Archive for the ‘Veneto’ Category

Italian for Tourists

Friday, December 30th, 2011

Traveling to a country with its own set of customs, way of life, and, of course, language can be daunting.  Getting accustomed to Italy, with its foreign signs, ancient cobblestone streets, small cars, cover charges at restaurants, and Euro conversions may throw your mind into a tizzy.  Whether you’re in Rome or Florence, Verona or Milan, knowing some basic Italian can get you pretty far.  While chances are the locals you interact with will be able to speak English, and certainly your tour guide will, it’s still important to know a few key words and phrases to get through your trip.  Even in places like Venice, Naples, and Sicily, where dialects are heavily spoken, the more Italian you know, the more authentic you’re experience will be.  So, practice away—soon you’ll be able to sing the captivating song of Italian.


Getting By
Hello Ciao/Salve chow / SAL-veh
Goodbye Arrivederci/Ciao ah-REE-ve-dare-chee / chow
Good Morning Buon giorno bwon jee-OR-no
Good evening Buona sera bwon-ah SEH-rah
Goodnight Buona notte bwon-ah NO-teh
How are you? Come sta? koh-MEH stah?
I’m fine Sto bene stoh BEH-neh
Please Per favore pair fa-VOH-reh
Thank You Grazie GRA-tsee-eh
You’re welcome Prego PREH-go
Excuse me Mi scusi mee SKOO-see
Yes Si see
No No noh
I’m sorry Mi dispiace mee dis-pee-AH-cheh
Do you speak English? Parla inglese? PAR-la een-GLEH-she
I speak…. Parlo…. PAR-low
I don’t speak Italian. Non parlo italiano. non PAR-low ee-tah-lee-AH-no
Do you understand? Capisce? cah-PEE-sheh
I understand / I don’t Capisco / Non capisco cah-PEE-skoh
How do you say…. Come si dice….? koh-MEH see DEE-cheh
Can you help me? Puo aiutarmi? pwoh aye-oo-TAR-mee
Repeat, please Ripeta, per favore ree-PEH-tah pair fa-VOH-reh
Meeting People
What’s your name? Come si chiama? koh-MEH see key-AH-mah
My name is….. Mi chiamo…. mee key-AH-mow
Nice to meet you Piacere pee-a-CHEH-reh
I am… Io sono… EE-oh SO-no
American Americano/a ah-meh-ree-CAH-noh
Canadian Canadese cah-nah-DEH-she
Dining Out and Shopping
Breakfast La colazione la coh-la-tsee-OH-neh
Lunch Il pranzo eel PRAN-tsoh
Dinner La cena la CHEH-nah
I would like to make a reservation. Vorrei fare una prenotazione. voh-RAH-ee FA-reh una
A table for… Un tavolo per… oon TA-voh-loh pair
The bill Il conto eel CON-toh
How much does…cost? Quanto costa… KWAN-toh COH-stah
Postcard Una cartolina oona car-toh-LEE-nah
Stamp Un francobollo oon frank-oh-BOHL-loh
Getting Around
What time is it? Che ora é? kay AW-rah eh
It is… Sono le… SO-no leh
At what time… A che ora… ah kay AW-rah
At… Alle… AH-leh
Today Oggi OH-gee
Tomorrow Domani doh-MAH-nee
Yesterday Ieri ee-EH-ree
Morning Mattina ma-TEE-nah
Afternoon Pomeriggio pom-eh-REE-gee-oh
Evening Sera SEH-rah
Night Notte NOH-teh
Open Aperto ah-PER-toh
Closed Chiuso key-OOH-sow
Where is… Dov’é… DOH-veh eh
Left Sinistra seen-EE-strah
Right Destra DEH-strah
The Train Il treno eel TREH-no
The train station La stazione dei treni la sta-tsee-OH-neh DEH-ee TREH-nee
The plane L’aereo la ah-EH-ree-oh
The airport L’aeroporto la ah-eh-roh-POR-toh
The ticket Il biglietto eel beel-YET-toh
One-way Semplice sem-PLEE-cheh
Roundtrip Andata e ritorno ahn-DA-ta eh ree-TOUR-no

Venice’s Bridge of Sighs: Sigh-Worthy Once Again

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

The Bridge of Sighs--once again scaffolding-free! (photo via wikimedia)

If you traveled to Venice over the past three years, you were probably surprised by the eyesore of advertisement-covered scaffolding blocking your view of the famed Bridge of Sighs.  The brightly-colored billboards offended many, but thankfully they have been taken down as the 2.8 million Euro restoration of the bridge is finally complete.

