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Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

Greetings fellow travelers and welcome to this week’s Carnival of Cities. I’m happy to be your host as we jet around the world following tales of tapioca, tumbling and taxidermy. Intrigued? Read on . . .

New York City, NY, USA: Sascha Zuger from Travel Savvy Mom scoops a great hotel package, describes her run-in with Sesame Street’s Gordon and highlights the Kids’ Night on Broadway offer in her post Broadway, Baby!

Rome, Italy: speaking of perfect hotels, Mara at Mother of All Trips has identified a real winner for young families near the Coliseum in her post Mondays Are for Dreaming: Hotel Lancelot.

Naples, Italy: Karen Landes is blogging at WhyGo Italy on the shades of life on display when slicing Naples in two in the post Spaccanapoli: Naples’ Historic Main Street.

Washington, DC, USA: Jon at The DC Traveler gives us a peek at the folks folding themselves in half and risking their lives nightly for our enjoyment when he goes Backstage at Cirque du Soleil KOOZA.

San Francisco, CA, USA: DFernandez takes us along on a twisty insider tour of his favorite tourist spots in The (Crooked) Road Not Taken at You’re So City.

London, UK: Caitlin at Roaming Tales is serving up top tips for London’s East End — not the least of which is where you may spot folk-dancing squirrels selling high-end clothes . . . Check out her post A Stroll through London’s Quirky East End for directions, or simply let your badger on a leash lead the way!

Prescott, AZ, USA: Granny J takes in an impressive number of public scupltures in Prescott’s Heroic Bronzes at Walking Prescott.

Dublin, Ireland: A detail on the airport wall caught the eye of Fin Keegan in the post Bitter in the End.

Dresden, Germany: You’d have to be blind to miss the detail on the tiled wall called the Procession of Princes in my post Saturday Photo Friday #4 here at Less Than a Shoestring.

Bangkok, Thailand: The news about hundreds of air passengers stranded as rebels seize the airport putting your Thai travel plans on hold? Conan Stevens serves up a perspective on the impact of the foreign spender in Is Thailand Safe to Travel in Now?

Shanghai, China: Our benevolent leader Sheila Scarborough gives us the scoop on a bubble tea chain discovered in China which has a branch in — no joke — Albuquerque in the post Stop into China’s rbt for Tea and Juice Drinks at the Family Travellogue.

Mexico City, Mexico: Gilocafe has a video to share from their visit to Teotihuacan Pyramids: Mexico City, Mexico.

Kanyakumari, India: Maneesh of Admirable India shares his photos from two museum visits in the post Trip to Kanyakumari: Chapter 2: Wandering Monk Exhibition, Kanyakumari and Government Museum, Kanyakumari: Part 1.

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic: Jason Sarracini of Trip Quips gives a quick resort tip for a stay on the island.

That concludes this week’s Carnival — the next Carnival of Cities will be hosted by the friendly folks at UpTake. Submit your (one, non-spammy) blog post about any aspect of ONE city to the next edition before next Tuesday using the carnival submission form. If you like these posts, try browsing the extensive Carnival of Cities archives.

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Spring 2007 I took a daytrip from Bergamo, Italy, (where I was staying) to Lake Como. It was one of those convoluted trips requiring multiple forms of transportation — bus, train, ferry and cable car — to make it even possible. You can’t complain too much, however, when all your connections go off exactly as planned.

I spent most of that rainy day enjoying the beautiful scenery (more dramatic for the low-hanging clouds) and walking around the various gardens open for public viewing in the small cities around the lake. It was so that I happened to call in Varenna. Navigating winding pathways and tiny roads without sidewalks on my way to the villas I planned to visit, I happened upon this dilapidated staircase, which seems to capture nearly every romantic notion Americans cherish about Italy. Having said that, don’t you want to visit too?

Varenna struck me as a lovely place to enjoy a relaxed honeymoon. In the same instant, thinking I had discovered a real gem — charming, yet off the radar, as much as any city in such a visited area can be — I entered the first villa whose garden I’d come to see, and discovered a Rick Steves tour group staying there! So much for that theory . . .

