Category Archives: Italy

3 Ghoulish Alternatives to Halloween around the World

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Happy Halloween! So how do other cultures celebrate this time of year? Here are five of our favorite devilish celebrations come November: 

La Diabalada, Peru. Early November. 

In the week leading up to November 5, the village of Puno in Peru celebrates La Diablada, a devilish sort of festival where men dress up as demons and hit the streets in a horned parade. Some say that it was to herald the departure of the conquistadors in the late 19th century—others claim that it’s a much older tradition, a way to pay home to ancient spirits of Lake Titicaca that gradually took on the trappings of Christianity. Set against the backdrop of the Cordillera Real mountains, there’s hardly a more dramatic setting. Before the night is over, don’t forget to try a glass of La Diablada Pisco (Peruvian brandy).

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Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), Mexico. Nov 1-2. 

Nobody does death quite like Mexico, who adopts a kind of upbeat discussion of mortality and immortality. Mexicans believe that the dead wait in Mictlan, a spiritual limbo, and can return to their homes just once a year, the Day of the Dead. Families erect an altar piled high with flowers, candles, ribbons, a bowl of water, and bread, and the house is strewn about with candy skulls, papier-mâché skeletons, banners of colored paper, and miniature coffins. Festivities include cooking, singing, dancing, culminating in a family visit to the cemetery.

Festa del Cornuto (Festival of the Horned One), Italy. Mid-November. 

With famed Mediterranean lust comes also its fair share of broken hearts. The Festival of the Horned One is a tribute to anyone who’s been made a cuckold in love. The small village of Rocca Canterano throws a party each November to remember those unlucky ones spurned by their partners. Actors dress up and recite their misfortunes on the streets, bearing helmets with horns, some adopting a more commercial devil’s garb.

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Filed under Europe, Italy, Mexico, Peru, South America

Happy World Chocolate Day!

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Friday 7 July is World Chocolate Day!

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Originally from Mesoamerica, the cacao bean has been a favorite culinary passion for thousands of years. People’s intimate relationship with chocolate is thought to date back all the way three or four millennia, when ancient pre-Columbian cultures like the Olmec were drinking fermented beverages made from the cacao bean.

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The world chocolate comes from the Aztec “xocoatl,” and the scientific name for the tree, Theobroma cacao, means “food of the gods.”

Why July 7? Friday marks 467 years since chocolate was introduced to Europe.

After all, who doesn’t love another excuse to sip down hot chocolate, or bite into a Belgian truffle?

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Celebrate the sweet day of chocolate by:

  • booking a honeymoon vacation to the Mexican coast to see the land that inspired a worldwide culinary passion
  • asking our travel agents about deals for families on Big Island to visit the candy factory and sample macadamia nut chocolates
  • attending a chocolate-making class in Brussels, Belgium in a fine chocolaterie
  • tasting Mexican cocoa in its mouthwatering perfection at Oaxaca, home to small cacao farms
  • booking a train trip in our office on Switzerland’s chocolate train to discover legendary Swiss chocolate in the medieval town of Gruyères
  • book a chocolate workshop in lovely Paris with our friends Chocolatine (their name is oh so apropos)
  • visiting Turin, home to legendary cioccolato caldo (hot chocolate) and the annual CioccolaTò festival, with chocolate factory and treasure hunt

See more destinations for chocolate lovers here

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Recipe: Mexican Hot Chocolate

(from Olivia’s Cuisine)

  • 2 (3.5oz) bars good quality bittersweet chocolate (Lindt or authentic Mexican chocolate)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ tsp chili powder (optional)
  • ½ Tbsp light brown sugar (optional)
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • Whipped cream to serve

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Instructions

  1. Over medium-high heat, melt the chocolate with the water and cinnamon sticks.
  2. Once everything is melted, add the milk, heavy cream, chili powder and sugar, and the nutmeg. Stir until well-combined.
  3. Once it boils, lower the heat to medium and let it cook until it thickens a little (about 5 minutes). If you think it’s too thick or sweet for you, add an extra cup of milk to thin it out.
  4. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream on top!

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Filed under Europe, Italy, Mexico, Travel by Taste

Travel News: Italian Airport Waives Max Limit of Liquids in Favor of: Pesto?

Happy Independence Day Weekend All! We hope you have a fantastic holiday. Our office will be open Monday 3 July 8:30am to 5pm, closed Tuesday 4 July.

