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The Good and the Bad of Venice Explorations

Taking a gondola ride through the canals of Venice is something most people can only dream about and it doesn’t come cheap! But marveling at the city’s enchanting beauty and history along the way wasn’t foremost on the minds of a group of four tourists who were filmed by a despondent gondolier glued to their smartphones during their ride. They might have been letting their social media followers know all about their wonderful experience, but it didn’t go down well with the gondolier, who shared the video on Facebook, commenting (in somewhat sarcastic fashion) “A fantastic ride. The customers are very happy, they’re enjoying the beauty of the city, they appreciate it a lot. They’ve taken lots of photos, made comments and said they will soon return to this wonderful city.” All you see in the video are the passengers staring at their phones. That is NOT the way to enjoy Venice.

Colosseum ‘Cheap Seats’ Now Accessible

Following a major restoration project, parts of Rome’s Colosseum which have never before been open to tourists, are now accessible on guided tours. In ancient Rome, the fourth and fifth levels of the amphitheater provided ‘cheap seats’ for the lower classes. But now that they have been restored to their former glory, these floors will offer tourists an incredible view over the Italian capital. The top floors have not been open to the public in 40 years. Beginning this week, tourists are now able to visit the top part of the Colosseum, at a height of 125 feet, as well as a connecting gallery which has never been open to the public. This corridor has been particularly well preserved. The Colosseum is in the midst of a multi-million-euro restoration funded by shoemaker Tod’s. Initial phases of the project have included cleaning to get rid of centuries’ worth of grime and strengthening of the northern and southern facades. There are also plans for a new visitor center and the renovation of the underground vaults where wild animals and prisoners destined for public execution were held ahead of their appearances before the Roman crowds.

Psychedelic Spinach?

Italy’s Health Ministry has ordered the recall of a batch of frozen spinach after several people who ate it suffered signs of mandrake poisoning. A family of four in Milan sought emergency treatment for “mental confusion and amnesia” after each of them had eaten frozen spinach produced by the French company Bonduelle. Their symptoms were found to be consistent with ingesting mandrake, a poisonous plant with hallucinogenic properties. Native to the Mediterranean region, it can potentially sprout up among food crops, which is how its leaves may have made their way into packs of spinach. The scare prompted the Italian Health Ministry to issue a nationwide recall for the batch in question. While stressing that none of its products had been confirmed to be contaminated, Bonduelle said it would recall four other batches of frozen spinach as a precaution. Mandrake plants have long been the subject of legend, including the belief that their roots scream when they are dug up. If eaten, mandrake plants can cause hallucinations, blurred vision, headaches, vomiting and elevated heart rate, among other symptoms. They were nonetheless used in traditional medicine for centuries for their supposed abilities to relieve pain and put people to sleep.

Ryanair Becoming Persona Non Grata

Italy’s civil aviation authority is preparing sanctions against Ryanair over the airline’s handling of mass flight cancellations. The beleaguered Irish low-cost carrier scrapped 20,000 flights across Europe between October and March after errors in staffing led to a shortage of pilots. The move is expected to impact over 700,000 passengers. More than 700 cancellations were for flights to and from Italy. The civil aviation authority said that the process of sanctions against the airline for failing to inform passengers is underway. Last week, Ryanair was forced to issue a statement clarifying customers’ compensation rights after Britain’s aviation authority accused the firm of persistently misleading passengers. Ryanair also pulled out of bidding for Alitalia amid the mayhem, saying it would not move forward with its offer in order to “eliminate all management distractions.” The airline last year announced plans to invest €883 million in Italy, creating 2,250 jobs and opening 44 new routes, all of which is now in question.


The region of Tuscany has launched a new website dedicated to tourism called Visittuscany.com. It contains 9,300 content posts published in Italian and English, including profiles, itineraries, in-depth analyses, travel proposals, events and specialties in areas including food and wine and handicrafts. The new website will replace www.turismo.intoscana.it to offer a wide range of information and digital promotions. Hotels included in the regional database will be allowed to include descriptions, photos and details on the services offered.

Uber Yacht

With the popularity of apps for car rentals, drivers and air flights, it was only a matter of time before an app was created for renting luxury yachts. “RemyApp.it” takes the nautical sector to a new level. Italy has 600,000 boats, 689 ports, 4,700 miles of coastline and 800 islands. The app allows users to rent everything from boats to super yachts by bringing all that is necessary into a single web portal, including booking, financial and administrative services and even how to maximize your tax write-off for business purposes. Services are available from a free site or an app in four languages.