Wednesday 22 November 2017

Disneyland for foodies

A gastronomic theme park designed as a celebration of Italy's field-to-fork food culture opens next week with backers aiming to pull in six million visitors a year.
Dubbed a 'Disneyland for foodies' and billed as the biggest venture of its kind in the world, FICO Eataly World is located on the outskirts of Bologna.
It is the brainchild of Oscar Farinetti, the entrepreneur behind Eataly, a global network of upmarket Italian food halls that has taken New York and a string of other major cities around the world by storm in recent years.
Spread over ten hectares (25 acres), the park, which will operate as a conference venue as well as a tourist attraction, will be run by a partnership of Eataly and Italian retail group Coop.
The venue has been financed by a consortium of private investors and the local authorities in a city famed for its rich cuisine but off Italy's main tourist track.
The FICO of the park's name comes from the acronym for Fabbrica Italiana Contadina (Italian Farming Factory). Fico is also the Italian word for a fig, and a popular slang term for 'cool'.
The multiple meaning is in keeping with Farinetti's multi-faceted vision of a venue that will allow visitors to take part in activity workshops ranging from food photography to gelato-making via the basics of truffle hunting.

'Total panic'
A fifth of the park, assembled in what was the city's wholesale fruit and vegetable market, is outdoors with some 200 animals and 2,000 species of plant life due to be on show.
"Education is fundamental to the whole thing. But it is also about having fun, eating, shopping," Farinetti told AFP in an interview ahead of Wednesday's opening.
The park is also about celebrating the culinary and farming crafts that lie behind many of Italy's most famous gastronomic products, and the bio-diversity of a country that stretches from Mediterranean islands within sight of Africa to snow-capped Alpine peaks.
Visitors can explore that diversity via more than 40 eateries and a similar number of learn-how-its-done displays by specialist producers of everything from rare-breed beef to liquorice sweets.
As the opening date nears, Farinetti says he is caught between rampant enthusiasm at seeing a dream realised, and "total panic."
"This for me is quite normal. I'm terrified that people won't come in the numbers we expect. You can't help but feel panicked when you start something like this."
Park CEO Tiziana Primori said the target was to be drawing six million visitors a year by 2020, with the business plan envisaging a third coming from the local area, a third from the rest of Italy and a final tranche of around two million from abroad.

Betting on success
Asked if that target is realistic, Farinetti responds with a broad smile.
"No, it's utopian, but every project I have been involved with has been utopian. The whole world is realistic, I prefer utopia. I don't know if we will make it but we'll give it our all.
Underpinning that ebullience is the success enjoyed by almost all of the Eataly stores that have been opened from Copenhagen to Sao Paolo.
"At the moment there is an absolutely crazy interest in Italian food from the citizens of the world, for pasta, for pizza, for our simple cuisine," said Farinetti.
That, he says, is down to the ease in which dishes tasted in Italy or in restaurants can be reproduced in domestic kitchens.
"You can buy half a kilo of pasta, some extra virgin olive oil and San Marzano tomatoes and go home and make what you had. And it is very digestible and light."
Among those backing Farinetti's vision is Antonio Capaldo, owner of the Feudi San Gregorio wine company and one of dozens of entrepreneurs involved in the project.
Capaldo has teamed up with a seafood wholesaler to create a fish-based fast-food eatery at the park which will showcase his expanding company's white and sparkling wines.
"We know all the complications but there is a great thirst for Italian culture around the world, and that, combined with Oscar's track record, is why we are betting on this being a success," he told AFP.
By Angus MacKinnon (The Local)

Thursday 10 August 2017

It's all going on at Monte Santa Maria Tiberina! Brad Pitt, a giggle, giants, singing and dancing, a bit of crying, magical beasts (and where to find them), literature, classical music and blues. Something for everyone!

Monte Santa Maria Tiberina is a hilltop village that was once an independent state, one of two places in Europe where duels were legal. Located in the Upper Tiber Valley it has Etruscan roots but a Medieval heart, with narrow streets, historic stone buildings and a panoramic position with unparalleled views of the surrounding area. Close to the border of Umbria and Tuscany it was part of the latter right up until 1927. It therefore enjoys the cultural and gastronomic pleasures of both regions, with truffles, porcini mushrooms, excellent olive oil, fantastic wines, and traditionally-made cheeses and salamis.