 

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Italian Airport Waives Maximum Limit Of Liquids In Favor Of Pesto

Because, perché no? The BBC reports: “In an era of high-security air travel, many a passenger has fallen foul of the rules banning liquids on planes. But now an Italian airport has decided to waive the 3.4-oz maximum limit, as long as the liquid is pesto. More than 500 jars have made it through since Genoa’s Cristoforo Colombo airport launched the ‘Il pesto è buono’ (Pesto is good) scheme on 1 June. The cost? A donation to Flying Angels, which flies sick children abroad for treatment. Pesto, a popular pasta sauce made with basil, cheese, and pine nuts, is a local specialty in Genoa. The airport said the brainwave arose after staff were faced with ‘hundreds of jars that were seized in airport security checks’. Tourists with pesto jars of up to [1.1 pounds] can ask for a special sticker in exchange for a [55 cent] charity donation, although the airport says many are donating more. The pesto is then scanned in a special x-ray machine before proceeding onto the plane as hand luggage.” 

SIDEBAR: Recipe for Pesto

Want to recreate delicious pesto from your trip to Italy? No problem!

All you need are: 2 cups fresh basil leaves 2 cloves garlic 1/4 cup pine nuts 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, 1/2 cup freshly pecorino cheese

In a blender or food processor, combine basil, garlic and pine nuts until chopped. Then add the oil until smooth, season with salt and pepper. Spread on pasta, toast (with avocado), homemade pizza—the possibilities are endless!

Former Delta CEO Richard Anderson To Head Amtrak

Amtrak said Monday it has named Anderson as the nationwide rail network’s next president and CEO. Anderson, former chief executive officer of both Delta and Northwest Airlines, will begin his role on July 12. Amtrak operates a nationwide rail network, serving more than 500 destinations in 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces, on more than 21,300 miles of routes. During fiscal year 2016 (Octoer 2015-September 2016), Amtrak had approximately 31.3 million customers.

BA Facing Backlash After Forcing Families To Pay £20 Fee To Sit Together

Furious travellers complain they are being split up from loved ones on flights. The only way to ensure a seat with your family is to pay a minimum £7 reservation fee on a short-haul flight. Even BA’s executive club members awarded ‘companion vouchers’ to go on a romantic break or honeymoon with their partner are being separated on flights. The worst affected are passengers who have bought the cheapest deals. Seats by the emergency exit cost £50 to reserve, while executive club members are charged £24 per seat on longer flights. The policy was introduced in 2009. Paid-for reservations were said to be based on requests from customers, but many are now complaining about the policy on social media, as the airline also faces a backlash for scrapping free sandwiches on short-haul flights and for its plans to reduce leg room on some flights. BA says its computer system then randomly allocates seats for those who do not pay extra. It says this program aims to sit family and friends on the same booking together. But those who have bought basic fares, where they are only allowed cabin luggage, are given the lowest priority. Critics say BA is becoming similar to budget airlines under its Spanish boss Alex Cruz, previously CEO for a low-cost carrier. It is now ranked below Aeroflot.

Qantas Sorted Through 60,000 Suggestions To Name Its New Fleet Of B787-9s

The Australian carrier sorted through 60,000 suggestions to name its new fleet of B787-9s. A small, amiable marsupial known as a Quokka, the natural wonder of the Great Barrier Reef and iconic folk song Waltzing Matilda have won out against the salty, yeast-based breakfast spread Vegemite as names for Qantas’s new fleet of Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. Also adorning the new aircraft, due to start arriving from October, will be Aboriginal terms Boomerang, Uluru and Dreamtime. The eight names chosen after a public competition also include Great Southern Land, both a song and an alternative name for Australia, and Skippy, which is most commonly associated in Australia with the 1960s TV series about a bush kangaroo. 45,000 votes were cast in selecting the names of the aircraft that will fly nonstop from Perth to London and Melbourne to Los Angeles. “We think the eight names are a reflection of the places and things that make Australians feel proud.

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Ritz-Carlton To Launch A New Luxury Cruise Line

The company sees a three-ship fleet of ultra-high-end 298-passenger ships, with 149 all-suite, balcony cabins, that will play in the same international waters as the luxe lines Regent, Seabourn, and Silversea. Announced yesterday, the company’s cruise venture, with bookings opening in February for voyages in 2019, makes it the first top-tier hotelier to enter into the cruising waters in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, and New England. Among the unique offerings the new cruise line will offer is a greater percentage of large-scale suites than the competition, including duplexes; the highest crew-to-guest ratio in luxury cruising; and a platform that gives guests direct access to the water. The debut yacht, the next two follow in early 2021 and early 2022, will have three swimming pools and three whirlpools; a Ritz-branded spa; a restaurant from the chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant in Wolfsburg, Germany’s Ritz-Carlton, plus four additional dining venues, and a panoramic lounge and wine bar.

