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The Venice Simplon - Orient Express, a Belmond Train, Europe will be heading for Portofino in June.

The journey ends at the Splendido in Portofino

For the first time in its history the Orient Express train will link Paris and Portofino on the Ligurian Riviera. With this new journey, the train will pass first through the French countryside and then along the Mediterranean Riviera, ending its itinerary at the Splendido, a Belmond Hotel, Portofino, where guests will stay for two nights.

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Three different types of suite

The Venice Simplon-Orient Express will depart from Paris on Thursday 20 June, welcoming guests to its Art Deco-style decor. Eight new suites were recently added, and the train now offers three different categories of cabin. Guests can choose between the historic suites, where the living area is transformed into a sleeping area with upper and lower berths, the new suites with twin or double beds and private marble bathrooms, and the six Grand Suites that evoke the golden age of travel in the 1920s. 

Summer menus in three restaurant cars

As the train whizzes through the cities of Dijon, Lyon and Avignon, Michelin-starred chef Jean Imbert will serve his new summer menu in the Côte d'Azur, L'Oriental and Étoile du Nord restaurant carriages.

Published in Transportation

Rome’s Centrale Montemartini Museum is an exciting mixture of ancient art and industrial machinery under one roof.  

Not far from the Coliseum and the Pyramid of Cestius

In the Ostiense district, not far from the Coliseum and on the same street as the Pyramid of Cestius opposite the former General Market, you can see an extraordinary and successful example of how an industrial building can be transformed into a museum. After Rome’s former electricity production plant was cleaned up they transferred a selection of sculptures and archaeological findings from the Capitoline Museums to the complex. And the ancient masterpieces – uncovered in the 18th and 19th centuries during excavations around the city - found themselves with some strange bedfellows: gigantic steam engines and other heavy industrial machinery.  

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Cleopatra’s Head and a Papal train

The result is a happy combination of ancient and not-so-ancient, as Roman statues rub shoulders with outdated machinery, as was summed up perfectly by the first exhibition which was called Machines and Gods.  Among the many old masterpieces on display the Head of Cleopatra attracts a lot of attention as does the red marble statue of Marsia, a mythological figure, and that of the 2nd-century pensive Seated Girl.    Since its opening new areas have been cleared to make space for more archaeological objects from the Capitoline Museums, displaying works that have languished in their warehouses for years, and up to now were never seen by the public. More recently, in November 2016 after several renovations, the museum got another new hall, where the famous coaches of the train used by Pope Pius IX are now on view.

Old and not-so-old live in perfect symbiosis

The grandiose rooms of the old power station, and in particular the engine room with its Art Nouveau furnishings, still preserve turbines, diesel engines and even a colossal steam boiler. In this fascinating and evocative setting, the antique marbles seem to shine with a new light, the heavy and cumbersome machines somehow bringing out all their transparent clarity and refined workmanship.

For information: www.turismoroma.it/it/luoghi/centrale-montemartini

Published in Leisure

Crafting authentic memories in the heart of Umbria, Villaggio Tours is based in Allerona, a small medieval hilltown village in Umbria near the borders of Tuscany and Lazio. 

Immersive experiences and outings led by locals 

The company, launched in mid-2023 by travel writer Elizabeth Heath and her husband Paolo Marchetti, offers guests fully-escorted, truly immersive experiences, with accommodation inside the village walls, meals hosted by family members and townspeople, and outings led by local residents.  

Combatting the effects of overtourism 

The Marchetti’s launched Villaggio Tours as a result of Elizabeth’s experiences in the travel industry, and from witnessing the effects of overtourism in Italy and elsewhere, investing in the small village where they live. Their aim being to bring more visitors not just to their town, but to other small towns in the area, and to promote Umbria as an alternative to Italy's more heavily trafficked spots.