In the next couple of weeks there is quite a lot going on. From the 16th of August there is a week of films starting at 9.30pm. Shown in the gardens the titles include 'la la land', an Italian comedy called (in English) 'I can quit whenever I want', the Stephen Frears’ film about Florence Foster Jenkins, 'Fantastic beasts and where to find them' (the Harry Potter prequel so to speak), 'Allied', a Romantic thriller with Brad Pitt, the multi nominated 'Manchester by the Sea' and Spielberg's BFG.

There is also music on the 23rd and 25th; classical violin and blues respectively with the evening in between dedicated to the writer Carlo Cassola, an influential Italian novelist and essayist. 

There's quite a choice and something to suit all tastes!

Monte Santa Maria is well worth a visit anyway. The Bourbon palace, built in the 1500’s, dominates this tiny village along with a crenelated castle. The pretty church is dedicated, as the name of the village suggests, to the virgin Mary, and has an interesting baptismal stone font and a Bourbon family chapel. The procession of the Ascension, re-enacted for centuries on the 15th of August, honours the virgin Mary, the protectress of the village. There are several food festivals throughout the year, dedicated to the area's primary products of mushrooms, truffles, chestnuts, and roast pork.
For more information - or call +39 342 275 656


Thursday 1 June 2017

The 2nd of June is the Festa della Repubblica

Here in Italy Republic Day is celebrated on the 2nd of June each year. It commemorates the institutional referendum in 1946 when the Italian people were called to the polls in order to decide on the type of government they wanted following the second world war and the fall of fascism. With 12,717,923 votes for a republic and 10,719,284 for the monarchy, the male descendants of the House of Savoy were sent into exile.

To commemorate this event a grand military parade is held in central Rome and presided over by the President of the Italian Republic in his role as supreme commander of the armed forces. The prime minister, formally known as the President of the council of ministers, attends along with other high officers of state. There are important celebrations in all the Italian embassies and foreign heads of states are invited. Even though the main parade is in Rome, many Italian cities celebrate the day as well.

Prior to the foundation of the Republic, the Italian national day was celebrated on the first Sunday in June, the anniversary of the granting of the 'Statuto Albertino'. From 1977 to 1999, for economic reasons, this was the day when the foundation of the republic was celebrated and it was only in 2000 that the 2nd June was officially instated.

Viva L'Italia !


Thursday 25 May 2017

Italy is in the spotlight this week!

The Obamas have been enjoying the wonders of Tuscany this week staying in a property located very close to this villa which we are selling:

The presidential couple were guests of former US ambassador to Italy John Phillips at his luxury resort Borgo Finocchieto. They have been delighting in the historical treasures of Siena and Montalcino. In Siena they visited the magnificent Cathedral and were accompanied by the Mayor. The Cathedral is one of Italy's most illustrious Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals. Entering the Cathedral means not only experiencing spiritual elevation but also opening up to beauty and exploring one of the city's most valuable art treasures according to its website According to tradition, the present Cathedral replaces an earlier church dedicated to the Virgin Mary erected in the 9th century or thereabouts on the site of a temple serving the cult of Minerva. Equally unconfirmed rumour suggests that the building was consecrated in 1179 in the presence of Sienese Pope Alexander III Bandinelli after the papacy had made peace with the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. The Cathedral contains numerous masterpieces from every age but its marble mosaic inlay and graffito floor is in many ways its most prized possession. Giorgio Vasari certainly considered it the "most beautiful..., largest and most magnificent floor ever made".

 The current President and his entourage have been at the Vatican meeting Pope Francis and will be heading back to Italy to attend the G7 summit in Sicily on Friday.

 Colin Firth has applied for Italian Citizenship as according to his spokesperson “Colin was horrified by Brexit and is worried about the consequences”. He already owns a home in Umbria.

Read more:

Friday 19 May 2017

Free historic monument anyone!