Scandinavian Airlines Testing Electronic Chips For Biometric Boarding Passes

Rickard Gustafson, CEO at Scandinavian Airlines, revealed that one member of staff has a chip implanted in an employee’s hand to test biometric boarding pass ideas. as part of SAS Lab, an innovation center that aims to come up with ways of disrupting the air travel industry in the next three to five years. Swedish commuters can use a hand implant chip instead of train tickets. You can board or access the lounge by simply reaching out your hand. “I don’t think that a lot of customers will let us implement a chip in their hands, but we’re playing around with technology. And out of that, there will come one or two good ideas that then could be commercially viable.” In addition to the chip, SAS is experimenting with other new technology, such as Bluetooth bags tags. “When you check in on our app, the tag is populated with information,” says Gustafson. “There’s kind of a liquid screen on a bag tag. It’s reusable, so when you check-in, you already have populated your tags. When you get through the airport, you go to the self-service bag drop, you scan it and you put it on the belt. Then when you go back home again and you check in on the app, you have an automatically repopulated bag tag, and you’re all set to go. Sweden seems to be at the forefront of biometric chip technology. Swedish train company SJ recently announced it was offering passengers the option of using a biometric chip instead of a paper ticket. The tiny chip has the same technology as Oyster cards and contactless bank cards, NFC (Near Field Communication), to enable conductors to scan passengers’ hands. The scheme is only applicable to those who already have the biometric implant. SJ is not offering to chip people. Around 2,000 Swedes have had the surgical implant to date, most of them employed in the tech industry.

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Travel News: HAL cruises to Cuba

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Holland America Becomes Latest Cruise Line to Sail for Cuba

HAL just announced it will begin sailings from Ford Lauderdale to Cuba starting December 22, 2017, with a 12-day cruise on the Veendam. HAL will begin with nine 7-day itineraries calling at Havana, with three of these also calling at Cienfuegos. Other ports on the cruises will include Cozumel and Costa Maya in Mexico, Grand Cayman, Turks and Caicos, Key West in Florida, Montego Bay in Jamaica, Belize, Dominican Republic. This follows the announcement of Royal Caribbean, Azamara Club Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line, who will sail Cuba as well.

Royal Caribbean Adds Chief Meteorologist To Marine Ops Team

Royal Caribbean Cruises has added what may be the first-ever full-time cruise industry Chief Meteorologist to its operations team in Jim Van Fleet, who brings a broadcasting background to the position and has degrees in climatology and broadcast meteorology. Van Fleet joined the Miami-based company in January.

Port of Lisbon Wants Homeport Calls

A new cruise terminal will be inaugurated this summer, a new state-of-the-art building located downtown in the city center as port officials have their eyes on building Lisbon into a major home port. And of those, the port is expecting quite a few with maiden visits scheduled from the Viking Sky, Freedom of the Seas, TUI Discovery 2, Columbus, Silver Muse, Variety Voyager, Caribbean Princess, Ocean Diamond, Viking Sun and the new MSC Meraviglia. Lisbon cruise season is mainly spring and fall and the city wants cruise ship to call year round. In addition, one of the main strategic goals is to increase the turnaround segment and establish Lisbon as a big national and international homeport hub, which will induce growth and eventually reduce seasonality effects.

John Travolta Donates His Famous 707

Actor John Travolta has donated his famous Qantas Boeing 707-138 to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) based at Albion Park, approximately 90 miles south of the city of Sydney, Australia. In a statement Travolta said “The aircraft was originally delivered to Qantas Airways in 1964 and was converted for private use after it finished its life with “The Flying Kangaroo”. I was honored to have the 707 repainted in the original Qantas colors when I became the ambassador for the airline, and it’s so fitting that many of the volunteers at HARS are retired Qantas employees.  HARS is a not-for-profit organization and was formed in 1979 by a group of aviation enthusiasts interested in the preservation of Australian aviation history. It has built up an impressive collection of over both flying and static aircraft including a Lockheed Constellation and Douglas DC-3 and DC-4. It is, without doubt, the most impressive aircraft museum in the Southern Hemisphere.”

