TRAVEL

Masquerades, a Flying Angel and (So Many) Parties: Carnevale in Venice Is a Must

Get the lowdown on Carnevale in Venice. (Photo: Getty Images)

Every year, the islands of Venice come together for Carnevale, the city’s biggest celebration and an epic 16-day costume party spilling into every calle and campo. Carnevale is a storied tradition in Venice, dating back nearly 1,000 years to 1064 as a simple festivity which eventually morphed into the city’s Lenten kickoff festival. By the late 18th century, Carnem Vale, Latin for “Goodbye, flesh,” evolved into a no-holds-barred bacchanalian binge that started the day after Christmas and ended in the wee hours of Ash Wednesday.

Today’s Carnevale is not quite the den of debauchery that caused Napoleon to shut down the celebrations during his occupation of La Serenissima — a ban that lasted nearly 200 years. But still, contemporary Carnevale is a huge celebration — two full weeks of playing dress-up with a naughty sense of humor, whooping it up at masquerade balls, and watching parades, acrobatic displays and other surprises. Here’s where to find the fun.

Watch as locals the open water in colorful costume. (Photo: Alamy)

Festa Veneziana Sull’Acqua

Like Rio’s Carnival and New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, Carnevale is an event driven, carnival season celebration, but replacing beads and samba dancing with masks and balls. Instead of a parade of floats, Carnevale kicks off with a floating parade, Festa Veneziana Sull’Acqua, a colorful, daylong regatta that courses its way through the city’s lively Canareggio district. Plant yourself firmly in Canareggio and watch the show, trying to pick out your favorite masked reveler.

Masquerade Balls

It wouldn’t be Carnevale without masquerade balls, decadent evenings of lavish anonymity. The pay-for-play parties are once-in-a-lifetime experiences with dinner, performances and dancing at some of the city’s most beautiful palaces. The coveted Ballo del Doge is the hottest ticket in the city with a starting price of 800 euro, while tickets to balls like the Lunatic Dinner Ball, Gran Ballo Mascherada, Casanova Cocktail Party and Minuetto come at slightly lower price tags.

Meet the many “Maria’s.” (Photo: Alamy)

Corteo della Festa delle Marie

Part of Carnevale lore and tradition is the Festa delle Marie (Marias of the Festival), a reenactment of the 10th-century kidnapping and subsequent rescue of 12 brides from the church of San Pietro. Today, the event features 12 young women dressed in period garb parading down Via Garibaldi to Piazza San Marco. Here, one of them is ultimately named “Maria of the Festival,” a designation that comes with its own special bonus.

Watch the “angel” descend into the square. (Photo: Alamy)

Volo dell’Angelo

Crowds swarm into the Piazza San Marco at the start of Carnevale to attend the Volo dell’Angelo, (Flight of the Angel), which features the aforementioned Maria of the Festival. This 400-year tradition sees the “Maria” descend like an angel from St. Mark’s bell tower to the center of the piazza with the help of some sturdy wires. Arrive at the piazza before noon to claim your viewing spot, or grab a seat at iconic Caffè Florian and pay dearly for a coffee and glimpse of an angel.

Volo dell’Aquila

On the last Sunday of Carnevale, Piazza San Marco again fills with crowds for Volo dell’Aquila, a whimsical flight across St. Mark’s Square by an acrobat, followed by the ceremony awarding Maschera pìu bella, the prettiest mask of all of the Carnevale parades.

Martedi Grasso

This is it, what you’ve been waiting for: Martedi Grasso, also known as Fat Tuesday. Sixteen days of revelry culminate in Piazza San Marco with the Svolo del Leon, a ritual celebration honoring St. Mark’s lion, the emblem of the city.

The Essential Carnevale Tips

When is the Carnevale and When should I book?

Carnevale is the sixteen day period leading up to Ash Wednesday. The 2020 Carnevale kicks of Saturday, February 8th, and ends Tuesday (Martedi Grasso aka Fat Tuesday) February 25th. You’ll definitely want to book well in advance as this is Venice’s busiest period for hotels and everything else. As soon as you book your hotel, book a few key restaurants - you can find some of my favorites in my Biennale article.

