Italy's Cinque Terre Bounces Back Almost One Year After Floods
On October 25, 2011, a rogue rainstorm struck Italy's Cinque Terre area, causing floods and mudslides that nearly destroyed the scenic seaside villages of Vernazza and Monterosso—the other three towns, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore were not affected. Remarkably, their communities came together—with little to no assistance from the Italian government—and managed to rebuild the two towns in time for the summer tourist season. The majority of the restaurants, B&Bs;, and hotels are now open, but check this list of re–openings from Vernazza, and this list of re–openings from Monterosso, before you go. For more information and updates on which Cinque Terre hiking trails are still undergoing construction, click here.
I visited Italy in May with my family, and the best part of our trip was the time we spent meeting the locals and wandering the five beautiful towns that make up the Cinque Terre on Italy's northwestern coast. We found out firsthand why European tourists had always visited this part of Italy, and why Americans were just starting to flock to it as well. The Cinque Terre even made Budget Travel's list of most beautiful paths, where hiking trails reign and cars are few and far between.
I recently shared my travel tips for visiting Rome. Here are three tips for visiting the Cinque Terre area.
Invest in a Cinque Terre Train Card. For about $12 per adult, the Cinque Terre Card gives you unlimited access to the trails, including the super-scenic Via dell'Amore walk as well as unlimited regional train rides between Levanto and La Spezia until midnight. Just remember to sign the card and validate or stamp it before you board, and you're good to go. The daily train card costs $7 for children ages 4–12, and $10 for anyone over age 70. Families can save by buying the family card for roughly $32, as long as you're traveling with two adults and up to two children under age 12.
Stay in the five Cinque Terre towns, or just outside them. In an attempt to experience more everyday Italian live, we chose to stay in Levanto, one town north of the five towns, and use regional trains (included in the Cinque Terre Train Card mentioned above) to get around. During the summer months, Levanto turns into a major European beach destination, best known for its surfing. It was only a five minute train ride to Monterosso, and twenty minutes to Riomaggiore, the southernmost Cinque Terre town. There were also a number of boat options to reach the five towns, but be flexible, since the phrase "on time" is relative in Italy.
Don't be afraid to talk to the locals, even if your Italian isn't so great. When we finally arrived in Levanto after a long train trip from Lake Como, we were tired, hungry, and lost. Dragging around an over–sized suitcase each wasn't helping either. My sister approached a group of women with baby carriages, and asked for directions in as much Italian as she could muster—at which point one woman waved us over and proceeded to lead us clear across town to the front door of our B&B;, La Rosa dei Venti, where we were greeted with open arms by the owner, Mama Rosa. The amount of kindness shown to complete strangers like us was overwhelming, especially when Mama Rosa gave us a kiss on each cheek and told us we should have dinner at her favorite restaurant, La Loggia, a place we never would have found without her.
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Have You Ever Gone On A Regional Food Quest?
Last weekend, I drove up to Maine with a car full of friends. Sure, we wanted to see rocky beaches and pristine forests and boat–filled harbors, but let’s face facts: we were really in it for the seafood. And more specifically, the lobster rolls. In a sense, we were on a food quest, with the express purpose of trying as many different iterations of the same regional specialty as possible in one weekend. Think of it as a shellfish odyssey. But you can’t go into a food pilgrimage without a solid game plan. Here are tips for making the most of your dining quest: Do your research to ensure variety: One of the major dangers of a food quest is that you run the risk of getting sick of the key dish really quickly. How many Philly cheesesteaks can you eat before hitting a Cheez Whiz wall? How many bowls of chowder? Slices of key lime pie? Do your homework early and look for dishes with creative twists on the classic. We found modern takes on the lobster roll at Cape Elizabeth’s Bite Into Maine, which lets diners top their sandwiches with wasabi, chipotle, or curry powder. Ask non–foodie locals: Sure, the award–winning chef at the neighborhood locavore favorite will have outstanding food recommendations. Or the guy behind the counter at the cheese store. Or the sommelier. But don’t be shy about asking locals who have nothing to do with the industry where they like to eat. We got some under–the–radar finds from a lighthouse keeper! Take both sides in restaurant rivalries: Most cities with any remotely serious food scene will have a legendary restaurant rivalry. Which side do you choose? New Haven clam pies—Sally’s or Pepe’s? Philly cheesesteaks—Pat’s or Geno’s Steaks? The list goes on and on. If a restaurant is popular enough to warrant a rabid fan–base, it must be doing something right. So instead of choosing, go to both and then pick your team. Break up your gluttony: As much as you think a vacation can be based around a sandwich (I sure did!), don’t forget to feed something else other than your appetite. We achieved that by picking lobster spots in scenic locations with a view, such as the The Lobster Shack at Two Lights, which looked out on rocky shores and a white lighthouse. Have you ever gone on a foodie quest? What did you eat and where? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL America's Best Food Regions 5 Secret Restaurants in Barcelona World's Best Street Food
London After the Olympics: New Attractions and Affordable Hotels