Italy is giving away more than 100 historic castles, farmhouses and monasteries for free in an effort to breathe new life into its disused public buildings. Under a new scheme unveiled by the country's government run State Property Agency, 103 ancient buildings will be up for grabs to entrepreneurs who promise to transform the locations into tourist destinations.
The disused properties are situated along eight historic routes running the breadth of the country and the nearby islands of Sicily and Sardinia. It is hoped that the initiative will create a series of new facilities for the hundreds of hikers, cyclists and pilgrims who use the routes each year.
The project aims to promote and support the development of the tourism sector and the goal is for private and public buildings which are no longer used to be transformed into facilities for pilgrims, hikers, tourists, and cyclists.
The scheme, which is backed by Italy's Ministry of Tourism, calls on applicants to submit a proposal outlining how they intend to transform their preferred building into a tourist attraction  and the eventual transformation will have to be paid for by the applicant. Specific preference will be given to those aged under 40. 

Successful applications will then be awarded rights to the property for nine years, with the option to extend for an additional nine years.
The deadline for applications is June 26 and work will be expected to commence next summer and a further 200 buildings are scheduled for inclusion in the project over the next two years.
This is the latest initiative to emerge from Italy as part of on-going work to regenerate the country's rural areas.

Thursday 18 May 2017

Move to know it makes fiscal sense

Flat Tax and Fast-Track Visas

The 2017 Italian Finance Bill has introduced an attractive tax regime for persons wishing to become tax residents in Italy. It is aimed at high net worth individuals and their relatives. The new law introduces a remittance-style tax regime and provides that the non-domiciled applicant for Italian residency status may opt for a new flat rate annual tax of €100,000 (€25,000 for each of the taxpayer’s accompanying relatives) that will shield all worldwide income and gains from further taxation in Italy. The new system is available to all persons, regardless of their nationality or domicile, who have been non-tax resident in Italy during nine of the ten years preceding their relocation to Italy. The successful applicants will also be entitled to a Schengen visa for themselves and their resident family members. The regime is a viable alternative to the similar schemes proposed by the UK, Portugal, Cyprus Malta and Switzerland.

The Budget also provides two other forms of tax incentives aimed at persons with specific qualifications who intend to move to Italy to perform a qualifying activity. These regimes provide for: 

(i)                  a three-year tax exemption on 90% of remuneration for professors and researchers; or 

(ii)                a five-year tax exemption on 50% of remuneration for managers and professionals. 

New Italian Resident - eligible individuals  

Individuals regardless of nationality or domicile that have not been resident in Italy for tax purposes (according to art. 2 of the Italian Consolidated Law on Income Tax – TUIR) in at least 9 of the preceding 10 years are eligible for the flat tax scheme. 

Unlike the tax breaks available to employees and professionals, the Flat Tax scheme does not foresee particular skills or conditions in relation to the period of stay in Italy. 

Flat tax regime and exclusions 

The Flat Tax regime provides for a lump-sum tax of €100,000 per year that substitutes all taxes on foreign assets and income produced abroad. As a general rule, Italian tax residents are subject to taxation on worldwide income as well as a wealth tax on foreign assets. This status will grant an exemption from:
- taxation on income and gains produced abroad by new non-domiciled residents; 

- reporting requirements with respect to the wealth tax 

- inheritance and gift tax on foreign assets (but not on Italian sourced income or assets or capital gains from “qualifying holdings” realized in the first five fiscal years). 

The exclusion of capital gains arising from the disposal of qualifying holdings realized in the first five-year period after election is aimed at restricting abuse of the status. The dividends from qualifying holdings will, however, fall within the scope of the flat tax regime. Income from foreign sources may be remitted to Italy without any additional taxation.
Any Italian sourced income will continue to be taxed on a normal progressive basis. 

Individuals opting for the regime may extend the Flat tax regime to cover some, or all, family members: in this case, a lump-sum tax of €25,000 is due for each additional person. The definition of family members is particularly broad and is not limited to a spouse or children. 

Additionally, those intending to opt for this regime should pay attention to relevant international double tax treaties and their provisions on residence, partly because the Italian Revenue Agency may exchange information with countries where the new residents were formerly registered. 

Ruling procedure 

To apply for the Flat Tax regime the non-resident will need to obtain a specific ruling from the Italian tax authorities for himself and family members (who will be subject to an additional substitute tax of €25,000 per person). A check-list has been formulated listing the information to be filed with the application. The individual can select the foreign jurisdictions to include in the substitute tax regime (this is the so-called “cherry picking” principle). The Flat tax is in fact an “umbrella tax” that substitutes the normal taxation that would have been applicable on the assets or income produced in the countries included in the ruling request.
The income produced in countries that are not included in the ruling application will be subject to ordinary Italian tax rules. This will allow the taxpayer to benefit from a tax credit on taxes levied abroad (conversely this benefit is denied for the income included in the Flat tax regime). The ruling application need not include any specific description of the estate of the individual, unless it is relevant for assessing whether he or she was resident in Italy in a given period. 
Income is deemed to have originated abroad when (i) the asset generating the income is situated abroad, or (ii) the business generating the income was conducted abroad, or when (iii) the individual remitting the income is resident abroad for fiscal purposes.

