On the Plate and In the Glass in Piedmont's Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato

Though arguably all destinations in Italy could be considered a Shangri-La for lovers of excellent food and wine, nowhere is this more true than the Langhe-Roero and Monferrato wine country of southern Piedmont, just an hour by car from the bustling metropolis of Turin but worlds away in both pace and scenery.

castello-grinzane-cavour-langhe-italy-cr-brian-dorePhoto by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr

Le Langhe-Roero and Monferrato have recently gotten a bit of press, as they were added to the UNESCO’s register of World Heritage Sites in the first half of 2014. Citing the area’s uniquely beautiful landscapes—including five rolling wine growing districts, the Castle of Cavour, and pretty stone hilltowns of Serralunga, Nieve, Barolo, and Bra—and the long history of local winemaking—which has probably flourished since the time of the Etruscans five centuries before the birth of Christ—the UNESCO nomination only highlighted what lovers of Piedmont have known for years: this corner of Italy offers some of the most memorable meals (and photo-ops) in the entire country. Read More...

So you want to visit a museum in Italy...

Italy is home to an extraordinary amount of art. Roman mosaics and Classical statuary, Romanesque frescoes and Renaissance paintings, Futurist sketches and post-war design: this country is saturated from its public piazzas to its private salons.

Spiral Stairs at the Vatican Museum(Photo by Rene Cunningham via Flickr)

According to most commonly cited estimate, 60% of all the world’s artistic treasures are in Italy (not counting the 50-odd UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which recognize the cultural, archaeological, or scenic value of a certain geographical area). And of those masterpieces, the vast majority are to be found in one of Italy’s many museums. Read More...

Siena Palio

Italy is a land of festivals. Religious festivals, historic festivals, festivals that celebrate food or wine, festivals that last for weeks or are here and gone in a day. Italians love to throw a party, and from the tiniest of village piazzas to the overflowing streets of the most cosmopolitan cities, there is no better place to get a taste of Italian culture than at a festa.

Very few of these local festivals are known beyond the borders of Italy (indeed, many are so local that even folks a few towns over don’t know about them), but there is one exception: the raucous, overwhelming, marginally anarchical but thoroughly heart pumping rave that is Siena’s Palio.

107_0774(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)
Read More...

Exploring the Dolomites in Summer

When a mountain chain is recognized by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, you know it must have something special going for it. And the Dolomites, a group of almost 20 peaks which top 3,000 meters, covering the Italian region of Trentino-Alto Adige/SudTirol in the Alps straddling the Italian-Austrian border, are indeed spectacular.

Dolomites(Photo by F Deventhal via Flickr)

Though Italy is most known for its historic cities and photogenic coast, it is also a country of mountains. From the rumbling volcanoes in its southern-most reaches (and islands), through the Apennines which run almost the entire length of the Italian peninsula like the country’s rugged backbone, up to the Alps separating Italy from its northern neighbors, there are peaks in almost every Italian region. Read More...

Deciphering Your Restaurant Bill in Italy: Coperto, Servizio, and Tipping

Travelers to Italy often scratch their heads when presented with their restaurant bill. Though sales tax is (thankfully) included in the item prices, a number of mystery charges suddenly seem to surface when it is time to settle up. To avoid unpleasant surprises, here’s a quick overview of what these charges mean and when they apply:

Aperitivo(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)
Read More...