Hotel prices in London for late August and September—a time of usually gorgeous weather—are as much as 60 percent off the norm. Here are tips on what's worth seeing and how to plan an affordable getaway. Western Europe’s most populated city, with about 8 million residents, has felt the pinch of welcoming an additional million people for a few weeks. But hotels are reporting that bookings are down for the post-Games period, which is prompting them to offer sale rates. US-based websites tend to miss some of the best London hotel deals, so check for deals at Booking.com and Venere.com instead. One of the cheapest sources for airfares to London is Vayama, but there's a catch: Tickets are mostly non-refundable, so if you book, you'll have no choice but to go. But by taking that risk, you can save up to 20% off the lowest rates being offered by competitor online travel agencies. Harrods Toy Kingdom Harrods has just opened a 26,000-square-foot toy department. Kids can sit inside a giant mouth filled with wonky teeth, ride miniature trains and cars in the Wonderland area, and walk on floors that rumble in the Odyssey zone. The gender-neutral toy shop will give standby favourite Hamleys on Regent Street a run for the money. World's first for the arts Until October 28, 2012, Tate Modern will have open The Tanks, the world's first gallery space for live performance art set in a dramatic location, the former oil tanks underneath the former gigantic power station on the Thames River. New shark exhibit When visitors want to see sharks, they usually head over to the city to see the banking district. But the aquatic kinds of sharks now have a posh new display at Sea Life London Aquarium. The Shark Reef Encounter exhibit has 16 sharks, such as sand tiger sharks and blacktips in a 65-foot tank. Can you see the people climbing on the top of the 02 arena? (Courtesy Sean O'Neill)Climb a monument The 02, a venue that hosted boxing, athletic, and other events during London 2012 under the name of North Greenwich Arena, is the city's most popular stadium year-round. This summer, it opened a new external building climb. Up at the O2 allows people to walk across its roof while wearing a special safety harness. Views take in the city's ever-changing skyline, and the 90-minute excursion can make anyone feel like James Bond walking 175-feet above the ground. From $34 for adults. The London Design Festival turns 10 Between September 14–23, the city's glorious Victoria & Albert Museum will host the London Design Festival, a series of talks, exhibitions, and installations about design. But there will also be pop-up attractions around town, such as a sound portal in Trafalgar Square, where musicians will perform concerts in a box with "perfect acoustics." SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL London: Top Fish and Chip Shops (12 comments) 5 Affordable Restaurant Chains in London London to Paris by Premium Bus Can Save Money
Will Baggage Claim Soon Be a Thing of the Past?
With American Airlines' newest venture, you can opt out of one airport annoyance: seemingly endless waits at baggage claim. AA's new Baggage Delivery Service, which debuted yesterday at 200 domestic airports (along with a handful of international ones), allows passengers to skip baggage claim altogether and have their bags delivered to their door for an additional fee. Travelers register through the airline's website, anytime from initial booking up to two hour prior to the flight's departure. if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('0c8d8e6f-40d2-42a3-b8a0-b9bf4c310284'); Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)Such convenience, of course, comes with a price. For destinations within 40 miles of the arrival airport, the delivery of a single bag will cost you $29.95. For two bags, the service runs $39.95, and for a cargo of three to ten bags, a cool $49.95 (which could work out to something of a bargain for, say, a large family with a couple of bags per person in tow). Estimated delivery times range from one to four hours. And if home is further than 40 miles afield? Add a dollar for every mile (with 100 miles as the maximum delivery span offered currently), and budget four to six hours. A liability policy is included with the delivery at no additional charge, insuring travelers for up to $500 per lost or damaged bag, or $1,000 per passenger. With airfares at an all–time high, many travelers will understandably balk at any inessential fees. AA's baggage delivery initiative, however—a potential trendsetter, according to USA Today—could provide welcome relief for business travelers on tight schedules, travelers with complicated commutes or limited trunk space, and even the weary passenger eager to get home sweet home as soon as possible. Would you make use of American Airlines' new Baggage Delivery Service? Sound off below, and vote in our poll! MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Study Determines World's Safest Airlines A Surprising Trend In Affordable Luggage 4 Most Common Reasons Airlines Lose Luggage
Shanghai May Have World's Scariest Hotel Pool
A new glass-bottomed swimming pool hovers 320-feet above Shanghai's traffic. It's a pool in the year-old, 390-room Holiday Inn Shanghai Pudong Kangqiao. The 98-foot-long indoor pool is cantilevered off the edge of the 24th-story of the building. It's only five-feet deep. Guests can stand with their head above the water, looking down to see their toes above traffic on Xiuyan Lu below. The hotel is 13 miles southeast from downtown in a rapidly growing suburb. It typically charges $125 a night for rooms. Swimming in such a radical pool, with just glass between you and a 24-story drop, might not be for every traveler. The previous record-holder was the swimming pool at Melbourne's Adelphi Hotel, which is partly cantilevered nine stories above a street. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Photos: World's Most Amazing Hotel Pools Photos: 10 Gorgeous Pools You Won't Believe Are Public 35 Spectacular Sunrises