Ask Lonely Planet: Transport options in Italy

We are trying to decide whether to take the train from Rome to Assisi and then hire a car to visit the little hilltop towns, or is it wiser to take, say, a nine-day tour with a small group? Also, we are not sure if it is possible to get around these little towns in Umbria and Tuscany using trains and buses. We quite like using public transport as we don’t need to worry about driving on the right side, parking and so on. What would you suggest? – Pegs

Italy’s rail network is extensive and relatively cheap, with most services run by Trenitalia. The bus network is also good and often the only choice in mountainous areas such as Umbria. Conveniently, bus reservations are usually necessary only for high-season, long-haul trips.

Despite this, getting around Umbria and Tuscany on public transport requires some effort. Although services are regular between larger towns and cities such as Assisi, Perugia, Gubbio, Arezzo, Siena, Lucca and Florence, they thin out as they extend to small hilltop villages. As an example, the ancient town of Todi is serviced by an hourly bus service from Perugia, taking 90 minutes and costing around 6 ($9.44).

It can be done – it will just require good planning. Lonely Planet’s comprehensive Italy guidebook will help, of course.

The authors of this guide endorse your suggestion to rail or bus to a larger town, then hire a car to explore the countryside. They also, however, confirm that a car can prove a hindrance in the narrow streets of the hill towns, which can get congested. Another option is to embark on guided day-tours from key hubs (a wine tour by bicycle in Chianti, for example).

A package tour will certainly eliminate most of your travel hassles, as well as that of finding accommodation. It will probably be more expensive, of course, and provide less flexibility and the unknown variable of unfamiliar travelling companions. If you’re handy with guidebooks and timetables, online bookings, and map-reading, touring on your own wits may be much more rewarding.

My partner and I (mid-20s) are heading off to Europe for our OE and will be based in Scotland for a few months before, hopefully, backpacking around Southern Europe for around four months. Can you suggest an itinerary from France to Turkey visiting other countries along the way, and what is the best mode of transport getting from place to place? – Ross Neal

The following itinerary is an abridged combination of two provided in our popular Western Europe guidebook.

A logical first stop is Paris, from where you could set off on a large loop passing the must-see cities of Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna and Zurich. From Nice on the French Riviera you could venture either to Corsica and Sardinia, or follow the Mediterranean Coast southwest to St Tropez and Marseilles before reaching Barcelona and then Valencia in Spain: both are jumping off places for the Balearic Islands. Head south to a cluster of highlights – Granada, Cordoba and Seville. You could also visit Malaga and Gibraltar around these parts before heading to the lively Portuguese capital, Lisbon. Head back east overland, or fly to save time…

Ask Lonely Planet: Transport options in Italy – Travel – NZ Herald News via @nzherald

Colosseum reveals secret hues

(ANSA) – Rome – The Colosseum is usually thought of as a blinding arena clad in shimmering white marble that set off the crimson-flecked violence of the killing floor.

Only one locale, the gallery of the mad emperor Commodus – memorably played in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator by Joaquin Phoenix – was known to have been decked in other colours.

Until now, that is.

Restorers at a mid-level tier of the ancient amphitheatre say they’ve found “a riot of colour” in many other niches and galleries.

“They’ve uncovered complex decorations, floral patterns in polychrome glory including azure, ochre, pink and green,” said the superintendent of the iconic Rome monument, Rossella Rea.

“We’ve known since the 19th century that the Colosseum’s white splendour was punctuated by square red plaster tiles, but we never expected to find such multi-hued decorations, a veritable riot of colour,” she said.

Alongside this “technicolour surprise,” Rea went on, the restoration team also uncovered, underneath centuries of graffiti and visitors’ signatures inscribed in the ancient stonework, “symbols of ancient machismo and blood lust as well as erotica including phalluses.

“The Colosseum was full of colour, covered in frescoes,” Rea said.

Rea said the new decorations would ‘hopefully be on view from next summer, joining the other new features the Colosseum has added, enhancing its timeless lustre’.

The 2,000-year-old symbol of Rome, set for a 20-million-euro clean-up and restoration starting this year, recently expanded its range of tourist attractions when it opened up the underground pits where gladiators and wild beasts waited before being winched from darkness into the arena’s cruel glare.

The so-called ‘hypogeum’ (literally, ‘under ground’) was restored in a multi-million-euro project that also installed new, muted lighting effects.

Rea said the hope was to have recaptured ‘some of the atmosphere’ of the breathless moments before the games commenced, when the armoured or naked fighters and the wild animals were hauled up through 80 trap-doors.

The Colosseum or Flavian Amphitheatre (its proper name) attracts some four million visitors a year.

Construction on the arena started between 70 and 72 AD under the Emperor Vespasian.

It was completed in 80 AD by his son Titus, who financed the project from the booty his armies seized in the war against the Jews in 66-70 AD.

Titus inaugurated it with 100 days of games including the recreation of a sea battle between Romans and Greeks.

The father-and-son team – the so-called Flavian emperors – built their monument to Rome’s grandeur in travertine stone before giving it the marble cladding that amazed contemporaries – and was still its crowning glory until generations of popes picked away at it for their own architectural testaments.

“Hardly any of the marble is left now,” Rea said, “but that loss has been partly compensated by the discovery of these stunning pictorial remnants, a secret trove of colour we never knew existed”.

Colosseum reveals secret hues

Bottega Veneta’s Maier keeps it classic

MILAN – Superlatives don’t work with Tomas Maier, a designer of discretion, just like his collections for Bottega Veneta.