Late spring — when the azaleas, rhododendrons and roses are already in bloom — is the best time to visit the gardens in this area. Bellagio is the city with the two largest gardens: Villa Serbelloni (visit by guided tour only; no tours when raining) and Villa Melzi d’Eril.

Follow other travelers around the world on Friday at the links posted here.

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Most tourists tramping through Europe to conquer the must-see sights are likely surprised when they get to Pisa, Italy. With our singular focus on the tower (do you hear me, ladies?), many are caught unaware that it is part of a larger architectural ensemble and is in fact dwarfed by the huge cathedral and baptistry right next to it. Take it from the no-budget traveler: the cathedral is actually a far better investment of your tourist time and dollar! By all means, take the requisite photos holding up the Leaning Tower to show to Mom and Dad, but give yourself at least an hour to explore the intricacies and artwork of the lovely, massive cathedral.

I’ve visited hundreds of churches, but the inside of the Pisa Cathedral is a spectacular one worthy of the admission fee:

Glorious — heavenly, even! And you’ll appreciate the cool reprieve from the hot summer sun and the Africans hocking watches.

Follow (or join!) the Photo Friday trip around the globe by clicking here (starting Friday).

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The travel season is in full swing, as you can tell by the questions rolling into my e-mailbox.

  • First up is Patricia from Norman (welcome back!), who wanted to know how to treat her luggage if she feared it had been exposed to bedbugs.

This is a serious (if icky!) question, as no one wants a bedbug infestation at home. Bedbugs retreat into crevices, making them extremely difficult to eliminate once they have been introduced. If you have followed the news, you will know that due to a ban on the toxic chemical once used to kill bedbugs, they have begun infesting even 5-star hotels in major cities. Once more, ick!

One of the best resources I found online addressing this came from the University of Minnesota Extension office. Most essential information is the following:

How can I assure that my items are not carrying bed bugs without throwing them away?

Many people may want to discard all luggage and clothing after discovering an infestation, but this is unnecessary. The key is to contain all items suspected of carrying bed bugs in plastic bags until the items can be laundered, washed by hand, heated, or frozen.

Before leaving the infested site, anything that can be laundered should be sorted and placed in plastic bags. Separate the laundry as you would if you were normally laundering items, specifically: light colored clothes from dark items; delicate items from items that can be laundered on wash / dry regular cycles; and finally, dry cleanable items. Separating the clothing permits easy loading of the washing machine and you can avoid escaping bed bugs as you try to sort the laundry at home.

When washing, set the washer and dryer for the hottest setting that the fabric can withstand. If you need to use a dry cleaning service, mention to them that the items may have bed bugs and they can keep the articles in the plastic bags until just before loading into the machines.

Suitcases and other items that cannot be placed into a washing machine should be carefully inspected, and if bed bugs are found (or you are not sure) place them into plastic bags, as well. Suitcases may be hand-washed. If hand-washing any items, use soapy water and make sure that the hottest water possible is used. Test the item to make sure it will not be affected by the hot water. A target temperature of 100°Fto 120°F should be sufficient. Use a scrub brush along the seams and folds.

Items that cannot be washed may be heated or frozen. Currently, research is being conducted to determine the most effective thermal conditions for killing bed bugs, while not damaging materials. However, based on related research, a two-hour core exposure at 120°F (45°C) should be considered a minimum target temperature for heat treatments. For freezing, a minimum of 23°F (-5°C) must be maintained for at least 5 days. As the temperature is decreased, the time of exposure is shortened. For instance, the articles could be “flash frozen,” resulting in a very short time of exposure, but the target temperature should be -15°F (-26°C), the conditions required to instantly freeze the eggs. Keep in mind that most household freezers will have varying temperatures between 30°F and 20°F, and a 2-week freeze time is recommended if you are uncertain of the freezer temperatures.

Remember, if heating or freezing conditions are used, remember that these adverse conditions must reach the core of the articles being treated.

Patricia chose to “treat” her suitcase by placing it in the hot Oklahoma sun for a few hours. You may have to adjust your method based on location and season.