Once a favourable ruling has been issued all related foreign income will be covered by the Flat Tax regime for a 15 year period. The option is revocable by the taxpayer at any time. The regime will also cease to apply if the €100,000 flat tax is not paid in any one year. 

Main benefits 

Flat tax: the new status allows the newly resident taxpayers to opt for the payment of an annual substitutive tax of €100,000, which is an “umbrella tax”, in lieu of: 

- Income tax on non-Italian sources of income (under Italian laws income includes capital gains) 

- The 0.2 percent tax on the value of foreign financial assets 

- The 0.76 percent tax on the value of foreign real estate 

- Inheritance duties: The Flat tax regime allows a full exemption from succession duties (inheritance and donation taxes) on all assets located abroad for the 15-year period. 

As a general rule, inheritance duties apply at a rate ranging from 4 to 8 percent on assets, wherever they are located, received by Italian tax residents as a donation or upon succession. 

Reporting requirements exemption: Selection of the Flat tax status exempts the individual from all further reporting requirements concerning assets held abroad. Taxpayers who choose this substitute tax regime are guaranteed full confidentiality vis-√†-vis the Italian tax authorities in relation to their non-Italian wealth. To a certain extent, information may automatically flow to the Italian tax authorities pursuant to the Common Reporting Standard (CRS), but taxpayers may keep financial assets in jurisdictions that have not adopted the standard (such as the US). 

Fast-track visa procedure 

A separate provision provides a series of investment incentives related to entry and residence visas for foreign non-residents proposing to invest in Italy.
The current regulatory framework on immigration inflow has been modified, and Article 26bis of the Consolidated Law on Immigration now includes a special “investor visa” status that lasts two years for incoming immigrants who need to stay in Italy longer than three months (renewable, under certain circumstances, for a further three years).
To obtain an "investor visa" - the non-resident investor will have to demonstrate a commitment to invest in Italy either by investing:

- €2 million in government bonds, to be kept for at least two years;

- €1 million in participation to the share capital of a company resident and operating in Italy 
- €500,000 in the share capital of a company that is an innovative start-up registered in a special section of the business register
- €1 million in philanthropic donations in the fields of culture, education, immigration management, scientific research or cultural heritage restoration 
A set of procedures has been put in place to verify compliance with these requirements and the source of funds. More detailed guidance is expected to be issued soon. 
Italy now has one of the most comprehensive and attractive foreign investment and HNWI residency scheme currently available in Europe. It provides the opportunity for individuals and their families to become resident in one of the most beautiful countries in the world where property prices are still very competitive by paying a flat-rate tax on all worldwide income. 

For further information please contact Nick Ferrand or Avv. Fred Cucchi

Copyright: Abode Srl 2017






Thursday 2 February 2017

'Michelangelo and Sebastiano' exhibit in London

The National Gallery of London will this spring showcase the Italian Renaissance from March 15 through June 25 with the 'Michelangelo and Sebastiano' exhibition.The creative collaboration and friendship between the two artists, with their complementary but radically different talent, will be on display for the first time. Through about 70 works of art including paintings, sculpture, drawings and letters, the exhibition documents a professional relationship that lasted for over 25 years and does not shy away from times of both exultation and frustration experienced by both Michelangelo and Sebastiano del Piombo.

For the full story click here.

Friday 27 January 2017

The recipe - Strufuli di Carnevale

A typical carnival pastry common in various parts of Umbria; delicious and not to be missed!


8 eggs
8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 tablespoons sugar
16 tablespoons flour
1 small glass of Mistrà liqueur and/or rum
rind of 1 lemon, grated
1 tablespoon dried yeast
vanilla essence (optional)
honey or Alchermes liqueur for garnishing
oil for frying.