Can I participate?

Of course! Carnevale is for everyone. There are free citywide events as well as pay-to-play parties, all you have to do is decide what you want to do. You can find the calendar of events at Carnevale di Venezia. As I wrote above, most balls are open to the public and only require advance ticket purchase, which I would suggest you do as soon as you know when you are going to Venice. They can be expensive and often include dinner, a show and music. If you feel like it’s too pricey, there open festival includes free events. Balls are listed on Carnevale di Venezia and Meeting Europe (with more to come)

Do I need to stay the entire 16 days? Do I really need to go to a ball?

16 days would be insane- both mentally and financially. I’d suggest taking a long weekend or book the last few days of Carnevale. If I had my way, I would book the last Saturday to Martedi Grasso, leaving on Ash Wednesday morning. That way I could max out on all the city events, and hit up the final crazy parties. And yes, I would include one ball because this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

What do I Wear?

Masks, masks and more masks. Hiding your identity is what Carnevale is all about. Masks come in all shapes and sizes and can be equally as elaborate as the luxurious costumes.The most popular and historic masks are the least decadent: the bauta (for men), a slightly intimidating all-white mask covering only the eyes and nose — easy for eating and drinking, and the moretta (for women), a rounded, all-black mask that creates an intoxicating anonymity. You’ll want to choose your costume before you come to Venice. You can go traditional or completely creative, over-the-top and risqué. At Carnevale, Anything goes.

Insider Tip: Order your costumes for pickup (and even hotel delivery) from Ca’ Macanà and Ca’ del Sol.

A version of this article first appeared in Marriott Bonvoy Traveller.

Giants, Spirits and the Holy Grail? Unravel the Mysteries and Legends of Venice

Unlock some of Venice's most mysterious legends. (Photo: Getty Images)

Gondoliers who can walk on water. Monster masks that can ward off the devil. Haunted palaces, meandering ghosts and magic stones. Venice is a city built on legends, lore and mysteries.

Every calle leads to a new mystery, and through every sottoportego is a new legend to explore. Below are some of the most intriguing tales.

Witches Wake-Up Call

In the labyrinthine streets near the Accademia Gallery is the quiet Calle della Toletta, where a so-called “witch’s clock” keeps the neighborhood ticking. Hanging off exterior piping (look for a yellow house) is an old-school alarm clock.

Legend says that a witch once lived here and dabbled in the business of black magic. She used the alarm to remind her customers their payments were due. When she died, the local residents hung an alarm clock on the building in jest.

Years later, it was removed, and the neighbors began to talk of strange happenings, odd sounds and random accidents. The clock was returned to its position, and the events stopped. Years later the clock was removed, and the neighbors again claimed unexplained events, so the clock was placed back permanently.

Death in Venice

Walk by the columns of San Marco and San Todaro — but not between them. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Council of Ten — a feared governing body — ruled the city from 1310 to 1797 with eyes everywhere thanks to its hundreds of anonymous informants who shared residents’ secrets and lies, condemning many to prison and death.

According to gossip, the narrow Calle della Morte was the Council of Ten’s “death alley,” an advantageous location where condemned people would be tricked into visiting only to be killed on site. Most likely, the street is named after a dead body found in that location.

What is fact is that the secretive Council of Ten were very forthcoming with public executions and designated the small area between the columns of San Marco and San Todaro at Piazza San Marco as a site for city-sanctioned deaths, and to this day, Venetians do not walk between the columns. Take a stroll here from the nearby Hotel Danieli, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Venice.

The Giant of Corte Bressana

Listen for the bells. (Photo: Alamy)

Venice is a chameleon of a city, changing its personality drastically from daytime charm to nighttime fright. According to Castello neighbors, if you find yourself meandering the streets surrounding the Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo after midnight, you may meet a giant looking to buy his bones back.

