Q Can we go to the pizza contests in Italy? Who arranges a trip like that?
The World Pizza Championships in Salsomaggiore, Italy, are like the Olympics of Extra Cheese. About 20 international teams will descend on this tiny resort spa town south of Milan on April 3-5. "You just wouldn't think that such excitement over food would exist," says Amanda Brandon, managing editor of PMQ Pizza Marketing Quarterly, which sponsors the U.S. Pizza Team, one of two American teams,"and it's not just the eating part, it's the sports part, too."
The competitors, who advance to the international event through national trials, compete in five categories: fastest pizza maker, largest dough stretch, freestyle pizza tossing and best pizza (traditional and gourmet).
PMQ Magazine has organized two tours -- one for the pizza obsessed, the other for those who want Italian sightseeing with their pie. On the former tour, guests travel with the team and attend the full roster of competitions, the highlight being the acrobatic pizza tossing, which is held at night at a disco. The itinerary includes a city tour and two nights in Milan; a day's excursion to Pisa; the final banquet dinner; and pizza samples. The latter tour visits Milan, Venice and Pisa and spends a day in Salsomaggiore for three of the pizza competitions. Cost for both tours is $2,500 per person double, including round-trip air from New York. Space is limited. Info: 662-234-5481, www.worldpizzachampionship.com.
If you don't want to travel en masse, the championships are free and open to the public (the gala requires an invitation). Salsomagigore has various lodging options, plus spa centers and upscale boutiques. For information on the area, plus details on the competition, see the town's tourism Web site at www.commune.salsomaggiore-terme.pr.it.
Could you provide info on destination weddings and what to expect as far as pricing?
More couples these days are eschewing traditional ceremonies and receptions for something a little more exotic. Nine percent of the 2.1 million American weddings each year are held away from home, according to the Fairchild Bridal Info Bank, with Hawaii, Jamaica and Fiji ringing the most wedding bells in 2004. However, you can wed almost anywhere you'd like -- Europe, Disneyland, underwater -- though the easiest locations are in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean, where requirements are minimal. Otherwise, you might be saddled with such stipulations as a 40-day residency requirement (France) or the two announcements in a local newspaper (Greece).
Prices vary greatly. You can go "cheap" -- a relative term, since you'll still be paying for flights, hotel and a marriage license -- or you can have a blowout. Weddings at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua in Maui (800-241-3333, www.ritzcarlton.com), for example, run from $4,500 (ceremony only) to $13,000 (ceremony and ocean-front suite), with such add-ons as leis ($15 each). You can also do a wedding a la carte, with location fees starting at $2,200.
The most economical way is to wed at an all-inclusive resort. Beaches (888-BEACHES, www.beaches.com), for one, has a base package of $750 for its Jamaica properties and $1,500 for the Turks & Caicos; couples can tack on extras, such as $200 for sunset champagne. The resort also offers free weddings for couples staying on the property for at least five nights (by comparison, three nights at Beaches Sandy Bay in Negril runs $954 per couple).
For more ideas, as well as tips on planning a destination wedding, see TheKnot.com (www.theknot.com), a wedding-planning Web site.
My husband has back problems and is only comfortable in an adjustable bed. Any ideas on hotels that offer this?
Adjustable beds are more commonly found in medical care facilities or private homes than hotels, but after some sleuthing by the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), two possibilities popped up: Kokopelli Suites (800-789-7393, www.kokopellisuites.com) in Sedona, Ariz., which carries a Craftmatic-like adjustable bed, and Hotel Montecarlo in Barcelona (011-34-93-4120404, www.worldhotels.com).
For hotel stays where an adjustable is not available, ACA spokeswoman Angela Kargus recommends a recliner. "The simplest solution would be to ask the hotel if the room in question comes with a recliner," she said in an e-mail. "A recliner can be adjusted to a similar position as offered by an adjustable bed -- supporting the head, neck, shoulders, upper and lower back, hips, thighs, and legs." Kargus says many hotels have recliners (she found at least 10 in Seattle), though the room rate is often more expensive. Another solution is to pile on the pillows. Kargus suggests sleeping in a fetal position with a pillow between your legs, or on your back with legs bent and one or two pillows tucked under your knees.
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