Think twice before eating in the streets of Rome.

    In an attempt to polish the image of the Eternal City, Roman Authorities are cracking down on public eating and drinking at historic sites. The municipal ordinance, signed by the city’s mayor, that took effect beginning of October, gives police officers the right to fine anyone caught snacking on the Spanish Steps or walking around the Piazza Navona with a gelato. You are still allowed to throw your coins in the Trevi Fountain, the city needs your donations, but don’t enjoy a panino or ice cream in the vicinity, it will cost you. The fine ranges from $25 to $650.

   I understand the reason behind this ordinance but if we want to keep Rome’s historic center pristine, let’s also clean the graffiti from the facades and sidewalks, add plenty of rubbish bins, and get rid of illegal hawkers that harass tourists outside the Vatican and Colosseum. Instead of becoming the food patrol, the carabinieri should spend their time protecting the people from pickpockets.

Similar ordinances were past in Venice, Florence and Bologna. The one in Rome is due to expire at the end of the year. It will not doubt be extended unless the gelaterie win a repeal. They are the most affected by it. Who has not wandered the streets of Rome while enjoying an Italian ice cream?

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Rebellion in San Gimignano

The medieval village of San Gimignano, a famous Unesco Heritage site in Italy, is rebelling against the measures of austerity imposed by the Government of Mario Monti.. The town’s maire has been asked to reduce its staff by 30 percent. “It’s crazy,” laments Giacomo Bassi. “In June, the government congratulates you on your management skills, the town has not debts or pending loans, then, in July, the same government asks you to lay off 35 of your 89 employees,” declared the maire in an interview for the daily newspaper Il Corriere della Sera.

Italy in fact registered in June San Gimignano on the list of 143 towns recognized for their good management, but in July, the plan of revision of public expenditures imposed on the community the dismissal of 35 employees on a total of 89. The plan allows only one employee for 144 inhabitants. While San Gimignano scarcely counts 7000 residents, it welcomes 3 million visitors per year. “The 35 positions are needed to handle a variety of services, notably the parking lots and museums, which allows the town to collect 2.5 million euros of benefice per year,” pleaded the maire. The entire staff is ready to walk out if the government does not make an exception.

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Library book review

Bookstores and libraries have played a big role in my reading life. Growing up in Brussels, Belgium, they were within walking distance from my parents’ house. At the end of the street was a second-hand bookseller and two blocks away, a large department store. Around the corner was the local library in which I spent hours researching materials for school projects. The librarians had a nickname for me: the Historian after my favorite section.  From my house in Oregon, there are four libraries within a six miles radius. My book Gelato Sisterhood on the Amalfi Shore is in two of them. I recently dropped in the nearest one and was told, to my delight, that it is continuously checked out. When I looked up the availability on their reference computer, I came across a wonderful review. Thank you Justine for posting it on LibraryThing.com. You made my day.

Bought this book after reading some raving reviews on Amazon and I’m glad I did.
It’s a story of one of the trips that the author organized as a tour guide for her American customers to visit the beautiful Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy. Kelly takes the group (they’re are all middle-aged women) on a very personalised tour of the area, showing them all the sights, the amazing shops, restaurants and many other hidden gems all along the Amalfi coast and Capri. It’s almost like a trip report or a blog from the travels, but only in the terms of the content; the language used is very elegant, certainly not a blog-style one. It’s a very pleasant read that will probably inspire a lot of people to plan their next visit to Italy. I found the book to be very informative, very well researched, it reads almost like a guidebook but a more personalized one, with loads of funny anecdotes etc. The reason I got interested in the book in the first place was an upcoming holiday in Amalfi and the book proved to be very helpful and provided great inspiration for my trip. I would certainly recommend “Gelato Sisterhood” to anybody planning a visit to Southern Italy and to all interested in Italian culture, history, sights etc. I believe however that it would be too detailed for those looking just for a light and fun read as it’s full of information on the area. — review by user justine28

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Spotlight on Italian City Taxes

In January 2011, Rome introduced a new tax on accommodation, amounting from 1 to 5 euros per person per night, depending on the type of lodging. The move was quickly followed by Florence and Venice. Not to be undone, Naples, Sorrento, Ancona and Catania jumped on the pipeline to implement similar taxes. In the foreseeable future the list will get longer as more towns will find that they, too, need to fill their coffers with tourist coins.

In Rome the required contribution is going toward repairing and restoring famous landmarks and in Venice to save the island from the rising sea. Florence and the other cities have yet to determine what they will do with the money.