Who’s the giant? According to legend, he’s one of the last bell ringers of St. Mark’s Bell Tower, clocking in at nearly seven feet tall. The Bell Ringer’s height made him such a local celebrity that the director of a scientific institute offered him a small fee to leave his skeleton to science upon death. The giant bell ringer agreed to the offer, rationalizing that he would outlive the institute director and the deal would be forgotten.

To the contrary, the bell ringer died shortly thereafter, and his skeleton went on display at the Museo di Storia Naturale di Venezia. Castello residents say that every night, just before midnight, the skeleton walks out of the museum to Piazza San Marco, where he climbs to the top of the bell tower, rings the bells and then walks the streets toward his home on Corte Bressana (Castello) begging for money to buy back his skeleton.

The Holy Grail

Pretty much everyone agrees that the most coveted artifact for would-be Indiana Joneses is the Holy Grail, aka the chalice that Jesus Christ drank from at the Last Supper.

According to legend, after Joseph of Arimathea collected Jesus’s blood in the cup, the Grail was removed from sight for centuries and eventually secreted away to Glastonbury by the Knights Templar.

Here’s where the Venetians have a bit of a deviation. At some point before the Grail’s journey to the British Isles, it was hidden in none other than the throne of the Apostle Peter (a marble seat), forcibly removed from Constantinople during the Crusades and brought to Venice with the rest of the plunder. Where’s the chair today? Inside the Basilica of San Pietro in Castello.

House of the Spirits

Are you a believer in dark magic? (Photo: Alamy)

A quick 6-minute vaporetto ride from The Gritti Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Venice, at the edge of the Fondamenta Nuova in Cannaregio sits a beautiful 16th-century palace overlooking the water. For centuries, the Palazzo Contarini dal Zaffo, better known as the Casin degli Spiriti (house of the spirits), has been notoriously recognized as a hub of dark magic; a preferred location for cults, orgies, pirates and smugglers; and as a gathering place for the restless spirits of Venice.

One ghost in particular can’t seem to leave — that of Pietro Luzzo, a painter who shot himself in the palace grounds, despairing of unrequited love. The day after he died, his tormented ghost appeared at one of the palace’s windows, prompting the owner to cover it with bricks.

Luzzo appeared at another window and then another, until the owner walled in all of the palace’s windows. Supposedly, Luzzo continues to haunt the palace, returning on dark evenings, screaming throughout the palace.

This article first appeared in Marriott Traveler, April 2019.

13 Best Things to Do in Florence

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There's never a question of what to do in Florence; rather, it's a question of how much and when. With its varied selection of museums, galleries, boutiques, and storied sites, the Tuscan town has something for everyone, from contemporary art buffs and super foodies to sports fans and serious shoppers. To experience the city to its fullest, you only need to step out into the street. Here, a list of our must-sees to narrow down your itinerary.

- This article originally appeared in CN Traveler, January 2019.

Ilaria Costanzo/Courtesy Explore Florence — The Oltrarno: History + Artisans

Explore Florence: The Oltrarno, History + Artisans

This ultra-professional walking tour kicks off in the historic Piazza Santo Spirito. It's best for those wanting to learn more about Florence's artisans—the craftsmanship and skill that's in danger of disappearing—rather than folks hoping to shop for international fashion brands. Groups are small, since it's a private tour, and you have to book yours in advance. The guide, Alexandra, is knowledgeable and passionate.

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Bargello Museum

Italy’s largest collection of Gothic and Renaissance sculptures is housed in the Bargello, a former prison and an austere medieval fortress. The museum’s architecture alone is worth the visit—beautiful Gothic arches, crenellations, a bell tower, and a dramatic courtyard—but the big draw is its blockbuster names. Donatello’s David, Michelangelo’s Bacchus, and Ghiberti’s designs for the Cathedral doors are front and center in this capsule museum, which has somehow remained less trafficked by tourist crowds.


