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Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

“Imperium sine fine”, they termed their empire: “dominion without limit.” Well, the Goths, Huns, Vandals and Moors had something to say about that. But Philip Parker’s new book, The Empire Stops Here, has a most intriguing concept:

to travel the entire length of what the Romans themselves termed the “limes”, the frontier zone of their empire. As The Guardian reviews it, the result was a journey epic enough to satisfy even a Virgil. As Parker sums it up, with justifiable pride, “I have encountered more than five centuries of Roman history, in some 21 modern countries, covering a range of climactic variations from a snowstorm in Switzerland to a sandstorm at 45 Centigrade in Egypt’s Dakhleh Oasis, and have covered more than 20,000 kilometres on the ground.”Yet his book is far from being a conventional travelogue. Once the introduction is done, the first person barely intrudes. Neither a work of history, nor a scholarly gazetteer, nor a guide, but rather a blend of all three, The Empire Stops Here is a book in which weather-beaten masonry serves to crowd out human beings, and in which the people who most truly come alive are those who have been dead for 2,000-odd years.

Read more from The Guardian here.

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corinthian-iiCruisecritic.com has published a review of a recent Travel Dynamics International cruise taken by user pisque, who joined us for a journey from Rome to Istanbul aboard the Corinthian II.

Here are some excerpts:

Travel Dynamics International has it all together. This is small-ship cruising designed for a full intellectual barrage. No casino and night club fru-fru….just a great immersion into the world of ancient artifacts and thought.

We heard about this trip via an opera association. It had all the places we wanted to see, a full lecture format, and we wanted to try a smaller vessel….we were amply rewarded…

Fellow passengers were fascinating. Some were experts in Greco-Roman history, others ran the gamut from financial tycoons to physicists…

Local excursions were terrific, with local guides at each port, commodious buses, with two lunches at local places included, with one in Sicily being exceptional, and another in Santorini being adequate.

The staff put together a dinner by candlelight in Ephesus, with local cuisine equal to the ships great dinning room, together with a string ensemble providing music…This was a night to remember.

Disembarkation and transfers were handled with aplomb. We opted for a two night extension in Istanbul. The Hotel was luxurious, and again the tour buses and guide were outstanding.

I would not hesitate to book a cruise with this company in the future.

Read the full review here.

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Now at Travel Dynamics International, for remarkably discounted rates, you can:

Voyage into the classical world with antiquities experts from Antiques Roadshow. Enjoy an epic cruise down the entire Pacific coast of South America, from the Panama Canal to Ushuaia. Explore the lives of famous women of antiquity. Take a once-in-a-lifetime repositioning cruise from Morocco to Patagonia, following the route of Magellan. Continue in the footsteps of Sir Ernest Shackleton with Peter Hillary, son of the first man to ascend Everest. Cruise the Falklands and South Georgia in the far southern Atlantic en route to Cape Town, South Africa. Discover South America from the Amazon to Uruguay. Take an astounding voyage along the entire Atlantic coast of Africa. Sail from coastal Brazil into the depths of the Peruvian Amazon. Or perhaps the Orinoco and Amazon, with the beaches of Trinidad? Delve into the rich cultures of the Western Mediterranean from Seville to Venice. Circumnavigate Newfoundland. Or cruise up the entire Atlantic coast of North America, from Palm Beach to the Canadian maritimes? Listen to exquisite music, and enjoy top-chef Mediterranean cuisine, from Seville to Naples.

The epic journeys you’ve been waiting for, available now for less.

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la-fenice1We stride on two levels, I think. There’s the domestic life, the day-to-day, the gainings of friendships and expertise. And then there’s the moment of deep insight, a flash of a hidden facet – the pattern of a façade, a new interpretation of a famous piece of music, that makes you believe you’ve comprehended the shape of things.

On Valentine’s Day, my fiancée and I attended the first opera I’d seen in many years – Mozart’s The Magic Flute, performed by the Yale Opera. It was truly a production for our age, a thing of very high quality indeed. It managed to translate Mozart’s Enlightenment philosophies perfectly into the contemporary idiom, while flashing additional little insights from the right now. The costuming of this Singspiel spoke volumes: Pamino in burgundy, Tamina in a blue-white gown reminiscent of Snow White; male choristers in turbans, female choristers in Women’s Temperance League hats, the Three Spirits as American Revolutionaries, and Papageno and Papagena – the true scene-and-show-stealers in both panache and vocal qualitybirds of a feather in 19th-century French Bohemian linens.