Built in 1602 to connect the prison to interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, or Ponte dei Sospiri, is rumored to have gotten its name because prisoners, Casanova among them, sighed while looking out the windows en route to their cells, seeing the beautiful City of Water before them.

The restoration project fixed the crumbling limestone of the bridge, which had been falling off in large chunks, as well as rust and other dirt collected over the one hundred years since the last restoration.

So, rest assured, the Bridge of Sighs is back to its former glory, causing tourists, gondoliers, and romantic couples getting engaged in the waters below to sigh at its beauty.

Check out the storied view from the Bridge of Sighs during one of our Venice Walking Tours!



Christmas in Venice

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Venice's night sky lights up around the holidays! (photo via Inverno Veneziana)

With Christmas just over a week away, Italy is bustling with preparations.  And while Rome and Florence may receive more festive fanfare, the celebrations in Venice are just as beautiful and unique.

One of the most anticipated and attended holiday events in Venice is midnight mass at the Basilica di San Marco.  The famous church and its grand piazza are simply splendid, the gold and mosaics of the basilica glittering in the soft lights.  If you can’t get in for the service, the piazza both before and after mass lets out makes for great people-watching.

Unlike the rest of the year when trattorias and cafes are serving up a constant stream of food, dining out in Venice at Christmastime can be tricky as many restaurants are closed.  To snag a table and fuel up for the chilly days and nights, be sure to make a reservation ahead of time.

Do some shopping in the city’s pop-up outdoor markets like Campo Santo Stefano, Campo San Bartolomeo, and Strada Nova.  In addition to traditional Carnevale masks and typical gondolier gear, you’ll also be able to pick up more one-of-a-kind artisan items like pottery, jewelry, perfumes, and glass work.

The holiday festivities continue through New Year’s Eve with plenty of music concerts (including the free one on December 26 at Frari Church in San Polo), fine dinners, ice skating in Campo San Polo, and even a La Befana boat race on January 6.

Even if you stay away from the mainstream activities, you won’t be able to avoid catching the city’s holiday cheer as the pealing of church bells echo their way down Venice’s canals and across its picturesque piazzas.

Keep an eye out for Santa–he arrives in a gondola instead of a sleigh!

Must-Sees of Milan

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Milan's must-sees include seeing the Duomo from both land and sky, taking in a game at San Siro, shopping at Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II, and seeing an opera at La Scala. (photo via wikimedia)

It’s Italy’s (and arguably the world’s) fashion capital, but there are plenty of things other than shopping to keep you busy in Milan.

You may not make it there on your first trip to Italy, but Milan should definitely be included on your second.  An ideal visit in Italy’s second-largest city should last about two days—the perfect stopover between Venice and any number of Italy’s other popular destinations: Florence, Turin, Cinque Terre.  It also provides easy access to the country’s northern lakes of Como, Garda, and Maggiore for summertime fun; the Dolomites and the Alps for outdoor winter activities; and Northern Italy’s charming small towns of Verona, Brescia, and Bergamo.

Here is our list of Milan musts:

Enjoy the Last Supper.  See the da Vinci work you’ve been hearing for as long as you can remember.  Reservations to see this masterpiece are required well in advance, but the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see this world-renowned fresco at Santa Maria delle Grazie is one you can’t pass up.

Go for a stroll on the Duomo’s rooftop.  Aside from the new financial district and the Pirelli Tower, Milan is pretty flat and you can see it all from between the soaring spires of Milan’s cathedral.