Stadio Artemio Franchi

The hub for soccer in the city, Stadio Artemio Franchi is the stadium and home to ACF Fiorentina, Florence's Serie A soccer team. Serie A is Italy's top soccer league, so you're guaranteed to see the country's best teams compete here. It's also a great place to bring kids and learn about Italian soccer culture. Get Tribuna Onore seats, which offer views of the midfield away from the teams' more rabid fans.

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Giardino Bardini

Grand in design, but intimate in scale, the Giardino Bardini has a pergola-covered stairwell leading up to the Belvedere panoramic terrace. Know that ascending requires a slight effort—the stairs are shallow and long. It's the perfect pit-stop if you're sick of traipsing around museums, as the garden doesn't present anything all that urgent to do, other than the obvious: stop and smell the flowers.

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Uffizi Gallery

The Uffizi, an illustrious collection of who's who in priceless Renaissance art, is a Florence must-see. Plus, thanks to a curatorial investment by director Eike Schmidt, the Uffizi is slowly modernizing its approach. The newly arranged Room 41, dubbed the Raphael and Michelangelo Room, now focuses on the artistic exchanges between the two masters; the re-opened Room 35, meanwhile, is dedicated to Leonardo and displays three paintings originally created for churches. Upgrading the experience further is a new reservation system, where visitors take a timed ticket from one of seven machines outside the museum and come back later to explore, without ever having to wait in line.

Aquaflor Firenze.

AquaFlor Firenze

The yesteryear atelier is one of those beautiful finds that make you feel like you're actively involved in creating not just a scent, but Florentine history, as you sniff through the unparalleled collection of raw materials, essential oils, and scents. With the help of Sileno Cheloni, the nose of Aquaflor, you're led through olfactory discovery to create a perfume that's personalized just for you.

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Palazzo Strozzi

One of Florence’s best kept secrets, Palazzo Strozzi is a beautiful, freestanding Renaissance palazzo with an ambitious contemporary art program. Whether its Carsten Holler’s latest experimental piece or an Marina Abramovic retrospective, Palazzo Strozzi constantly amazes through innovative, often interactive, exhibitions. Although the historic structure remains intact, the gallery space inside is thoroughly modern and aptly renovated for art shows. Most exhibitions require advanced reservations, and the shop sells wonderful made-in-Florence gifts.

Francesca Pagliai/Courtesy Tuscany Again

Tuscany Again: Tuscan Strongholds of Contemporary Art Tour

Tuscan Strongholds of Contemporary Art is a personal tour designed specifically for those interested in modern art in and around Florence. Expert guides plan bespoke itineraries based on travelers' preferences, leading intimate groups to futuristic buildings and offering their take on the collections within. Most notable: the architecture itself as well as the survey of Arte Povera, Italy's art movement of the 1960s. Transport is included and reservations are required.

Gucci Garden

Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele is always pushing the limits, and this time he blurs the lines between monument and merchant at Gucci Garden, an interactive complex where fashion, food, history, and art commingle. Located in the 14th-century Palazzo della Mercanzia in Florence’s Piazza Signoria, Gucci Garden is Michele’s colorful journey through the Florentine fashion house’s past, present, and future. The multi-level boutique-slash-museum includes a store selling exclusive Gucci Garden designs, a gallery space with contemporary exhibitions, and a ground-floor restaurant by rockstar chef Massimo Bottura.

Collezione Roberto Casamonti

Open to the public, the private home-cum-gallery of collector Roberto Casamonti showcases about 250 works of modern and contemporary art from his personal collection of more than 5,000 works. Italian and international artists, including pieces by Warhol, Picasso, and Basquiat, are all represented here. It's a well-lit, inviting, and organized space that doesn't draw a ton of visitors, so it's easy to walk around. In fact, you'll likely have a room entirely to yourself.

Antonio Quattrone/Courtesy Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

Museo dell'Opera del Duomo is a gorgeous and large new museum dedicated to the Dome and Basilica, as well as restoration projects. Home to the largest collection of sculptures from Medieval and Renaissance Florence in the world, this museum has an active restoration lab and school on site. Other highlights include Ghiberti's doors, Michelangelo's The Deposition, a model of the original, never-completed façade of Santa Maria del Fiore, and a room dedicated to Brunelleschi's architectural masterpiece: the Dome of Florence cathedral. Be sure to hit the gift shop on the way out; it sells great books.

