) The city can be dizzying, stifling, and clamorous, yet Via Etnea is one of the most elegant boulevards in Italy. No visit to Catania would be complete without a granita (a flavored ice with the consistency close to that of ice cream) and a brioche (bread similar to a hamburger bun) in one of its many mouth-watering flavors: lemon, coffee, or blackberry. Better yet, do it the way a real Catanese would: Have your brioche for breakfast. Wind up your day with a visit to the magnificent Castello Ursino.

Day 2: Mount Etna & Taormina
Once you are better acquainted with Catania, it’s time to move on to its main attraction, the highest volcano in Europe, at 3,292m (10,801 ft.). There are a few access points from which to reach the top craters; the best organized one is from the Rifugio Sapienza, on the southern slope. Be forewarned however that things here can change in a nanosecond — if meteorological conditions are prohibitive or the volcano starts to show signs of activity, tours are immediately suspended. From the top, the scenery is like no other. Once your visit to Etna is over, it’s time to head back to the hotel, change, and seek some R&R in the chicest town in Sicily, Taormina. It has attracted visitors for centuries, renowned for its sheer beauty and fame as a hideaway for trysting lovers. Stroll along the main street, Corso Umberto I, and, if time allows, visit the Greco-Roman Theater that has Etna as its backdrop. Have an aperitivo at the Wünderbar in Piazza IX Aprile, which faces the breathtaking Bay of Naxos. It might cost you an arm and a leg, but consider it a necessary expense.

Day 3: Siracusa & Piazza Armerina
It’s time to leave Catania and head south to visit two of the most important archaeological sites in the world, the Neapolis Park of Syracuse and the Villa Romana del Casale at Piazza Armerina. Start your day by visiting the archaeological area of Syracuse and explore the still-working Greek Theater, the Ear of Dionysius (said to have been cunningly used by the tyrant himself to eavesdrop on rebels), and the Roman Amphitheater, where the shows were man vs. man or man vs. beast (the latter often won). After your visit, proceed to the delightful Ortygia Island and have lunch at one of the many eateries that surround the splendid Piazza Duomo, but make sure you pop in to have a look inside the cathedral beforehand — a Greek temple is part of the cathedral. After lunch, travel northwest to Piazza Armerina to view the Villa Romana del Casale. You’ll get a taste of how Romans loved to live large — this hunting lodge houses magnificent floor mosaics that illustrate scenes from everyday life with astounding precision (one girl athlete is depicted with stitches on her leg). If you’re lucky, you’ll also see the experts in art restoration at work; they volunteer their time to preserve the precious tiled artwork.

Day 4: Agrigento & Selinunte
Prepare to spend the day exploring two of the most impressive and powerful cities of Magna Graecia. When Pindar praised Agrigento as “the most beautiful of the mortal cities,” he was not overstating his case. The splendid Valley of the Temples, a Unesco World Heritage site, preserves the vestiges of what was once a main player in the Mediterranean and surpasses Greece’s Athens itself for the quantity and quality of ruins. The near-intact Temple of Concord is the best-preserved temple in the world (check it out at night, when it’s floodlit) and one of the symbols of Sicily.
After taking in the temples in Agrigento, travel west to witness more of the glories of Greater Greece. The almighty Selinunte is a vast archaeological park (270 hectares/667 acres) that’s home to the most impressive ruins in the western world and still the subject of much study; some of the temples have been painstakingly reconstructed while many of the precious embellishments like the Metopes are safeguarded at the Archaeological Museum of Palermo. As the afternoon sun sets, head down to the beach below the site promontory and swim out to see the temples in front of you.

Day 5: Erice & Segesta
Day 5 of the journey brings you to the westernmost reaches of Sicily. As you make your way up to the hilltop village of Erice, take in the stunning views over land and sea as you head to this peaceful oasis far removed from city chaos. Be sure to re-energize at Maria Grammatico’s pastry shop, and take some of her divine sweets for the road. Head back down by cable car and make your way to Segesta to view the miraculously well-preserved Doric temple and the still-working Greek theater, with a hillside backdrop stretching out to sea.

Days 6 & 7: Palermo & Monreale
The capital of Sicily has been a crossroads for cultures and civilizations for 8 millennia. Start at the Norman Palace (open only Fri-Mon) bright and early to avoid the crowds; make sure to visit the Palatine Chapel to see the formidable mix of eastern and western art, especially the mosaics. Walk along Villa Bonanno to theCathedral in Corso Vittorio Emanuele, just to admire the exterior; continue along Vittorio Emanuele to the imposing Four Corners. Admire the Tuscan fountain in Piazza Pretoria and, just behind it, take in two splendid Arabo-Norman churches, La Martorana and San Cataldo. Make your way down Corso Vittorio Emanuele again; on the first left after Via Roma you’ll stumble upon the raucous Vucciria market. Lunch like a Palermitan would: Standing up, eating food from any of the impromptu fry-up places in the neighborhood (don’t ask, just eat). Spend the afternoon taking in the area of the new city, and unwind in the chic pedestrian area of Via Principe di Belmonte.

The following day, spend the morning gaping at the impressive mosaics in the Duomo of Monreale, which lies 15km (12 miles) south of Palermo. Make your way next door to visit the annexed Cloisters, where no two-column capitals are alike. Spend your last evening in Sicily blending in with the locals: Enjoy a meal or a cocktail in Via Principe di Belmonte, the elegant pedestrian area of town. For the truly adventurous, take a walking tour of old Palermo: The floodlit monuments are spectacular.