At the time that Patricia wrote me about bedbugs, a friend of mine was dealing with a lice outbreak in the family. Here is an article with links to lice-control resources. If you are not the parent of a school-aged child, you might be surprised to learn that lice are gaining resistance to the chemical most commonly used in shampoo treatments (which you might remember from your own childhood), making nit-picking combs the most reliable method for eliminating eggs and nits. Hopefully you will never deal with a bedbug or lice infestation on vacation, but it never hurts to be prepared for these ugly sides of travel as well.

  • Next we have Mark in Orlando who wanted to know the best time to buy his train tickets for a Munich-Paris trip in September.

Any time you’re considering travel across Germany, you’ll want to brush up on how to do it cheaply by reading the following two posts: Getting Across Germany Cheaply, Part One and Getting Across Germany Cheaply, Part Two. If you’re set on the train, the first one’s for you.

Mark wrote in his email that online forums suggested it would be cheaper to wait until arriving in Germany to purchase his ticket. This is simply false. It is possible to purchase tickets from any computer in the world up to 90 days before your travels using Deutsche Bahn’s online search function, and it pays to buy as close to the 90-day border as possible. The cheapest tickets — inside of Germany called “Dauer Spezial,” across Europe called “Europa Spezial” — have limited numbers and will be snapped up quickly. Here is a page describing how to book your tickets online (or by phone, if you prefer), along with the delivery options (printing vs. mailing vs. picking up).

In Mark’s case, there is a special sale between Munich and Paris called Europa Spezial Frankreich, with tickets available for as little as 39 euros! Unfortunately for him, on the date he wishes to travel, all of the 39-euro tickets have already sold. There are, however, three trains with 59-euro fares and one with a 69-euro fare, so it still pays to book in advance.

What follows is a quick tutorial in searching for scheduled trains and their prices for your trip:
+ Enter your information here: Munich, Paris, date and approximate preferred time. No need to change anything else. Click enter.
+ Because it’s an international connection, it will ask you to enter your age, in case you are eligible for a further discount. Put in your age and hit enter.
+ On the next page, it will bring up three trains around the time you entered. If you want to see earlier or later trains as well, click on the Earlier and Later arrows in the “Time” column. You will see it also shows you the standard fare as well as the savings fares. In order to see which prices are actually available, click on “show availability for all.” When you find the time/price combo you like and want to book online, select purchase. On the next page, locate the proper fare and select purchase again. You will then be taken to the booking engine, which will make you register before allowing the transaction.

  • We close today with Margaret in Italy, who is wondering how to deal with a serious case of homesickness while spending the summer alone abroad.

First stop for anyone feeling homesick (or irritable, sad, or otherwise emotionally unstable abroad) is this article on culture shock. It is important to remember that what you’re feeling is absolutely normal and you are by no means alone.

> Contact with home is important, but it only helps to a certain degree — it can feed the homesickness if you dwell on it too much. That said, we all need somewhere to vent, and that generally means calling your nearest and dearest. If a phone is not available, a Skype account allows you to call people using the internet and it’s pretty darn cheap.

> Is your suitcase fully unpacked and stored away somewhere, or have you been living out of it? Put your things on shelves and give yourself a mental cue of permanence.

> Make new habits and rituals. Always buy your bananas from the same guy, always get the same pastry at the same shop. As people begin to recognize you, are friendly, and can anticipate your needs, you have the feeling you belong.

> It might help to reflect on your experiences, to distance yourself somewhat from your feelings. Journaling or blogging and photography are a good way to get a new perspective: think about how you would distill this experience for others and simply document it.

> Try to cherish the opportunity everyday by doing something Italian that you *can’t* do at home — hang out on a piazza, surrounded by ancient buildings, drinking coffee or just listening, watching people parade by with their baby strollers and high heels; try a new gelato flavor (or three); visit a museum and admire the marble sculptures; go to the market and buy fresh ingredients for a bufalo mozzarella and tomato salad dinner; wander town without a map and discover new things; get on the train and take a weekend trip to Rome, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Venice, Bergamo!