Silvio Palladino/Courtesy Curious Appetite

Curious Appetite: Craft Cocktail and Aperitivo Tour

Craft Cocktail and Aperitivo Tour of Florence kicks off at a given meeting point in Piazza della Repubblica or via dei Tornabuoni. The custom tours are private or small group and are tailored to your preferences—say, a particular liquor or cocktail. You'll visit multiple cafés and bars on foot. Reservations are required, but you can book as late as 24 hours in advance.

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Medici Chapels

The Medici Chapels are two beautiful chapels in the historic Basilica of San Lorenzo, which set the stage for the Renaissance. They're a great stop if you're short on time, a Michelangelo buff, or want to feel like a Medici prince or princess—even for an hour. The site more than lives up to the hype; in fact, many people find the chapels truly mind-blowing. They'll make you want to delve even further into the history of the Medici family and Michelangelo. Tickets, which cost €9 (about $10) and can be booked online or in person, are required.

5 Places To See Contemporary Art In Rome

Palazzo Merulana. Credit: Palazzo Merulana

Want to spend a weekend exploring Rome as a contemporary outpost? I’ve lined up where you need to go and stay in my latest update on contemporary art in Rome for Forbes Travel, December 2018.

Rome is where the art is, but these days it’s more than just colossal monuments, dusty archeological sites and beautifully decorated Baroque churches.

Contemporary art is finally making a significant mark on the Eternal City’s landscape. The destination is now replete with an itinerary of museums, galleries, concept spaces and creative hubs. We’ve plotted out five top places that bring this ancient city back to the future.

WHAT TO SEE

Palazzo Merulana
One of the newest galleries on the scene, this former municipal office building underwent a three-year renovation in preparation for the eclectic, 90-piece collection of Elena and Claudio Cerasi, prominent local patrons of the arts. Most of the museum’s works are Italian pieces created between World War I and II by artists such as Giacomo Balla, Giorgio de Chirico and Alighiero Boetti.   

Art aficionado or not, you’ll want to hang around at CafeCulture, the palazzo’s boutique and coffee shop. The menu features a variety of fare sourced from local purveyors, such as cheeses from ProLoco DOL, hamburgers from famed butcher Bottega Liberati and sweets from patisserie Cristalli di Zucchero.

Contemporary Cluster 
This avant-garde experience is the 21st-century manifestation of those iconic multidisciplinary performances of the 1960s and ’70s: a boutique/art gallery/event space housed in a decadent 17th-century palace on a side street off Campo de’ Fiori. 

The hybrid art and commercial venue hosts monthly exhibitions, weekly performances and DJ sets, while its grounds have permanent and pop-up shops and cafés.

In essence, Contemporary Cluster is a concept store with an artsy vibe that constantly draws an eclectic crowd with almost everything being for sale as a bonus.

Sarah Sze at Crypta Balbi
It’s not every day that one of the world’s most famous contemporary art galleries joins forces with an ancient archaeological site. Gagosian, whose imprint in Rome has upgraded the art scene over the past 10 years, has turned to the past for a site-specific, National Roman Museum-partnered installation at the Crypta Balbi ruins.

Through January 27, the first-century theater provides a rustic backdrop for contemporary sculpture Split Stone (7:34) by American artist Sarah Sze. Using an ultra-modern process by which thousands of tiny cavities etched into the rock are filled with pigment, Sze has created a captivating crystalized sunset scene on the stone’s mirror-like surface.  

Sant’Andrea de Scaphi. Credit: Erica Firpo

Gavin Brown’s Enterprise: Sant’Andrea de Scaphis
To find the pulse of the international art scene, head for British art dealer Gavin Brown’s Rome outpost — it’s everything and nothing you’d expect. Located in a nondescript, deconsecrated church on a side street of Trastevere, Sant’Andrea de Scaphis is a single, rustic room of hauntingly charming medieval architecture that usually features a single artist installation.