See an opera at La Scala.  Tickets can be hard to come by, but seeing an opera in the world’s most famed opera house is worth the effort.  Opera geniuses Verdi, Puccini, and Rossini all premiered works at the theater, and their music still lives on within its grand walls.

You can’t escape Milan without going shopping.  Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II is convenient, linking Piazza del Duomo with Piazza della Scala (be sure to spin around on the mosaic bull on the floor in the center of the galleria for good luck) or check out the big Italian names of fashion in the Quadrilatero d’Oro shopping district

Take in the calcio classico: Inter vs AC—if you can’t score a ticket to see Milan’s two home soccer teams face off in their shared stadium, at least take a tour of the famed San Siro.  You can even sit in the leather chair assigned to your favorite AC Milan player in the team’s dressing room.

Eat risotto and, in the Christmas season, panettone, two Milanese specialties.

Have any Milan must-dos?  Tell us about them!

Ringing in the New Year…Italian Style

Friday, December 9th, 2011

New Year's Eve turns Italy into one giant celebration.

There’s only one way to sum up how Italians celebrate the holidays: “Natale con i tuoi, Capodanno con chi vuoi,” Christmas with family, New Year’s with whomever you want.

New Year’s Eve is one of Italy’s biggest celebrations, rung in with fireworks across the country, swanky parties, dancing, music, and, of course, food.  The traditional New Year’s Eve menu consists of lentils, pork, and sausage, symbolizing prosperity and richness of life in the coming year.

After dinner, there are plenty of places to see and be seen on New Year’s Eve in Italy: the gala at Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, the Concerto di Capodanno at the legendary La Fenice Theater in Venice, the world-famous fireworks display over Naples, or staying up until the sun rises with thousands of concert-goers in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo.

Ring in the new year in style with any of our customized New Year’s itineraries:

Concordia Tour—a week of exploring Sicily, spending New Year’s Eve in the island’s capital, Palermo.

Fantasia Italiana: Southern Italy—12 days in Italy’s breathtaking southern region, spending New Year’s Eve in the mountaintop perch of Taormina, the Pearl of the Mediterranean.

A Luxurious New Year’s Eve in Florence—a relaxing stay at the five-star mansion Villa Cora, just steps from Boboli Gardens, with a 6-course grand gala dinner to celebrate the new year.

A Five-Star New Year’s Eve in Rome—four days at Rome’s exclusive Hotel D’Inghliterra near the Spanish Steps with day tours and an indulgent 6-course New Year’s Eve dinner.

Dinner and Music for New Year’s Eve in Rome—Be in the center of Italy’s New Year’s Eve celebrations with this 4-day stay at the Regina Hotel Baglioni near the Trevi Fountain.

No matter where you end up this New Year’s Eve, but sure to pop open the prosecco as the clock nears midnight!

Jewish Traditions in Italy

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Florence's stunning synagogue is where much of the city's Hanukkah highlights take place. (photo via wikimedia)

December in Italyisn’t all about Christmas.  The country has a storied history with the Jewish community, which started in 160 BC when the first Jews arrived in Rome straight from historic Israel, fleeing the Syrian King Antiochus.  That immigration began what would become the oldest Jewish outpost in Western Europe.  As a result, Hanukkah is celebrated just as vigorously in Italy as Christmas.

While Jews settled all over Italy, the majority lived (and still do) in Rome, inhabiting the Trastevere neighborhood until 1555 when they were forced into a ghetto on the other side of the Tiber in between the ruins of the Theater of Marcellus and the Isola Tiberina (close to Piazza Venezia).  It was there that some 13,000 Jews lived on seven acres for over 300 years, setting up restaurants, stores, schools, and a synagogue along Via del Portico d’Ottavia.  The neighborhood, its walls long demolished but charming narrow streets still in tact, has undergone its own renaissance, now thriving with art galleries and desirable apartments.  Members of the Jewish community who don’t live nearby still gather at the fountain in Piazza Mattei with its Bernini turtles and buy torta di ricotta (ricotta pie filled with sour cherries or chocolate) from the local bakery.  While history has changed all around it, Rome’s Jewish community has stayed true to its traditions.

