Friday, April 27, 2007

Tuscany too cliché? Ma che dici!?

This just in from ISB readers' favorite Umbra, Xtina. The NY Times is advising vacationers to shun cliché Tuscany for Umbria. The Times writes:

While many Americans aspire to the archetypical villa vacation in Tuscany or the south of France, other regions can offer comparable cultural immersion at significant savings. “Tuscany is on our lips,” said Tim Roney, director of worldwide sales at LaCure Villas, which specializes in luxury rentals, but Umbria, from its cuisine to its rolling agricultural countryside and medieval stone villages, offers a very similar experience “at rates 40 and 60 percent below Tuscany prices.”

What Xtina and Mr. Roney are not telling you is that Umbria is Italy's only land-locked region after mountainous Valle D'Osta, its wine is generally inferior to neighboring Tuscany, Marche and Lazio, and most Umbrians still practice black magic, randomly putting the evil eye on unsuspecting outsiders (at least that's what my friend Lara tells me).

In seriousness, Umbria is a beautiful place. Plus, it's close to Tuscany and Marche.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Amateur journalism at its finest

You're all probably pretty tired of this numbing Virginia Tech massacre story. If one more Italian asks me to explain America's obsessive gun culture, I too may go numb, or blue. But I do want to point out a sweet article one of my students wrote for the JCU student newspaper about the ripple effects here in Rome. It got picked up by AOL and was referenced on Facebook, teaching her and her classmates a nice lesson in the power of publishing. Bravissima!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Years ago, after a typical workday writing about fatal car crashes and random suburban homicides for my old newspaper, I accompanied two colleagues to Princeton University to catch the last few minutes of an address by one of my all-time favorite writers, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.. We crammed into a packed auditorium and listened to Vonnegut grumpily order the students to maintain a healthy suspicion of the state. And this was the mid-90s.

Later, me, Sue and Sam barged into the offices behind the auditorium, shouting our press credentials at anyone who seemed to take notice of us. Vonnegut wasn't doing interviews, we were told, but we kept pushing forward anyhow. Finally, we'd managed to squeeze into a hallway, just the three of us, plus Vonnegut and his handler. He looked down at us (Vonnegut was a giant of a man with a thick head of brown curls, even then in his 70s) with only partial interest and started down the hall. We followed, but at a respectful distance and silently, odd for reporters well trained in the art of door-stepping. I was more than a bit intimidated. This is the man that brought to life Kilgore Trout, the aliens of Tralfamadore, and of course, ice-nine. I always wished I'd had the nerve to ask him a question.

Rest in peace, Mr. Vonnegut.

Friday, April 06, 2007

It's been ages since my last post, but it's not as if I haven't been living, breathing and sometimes dreaming (you know the one, where you wake up on the morning of the big exam completely unprepared) blogs lately. Matt and I threw our second annual blogging4business conference (or, as the Beeb reports, Business 4 Blogging) in London on Wednesday, and it was a big success. We sold out again, maxing out at 200 in attendance with some really interesting companies explaining how blogs, podcasts and all forms of social media are profoundly changing the way they communicate with customers. But the biggest kick for Matt and me was getting to meet and chat with some really impressive thinkers who are turning the stodgy corporate world on its head with some honest and open dialog.

If you're interested, check out the blog and news coverage here. There will also be a podcast up shortly here.

Back in Rome now, I'm pretty exhausted. Xtina and I are off to the wilds of Perugia and perhaps into Tuscany, before zipping back here for another work week. I'll have more to post later. But, first, happy holidays everyone.