Florence Mayor Aims To Keep Polluting Tourists At Bay

The mayor of Florence has told tourists they will “get wet” if they settle down for lunch on the steps of some of the city’s prized churches as he is turning to hosepipes to restore “decorum” among visitors to the Renaissance city. Dario Nardella wants to discourage people from ‘camping out’ by hosing down steps of Basilica of Santa Croce and other sites. The steps of the Basilica of Santa Croce, the burial place of Michelangelo, will be the first to be hosed down at lunchtime, in order to stop visitors from eating on them, followed by the Chiesa di Santo Spirito. “We have nothing against tourists. We know that they are a great resource for our city,” the mayor told The Guardian. “But there is a problem with respecting decorum. The majority of visitors are respectful and elegant. But there has been an increase among those who don’t respect our cultural heritage, who sit down on church steps, eat their food and leave rubbish strewn on them.” The streets of the city’s historic center, a Unesco World Heritage site, will also be hosed down as part of what will initially be an experiment to see if tourists can be discouraged from eating lunch on the steps. Concerned about the spread of fast-food outlets catering to backpackers, he introduced regulations in January last year stipulating that restaurants in the center use products that were typical of the city and the Tuscany region. He also blocked an application by McDonald’s to open an outlet in the historic Piazza del Duomo, prompting the US chain to seek €17.8m (£15.5m) in damages.

Family-centric getaways to Mexico offer something for all ages

On Mexico’s East and West coasts, Palladium Hotels and Resorts’ all-inclusive getaways emphasize privacy and wellness in the Riviera Maya and Riviera Nayarit. All hotels have tiered kids’ clubs — baby, mini and junior clubs — where children are entertained with kid-centric programs, designed to optimize both fun and education. The resorts’ Play at Palladium with Raggs program includes a group of 5 colorful TV characters as on-site ambassadors, hosting activities, poolside events, disco parties, a pirate show and on-property water sports. For older kids, cooking, science and magic classes are also available. 

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Filed under Airlines, Caribbean, Cruises, Cuba, Europe, Holland America Line, Italy, Mexico, portugal, Royal Caribbean

Opera in Rome: Summer Schedule

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Summer is festival time in Europe, and what better place to catch an Opera Festival than Italy!

As an inseparable part of Italian history and psyche, Opera is a must-see for travelers seeking the true soul of Italy. Don’t miss your chance to enjoy the greats! We recommend at least one night of your vacation with an Italian opera. 

Here’s a quick schedule of the best opera performances in and around Rome this summer (and a bit of autumn!). Contact Willamette Intl Travel at info@wittravel.com for more details. 

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Madama Butterfly, Nabisco, Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Time: July to August @ 9:00PM

Address: Teatro dell’Opera (Teatro alle Terme di Caracalla), Rome – Via delle Terme di Caracalla, 52

Teatro Salone Margherita

La Traviata with Fixed-Menu Dinner Included

Time: Frequently from June to November at 7:30pm

Address: Teatro Salone Margherita, Rome – Via dei Due Macelli, 75

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Opera Omnia (Guided Visit + Concert)

Various programs throughout summer, included Opera Serenades by Night, Opera Gala in Baroque Rome, Capuchin Crypt, Music in Bernini’s Rome, Sounds and Visions of Caravaggio and more.

Time: Ask WIT for Details

Museo Correale di Terranova

Various programs including Neapolitan songs, the three tenors, arias and more. 

Time: June to October @ 9:00PM

Address: Museo Correale di Terranova – Via Correale, 50

Sferisterio Opera Festival

An annual summer opera festival with 3-4 operas per year. 

Time: July to August

Address: Macerata

Puccini Festival

An annual celebration of Puccini productions, attracting about 40,000 spectators each year to its open-air theater.

Time: July to August

Address: Tuscany

Contact your agent at Willamette Intl Travel today for the best insider tips for your next Italian trip! 503-224-0810 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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5 Things You Should Know about Rome

Rome—the eternal Eternal City. Dubbed “the City of Visible History,” by writer George Eliot, the charm of Italian’s capital lies in its endless heritage, apparent wherever you look. The drinking fountains, the roads, the great monuments, statues and paintings—all speaks to the centuries that have left their mark here. Before you head off to Rome to check out the living history, read our quick guide to “things you should know before you go.”