Each town puts its own spin on the tax. The Venice fee is seasonal and children under 10 are free, while Rome is charging anyone over 2. Exceptions are made for guests over 75 in Massa Lubrense. The amount also varies according to hotel star rating. In Florence, be prepared to pay 2 euros for a 2-star hotel and up to 5 euros for a 5 star hotel. And to confuse you even more some cities have a maximum number of taxable nights.

In the grand scheme of things, adding a few euros to a trip that costs several thousands could seem like a small thing but it is definitely something to be aware of when you estimate your travel budget. A family of 2 adults and 2 teenagers can expect to pay, for a 3 night stay in 3 star hotels in the classic cities of Venice, Florence and Rome, a total of 117 euros or approximately $117.

Payment is made directly to the hotel, either upon arrival or check out and often in cash. Anyone traveling to Italy is advised to conduct an advance check on the web with the relevant city tourist board. Expect to pay in every iconic and picturesque town of the land.

Copyright Chocolate, Lace & Tapestry.

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1st of May & The Sweet Smell of Muguet

In Belgium, France and Switzerland, there is a lovely tradition of giving sprigs of lily of the valley to one’s relatives and friends on the 1st of May to wish them happiness and good luck. The muguet or lily of the valley originated in Japan but has been known and cultivated in Europe since the Middle Ages. The perennial plant is a symbol of renewal for it blooms in mid-spring. The flowers are white, bell-shaped and sweetly scented.  If you’re in Paris, Brussels or Geneva on May 1st, you’ll note that most of the florists are selling lilies of the valley with a rose.

In 1936, the flower became associated with the Fête du Travail – Labour Day. The 1st May was adopted as the Fête du Travail et des Travailleurs in 1889 at an international congress in Paris in memory of those who had died demonstrating for an eight-hour working day in the Chicago riots. May 1st is a Holiday. Offices, banks, post offices and stores are closed. Museums, restaurants and tourist shops stay open.

Every year my sister offers me lilies of the valley. If I am in Belgium, she presents them in person. If I am not, she sends me a card. I received one today. She did not forget. Thank you sweet sister…..

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The Divine Amalfi Coast

Little did I know seven years ago that a return trip to the island of Capri would eventually lead me to write the book Gelato Sisterhood on the Amalfi Shore. No other destination in Italy has captivated me as much as the spectacular Amalfi Coast. Uncovering all of its treasures has become one of my favorite pastimes. If you’ve been there, you understand my curiosity and like me, probably collect every magazine that features an article on the subject.

ITALIA March 2012 issue features Homes in Campania & the town of Cava de’ Tirreni

I have toured the Amalfi Coast seven times and on every occasion I made it my goal to discover and experience new places. Most tourists flock the glamorous Positano, Ravello and Amalfi, while in their shadows are oases of tranquility.

Cetara

As I love seafood trying new dishes is on my agenda. Last fall, Giovanni, the owner of Risto in Amalfi, presented me with this sumptuous fare.

Beside inspecting gorgeous hotels and exploring hidden corners, I revel in finding the most romantic view along the coast.

Gelato Sisterhood on the Amalfi Shore recounts my love affair with this enchanting part of the Campania coastline. The book is filled with humorous anecdotes, historical insights and favorite recipes of the region. If you are dreaming of touring the area, my knowledge can help you plan the perfect vacation. While I create a unique itinerary for your honeymoon, anniversary, family reunion or friends’ Get Together, I revisit the places I have enjoyed. Let me be your expert. bonvoyagetravels@frontier.com

The book is available at Amazon.com, FeniciaPress.com, BarnesandNobel.com and Powells.com.

Copyright Chocolate, Lace & Tapestry.

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Fries for Lunch or Dinner

When it comes to fries, Belgians cook them to perfection for the simple reason that they invented them. No, not the French. They invented Pommes Parmentier. The Belgians use large size potatoes and fresh cooking oil. The fries or frites are cut in half of an inch squares. They are washed in cold water to remove most of the starch, then dried in a towel or kitchen paper. The secret is that they are cooked twice. In the first round, a small batch is dipped in hot oil and cooked for a least 8 minutes depending on their thickness. After they have been removed and cooled off on a paper towel for 20 minutes they are ready to be cooked a second round. This time for 2 to 4 minutes until crispy and golden brown. Most often Belgians purchase fries from a frite shop or from a camper van commonly known as a fritkot. They are traditionally served in a cone, sprinkled with salt and a dollop of mayonnaise on top. On average Belgians eat fries 3 to 4 times a week, for lunch or dinner. They eat them standing up, on a park bench or in a café with a cold Belgium beer.

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