Exhibits rotate every few months, so it’s unlikely you’ll run into the same works twice. The historic space is hosting a politically charged display by American graphic designer Sam Pulitzer, “May The Last Nationalist Be Strangled With The Guts Of The Last Technocrat,” through December 8.

Palazzo Rhinoceros. Credit: Pino LePera

Palazzo Rhinoceros
The name Fendi is synonymous with Rome’s fashion scene, but the designers’ youngest sister, Alda, opts for a more innovative interpretation with Fondazione Alda Fendi — Esperimenti, her nonprofit arts foundation.  

The group’s latest experiment is Palazzo Rhinoceros, a new creative hub in the Velabro neighborhood that opened in October. Architect Jean Nouvel rebooted a centuries-old palazzo into a multi-level gallery, 24 luxury apartments and a rooftop restaurant, without altering the building’s historic bones.   

While the interiors are stunning, some of the venue’s highlights are actually found outside, including a can’t-miss portrait projection of Alda by Pierre et Gilles on the façade and a life-sized resin rhino that lurks in the front yard.   

Hotel Eden’s La Terrazza. Credit: Hotel Eden

WHERE TO STAY

Hotel Eden
Rome’s undeniable harbinger of style and hospitality, this Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star stunner is dripping in fashionable touches — think art deco details, custom furniture and resplendent marble accents.

For a picture-perfect end to a day of gallery-hopping, dine at La Terrazza, the luxury hotel’s rooftop restaurant boasting some of the best views of the city.  

Gran Meliá Rome Villa Agrippina. Credit: Melia Hotels & Resorts


Gran Meliá Rome Villa Agrippina
Located on the bluffs of the famed Janiculum hill (between Trastevere and Vatican’s Borgo neighborhood) on the site of an imperial villa, this Four-Star retreat is a city-center oasis that comes complete with a 1920s-era pool and lush greenery.

Though its origins are ancient, Gran Meliá’s style is contemporary: sleek modern furnishings, wide-open spaces and the sophisticated My Blend by Clarins spa.

The Rooms of Rome
Stay in the heart of the action when you book into Palazzo Rhinoceros’s fully immersive-art experience on the edge of the Roman Forum. Each of its 24 rooms is minimalist chic, meticulously designed and curated by the aforementioned Jean Nouvel, the superstar architect behind the cutting-edge Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The stylish rooms are outfitted with luxe touches, too, like Bang & Olufsen TVs, fully equipped kitchens and L’Occitane amenities.

Back to Los Angeles {Photos}

I used to live in Los Angeles, and when anyone asks me what I liked about the City of Angeles, it is easy: I love the architecture that sneaks up on you when you aren’t looking. I thought I’d share a few scenes from 24 hours in Los Angeles.

Hollywood Boulevard

Hollywood Boulevard

Poolside at The Ace Hotel

Poolside at The Ace Hotel

Inside the restored UA Theatre

Inside the restored UA Theatre

See Naples and Die: How To Have The Perfect Naples Day Trip

This article originally appeared in Forbes Travel, May 2018.

Charming, beautiful, heartbreaking and gritty, Naples, Italy, is a torrid love affair you’re meant to explore for a day or a lifetime. For centuries, locals and visitors alike have constantly proved the proverb “See Naples and Die” true. It is a city that never leaves you and, for some, a destination that proves impossible to leave. But for those with less than 24 hours to see Napoli, here our tips for a day trip to this seaside siren.

HOW TO GET THERE
A day trip to Naples from Rome is as easy as a train ride, especially on Italy’s high-velocity rail service. Just 70 minutes from Roma Termini to Napoli Centrale with departures every hour, Italo Treno’s round-trip option is your best bet. The unmistakable red needle-nose trains are stylish as well as comfortable and equipped with free Wi-Fi.