And yet one is tempted is to gush over his latest menswear collection presented Sunday morning, the second day of the four-day preview showings for next winter. The streamlined look of the collection fits in with the general message coming off the current Milan runway to keep things classic. Subtle details are what make all the difference.

In his show notes, the designer said he wants “no fuss, no gimmicks, but a richness that reflects the world we all work in.”

The basic silhouette is a tailored suit cut close to the body in either single-, double-breasted, or three-piece styles. However, the jacket might have a skinny lapel, or no lapel, and the buttoning could be asymmetric while the buttons themselves might be covered in fabric. Sporty outerwear becomes sophisticated when fashioned in suiting fabrics, and worn with vests and dress shirts. A simple grey flannel suit is spiffed up by a patterned shirt and tie.

Maier’s latest detail twist is to reinvent classic suiting fabrics, by creating new tweeds, woven in cotton or wool and incorporated in the fabric. These new wool prints are all designed by the Bottega Veneta team. Materials in the collection include lightweight flannel, cashmere and worsted wool, as well as super supple leather.

The warm winter palette compensates the rigour of the styles: plum, soft green and muted bronze, along with deep greys and blues, and all season black.

The preferred shoe is the classic loafer. Here too detail makes the difference, combining leather, suede and crocodile, while still keeping the look casual. Patterned and printed socks liven up the footwear.

Next winter’s bag is bulky, but business like, a sort of leather corporate carpet bag.

Bottega Veneta’s Maier keeps it classic with distinguishing detail for men next winter – Times Colonist


Il nome Made in Italy dovrebbe indicare la totale ed effettiva provenienza e produzione italiana dell’articolo che viene “marchiato”; in realtà molti prodotti riportano la dicitura Made in Italy anche quando sono realizzati quasi interamente all’estero! Secondo l’articolo 24 del codice doganale europeo(Reg. EEC 2913/1992), infatti, un prodotto che è stato realizzato in due o più paesi è considerato originario del paese in cui è stato rifinito e completato. Ciò significa che se un articolo viene prodotto per il 70% all’estero e per il 30% finale in Italia, questo articolo può essere etichettato come Made in Italy. Persino se un articolo è stato completamente prodotto all’estero, ma commissionato da un’azienda con sede in Italia, potrebbe recare il marchio Made in Italy. Allora come fare a scegliere un prodotto davvero italiano? Bisogna cercare il marchio di garanzia 100% Made in Italy. Questa certificazione viene rilasciata dall’Istituto per la Tutela dei Produttori Italiani e assicura che l’intera filiera produttiva viene realizzata in Italia: solo i prodotti  che rispettano i criteri al 100% made in Italy possono considerarsi vero prodotto italiano. E per una maggiore tutela sulla qualità, teniamo presente un altro dettaglio: solo i negozianti certificati sono ufficialmente autorizzati a vendere questi prodotti.

Made in Italy: ma cosa si intende? via @WITcasa

Certificato Made in Italy

Certificato Made in Italy

Italy’s working man’s riviera

Shredded and discarded footwear appears like Hansel and Gretel’s bread trail along the rugged walking trails of the Cinque Terre. And where there is a tattered sandal, so follows a gasping tourist. But their hardships are insignificant compared with those of the native Ligurians.

This starkly gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage-listed landscape on the north-west Italian coast carries a dark history of floods, sieges and destruction that has shaped the stoic character of its inhabitants who walk only lightly on this land.

It is as if fortitude has been hardwired into the people who toiled for 1000 years to transform the cliffs into fertile terraces for olives and vines, while battling invaders and the elements.

This past year has been no exception. The people of the Cinque Terre (Five Lands) endured floods on October 25, 2011, that took lives and almost destroyed Monterosso and Vernazza – two of the five villages that date back to the Middle Ages. Since then, the area has undergone a miraculous recovery.

Even so, we don’t quite know what to expect, and the post-flood words of the Monterosso mayor, Angelo Betta, ring in our ears: “Monterosso does not exist any more.”

We’ve come anyway to this Riviera de Levante, or “working man’s riviera”, which is wonderfully untroubled by tacky apartments and tourist developments. It’s also a hiker’s paradise – a linked series of jagged trails, built by generations of Ligurians who walked from village to sea to religious sanctuary, tenaciously eking out their living from the landscape.

The best way into the Cinque Terre is by train, not car. Roads are narrow, steep, access is heavily restricted – you can’t drive directly between the villages – and parking is virtually non-existent. The train, on the other hand, runs through the coastal tunnels to link the five villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. It’s cheap at €1.50 ($2.30) a person and regular. So train is how we arrive in the westernmost village, Monterosso, from Genoa.

We love it immediately. The light is fading and the bay ripples pink and grey. Monterosso is divided in two – Fegina, the newer, beachy part where you’ll find the station, and Monterosso Vecchio, the old town. Built directly on rock, with winding secret alleys, the old town exhibits the true character of the Cinque Terre. It crawls up the San Cristoforo hill, showing little sign of the devastation that left it metres-deep in mud and debris a year ago.

This evening, it shows off its colours of creams and yellows, ochres, dark pinks and reds, the buildings green-shuttered. We’re congratulating ourselves, too, on our old-town choice of the Hotel Pasquale. It’s small, family-run and beautifully decorated, with sea views from every room.

We can also see the old town and the railway line that runs atop an aqueduct before disappearing into a tunnel. We experience that railway line first-hand during dinner at a nearby seafront restaurant when it seems the hounds of the apocalypse have landed on our heads – it’s merely a train thundering over the restaurant roof, which is set directly into the aqueduct.

Italy’s working man’s riviera

Riomaggiore hugs the shore.

Riomaggiore hugs the shore.

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