When you put it that way, and remember that Die Zauberflöte premiered on September 30, 1791, it’s pretty easy to gather what Mozart might have been thinking about: music as the magical, reconciling element, enlightening society and freeing it from slavery. (An excellent added touch: as Tamino and Pamina ascend to the wedding altar, the three Revolutionary Sprites are ring-bearers, and don the coats of Colonial statesmen as they bring forth the wedding rings.) (more…)

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This is a classic that’s hard to resist: Venice to Athens aboard the all-suite gold standard of small-ship cruising, with four opera singers – one an international legend, another a recent winner of the Singer of the World award – two concert pianists, an expert on opera and a classics scholar.

September 29 – October 9, 2009

From $7,995 per person (based on double occupancy) including all meals, drinks, lectures, performances, and shore excursions, also featuring:

• Free round-trip private car service from your home to the airport (50-mile radius)
• Free night in Athens (incl. hotel, breakfast, group airport transfer)
• Complimentary CD of the January 2009 gala concert Celebrating Marilyn Horne at Carnegie Hall (collector’s edition not available for sale)

Acclaimed mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, and six tremendous rising stars of opera and classical performance, join Fred Plotkin, author of Opera 101 (see what dinner with Fred is like in this New York Times profile) and Alan Cameron, Professor Emeritus of Classics at Columbia University, for this ten-day celebration of music in the Mediterranean (and a day for yourself in Athens).

Would you like a brochure? You can download it from our main page. Or you can give us a call at (800) 257-5767. Our autumn Mediterranean Music Festival will have you singing.

Marilyn Horne's gala celebration at Carnegie Hall, January 2009

Marilyn Horne's gala celebration at Carnegie Hall

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And your arsenal, ballot, casino, contraband and gazette; your ghetto, imbroglio, gondola, lagoon, lido, lotto, marzipan, pantaloon, pistachio, quarantine, regatta, scampi, sequin and zany.

Oh, those zany Venetians! Those are some of the words that, originally Venetian, are now common currency in English. The Venetian language is actually older than Italian, an artificially created language based on Tuscan and Tuscan writers like Boccaccio, Dante and Petrarch. Venetian, on the other hand, can still be understood in Burano and some of the outlying islands in the lagoon. Ronnie Ferguson, head of the linguistics department at St. Andrews University, has compiled A Linguistic History of Venice, and a review in the Times of London makes for fascinating reading.

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Wakeboard. Hang ten, dude! From the marvelous website News:Lite – It Barely Qualifies as News, we receive the heroic story of Duncan Zuur, who has now fulfilled his life’s ambition of wakeboarding across St. Mark’s Square. I’m not sure it’s really worth your while to watch the video; suffice to say that he attaches a motorized winch to one end of the piazza, straps his wakeboard to his feet, and zips along past the arcades of the Doge’s Palace carving s-curves in the floodwaters.

Hey, the authorities are urging tourists to stay away for the moment. This is the best we could do.

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Agrigento today.

Agrigento today.

We’re disappointed and discouraged to learn, from The Independent today, that the Italian government has approved plans to build a gigantic liquid gas storage site less than a mile away from the famed World Heritage Site of Agrigento, the storied Valley of the Temples in Sicily.

Greek colonists from Gela colonized this part of Sicily in the 6th century B.C. and adorned it with seven monumental Doric temples. They are the best-preserved examples of ancient Greek architecture outside Greece. The spacious site is one of our favorite places to visit, and you can see why in the photo above.

How can this happen, you ask? Aren’t those UNESCO World Heritage Site designations supposed to protect, well, the world’s heritage from the depredations of the modern era? We suppose the lesson here is: don’t ever underestimate governments’ desires and bureaucratic malfeasance. The Italian government is merely ignoring the existence of the Heritage Site – because there are no people living there.

…a ruling signed into law on 28 September by the Environment Minister, Stefania Prestigiacomo, backed by the Culture Minister, Sandro Bondi, stated that the planned €500m plant “does not infringe on the special protected zone at a community level, inasmuch as the closest affected district is between 13 and 20km (8-12mi) from the area of the planned development.”