Mix the flour, yeast, oil, lemon rind, sugar, flavourings and liqueurs together.  Knead vigorously for a few minutes until the dough is stiff and full of cavities. If necessary, add a little flour or milk. Leave the dough to rest for about an hour. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Take large dollops of dough and drop them into the boiling oil. When these are puffy and golden, remove them from the oil and place them on kitchen paper. Sprinkle the strufoli with Alchermes liqueur or melt some honey and drizzle over the strufoli.

Edward Hopper Exhibition in Rome - still time to see it!


Held by some to be a story-teller, by others to be the only artist capable of creating a “freeze frame” of a panorama or a human life. It was Edward Hopper himself (1882-1967) – the best known and most popular American artist of the 20th century – a reserved, taciturn man and a lover of sea views and of the bright light in his spacious studio, who best explained his poetics: “If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.”

The exhibition Edward Hopper, opened on the 1st of October 2016 and is on until the 12th of February 2017 at Complesso del Vittoriano – Ala Brasini in Rome, Under the aegis of Istituto per la storia del Risorgimento, in collaboration with Assessorato alla Crescita culturale – Sovrintendenza Capitolina ai Beni Culturali, organized by Arthemisia Group in collaboration with the Whitney Museum of American Art of New York, covers the whole span of the output of the celebrated American artist.

From the Parisian watercolors to the landscapes and cityscapes of the 1950s and 1960s, the exhibition curated by Barbara Haskell – curator of painting and sculpture at the Whitney Museum of American Art – in collaboration with Luca Beatrice, showcases Hopper’s skill as a draftsman through more than 60 works, including celebrated masterpieces such as South Carolina Morning (1955), Second Story Sunlight (1960), New York Interior (1921), Le Bistro or The Wine Shop (1909), Summer Interior (1909), and extremely interesting studies (like the study for Girlie Show, 1941): a path that takes in all the phases of his output and all the techniques employed by an artist who is now considered to be a great master of 20th-century painting.

Monday to Thursday 9.30 am > 7.30 pm
Friday and Saturday 9.30 am > 10.00 pm
Sunday 9.30 am > 8.30 pm (Last entry one hour before)

Full price € 14,00 (audioguide included)
Concession € 12,00 (audioguide included)
Group concession € 10,00 (booking required, obligatory microphone equipment, min 15 max 25 people)
Children concession € 6,00 (children from 4 to 11)
Infant Schools € 5,00 (booking required, min 15 max 25 people)

GUIDED TOURS (admission not included, booking required, obligatory microphone equipment , min 15 max 25 people)
Guided tours for schools € 80,00
Guided tours for schools in foreign language € 90,00
Guided tours for groups € 100,00
Guided tours for groups in foreign language € 110,00

WORKSHOP From 4 to 11 years (admission not included, booking required min 15 max people)
School group € 100,00

Groups € 30,00
Schools € 15,00

BOOKING FEE Groups and Individual
€ 1,50
Schools € 1,00

T +39 06 87 15 111

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Goodbye Britain... Hello my new life in Italy!

Had enough living in the UK? Getting cancer from burnt toast and over cooked roast potatoes? Want to live in a country where you can park at a hospital car park for free? Want to live in the sun? If your answers to these questions are yes then Italy is the place for you.

Why not sell up and buy this historical building in the heart of a medieval town and start your own business. Casa Sansepolcro is the most amazing property, beautifully restored with great attention to detail. Currently the present owner has created a boutique bed and breakfast with four double suits.

Want to find out more? Click here.

Monday 23 January 2017

UK citizens will get individual opt-in to remain EU citizens, chief negotiator Guy Verhofstadt confirms

Guy Verhofstadt has fast-tracked the plan and will include it in his mandate
EU negotiators will offer people in the UK the chance to individually opt-in and remain EU citizens as a proposal in Brexit negotiations, the European Parliament’s chief negotiator has confirmed.
The proposal, first revealed in its early stages by The Independent last month, was being considered as a long-term aim by the European Parliament – but has now been fast-tracked to the negotiating table by Guy Verhofstadt, who is in charge of thrashing out a post-Brexit deal.

