Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Experiencing the Museum of Life in Rome

It is no secret that Rome is not my favorite city in Italy.  It's not that I don't like spending a little time there or that there aren't tons of things to do, but it's just not the Italy that fills my heart or makes me feel like I am home when I'm there.

But, that said, there are many things that I love to do in Rome.  And most of them don't involve The Vatican or The Forum. In fact, I prefer to be outside, enjoying and experiencing what I like to call the museum of life.

One of my favorite pastimes is the simple and inexpensive act of wandering. Rome has so many great places to just walk and discover.  I love just strolling around the Trastevere and Monti neighborhoods and down the Via Giulia- one of the oldest streets in Rome.  I can spend hours sneaking glimpses of Roman life and peering into the lovely courtyards while imagining what it must be like to live there.

Another way to watch Roman life go by is spending time in a Roman piazza. My favorites? The Piazza Navona, home to the famous Bernini fountain, always has such an energy surrounding it and seems to have something interesting going on all the time.  The other is the Piazza della Rotonda, which also has a lovely fountain, but happens to be the site of the Pantheon, one of the most stunning monuments in the eternal city.  Many piazzas are lined with cafes and trattorias, which make excellent vantage points from which to soak up the local atmosphere.

Spending time shopping at an outdoor food market is also a great way to mingle with the locals.  One of my favorite markets is the Campo dei Fiori, which has a tasty mix of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, fish, meats, spices, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and flowers on offer.

Robin Locker is a France and Italy travel consultant, freelance travel writer and photographer who hopes to one day realize her dream of living La Dolce Vita in her beloved Italy. She writes about travel for MNUI travel insurance and on her own site, My Melange. She is addicted to social media - you can follow her on Twitter @MyMelange.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"For Starters"

“How was your food, sir?” said the waiter.

I just stared at him.

Sometimes you're faced with questions that are such a can of worms, that offer so many places to start your answer that you're struck dumb, your mind filled with unfurling possibilities and your mouth flapping in the vain hope that one of them will reach daylight through it.

I wanted to explain to him that the food I'd just had was the best, the very best I'd enjoyed anywhere, ever. I'm no stranger to the gustative magic of Mediterranean food, but this had been a ticker-tape parade of taste, a wild, raucous party going on in my mouth (now moved to my stomach). Here in the hills above Giulianova, surrounded by the rolling green quilt of Italy's Abruzzo region, I'd had the word “food” redefined for me.

But that seemed hackneyed and inadequate. Instead, I felt the urge to explain that I came from England, a country where all too often, food wasn't a social event, a chance to sit down with your neighbours and loved ones or to turn strangers into friends. It was something done hurriedly, in between more important things. You shovelled the calories down and then you left. Sometimes you forgot you were eating at all, your eyes glued to a book or a flickering television. Mealtime was No Big Deal. And looking around at all the tables arranged at this oh-so-very-Italian wedding feast, I could see how desperately broken that relationship with food was in comparison with the one I was enjoying a glimpse of here.

But that seemed too philosophical. He didn't want philosophy: he was merely being polite, on the way to clearing away my plate. And if he did that, I wouldn't have anywhere to put the dollop of carbonara I'd been eyeing for the last couple of minutes, waiting just the right amount of time to be polite before I pounced.

So I said “Delicious. Mm!”, made a faintly ludicrous lip-smacking gesture that instantly singled me out as Foreign, and held my plate down on the table so he couldn't whip it away. With a bemused air and the hint of a cocked eyebrow the waiter moved on, leaving me to gaze down the table at the still-absurd amount of food laid out for us, at the laughing, giggling, chattering guests basking in the afternoon sunshine. In a week I'd be back in England, where food didn't usually make this happen between people.

Well – now I knew better.

And then I thought of the answer I should have given the waiter – the best and only real answer under the circumstances.

“It's a good start.”