WHEN TO GO
Any time, any day and any month, Naples is amazing. From June through September, the temperatures are high and the sun is hot, so if you prefer milder climates, plan for the cooler months. Great times to visit include religious holidays, such as the September 19 Feast of San Gennaro (the patron saint of Naples), when the city crowds into the Naples Cathedral. From Advent (December 2) to Ash Wednesday (February 14), the city is a carnival of celebrations.

WHAT TO DO
Walk the City
There is so much to see in Napoli, and the best way to take it all in is by foot. A massive UNESCO World Heritage Site, Naples’ historic center has the unique characteristic of being split in half by a road. The Spaccanapoli (Via San Biagio dei Librai) is a long and narrow street lined with buildings representing all eras of Naples’ architecture, from its Greek foundations to 18th-century palaces.

Head to the historic center’s Piazza San Domenico Maggiore and spot the larger-than-life mural of San Gennaro by street artist Jorit Agoch, which appears as a backdrop in the Italian TV series Gomorrah.

Art lovers should check out the Madre, Naples’ contemporary museum. On display until September 24 is an exhibit titled “Pompei @ Madre,” a clever show mixing finds from the ill-fated ancient city with modern Pompeii-inspired art.

Part of the national Galleria d’Italia, the galleries of Palazzo Zevallos Stigliana are housed on the ground floor of a 19th-century bank, making for a cultured stop for both history buffs and art lovers.

Kids and romantics will want to visit one of the city’s numerous medieval castles, such as Castel Sant’Elmo and Castel dell’Ovo.

Plan Your Pizza
Probably the best reason for a day trip to Naples is pizza, in particular the freshly made local variety topped with marinara sauce and seasoned with oregano and garlic but no cheese at all.

For day-trippers, it’s important to plan your itinerary around where and when you will be eating your pie, allowing yourself at least 30 minutes of waiting in line — yes, you’re going to have to wait. Local favorites, such as Da MicheleGino SorbilloPizzeria La Notizia 94 and 50 Kalò, all have queues, especially around lunchtime. And just to be on the safe side, bring euros — not all pizza joints accept credit cards.  

For a truly Neapolitan way to finish off your meal, stop by the historic Gran Caffe Gambrinus for an espresso and a fresh pastry (like a fragrant rum babà — a rum-soaked cake — or flaky cannoli) and then enjoy the beautiful Piazza del Plebiscito.

Go Underground
Naples can be chaotic and, sometimes, the best solution is to head underground to explore the city’s ancient origins. Miles of subterranean tunnels, carved by early Greek settlers, lie beneath the city’s surface. Expanded by the Romans, the underground metropolis was used up until the 20th century, when it served as an air raid shelter during both World Wars. All of this history is hidden from the modern surface, but can be explored with Napoli Sotterranea.

For a deeper dive into the city’s past, plan a pit stop at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli to dig into its impressive collection of Greco-Roman art and artifacts. Among the exhibits, you’ll find pieces from Pompeii and Herculaneum as well as the racy Gabinetto Segreto (secret cabinet).

Or, opt a different kind of underground with the Naples Metro, where the stations themselves are works of art.

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Erica

Everything Old is New in Rome

Believe it or not, there has been a lot newness going in Rome, and a lot has to do with its Ancient and Renaissance past. I've shared it all in the article "Everything Old is New in Rome" for Fathom. From hotels and restaurants to historic sites, Rome has some great old news.  

Trevi Fountain, Rome.

ROME – Rome is a city that doesn't always follow the rules or live by definition, especially when it comes to the concept of newness. Living here, I've languished in the old-school vibe and old habits, while occasionally thirsting for that take-the-wrapping-off new feeling. I've come to the conclusion that newness is relative...  Read more on FATHOM.