“We're committed to creating a beneficial tour experience”

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Offering weeklong tours of the surrounding area and activities including nature walks and foraging, ceramics and papermaking workshops, cooking lessons, wine tastings and seasonal olive and grape harvests, Heath says she has seen how detrimental overtourism can be. “It can leave visitors feeling frustrated and dissatisfied. We're committed to creating a tour experience that's beneficial to everyone, to our guests, of course, but also to our local community and economy."

Forbes lists Villaggio Tours for responsible travel 

The region of Umbria, Italy’s green heart, and Villaggio Tours recently earned a mention in the prestigious Forbes listing Where To Go in 2024: 11 New Ideas for Responsible Travel. Villaggio Tours is the only Italian company on the list, and one of only two in Europe.

"We're honored and grateful for the inclusion," says Heath, "and the recognition of our efforts to promote responsible tourism and rural experiences in our little corner of Italy."

For information: www.villaggiotours.com
Published in Experiences & Tips

Trenitalia has signed a preliminary agreement with Deutsche Bahn to operate the Frecciarossa high-speed trains between Germany and Italy.

New cross-border services in 2026

The first services are planned for the end of 2026, and the agreement is part of the broader Italy-Germany pilot project, jointly presented by Trenitalia and Deutsche Bahn and selected by the European Commission as part of its Action Plan aimed at developing long-distance cross-border services. With this service German tourists will be able to easily reach the most beautiful destinations in Italy and Italians will have yet another opportunity to travel around Europe. Passengers arriving in Italy will be able to choose from the various intermodal services offered by Trenitalia including the FrecciaLink, which allows them to arrive at their destination by combining trains and buses.

The high-speed Frecciarossa trains also operate in France and Spain 

Trenitalia and DB are currently working on connections from Munich to Milan and to Rome. They are also assessing potential developments and extensions of the service with future connections to and from other German destinations. Work is also underway on the journey times, and with the future opening of the Brenner Base Tunnel, it is estimated that times will be reduced by approximately one hour. The FS Group’s Passenger Hub currently has some 13,000 daily train and bus connections. Frecciarossa is also present in Spain with 70 daily connections as well as with Iryo between the main Spanish cities, while in France there are 10 daily Trenitalia France services between Lyon and Paris.

Published in Transportation

In the ever-evolving landscape of the organized tourism sector, 2024 has kicked off on a positive note according to FTO, the Federation of Organized Tourism.

Many Italian organized tourism operators expect a better year

This optimism was highlighted in a survey presented by Franco Gattinoni, president of FTO, at the association’s convention held in the Westing Dragonara Resort in St. Julian’s, Malta from January 18 to 20. The survey revealed that 45.3% of FTO members anticipate a better year than 2023, while only one in five expects a decline. Notably, travel agencies and tour operators are witnessing a shift in customer behavior in the post-pandemic era. A majority of respondents to the survey, some 62%, noted how travellers are better informed and more discerning, and that they are increasingly seeking personalized services.

Travellers are looking for additional insurance services

Additionally, 38% said there is increased demand for security, leading to a surge in purchasing additional insurance services. Franco Gattinoni acknowledged the remarkable resilience displayed by organized tourism companies in 2023, with turnover figures nearing those of 2019. However, he underscored existing challenges such as the shortage of human resources, in particular due to the pandemic, and the impact of high inflation on service costs, affecting consumers' purchasing power.

“We approach 2024 with optimism and dedication”

While acknowledging the hurdles, Gattinoni expressed satisfaction with the Federation's growth, boasting almost 2,000 members at national and territorial levels. Looking ahead to 2024, he outlined the need to support the role of organized tourism through the promotion of sustainability, de-seasonalization, and the exploration of new destinations.

"We are aware of the challenges ahead,- he concluded, -but we approach 2024 with optimism and dedication, relying on the collaboration between associations and the support of institutional players."

Published in Trade Opinions

Nestled in the picturesque Piedmont region of Italy, Cuneo is a city that beautifully marries history, culture and culinary delights. 

