Defining Luxury – one man’s definition

January 19, 2013

Defining Luxury – Reto Wittwer – Kempinski Hotels

Reto Wittwer CEO Kempinski Hotels

Reto Wittwer CEO Kempinski Hotels

President and CEO of Kempinski for the best part of 20 years, Reto Wittwer is not shy of an opinion or two. He talks to Phin Foster about true interpretations of luxury, the failings of his peers and why Europe remains more relevant than ever.

Standards may evolve but the guiding principles of luxury do not. Read the rest of this entry »


Valentine’s Day at Castello Dal Pozzo

February 17, 2012

San Valentino al Castello Dal Pozzo

A lovely evening at the Castello Dal Pozzo for couples out to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Young couples celebrating the start of what could become a lifetime’s devotion as well as well established couples determined to refresh the original feeling of “being in love”. Read the rest of this entry »

Unusual Hotels – Moganshan China

January 30, 2012

Tree Top Villas

Naked Stables Private Reserve Earth Huts

The 121-room eco-resort Naked Stables features tree-top villas with Jacuzzis set on balconies overlooking the mountains, and African-inspired “earth huts” built with environmentally friendly rammed-earth walls.
There is, quite simply, nothing like them, anywhere in China. Read the rest of this entry »

How to take a Turkish Bath

January 19, 2012

Turkish Bath

The Turkish bath, also know as hamam or hammam, is one of the ancient world’s most widely exported customs. The tradition of the Turkish bath was born generations ago, adopted from Romans and Byzantines and then perfected by the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks and has continued even until today. Read the rest of this entry »

Unusual Hotels – Durley House

January 17, 2012

A weekend in…London

In a year’s time all eyes will be on London as it hosts the 2012 Olympics. But why wait until then to visit this exciting, metropolitan city?

Stay in the Heart of London in a small, all suite hotel in Sloane Street, a few minutes walk from Harrods and the King’s Road.

Read the rest of this entry »

Unusual Hotels – TreeHouse Hotel – On the Arctic Circle

January 4, 2012

The Tree Hotel – Arctic Circle – Sweden

The Mirror tree-House - Tree Hotel

An eco-based design hotel concept, on the edge of the Arctic Circle. Read the rest of this entry »

Epiphany in Italy – January 6th

January 1, 2012

La Befana arrives on 6th January bringing sweets or sugar coal for naughty children

The Feast of the Epiphany, celebrated January 6 with a national holiday in Italy, and the tradition of La Befana are a big part of Italian Christmas celebrations. Epiphany commemorates the 12th day of Christmas when the three Wise Men arrived at the manger bearing gifts for Baby Jesus. The traditional Christmas holiday season in Italy lasts through Epiphany.

La Befana

Italy’s traditional celebration includes the tale of a witch known asLa Befana who arrives on her broomstick during the night of January 5 and fills the stockings with toys and sweets for the good children and lumps of coal for the bad ones.

According to the legend, the night before the Wise Men arrived at the manger they stopped at the shack of an old woman to ask directions. They invited her to come along but she replied that she was too busy. Then a shepherd asked her to join him but again she refused. Later that night, she saw a great light in the sky and decided to join the Wise Men and the shepherd bearing gifts that had belonged to her child who had died. She got lost and never found the manger.

Now La Befana flies around on her broomstick each year on the 11th night, bringing gifts to children in hopes that she might find the Baby Jesus. Children hang their stockings on the evening of January 5 awaiting the visit of La Befana.

We Three Kings of orient are

See My Befana for La Befana song and more about the legend.

The origins of La Befana may actually go back farther, to the Roman’s pagan festival ofSaturnalia, a one or two week festival starting just before the winter solstice. At the end of Saturnalia, Romans would go to the Temple of Juno on the Capitoline Hill to have their augers read by an old crone. Many pagan traditions were incorporated into Christmas celebrations when Christianity became main stream. La Befana was a good substitute for the old woman who read the augers. The saying augur originated with this practice, too, as it was common to wish someone good augers.

La Befana Festivals

The town of Urbania, in Le Marche region, holds a 4-day festival for La Befana from January 2-6. Children can meet La Befana in La Casa della Befana. This is one of the biggest celebrations for La Befana in Italy.

The Befane races, Regatta delle Bafane, are held in Venice on January 6. Men dressed as La Befana race in boats on the Grand Canal.

Epiphany Processions and Living Nativities

In Vatican City, following another Epiphany tradition, a procession of hundreds of people in medieval costumes walk along the wide avenue leading up to the Vatican, carrying symbolic gifts for the Pope. The Pope says a morning mass in St Peter’s Basilica to commemorate the visit of the Wise Men bearing gifts for Jesus.

Rivisondoli, in the Abruzzo region, has a reenactment of the arrival of the 3 kings on January 5 with hundreds of costumed participants.

Epiphany in Milan

Milan has an Epiphany Parade of the Three Kings from the Duomo to the church of Sant’Eustorgio on January 6.

Befana sul Lago

Many towns and villages in Italy have similiar processions, although not as elaborate, ending with a living nativity scene, presepe vivente, where costumed people act out the parts of the nativity. Living nativities, presepi viventi, are often presented December 24-26 and repeated for Epiphany.

Stay at the Castello and enjoy Christmas italian style. Its a chance to earn an extra Christmas Stocking – unless of course you find “coal” in yours (obviously made of sugar!).