Come Hanukkah, this year from December 20 to 28, Romans gather in Piazza Bernini at the 20-foot-high menorah and at a scaled-down version at Piazza Bologna.

Venice’s Hanukkah Bash in the Ghetto Square brings the world’s oldest Jewish ghetto to life with dancing, music, latkes, doughnuts, and a nightly menorah lighting.  The area, part of the Cannaregio neighborhood, once thrived with nearly 4,000 residents within a 2½ block radius.  The ghetto is remarkably in tact—particularly its five synagogues, three of which were squeezed into clusters of top-floor apartments.  In addition to the Jewish Museum and the Jewish Cemetery located on the Lido, check out the red and gold interior of the Levantine Synagogue, one of the few to be built on ground level.

Florence is full of Jewish history—much of which you can find at some of the city’s most famous attractions: from the doors of the Baptistery and the Duomo to Michelangelo’s David.  Visit the Jewish museum, Via dei Giudei (Street of the Jews), the Renaissance Jewish neighborhood, and Piazza della Reppublica, where the city’s ghetto once stood.  The highlight, though, is Florence’s magnificent synagogue, the interior of which is wood and bronze with marble floors and mosaics.  It’s there that you can join Florence’s strong Jewish community in Hanukkah celebrations and the lighting of the menorah.

Train Travel for Cheap(er)

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Traveling by train is one of the best ways to see Italy—rolling through the vast countryside and right into the city of your choosing.  Depending on if you take a local train or the sleek Frecciarossa or Frecciargento express trains, you can get from Rome to Florence in 1½ hours and Florence to Venice in under two.  Whether you ride first class or coach, train travel in Italy is generally comfortable, easy on the wallet and the itinerary, and, unless you’re faced with a sciopero (strike), stress-free.

Riding the rails is particularly helpful to our independent travelers creating itineraries or opting for one of our carefully-planned independent tours.  It’s also great for daytrippers looking to get out of the big city and into a smaller nearby town.  For example, riding the train from Florence can easily get you to Pisa, Bologna, Lucca, Viareggio, or Perugia for the day.

Train travel is even sweeter over the next few weeks as Trenitalia, Italy’s main train operator, is running promotions that deeply slash train prices.  Here’s a quick rundown:

Daytrippers can take advantage of flat “andata e ritorno in giornata” fares (one-day roundtrip) on the Frecciarossa and Frecciargento trains (109€ for second class, 149€ for first class).

Saturday travelers get two-for-one fares through December 10 using the “Sabato Italiano 2×1” promotion.

Families always save 50% on tickets for children under 12 while children under 4 travel for free, but the “Offerta Familia” promotion can get those discounts plus 20% off on the adults traveling in the group.

“MINI fares” offer seats at up to 60% off on nearly every route on every class of train.

In order to take advantage of these great promotions, be sure to buys your tickets at least two days in advance—of course, the earlier you purchase, the better!  Of course, we can help you purchase the tickets and plan your journey through Italy!

Spending the Holidays in Italy

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Milan's Duomo is even more beautiful during December. (photo by angelocesare via flickr)

With winter arriving early to the northeast and across many other parts of the US, it’s time to start thinking about the holiday season.  Falling snow, jingling bells, and twinkling lights help make the season brighter here in the States, but Italy has its own holiday wonder that lasts for a month, starting in early December.

With elaborate Nativity displays, gorgeous light shows, and charming markets occupying many of the country’s bustling piazzas, Christmas in Italy is a magical time.  After slipping into a food coma for a few days, the celebration starts up again for New Year’s Eve and then once more for Epiphany.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll bring you information about holiday activities in all of Italy’s major cities, as well as off-the-beaten-path celebrations, traditional holiday menus and recipes, and, of course, ideas on how to see the best of Italy during the holidays and every day.

From Rome to Florence, Torino to Palermo, Venice to Naples, learn the holiday traditions of the cities and regions across Italy, and ready yourself to go home to Italy for the holidays—be it this year or next.

