Celebrate Italy’s 150th birthday in Torino

Italy's 150th birthday150 years ago, Italy became a country. Well, sort of. Venice and Rome didn’t join for another 9 years, so many Italians will be waiting until 2020 for the big celebration of the Risorgimento, as the unification is called in Italian. Nevertheless, as Italy’s first capital city in 1861, Torino (aka Turin, home of the famed Shroud) is celebrating all year, including the reopening today of the Risorgimento Museum, with free admission for the rest of March. This weekend also marks the reopening of the Automobile Museum, with a huge expansion and total concept overhaul, fitting for a country that gave birth to the Ferrari, the Lamborghini, the Alfa Romeo, and Torino’s own Fiat.

Beginning this summer, the history and evolution of Italian fashion will be celebrated just outside Turin at La Venaria Reale. La Venaria Reale will also host a Leonardo da Vinci exhibition starting in October 2011. Not to leave out food, visitors can attend “royal dinners” all spring through fall, sample traditional regional dishes, and learn about their history as part of the unification. Buon compleanno, Italia!

Learn more about Italy’s birthday events at eng.italia150.it and

www.dreamofitaly.com

Daily Pampering: Lamborghini rides through Rome

There’s the tourists’ way to see Rome, and then there’s the travelers‘ way to see Rome. Which one are you?

Hotel Palazzo Manfredi, owned by brothers Leonardo and Gofredo Manfredi, are offering travelers the most pristine way to see the city: in a Lamborghini.

The third generation Italian Counts run the 5-star 12-suite Palazzo Manfredi, is the only hotel in the capital located directly across from the Coliseum, the Domus Aurea and Neros Gardens. Along with the stylish décor, fine Italian fabrics and superb views of Rome, guests can take the hotel’s Lamborghini for a spin around the city.

Count Manfredi’s Lamborghini Gallardo is yours for the taking, but please, for all that is sacred in Rome, wear your finest frocks before getting into this coveted car. There’s nothing more unfortunate in fashion than watching a fanny pack-clad tourist climb into a Lamborghini.

The Gourmet & Lamborghini Package includes:

  • Two nights in a Junior Suite overlooking the Colosseum and ancient Rome
  • Four-course dinner for two at the rooftop Aroma Restaurant
  • Lamborghini Gallardo (half-day rental available)
  • Continental breakfast topped with Champagne
  • Limousine transportation to and from the airport

The starting price for the ride of your Rome vacation starts at EURO 1550/night (approximately $2,000 USD) based on double occupancy through 2010.

Dream Escape: the name says it all

The problem with most vacation packages is that they’re … well … packaged. You may have some room for a little tweaking, but you aren’t going to stray far from the menu. As an alternative, you could reach out to an upscale travel agent or concierge, but you’ll probably wind up with an experience centered on destinations rendered inaccessible only by price – which, for a particular demographic, isn’t inaccessible at all. For those with the means to clear all but the most absurd of financial hurdles, the real challenge becomes getting into the places that are designed to keep you out – or which at least aren’t intended to accommodate.

This is where David Tobin’s Dream Escape excels.

Dream Escape is Scotland’s most exclusive travel planning company, constructing careful and extensive vacation experiences that you won’t find anywhere else … and may not even dream up on your own. Whether you want to inhabit a castle for a few weeks, taste the latest single malt before the rest of the world learns of its existence or zip around the Scottish countryside (there’s lots of it) in the sports car of your fantasies and toss your head onto a different pillow each night, Tobin can probably put together an itinerary that will turn you on.

The process begins well before you hit the road, with Tobin’s team getting a sense for what you like and what you don’t, soliciting any specifics you’ve already chosen and providing ideas that may not occur to you on your own – if you don’t know what can be done, you won’t know to ask. Groups of all sizes can be handled, including celebrations involving hundreds of your closest friends … all of whom expect to be carted around on private jets.

By the time you land in Scotland, everything is ready (well, the details are actually nailed down long before the wheels on your Gulstream drop). You’ll be accompanied throughout your escape by an expert on the details of your trip, though you can certainly choose to have some elbow room if you like. In my mind, this concierge is like an easily accessible itinerary: I don’t print them, and I don’t read them … but I want someone to let me know where I should be someplace, when and how to get there. This is just one of the ways in which the annoyances of travel are stripped out of your trip, and you are truly free to enjoy yourself fully.

The “everything’s taken care of” mentality can manifest itself in unusual ways, underscoring how closely Dream Escape watches even the smallest of moving parts. One party, for example, wanted to drive – a collection of sports cars (such as Lamborghinis) was the backbone of the getaway. Obviously, these rides were waiting for the guests when they landed; that’s just common sense. Each one had a GPS device with directions for the entire trip already planned into it – now, that’s thinking! And since people like me exist (i.e., navigationally impaired), the cars were stocked with prepaid cell phones that had the relevant digits already added to speed dial. The only thing missing was an imaginary friend to whisper words of wisdom into the guests’ ears. As soon as there’s a way to pull that off, I’m sure Tobin will find a way to work it into somebody’s vacation.

Doubtless, you’ve figured out by now that working with Dream Escape can be pretty costly. And, you’re right. These trips are not for the weak of wallet. Specific prices vary with the nature of your plans, especially if they involve private residences (such as castles), luxury jets or rare automobiles. Tobin did tell me that it’s possible to pull a trip together toward the lower end of the five-figure range, but it’s pretty clear to me that it takes a bit more than that to unleash the full power of his talent and connections. There are plenty of experiences out there in the $30,000 to $50,000 neighborhood – but if you’re ready to drop more than $100,000, I have a feeling Tobin’s imagination is the only limit.

Now, if you’re looking to roll at this level, you’re probably concerned about discretion. The last thing you’d want is a guy like me hearing – and writing – about your tastes, means and experiences. Well, you’ll be comforted to know there’s plenty Tobin wouldn’t tell me, and names were just the tip of this confidential iceberg. Your secrets will be safe.

Conspicuous luxury is a bit taboo during a recession – nothing makes peasants revolt quite like seeing the haves living the good life. So, skip the new house, watch or car, and call Tobin. Dream Escape will deliver the experience of your life, and nobody needs to know about it – except the like-minded folks you want to see drooling over what Tobin pulled off for you.

The four top supercars

Wired Magazine has released a list of the four top Supercars – that is, cars that go at least 200 mph. Also, cars that have “the ability to attract a parade of local law enforcement.” Hey, never hurts. Here’s a quick recap of the list.

  1. Ferrari F430 – $186,925 – one of the best handling cars, but also one of the slower ones (tops out at 196).
  2. Dodge Viper SRT10 – $88,875 – the cheapest of the bunch and also one of the most fuel efficient. Unfortunately, it’s also noisy and difficult to get in and out of. Top speed of 202 mph.
  3. Bentley Continental GT Speed – $203,600 – ridiculously comfortable inside and nice paint job, according to Wired, but also heavy and lacks a sunroof. Like the Viper, tops out at 202 mph.
  4. Lamborghini Murcielago LP640 – $339,400 – hey, what can you say? It’s a Lamborghini. Expensive, fast, nice engine and easily maneuvered. Also, noisy, and not the most comfortable ride. Hits 211 mph.

So, which one are you going to buy?

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