Exploring local monuments and sites 

This charming city, which is alas often overlooked by tourists, has a lot to offer to those willing to explore its hidden treasures. Cuneo boasts a rich historical heritage and the old town center is the perfect place to begin discovering it. The Piazza Galimberti is a handsome square surrounded by elegant arcades, and an ideal spot for people-watching. As you stroll through the streets, you'll encounter historical palaces, churches, and more beautiful squares, and don't miss the Gothic Cuneo Cathedral and the ornate Church of San Francesco. For art enthusiasts the Civic Museum houses a remarkable collection of works and artifacts that provide insight into the city's past.

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Art and festivals, wines and culinary delights

Cuneo's history is deeply rooted in its defense, and you can visit the impressive Cuneo Fortress, which once protected the city, while The Museum of the Resistance tells the poignant story of the Italian resistance movement during World War II. Cuneo is home to various cultural events and festivals throughout the year. The Notti Rosa Festival in July transforms the city into a pink wonderland with concerts, art installations, and culinary delights. Piedmont is renowned for its wine, and Cuneo is no exception. The city is surrounded by vineyards producing world-class wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco. Be sure to indulge in a wine tasting experience at one of the local wineries and enjoy the Piedmontese truffles, cheeses, and hearty dishes like Agnolotti and Brasato al Barolo. And don't forget to try the renowned Bagna Cauda, a warm garlic-anchovy dip, with fresh vegetables.

Cultural Cuneo, outdoor adventures and traditions

The surrounding natural landscapes offer fantastic outdoor activities, with the nearby Maritime Alps providing excellent hiking and skiing. In summer you can explore the trails and enjoy the breathtaking views and in winter the region becomes a haven for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts. Cuneo has a fascinating history, dating back to its foundation in the 12th century. Over the years, it witnessed many battles and its strategic location near the French border made it a crucial defensive outpost. Exploring the city's historical sites and museums will give you a profound insight into its past. Enjoy this handsome city’s delightful blend of history, art, culture, and culinary excellence as it invites visitors to uncover its many layers and create lasting memories while savoring the best of Piedmontese traditions.

Published in Cities & Regions

Taking advantage of bargain air fares many travellers are already planning where they will go in 2024, and The Telegraph’s travel section recently put Italy’s northern Trentino region high on its list for family holidays. But not for skiing! Although its Dolomite resorts have over 500 miles of ski runs, they choose the Trentino as a dream destination for the warmer months and for watersports breaks.  

The secret is that this region has hundreds of lovely lakes - Lake Garda is the best known - that are perfect for canoeing and rowing and, when the wind picks up in the afternoon, for windsurfing and sailing too. Singling out Lake Idro, one of the Trentino’s smallest lakes, the Telegraph added that it also has two paragliding sites. And, we add, on Lake Idro you can take cruise boats that stop at picturesque towns. And you can even take your bicycle and your dog on board. 

Amazing Italy. Always full of surprises. 

Pamela McCourt FrancesconePamela McCourt Francescone
Executive Editor

Published in Editorial

Alex Dallocchio will oversee the pre-opening at Romazzino Hotel on the Costa Smeralda. 

The Romazzino and also the Pitrizza, to be rebranded as Cheval Blanc, are now under the LVMH group alongside Belmond. The new general manager, Alex Dallocchio, will oversee the pre-opening strategy and lead the team in crafting the reopening of Romazzino in 2024.

Dallocchio has worked with Starhotels and Marriott 

Bringing over twenty years of experience in the hospitality industry, Dallocchio has an extensive background in Europe and North America. His most recent role was CEO of the Starhotels Group, and previously he was with the Westin London City and the Beverly Hills Marriott. In his new position, Dallocchio will report to Christian Boyens, vice president and leader of LVMH's Southern Europe division.