Palazzo della Civilta Italiana
Imperial Ramps
Furriers at work at Palazzo Fendi
Casa Copelle Bar
Tiberino restaurant

#EmptyVatican, totally #blessed with Instagram

A photo posted by Erica Firpo (@ericafirpo) on Nov 3, 2015 at 12:26am PST

I like art.  It's pretty obvious if you happen to hear me chatter, whether face to face or on social media.  I love going to galleries, meandering museums, investigating installations-  it doesn't matter, I just need to have an art experience.  I could probably call it an addiction, which may explain why I am so adamant about being first in line at the Venice Biennale, finding art tags on Instagram or helming my own Insta-artsy project #EmptyMuseo.   Combining my love for art and the fun I can visually have on Instagram, The Professor (aka Darius) and I have been curating some great art meet ups in Italy's galleries over the past year.  The latest installation was October 26's #EmptyVatican the love child of a great coffee talk between me, Darius and the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, an organization focused on bringing together restoration projects and donors within the walls of the museums.   Darius and I would select a group of 10 Instagrammers, including ourselves, based on interest, aesthetic, community participate, and committed desire to share Italy's cultural heritage, and let the world know about the Vatican Patrons and its free app Patrum.

The game plan:  The Vatican Patrons would curate an early morning away from the crowds and in non-accessible areas of the museums.  So yes, the Galleria of the Maps, Raphael Rooms, Lapidarium and Sistine Chapel were all ours.  To be clear, we abided by the rules of the Vatican Museums and did not use flash, nor take any photos or videos in the Sistine Chapel.  With just 10 photographers,  #EmptyVatican increased followers by more than 35% and brought the Vatican Museums and Vatican Patrons to the fore front of international press-  as seen and written about in  The Guardian, Condè Nast Traveler, Condè Nast Traveller India, Swide, Lonely Planet,Catholic Herald… and more

The Players:  @Aivenn, @DavidPinto_, @EricaFirpo,@Helium_Tea, @MarkoMorciano,@MatteoAcitelli, @Mattego,@MBMissMary, @Saverome,@Sherokee

Click below to see all the photos.  And give me a shout if you want to join the next #emptymuseo erica@ericafirpo.com

#EmptyVatican
#EmptyVatican

Venice Dreaming: The Contest [updated]

A decade and a half ago, I lived in Venice, that dreamy archipelago of islets and moody blues.  Manganese in the mornings, Idranthene at night, cobalt turquoise in the reflections, Phthalo turqouise and Phthalo green cobalt mix in the rain, Ultramarine and Davy's Grey mix in the winter.... a Winsor Newton palette plus Campari red and Aperol orange accents.  Venice bore into me with azure and indigo moments that I can still feel if I close my eyes.

I get the same feeling when I open up the pages of  Joann Locktov's Dream of Venice. A Venice love letter, Locktov's book is a beautiful curation of photos by photographer Charles Christopher and prose by writers, artists, directors, Venetians and Venetophiles, including Nicolas Roeg, Julie Christie and Patricia Highsmith-- artists who led me to get lost in a Serenissima of Don't Look Now and The Talented Mr. Ripley. 

All 37 lyrical contributors, like luminaries Peggy Guggenheim, Marcella Hazan, Erica Jong, Woody Allen and friends Jessica Spiegel, Giampaolo Seguso,  Nan McElroy and Eleonora Baldwin, are paired with Christopher's beautiful photos of Venetian alleys, disappearing campi and piazza, and glittering water, in color and black-and-white shots.  It is the perfect book to get lost in Venice for a minute or a whole afternoon.

Venice Dreaming:  The Contest

Welcome to my very first contest (and quite possibly the only one).  Through November 11, I want you to share with me your Venice Moody Blues by posting your favorite Venice photo on Instagram. Make sure to tag me  @EricaFirpo, and #VeniceMoodyBlues so that everyone can find the photos.

On November 12, I will announce a winner, (by random selection), who will receive a copy of “Dream of Venice", shipped directly by Joann to anywhere in the world.

WINNERS UPDATE:  After 170+ submissions, I needed help so Joann and I perused through all of them came up with a tie: Alessandro Sarno and Brian Etherington.  To see all,  please take a look at #VENICEMOODYBLUES.

A photo posted by Alessandro Sarno (@thelonesomephotographer) on Nov 11, 2015 at 1:14pm PST

A photo posted by Brian Etherington (@notdavidbailey) on Nov 10, 2015 at 7:38am PST