Hunting for Authenticity? Check out Trastevere. Rome’s sweet neighborhood may be a bit off the tourist track, but head here for an authentic glimpse to Rome. With cobbled streets and ancient houses, Trastevere retains much of its historical charge. Students flock here in droves, thanks to the many universities—and attracted such famous patrons like Richard Teitelbaum, Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone. It’s a great place to try some of the best food Rome has to offer—including a little trattoria where shots are served in chocolate cups.

Local guides can make all the difference. Ask us about our local contacts in Rome, A&R Tours, run by Adriana and Renato from Portland and Naples, respectively. Their team of local guides can arrange everything from private Pompeii tours to dinners in the Tuscan countryside. Join them for personal and tailor-made tours enriched by a mutual love of art history and Roman mythology—and you won’t be surprised to see that their TripAdvisor rating is almost 100%!

Good shoes are a must! Rome is not the “City of Seven Hills” for nothing. In fact, there are actually ten hills in modern Rome—so it should come to no surprise that Rome is hilly. Guidebooks may write about the charming strolls of Rome but may neglect to mention that this means anytime you go anywhere, you’ll be walking uphill and downhill, up steps and down staircases. What may look like a simple line from the Vatican to Trastevere, may in fact involve a lot of ups and downs. Invest in some sturdy, breathable shoes before you go.

Gianicolo Hill has some of the best panoramic views. Speaking of hilly, test your legs out on the Via di Gianicolo, which runs from the Piazza della Rovere up one of the tallest hills in Rome. The steep hike is a bit challenging, but there are thankfully benches and cafes along the way to rest for a moment or two. And the panorama at the top—well, it simply can’t be beat.

Know your way around transport. You may fly into Rome, you may take a train into Roma Termini, the central train station. As long as you avoid driving into or within Rome, you’ll retain your sanity—traffic is chaotic and drivers are known for their casual disregard for the rules. Instead, take advantage of the numerous pedestrian walkways—the most romantic way to discover the hidden corners of the city—or by the impressive public system of buses, trams, trolleys, metro and light railways. If you’re in town for at least 3 days, try the Roma Pass—just 36 euros will get you free admission to two museums, full access to public transport and discounts on performance and exhibition tickets.

Extra Fun Fact: If you want to go all out on luxury, book a table at La Pergola. This magnificent restaurant boasts 3 Michelin stars and a breathtaking view from Monte Mario. You’ll wine and dine on the best culinary delights Rome has to offer, from white truffles to foie gras. Of course, the price tag is nothing to laugh about—the nine-course set meal will set you back about 300 euros per person! But hey—when in Rome?

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Filed under City Guides, Europe, Italy, News

Cruise the Adriatic Sea with Star Clippers

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How about a cruise down the romantic Dalmatian coast this Fall? Few experiences rival embarking a tallship in full sails in the canals of Venice and sailing down the Croatian coast.

Star Clippers is a luxury ship experience with a casual vibe. In September and October, their 170-passenger flagship Star Clipper sails to colorful and irresistible locales in Croatia and the Greek Isles.

The size and nature of the ship allows it to visit ports inaccessible to larger cruise ships. Explore the tiny port of Hvar Island, a favorite getaway for Byzantines and Venetians. Marvel at the architectural jewel that is Dubrovnik. Coast along Montenegro to the unspoiled medieval city of Kotor, and farther south into the colorful harbor of Mykonos.

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Equipped with 4 masts and 16 sails, the Clipper sails no more than 17 knots through the alluring Adriatic Sea. Onboard facilities include an elegant dining room, library, piano lounge and tropical bar.

WIT Agents Nancy and Linda have sailed with Star Clippers, around the Caribbean and Tahiti respectively, and rave about the line. They’d love to tell you more! Drop them a line for some firsthand feedback. Or call our agency at 503-224-0180 for more information.

For pics from Nancy’s Caribbean cruise on the Star Clipper, check out our gallery: https://wittravel.wordpress.com/gallery/star-clipper-portholes/

 “The Star Clipper experience is all about relaxation and rejuvenation, not sticking to a script. This will sound weird but I’m especially excited about my last night onboard! Why? I can enjoy dinner, socializing with my new friends, and savoring the wonderful week I’ve had and NOT race to meet the deadline to have my luggage outside my cabin! Nor do I have weave between masses of bags littering the hallways. Cruising on Star Clipper really means that the vacation fun doesn’t shrink on the last night; it rolls through breakfast.” ~~ Nancy

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Filed under Croatia, Cruises, Europe, Greece, Italy, Star Clipper