Postcards from Italy

Buon Anno! Italy's New Year's Eve Traditions

Italians are a superstitious people, and everything from the mundane (handshakes) to the extraordinary (weddings) are imbued with rigid rituals to ward off bad luck, ranging from the dramatic malocchio to the simple sfortuna. It is common to move travel dates and important appointments which would otherwise fall on the unlucky 17th of the month, touch iron (or, ahem, the male nether regions) when conjecturing over the possibility of a negative outcome to a situation, and carefully avoid certain flowers, colors, and gestures depending upon the context.

It comes as no surprise, then, to find that perhaps one of the most superstitious holidays—New Year’s Eve—is no less full of traditions and rites aimed at ensuring the luckiest of coming years. As you prepare for 2015, consider adding one of these popular Italian customs to your evening. It can’t do any harm, and may actually porta fortuna!
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Pandoro vs. Panettone: A Showdown

Just as the world is divided into cat people and dog people, night owls and early risers, believers and skeptics, so is it divided into Team Pandoro and Team Panettone, and come Christmas in Italy each year, a deep rift rips through this country as everyone from toddler to elder declares their loyalty.

pandorato-cova-italy-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

These two icons of Italian holiday food are similar yet profoundly different, both just sweet enough to be served at breakfast or for dessert, both ubiquitous on supermarket shelves from late November through early January (but best purchased at artisan bakeries), and both exchanged as a holiday gift in the almost cliché way Americans once exchanged fruitcakes. Yet their subtle differences make them altogether two different cakes, each of which seems to be a love or hate proposition for many.
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So You Want to Visit Vineyards in Italy?

Getting out into the Italian countryside, driving through the perfectly-aligned rows of grape vines capped with rose bushes at each end, and sampling little-known wines with the families who have been making them for generations – what could be a better way to spend an afternoon in Italy?

Young travelers at a vineyard, Tuscany(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

We have had unforgettable experiences and made life-long friendships while visiting small vineyards in Italy, while also discovering wines that we can’t wait to share. (You can see our favorite spots from 2013 and 2014.)
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The Christmas Story, Artfully Told

Italy is home to so much art (over half the world’s artistic treasures can be found in this relatively small country, according to UNESCO estimates) that it is easy to become inured to this exceptional patrimony, displayed everywhere from world-class museums to tiny country chapels.

Many of these works take on a particularly moving significance when viewed in a specific context, be it a poignant location or a relevant time of year. This is why we love to revisit some of the best Nativity-related paintings in Italy during the Christmas season, when they become more than just another masterpiece and instead a reminder of the message of joy and peace that this holiday represents to millions of Italians (and visitors to Italy).

Here are a few of our favorites, depicting the most important moments in the Christmas story:
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What's New in Rome

Rome is known as the Eternal City for its long history and, one hopes, equally long future. One of the most visited European capitals, and one of the most beloved cities in the world, Rome's iconic monuments and neighborhoods have become so familiar from generations of vacation photos and Hollywood films that it can seem that there is nothing new left to discover in this modern teeming metropolis resting on the remains of millennia of ancient teeming metropolises.

pantheon-rome-italy-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

But, like the city itself, the archaeological and cultural sites that are unearthed and reopened each year in Rome seem to have no end. There is always something new to visit and explore in the historic center and environs, so if you are planning a return trip in the upcoming months, consider adding one of these stops to your itinerary:
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