> I know the saying is “Feed a fever,” but a taste of home can be a quick fix. For Americans, try to:
+ bake something, anything — banana bread’s a good one, your favorite cookies or brownies are another
+ whip up something typically American: hamburger and fries or potato salad, taco salad or fajitas, BBQ chicken

> Laughter and distraction are also good cures. It can’t hurt to:
+ see a movie or watch a DVD in English; serve with buttery popcorn
+ watch The Daily Show, The Colbert Report or some other (keyword: ) funny show you like [I have heard but am not condoning that a computer with internet access can find most any programs from abroad using a proxy and Hulu or Surf the Channel]

> If doing things by yourself makes you feel lonely (and thereby homesick), then take someone with you or pick up someone along the way. Read the post Meet People While Traveling for more ideas.

Thanks to these readers for writing in. If you’ve got a question, feel free to shoot me an email via the contact form.

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I recently discovered a post by the folks over at SkyScanner entitled Satellite Airports – do you know where you’re going?  While I know that Schoenefeld Airport lies 17 rather than 71 km from Berlin, I did think the *idea* was a good one; nevertheless, the chart needed more information:  HOW do you get to and from the airport, HOW MUCH additional money will you shell out to get there, HOW MUCH LONGER will it take you to get to/from a more remote airport?  This is the information you really need in order to make an informed choice about whether or not that bargain airfare is as cheap as you think it is.

So without further ado, the first in a two-part series of charts outlining the nitty-gritty of how, how much and how much longer, today in Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Italy, UK and Poland:

AIRPORT CITY DISTANCE (km) TRANSPORT OPTIONS COST O/W EST. TRANSIT TIME (min)
Charleroi Brussels 47 Charter bus, local bus/train  €13; €10.50 60, 20+50
Skavsta Stockholm 106 Charter bus, local bus/bustrain SEK 150; SEK 21+89-135  80, 20+60-85
Torp Oslo 86 Charter bus, train NOK 180; from NOK 199 110
Bergamo Milan 47 Charter bus, local bus/train  €8; €1.65+4.10  60, 30+60
Ciampino Rome 38  Charter bus (1, 2), local bus/train, local bus/subway from €5-8; €1+1.30; €1.20+1  40-45, 5+15, 15+25
Pisa Florence 70 Charter bus, (local bus/)train €8; €(0.95+)5.60  70; (5+)65
Treviso Venice 31  Charter bus, local bus/train  €6; €1+2.35  70, 15+35
Forli Bologna 67  Charter bus (1, 2), local bus/train €10-12; €3.50+3.90  85, 15+60
Stansted London 56  Charter bus (1, 2), express train from £2-8; from £14  75, 45
Luton London 52  Charter bus (1, 2), express train (1, 2) from £7-10; £10-11  70, 25-35
Katowice Krakow 100  Charter bus (1, 2local bus/bus (1, 2)-train 44 zl; 20 zl + 12-16 zl 120, 50+70-100 

If you have a request for information about a mystery airport, send it along post-haste, via comment or email, and I’ll include it in the next chart.

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Welcome to the fourth Travel on a Shoestring Carnival for Europe. Here you’ll find European travel tips for those without a lot of money to spend.

Photographic inspiration this week comes from yours truly, with a sloping street view of flowering balconies, rain-slicked cobblestones and lush wisteria growing over ancient stone walls captured in Girona, Spain in April.

Andrew Evans reminds us of the pleasures travel has to offer if we simply give in to fate in Paris Sans Agenda posted at Intelligent Travel.

Karen Bryan of Europe a la Carte has the scoop on the latest cheapo hotel rooms for early-bird bookers across the UK in Travelodge UK £19 rooms Summer offer and a warning for rental car travelers flying out of Pisa in Almost impossible to refuel your hire car near Pisa airport.

See the new Europe on two wheels with help from Tim Leffel‘s resource-studded guide to getting off the beaten path of cycling tours in Biking in Eastern Europe, posted at Transitions Abroad.

Headed to Firenze?  Tom Meyers of EuroCheapo Blog is helping Italian travelers easy the pain of dropping dollars with his tip-off on a new program in Florence: Americans save 10% on hotels, food throughout 2008.

Alex Robertson Textor provides a few more clues on the architectural and cultural puzzle that is Brussels in his post Brussels: Some Impressions, Some ‘Hoods, and a Great City Guide at Spendthrift Shoestring.