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“This is an exceptional rebranding and renovation project”

Expressing his enthusiasm, Dallocchio said, “It is truly an honour to be appointed general manager of Romazzino. I can't wait to commence work on this exceptional rebranding and renovation project, which will elevate this renowned hotel to one of the finest resorts in Southern Europe.” 

Published in Hospitality

Palermo airport has big expectations thanks to the new Neos New York flights starting on June 9, 2024. 

Promoting Sicily for roots tourism

“The New York-Palermo holds strong symbolic and cultural value and serves as a phenomenal bridge for the promotion of Sicilian tourism in the United States and vice versa,” said Salvatore Burrafato, president of Gesap, Palermo’s airport management company. “Our rich history and traditions are a treasure to showcase to the American market. And there is a genuine and strong bond to cultivate with Italian Americans seeking to experience Sicily as their homeland.”  The Palermo-New York flights will operate with a 355-seat Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner throughout the summer on Tuesdays and Sundays.

Ending 2023 with eight million passengers

Palermo’s Falcone Borsellino Airport handles a notable share of international passengers, accounting for 30.67% of total transits between January and September 2023. Following a successful October with a double-digit increase in passenger traffic (780,916 which is +13.2% compared to 2022 and +27.69% compared to 2019) the airport anticipates ending the year with over eight million passengers.

Consistent investments in fleet and route growth

“This new connection is an additional opportunity for the development of leisure and business flows between the United States and Italy, with an initial goal of transporting approximately 20,000 passengers in the summer of 2024,” said Carlo Stradiotti, CEO of the Alpitour Group’s airline. “It is the result of a vision that has consistently invested in fleet and route growth and continually expands scheduled activities, while maintaining high standards of hospitality and welcome on board and ensuring punctuality and stability for operators.”

Published in Transportation

Modica is a gem, and one of the eight towns that make up Sicily’s Baroque Triangle. 

Famous for a TV series and for its chocolate

Modica became famous with television viewers as the setting for the Italian television police drama series Inspector Montalbano, although it has always been famous for its chocolate production. A forty-minute drive from the equally beautiful Baroque towns of Ragusa and Noto, Modica consists of an upper and a lower town. Standing on high ground at 300 metres asl in the Monti Iblei mountain range it was an important trading centre in Medieval days, and today boasts fine late-Baroque architecture dating back to when it was rebuilt after the great 1693 earthquake. 

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Modica’s chocolate is made from an Aztec recipe

The busy Corso Umberto high street in Modica Bassa, the lower town, is dotted with elegant 18th and 19th-century golden sandstone buildings, restaurants, cafes and chocolate shops. Modica’s famous grainy chocolate is claimed by locals to originate from an Aztec recipe that was brought back from Mexico by the Spanish conquistadors. One must-visit is to the Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, the oldest chocolate shop in Sicily. 

Two cathedrals and a cave church

Modica has two grand Baroque cathedrals. The Cathedral of St. Peter was destroyed by two earthquakes and finally rebuilt in the 18th-century in Baroque style.  Higher up towards the old town perches the Cathedral of St. George, the town's most eye-catching building with a grand façade rising into a curved central belltower. Visitors should also not miss the charming Carmine Church with a Gothic doorway and a rose window, and the historic cave church of St. Nicholas Inferior with its 12th-century frescoes. 

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The house of the poet Salvatore Quasimodo

Corso Regina Margherita, the street leading to the upper town is lined with old palaces, many of them crumbling and the Castle with an 18th-century Clock Tower, overlooks the lower town from a rocky spur. The Civic Museum on the Corso Umberto has a collection of Greek and Roman ceramics as well as funeral artefacts from the Modica area, but the prize exhibit is a bronze statuette of Hercules in Hellenic style that probably dates to the 3rd century B.C. Anyone interested in Italian poetry should visit the Quasimodo House, birthplace of the Italian poet Salvatore Quasimodo which is near the castle and now a museum.

For information: www.modica.it

Published in On the road
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