Mr Verhofstadt said the “very important” proposal had “captured the imagination and hopes” of many British people who wished to retain their rights as EU citizens and would be in his negotiating mandate. The plan would see Brits offered individual “associate citizenship”, letting them keep free movement to live and work across the EU, as well as a vote in European Parliament elections.
The proposal could potentially give Brits who live and work across borders a workaround to the disruption caused by the Leave vote – and young people looking to flee an increasingly isolated UK greater choice over where to move to. Depending on the approach taken by EU negotiators, the idea would likely be subject to approval by the British government.

Mr Verhofstadt is drawing up a report with the European Parliament’s Committee on constitutional affairs about proposed long-term changes to the EU’s structure. The plan was originally proposed by liberal MP Charles Goerens for inclusion in the report, but will now bypass that process and be taken forward independently.
It is an important amendment that has captured the imagination and hopes of many of the 48 per cent of Brits that have voted to remain in the EU.  

In a statement, Mr Goerens said: “Today I decided together with Guy Verhofstadt to withdraw my amendment on Associate EU citizenship. We realised that this has become a very important issue that cannot await treaty change – as was my intention when I first tabled my amendment – since this might take years. “Yesterday evening, the House of Commons decided by a majority of almost 400 to support Theresa Mays plan to trigger article 50 by the end of March 2017. Hence the prospect that this Article 50 will be invoked has become very real indeed.

“The European Parliament will define its position on the Brexit agreement through a resolution during spring 2017. This seems to be the best opportunity to give Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt the possibility to enforce the Associate EU Citizenship.

“I recognise this might come as a surprise to many of you, but please understand that the abovementioned procedure makes it much more likely for the Associate EU Citizenship to succeed than through an amendment.”

Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder said: “The option of being able to retain EU citizenship offers a glimmer of hope for the millions of British people devastated by the referendum result. “The fact this proposal is going ahead shows there remains a huge amount of goodwill towards Britain, despite the actions of this Conservative Brexit government. “Everyone who supports this should write to MEPs and tell them how passionately they feel about maintaining their rights as EU citizens, including the ability to live, study and work abroad."

In its original form the amendment suggested the provision of “European associate citizenship for those who feel and wish to be part of the European project but are nationals of a former Member State; offers these associate citizens the rights of freedom of movement and to reside on its territory as well as being represented in the Parliament through a vote in the European elections on the European lists”.

Though the British Government has been coy on what it wants Britain’s post-Brexit future to look like, it is likely that British citizens will lose the automatic right to live and work in the EU after Brexit.

This is because Prime Minister Theresa May has made clear that she would like to restrict freedom of movement from EU countries to the UK, a policy that would likely be reciprocated by the EU for British citizens.
Mr Verhofstadt is one of two chief negotiators representing different pillars of the European Union. He represents the Parliament, while former commissioner Michel Barnier represents the Commission. Belgian diplomat Didier Seeuws will coordinate the European Council’s negotiating position on behalf of the leaders of other EU states.

The House of Commons this week approved a motion calling for Ms May to reveal the Government’s negotiating position on Brexit before triggering Article 50. It also locked in the timetable of triggering the treaty clause – and starting negotiations – before the end of March 2017. 
Independent News Service

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Outstanding Italian property opportunity.

Sometimes a property comes to the market when we think, WOW, if I had the money, I would buy it. Vista Lago is just that! Not only could it provide a 8% annual return, which is unbelievable, you get two of everything!

From posting this Italian property on our website yesterday we have already received two enquires.

For further information call Victoria Greenwood on 0039075941774 or email

For full details click: Vista Largo or go to our website:

Monday 16 January 2017

How to beat the January blues - Italian style

The combination of the winter weather and return to work after the holidays can make anyone feeling a bit down in the dumps. That's not to mention the lack of money due to Christmas spending, and a string of already broken New Year's resolutions which might leave you feeling hopeless.

But don't despair!

Anyone who's spent time any time at all in Italy will likely comment on the friendly, relaxed and hospitable locals. It's a country where simple pleasures are key - something which is thought to be behind the huge numbers of people living past 100. There's a lot to learn from the Mediterranean way of life. So, here's how to beat the January blues - Italian style.

1. Take a passeggiata (walk)

The traditional afternoon stroll taken in Italy before dinner is a big happiness win. To make sure you get the maximum happiness-boost from your stroll – head to the park, whatever the weather. A study in 2010 by the University of Essex showed that even five minutes of light exercise carried out in a natural setting was enough to significantly enhance your mood.