Get your celeb on with Christine at the Cannes 2008 – Short Film Corner – Tarantino in Cannes posted at Me, My Kid and Life: An American Single Mom Living in France.  Unless you’re there to work, Christine advises enjoying the festival from the outside rather than in.

If you haven’t had enough Hollywood action after that post, check out the Indy Adventure Contest Winner: #3 posted at Intelligent Travel.  Anyone who’s ever chased a speeding bus will sympathize with this one. 

Christopher Cook describes one easy method for avoiding transaction costs in Understanding ATM Fees: cutting the cost of bank fees overseas posted at noambit -Travel Europe.  One tip, from experience:  before you go signing up for a Bank of America account, make sure you search the internet for their latest account signing bonus, which usually ranges from $75-100 in FREE MONEY.  (If that link has expired, try a quick search for “Bank of America” at the site Bank Deals.)

Who knew guidebooks were so darn useful?  If you haven’t figured that out cornerstone of travel yet, take a gander at Global Traveler‘s post Vacation Guides – Your New Best Friends at Traveling Around The World.

Raymond of Money Blue Book is still gaming the credit-card offers in The Best Frequent Flyer Airline Miles Credit Cards For Cheap Flights and How To Maximize Your Free Citi Thank You Network Credit Card Rewards.

Wrapping up, Joshua Seth presents a USB solution to your in-flight power problems in Laptop Charger Travel Tip posted at Joshua Seth Blog.

Thanks to everyone for contributing! If you’d like to see your post on budget European travel in July’s carnival, submit using our online form. Next week, we’ll be back to North America, Central America and the Caribbean. Submit your posts for that carnival before next Wednesday!

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A number of my favorite travel bloggers are in town for the ITB — the team from EuroCheapo and I ascended the dome of the Reichstag in record time last night, while a reception tonight promises a meeting with Karen from Europe a la Carte. It’s always nice in the largely anonymous blogosphere to learn about the people whose work you respect and how they got to the point where you discovered them.

That’s my way of saying there’s not much time to elaborate on the interesting news which you’ll find highlighted below.

Today kicks off the London Festival of Europe, with free events, lectures, debates, films and workshops till March 16th. Thanks to Andreas for the tip.

Bad news for budget fans: Rome’s Forum will now charge an admission fee. If you’re already in Italy, you can get in free until Monday. Budget Travel‘s got all the details. Other bad news is that Delta is looking to more tightly control carry-on luggage on its international flights. This doesn’t stop “cheaters” per se, just changes the rules of the game (like making everything fit in the one bag with the red tag until you’re actually on the plane). Is it better that passengers repack their belongings as necessary in the aisle or the seat rather than in the airport terminal? A few tips for fudging your carry-on weight can be found in this post — best used sparingly!

Also at This Just In, Greyhound is trying to get in on the cheap Chinatown fares between DC and NYC with BoltBus, a quasi-low fares scheme. Bad news: a commentator suggests there are extremely limited $1 tickets per bus. I put in a random date in March, however, and discovered $1 fares for every bus that day. The good news: free wifi! You can read more about and find links to your East Coast car-free travel options in this post.

A college friend of mine recently mentioned her reticence to attempt air travel with baby. To her and my other newbie-mom readers, a few ideas from the blogosphere: Flying with Fish has a great list of tips on flying with kids and The Perrin Post covers a number of different ideas for keeping your little ones happy and entertained in airports and planes.

Finally, I discovered a really interesting blog yesterday doing a google image search — it’s called Dumneazu: Ethnomusicological Eating East of Everywhere. There’s food and klezmer music and lots of photos and did I mention food? The site was making me hungry just paging along! I was drawn in by the post on Bergamo (his photos of local pastries and pastas are from the bakery I frequent near the city’s main square) and the intrepid trek to the mall across from the airport, but there are lots of interesting stories from all corners of the globe if you read back into the archives, which I heartily recommend you do on a full stomach.

Forecast: Friday expect a new collection of travel freebies, while Saturday’s Travel on a Shoestring Carnival takes us to North and Central America and the Caribbean. See you then!

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