Thus, the Environmental Impact Assessment is clean: notwithstanding the fact that Agrigento’s entire economy is structured around tourist revenue from The Valley of the Temples. The present-day communities might be 8-12mi from the proposed gas plant, but its two holding tanks (each over 1,200,000 square feet and 154 feet high, plus a 130-foot-high flame tower), are located less than a mile from the archaeological site. There seems to be little doubt this plant would seriously damage the aesthetic appeal of a sacred site more than 2,500 years old.

According to The Independent article, the Mafia is especially powerful in the region, perhaps involved in the many illegal building developments that have crept ever closer to Agrigento, and it may well be greasing the wheels of the Italian government in this case. Luckily, the threat is so egregious that UNESCO and the European Union environment minister are actively investigating. Now the Mayor of Agrigento, Franco Zambuto, and the president of the park’s ruling body, Rosalia Camerata Scovazzo, have agreed to challenge the project “in every court in the land.”

They better. We are particularly alarmed by this situation. If you share our concern, please email EU Environment Minister Stavros Dimas: stavros.dimas@ec.europa.eu with your thoughts and your support.

The future view of Agrigento?

The future view of Agrigento?

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Now, as you survey the ruins of ancient Rome on our voyage from Rome to Athens, GoogleEarth has added the ultimate of historical modelings – an entire virtual representation of ancient Rome circa 320 A.D. More than 6,700 buildings are represented on this 3-D survey, through which you can zoom and pivot and fly through the Forum, the Colosseum, and other iconic sites. The effort also involved the contribution of Past Perfect Productions, which creates virtual reproductions of cultural heritage sites around the world.

If you’ve ever dreamed of being a time traveler, I highly recommend reading the BBC article, downloading Google Earth, and booking a cabin on one of our historically-oriented Mediterranean cruises.

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Now, lest you think that, as per the last post, TDI voyages are overly eggheady, we wish — with this post — to assure you this is decidedly not the case. We have blood pumping through our veins too.  And since we’re all mature adults here, we can let you in on a secret. We normally don’t publish this in the brochure, but as a special, optional extra available only on our Historic Cities of the Sea, Mediterranean Music FestivalJourney of Aeneas, and Journey of Odysseus voyages — as well as a devious little departure from your kids on board Voyage to the Lands of Gods and Heroes

we can take you to a brothel.

Don’t worry. This brothel’s been out of service for 1,928 years. After painstaking restorations, ancient Pompeii’s brothel was opened to tourists in 2006. Known as the Lupanare (after the Latin for she-wolf, which was ancient slang for a prostitute) it contains naughty frescoes much, much more salacious than
Lupanare

this one — which we will not show you, but we won’t mind terribly if you peruse them here. “It’s like a menu,” is what the tour guides like to say. But, according to Spiegel Online, these were highly idealized sexual images; the reality of prostitution in Pompeii was less erotic:

The windowless chambers where the prostitutes worked were separated from the anteroom only by curtains. Archaeologists discovered marks on the stone blocks that indicate customers didn’t even remove their sandals during sex… “In fact, this place where people went in search of pleasure was probably profoundly joyless.” That’s how an article in the German archaeology journal Abenteuer Archäologie sums up what scientists know about the brothel. “The cramped and uncomfortable chambers, stuffy and blackened by soot from candles, couldn’t have offered any very cultivated form of pleasure,” according to the article.

Pompeii’s prostitutes were mainly slaves of Greek or Oriental origin. But that’s only one reason why they were available so cheaply. Former slaves often continued to work in the sex trade. They hadn’t been trained in any other profession, and so they often had no real alternative. And not all women who worked as prostitutes were slaves. Customers had all sorts of women to choose from, and this may have helped to keep prices low.

However the London Times article notes that

There was even some evidence that Roman women frequented brothels for sex with male prostitutes.

It is lucky that we can see the more “adult” side of ancient Pompeii. The Times also notes that

Erotic objects found during the 18th and 19th-century excavations were considered so salacious they were kept in a “secret cabinet” at the National Archeological Museum in Naples, to which only those deemed to be of “mature age and respected morals” were admitted. The objects include a statuette of the god Pan copulating with a goat, and numerous phallic symbols, considered by the Romans to be good luck or fertility charms.

In other words, what TDI offers isn’t your grandfather’s Baedeker cruise.

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