2. Plan your next Italian getaway

Thinking of a trip to Italy this year? January is the time to do it. Planning holidays gives you a sense of purpose and something to look forward to. In fact, just looking at that sunny picture of an Italian seaside town is probably making you feel better. Picture yourself relaxing on the beach, reading a good book and sipping on even better wine. It might sound daft, but researchers from Holland who studied the effect of holidays on reported levels of happiness showed that people reported a greater improvement in their happiness levels when they were preparing their trip than while they were actually basking in the sun.

3. Have an aperitivo with a friend

The aperitivo: one of Italy's traditions is one that has been helping Italians beat the blues for over a hundred years. Bars across the country fill up between 6.30 and 8pm as friends head out for something to drink and a nibble. Numerous studies have shown that the key component of happiness is strong social relationships, while enjoying alcohol and snacks in moderation means you won't feel any guilt for over-indulging.

4. Take in a museum
Italy has a lot of art, a lot of history and a huge number of cultural sites, including a whopping 51 Unesco world heritage sites. Museums and art galleries help stop you dwelling on your own problems and provide you with new experiences, new points of view and fresh inspiration – all of which will make you happier.

5. Eat a pizza


 Money can't buy you happiness – but for a few euros you can get an excellent pizza. There is a definite connection between food and happiness, and with its hot, crispy base and melted cheese topping, pizza is an indulgent, calorific treat that is the perfect comfort food. Still sticking to your new year's diet and don't want to eat a pizza? Then, why not try drawing one...a study in 2013 showed that the idea of pizza and happiness were so closely connected that even the act of sketching a pizza led people to feel better about life.

Friday 13 January 2017

Unlucky for some: Thirteen strange Italian superstitions

It's Friday 13th, but while that's not considered bad luck in Italy, there are plenty of things which are. The country is home to plenty of bizarre superstitions - here are some you should definitely be aware of.

Some Italians take superstitions seriously, often doing things 'per scaramanzia' - to ward off bad luck. So if you want to ensure good luck comes your way, here are some of the things to watch out for, according to traditional Italian beliefs.

1. Friday the 17th

First, the good news. Friday the 13th isn't a bad omen as it is in Western countries - but Italy has its own date that you should be wary of: Friday the 17th. Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted in Italian planes, street numbering, hotel levels and so on - so even if you're not the superstitious type, it's handy to be aware of. The reason for this is because in Roman numerals, the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Roman word VIXI, meaning “I have lived” - the use of the past tense suggesting death, and therefore bad luck. It's less clear what's so inauspicious about Friday.

2. Spilling olive oil

Thought there was no point crying over spilled olive oil? Think again; in Italy, this is very bad luck indeed. And it's not just because Italians don't want to see their top quality oil wasted (though the tradition likely has its roots in a time when olive oil was a luxury), but it's considered to bring ill fortune.

3. Toasting

In Italy, it is believed that you should never toast with a glass of water - the thinking behind that is that it suggests bad luck because water is less expensive and flavourful than wine. In fact, the whole tradition of toasting is a minefield: it's also bad luck to cross arms with anyone as you clink glasses, to avoid eye contact while toasting or to set down your glass before having a first sip.

4. The Evil Eye

The malocchio is the Italian belief that a look of jealousy can bring harm to those it is aimed at - usually in the form of physical pain, such as a headache. Having birds or birds' feathers in your house is also a big no-no because their patterns are supposedly similar to the evil eye. To ward off the evil eye you must make a gesture similar to horns and point it downwards behind your back - some Italians take things a step further and wear a lucky amulet shaped like a horn.

5. Touch Iron

If you're from the UK or US, you might be used to saying 'touch wood' or 'knock on wood' after saying something that might tempt misfortune. In Italy, look for some iron - 'tocca ferro' is an abbreviation from 'toccare ferro di cavallo' (touch horseshoe) which dates back to when horseshoes were thought to ward off devils, witches and evil spirits. These days, superstitious Italians might still carry a horseshoe charm or a simple piece of iron around with them, just in case.

6. Lamp posts

When walking arm in arm with a friend, make sure to pass on the same side of a lamp post rather than splitting to go around it.  Italian folklore warns that straying from this rule could spell the end of the friendship.

7. Black Cats

In some cultures, black cats are thought to bring good luck, but it's quite the opposite in Italy, where they are considered unlucky due to associations with witchcraft. Hearing a cat sneeze, on the other hand, brings good luck.