Do you have any tips for spending the holidays in Italy?  Share them with us!

Where is Your Favorite Italian Aperitivo?

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Bruschetta is just one of the many items you'll likely find on the buffet of an Italian aperitivo. (photo via wikimedia)

As much as the morning caffé and the afternoon pranzo, the evening aperitivo is a vital part of the Italian day.  Having started in Milan as a time to socialize between work and dinner, aperitivo is happy hour meets all-you-can-eat buffet.  For just the cost of a beverage, Italians grab at seat and a plate at a local eatery and unwind from work while filling up on snacks and catching up with friends.  Not your standard bar fare of peanuts and chips, the cicheti served during aperitivo is sophisticated food that stacks up to a meal anywhere else: pasta, cheese, meats, little pizzas, salads.

Not only does heading to aperitivo give you a chance to mix it up with locals, sample the menus of various dining spots (usually popular ones at that), and refuel after a long day of touring the city, but it also gives travelers on a shoestring budget the chance to eat like royalty.

You can find aperitivo spots simply by keeping an eye out for signs indicating such a menu as you pass by restaurants, lounges, cafés, and bars.  Otherwise, here is our cheat sheet for some of the best aperitivo action inItaly’s major cities.

Molto stylish and trendy with white-on-white décor and a brushed metal bar, Muá (Via San Sebastiano 13) serves up a bountiful buffet of bruschetta, prosciutto, salad, and more that draws the beautiful people of this busy port town.  When the weather’s nice, try to snag a seat on the patio.

Considered the place in Florence for aperitivo, Capocaccia (Lungarno Corsini 12-14) offers an amazing view of the Ponte Vecchio from its perch on the Arno River.  Frequented by Italy’s most chic wearing designer everything, this hotspot offers an aperitivo of pasta, risotto, salad, and plenty of dessert—plus, there’s a sushi buffet on Tuesdays.  Dress to impress.

For something a bit un-Italian, head to Freni e Frizioni (Via della Politeama 4-6) in Trastevere for an aperitivo with some Moroccan flair: couscous, spiced rice, salads, as well as some pasta dishes.  The terrace makes for great people-watching and the menu of flavorful cocktails offers something for everybody.

There are plenty of spots in Venice that offer a great view or a magical atmosphere, but Taverna del Campiello Remer (Campiello del Remer 5701) takes the cake.  Located right on the Grand Canal, the rustic tavern with vaulted ceilings serves up a buffet of smoked meats as well as risotto and pasta.

Heading to the original aperitivo spot may cost you a few extra Euro, but the experience of sipping a cocktail and people watching in the place where La Scala regulars Giuseppe Verdi and Arturo Toscanini did the same is a rare opportunity.  Café Zucca, located in the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele, serves up a fantastic view of Milan’s spired duomo as well as a simple aperitivo of olives, nuts, and cheeses.

The Gardens Behind the Gates in Venice

Friday, September 16th, 2011

The breathtaking gardens at the famed Hotel Cipriani are just some of the greenscapes you'll explore during the Festival of Venetian Gardens.

You walk through the labyrinthine streets of Venice, in between gorgeous antique buildings and palaces, imagining their past grandeur, and basking in imagining that you are there, centuries ago, entering their doors for an elaborate gala.  What you may not realize is that behind those doors and buildings are also thriving gardens, bursting with colors and vitality.  It’s not an everyday occurrence that you can enter these gardens, but two weeks this fall you’ll be able to get a behind-the-gates look at some of Venice’s most treasured landscapes.

From September 25 to October 11, the Wigwam Club of Venice is sponsoring the Festival of Venetian Gardens, leading visitors through some of the Lagoon City’s most exclusive villas and gardens.  Botanists, historians, and landscape artists will share their knowledge about the various properties while musical performances, readings, and art workshops will round out the rest of the festival.  Famed hotel gardens, palace gardens, and botanic gardens, in addition to private gardens, will be included in the tour.

Because of its position as an island city, Venice is most often considered a city of blue, but few know that it is polka-dotted with vibrant green gardens.

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