Mike Sowden is a freelance travel-writer and blogger. He writes about travel for MNUI travel insurance and for his own site Fevered Mutterings. Catch up with him on Twitter @Mikeachim.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Top 10 Reasons Why Italy is more Adorable than a Woman

I was wondering what can I write about Italy since When In Rome Tours had covered most of it. It was some 10 years ago when I last traveled to Italy, and there would be another 17 days before I step into Italy once again. What is Italy to me? Italy is so irresistible to be loved and once you have been there, you will go back there again, no matter how long, just like me. To me, its many distinctive characteristics to travelers worldwide are at least as adorable as a woman I love. I have these 10 reasons why travelers are falling in love with this country, as much as a woman:

1. She is so Sexy. When you are in Venice, the magnificent view over the Grand Canal, riding a Gondola, and admiring the sunset just make you feel like making love... their many beaches especially Calabria are hot too!
2. She is so Elegant. When you are cycling up onto the mountain in the middle of vineyards in the cultural capital of Tuscany, sipping your glass of Tuscan wine, everything seems to be perfect and deserved to be taken care of.
3. She is so artistic. When you are in Rome visiting art museums and squares with sculptures, you just couldn't learn enough from this historic capital. Italians are also known to be open minded to chat with.
4. She is so fashionable. She has all the top fashion flagship stores in Milan and she has many world top designers in hands. Need we say more?
5. She is so rebellious. To see Italy off-the-beaten-track, travel by bicycle is very often to be seen and it is rebellious way to explore Italy.
6. She is so expensive. While buildings may look old and rundown, one of the world most expensive sport cars, Lamborghini Revention and Ferrari Enzo are also manufactured here.
7. She is so Experienced. Italy has all sorts of travel attractions to make most travelers falling in love with her.
8. She is so Slim. When you are eating out at Italian local cafe, you will notice their recipes are very simple with controlled ingredients. It is why Italians women are mostly slim which is most attractive to men like us.
9. She is so cold and so friendly. She has double faces. While Italians in Northern regions are appeared cold, Southern region Italians are so friendly and welcoming to tourists.
10. Most tempting of all, Italy is so Beautiful! Statues, sculptures, people, architecture, canal, beaches and mountain landscapes in Italy are so beautiful and picturesque. Your camera's shutter will need to work extra hard to capture all beautiful scenes in any travel destinations here.

The list goes on. There are too many irresistible reasons why I love Italy more than a woman. :)

Cecil Lee is an avid traveler who is also a passionate travel blogger and travel photographer living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He writes about travel for MNUI travel insurance and on his own travel photo blog, Travel Feeder.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Most Important Woman in Paris is...Italian!

The Most Important Woman in Paris
This week I’ve been strolling through the leafy streets of Paris as springtime plucks up the courage to say bonjour. I don’t need to explain that France is a country that takes great pride in, well, itself. French art, food, wine and style are all matters of national identity (the government expects its cuisine to get UNESCO World Heritage status, after all.)
Yet today I realised that the most important woman in the ultimate French city is Italian. And I don’t mean Carla Bruni.
She lives in one of the city’s most magnificent buildings, with her own security system, conspiracy plot, teasingly rich history and queues upon queues of adoring fans.  I mean, of course, La Jaconde, the woman from Florence who has smiled at the paparazzi for more than five hundred years. Mona Lisa.
Her creator, Da Vinci, escorted her from Florence to Milan and then on to Rome before exchanging her for 4 000 gold coins in France.
In 1911, Vincenzo Perugia succeeded in whisking her away from the Louvre, with the alleged aim of restoring her to her homeland. Yet the authorities were unconvinced and soon the lady with the smile was back in Paris, while Perugia went to jail.

Today, more than 6 million people visit the Louvre, itself a stunning combination of Renaissance architecture and giant glass pyramids. Yet despite more than 35 000 works of art from around the globe, most visitors know who they’ve come to see.
La Jaconde.
So is she worth it? You’ll have to visit and make up your own mind.
Abigail King is a freelance writer with a passion for art, science and travel. She blogs at Inside the Travel Lab and also writes for Cheap Weekend Breaks and MNUI Travel Insurance.
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