8. Sharp Objects

If you receive, for example, a penknife as a gift, prick the person who gave it to you, or give them a coin in return. If you fail to do this, you risk ruining the friendship forever.

9. Beds

It is believed that if you put a photo of a loved one on a bed - for example while tidying, packing or doing housework - this will bring them bad luck. Meanwhile, placing a hat on a bed is unlucky too. These beliefs date back to a time when beds were associated with illness and death, and priests would remove their hats when arriving to visit someone in their sickbed.

10. The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Local students avoid the monument. Tradition states that if you go to the top of the famous leaning tower whilst you are at university, then you will never be able to graduate. Several cities and towns around the country have their own version of this superstition: in Bologna for example, climbing the local tower before graduating is thought to mean you will never do so.

11. Touch your nose

Saying the same word at the same time as somebody else is thought to be an omen that you will never get married - but there's a way to reverse your fortune. Touch your nose immediately and the bad luck will be undone.

12. Thirteen's a crowd

Although in general the number 13 isn't as spooky as in other countries, at a dinner table it is meant to be very bad luck indeed. The superstition stems from the Last Supper and the fact that Jesus’ traitor, Judas Iscariot, was the 13th and final person to be seated, so if you find yourself at a table of 13, watch your back.

13. Seeing an Empty Hearse

Spotting a hearse with no coffin inside is thought to be an omen that your own death is approaching. To ward off this ill fate, men must touch their groin and women their breast as a gesture of good luck and fertility.

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Welcome to 2017!

2016 was a tough year both in Italy and around the world but here are few stories to remind us that it wasn't all bad.

Italy opened its first wine fountain in October. Free wine 24/7!

Ever felt the need for a nice glass of red wine after a long walk? A free glass of red wine at that! The 'Fontana del Vino' is located in Caldari di Ortona (Abruzzo) along a popular pilgrimage route, the Cammino di San Tommaso. The fountain is not the first in Italy to offer wine but it is different from the others as wine will be accessible every day.

A postcard sent from a Nazi labour camp in 1944 finally arrives

A postcard sent by an Italian prisoner of war from a Nazi labour camp in 1944 was finally delivered, following a series of strange coincidences which led to a high school teacher stumbling across the card on the street.

People worldwide are learning Italian. 

Italian leapt to fourth place in terms of the most-studied languages worldwide. The number of foreigners studying rose to 2,233,373 in the 2015/16 academic year - up from 1,700,000 the previous year.

A cat sanctuary beach exists.

The remote Sardinian beach, where visitors can play with kitties in the surf or watch them lounging on the sand, was even named one of the island's best tourist destinations by travel website, TripAdvisor. The non-profit sanctuary was founded in 2011.

Saved puppy to train as rescue dog.

A puppy who was saved from the rubble in earthquake-hit Norcia will soon be able to assist the firefighters that saved him, after being adopted by the fire service. Rescue workers freed the border collie after days trapped in ruins in Norcia, one of the worst-hit towns by the October 29th tremor.

Pasta won't make you gain weight?

If you'd banished pasta from your cupboard due to concerns over weight gain, then think again: an Italian study found that the more pasta you eat, the less likely you are to gain weight. Hmmm

The world's oldest female celebrates her 117th birthday.

Emma Morano, from Verbania in northern Italy, celebrates her 117th birthday in November, making her the last known person alive who was born in the 19th century.

Cheese, wine and friends are the key to long life.

But you might have to move to Sardinia and adopt the local diet, which includes Cannonau, a red wine packed with antioxidant compounds which help slow the aging process, in order to be in with a chance of eclipsing 100.

Italy made the world's longest pizza.

The world’s longest pizza was made in Naples and is 1.8km long. It took 250 pizza makers six hours and 11 minutes. They used 2,000kg of flour, 1,600kg of tomato sauce, 2,000kg of mozzarella cheese, 200 litres of oil and 30kg of basil. The pizza made it into the Guinness World Records, and was donated to the needy.

Medical advances

The Molinette hospital in Turin achieved a world first by successfully transplanting a kidney in the place of the spleen in a six-year-old girl. The child had been on dialysis since birth because of a rare kidney anomaly and a malformation of the abdominal blood vessels.