GUEST POST: Precautions To Ensure A Relaxing Vacation

Tuesday, July 18, 2017 | Category: GUEST POSTS, Travel Tips

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Thanks to Jane Moore for this terrific and useful post. Jane’s mantra is: travel, eat your greens, move your body. Commit for a month and drop her a line to let her know how you feel! She loves exploring unfamiliar places and writing about her experiences on FitWellTraveler.

 

There are many reasons to take a vacation. Visiting old friends and family, touring popular sites, or just going to find those out-of-the-way restaurants that serve the best local food are all great reasons. But above all else, a vacation should be relaxing.

That’s the point! You need that downtime to recharge your batteries so you can better deal with the stress of work. But what happens when your vacation is the thing causing you stress? It’s not like you won’t have any fun, but still, a vacation is supposed to be relaxing.

And with a little planning ahead of time, it can be. You just need to be careful about three major sources of vacation stress: travel, lodging, and your place back home.


Image Source: Pixabay

Getting There Is Half The Problem

Air travel can be really easy — or really stressful. Yet it’s often the best way to get to your destination. So what can you do to make it less stressful? It helps to know your rights as an air passenger.

USA TODAY explains that there are some valid reasons for delayed or canceled flights. Weather and mechanical problems can ground flights, and that’s no one’s fault. If your flight is delayed, be prepared for a longer stay in the airport. Make sure you have any toiletries and medications handy as well as enough money to eat there.

But what happens if your flight is overbooked and you get bumped? As Money explains, the airline must get you a new flight after asking for volunteers. If this happens, you can get money if the new flight puts you in more than one hour later than originally planned.

Lodging And Safety Concerns

You managed to keep your seat on the plane, you’ve landed, and you’ve arrived at your hotel. Your vacation is about to start — unless the hotel lost your reservation. What can you do when your hotel has no record of you? There are several things:

  • Bring a printed copy of your confirmation email proving you made the reservation and they confirmed it.
  • Stay calm and start by asking them to just fix the situation. You may even wind up with an upgraded room.
  • Keep polite no matter how stressful this is. Giving into anger and frustration just makes more stress for everyone.

Check out this article for more ideas on getting your hotel room.

Once the hotel is sorted out, it’s time to finally enjoy the sights. This is one of the best parts of the trip! But to make sure it doesn’t get stressful, you need to be smart about things. Safewise.com recommends keeping your cash and credit cards separately and making a copy of your passport or driver’s license. You never know when a thief might strike.

Will Home Be A Distraction?

Thieves aren’t just a problem for tourists. When you’re traveling, your home is more likely to be robbed. While there is no way to guarantee a safe home, there are a few ways to make it unappealing to criminals.

  • Set lights and electronics (like you TV) on a timer.
  • Ask your neighbors and friends to keep an eye on the place.
  • Make sure all your doors and windows are locked, including those in your garage.

Many have dogs at home to deter criminals, but is keeping them home when you travel a good idea? That depends on your dog’s needs, but you often can. Of course, you will need to have a pet sitter their to take care of them.

You Deserve To Relax This Vacation

Going on a trip should be restful. By taking a few steps for your flights, hotels, and home, you can focus on what you need — that relaxing break from it all.

Buon viaggio!

 

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Autonoleggio: The Worst Thing About Travel

Monday, July 10, 2017 | Category: Travel Tips

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No, no, no. There’s no such thing as cheap and cheerful. It’s cheap and nasty and expensive and cheerful  Jeremy Clarkson

 

I’ve been traveling for quite a while now, and no matter where I go — Italy, the UK, France, Belgium, San Francisco — the absolute worst part of the trip is dealing with car rental agencies. And, when we rent a car in Italy, it’s the gift that keeps on giving: six months later we always get notification of some unprovable speeding violation or driving in a “zona limitato” that results in a mad scramble to pay the bill within 24 hours because, if we delay, it will cost approximately three thousand times as much.

It really leaves a bad taste in my mouth that this country that I love so much will play games like this with its visitors. Sometimes the tickets are already paid for by our credit card (provided by the car rental agencies) and the notifications are just that. A fait accompli. Sometimes, like last year, we are notified that we were filmed in a head-on collision and were expected to pay vast sums of money to the car rental agency to pay for the totaled car. Of course, there was no such collision (we might have remembered such an incident, no?) and it allegedly happened the day we left the country. But that sinking, violated feeling takes a while to shake off.

In early spring, I read a review from my friends at Welcome to Sulmona about car rentals. Katy and Susanna said, in no uncertain terms, that if anybody planned to rent a car whilst in Sulmona or other parts of Abruzzo, that they should contact Riccardo at Orso s.n.c., a start-up rental agency founded and run by a local Sulmonese. I did. And, folks, it’s a whole new world!

First of all, Riccardo is as nice as can be and his English is very good. But best of all, he is all about service. He has studied the rental car market and knows what the other companies are doing wrong. So what you get from him is good, clean vehicles; exceptional and timely service; and no surprises. No fear-based insurance scams, no outrageous holds on your credit card, no bait and switch. Just an honest transaction, beautifully executed.

In May, I needed a 9-passenger van so that Tim could assume his duties as driver/co-tour guide on our Taste of the Mezzogiorno Tour. We would be logging a lot of miles: from Rome to Sulmona, on to Trani (with stops in Polignaro a Mare and Alberobello), on to Matera and then back to Rome. My choices were to go back to one of the two other rental agencies at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, where we had had not-so-great experiences every time — or to take Katy’s advice and try Orso s.n.c.

I contacted Riccardo by e-mail a few months earlier, and told him what I needed: a diesel fueled, manual transmission 9-passenger van in good shape, with unlimited mileage, that could withstand the ups and downs (literally) of the tour I had planned. And he came through with flying colors, keeping me apprised for weeks about the make, model, price, etc. It was more reasonable than any van I’d rented, in better shape, and he delivered it right to Fiumicino for me. And, at the end of the trip, he met us back at Fiumicino right on time.

Our beautiful Opel van

But that’s just the beginning. After we parted at the airport, Tim and I went up to the car rental floor to pick up the car we had reluctantly ordered from another company (because, at the time, Riccardo didn’t have the small sized car we wanted; after 10 days in a big van, we wanted a petite model!). When we got to the firm’s desk, we learned that nothing close to the car we had ordered was even available . . . that they would charge us a huge premium for insurance (which is why their stated rate was so low) . . . and that they would not rent us the car without Tim’s International Driving Permit.

Don’t believe anybody when they tell you the IDP is not necessary – these people seriously would not rent us a car without it. When I couldn’t find it, I suspected that I had left it in Riccardo’s van. My M.O. is to unpack it and put it in the glove box right away, so it’s ready to show to any Polizia or Caribinieri who might stop us along the way.

I called Riccardo (a tad hysterical and borderline explosively angry) and he said he would come to the rental lot and meet me with the paperwork. He was halfway back to Rome to meet a friend, but he (a) searched for the IDP, (2) turned the van around, and (3) found us and returned the license. That’s service!

I cannot recommend Riccardo and Orso s.n.c. enough. He has been adding more cars and vans to his fleet since May and will be ready for us when we arrive in Sulmona in October. He also offers driving services, GPS, child seats and pick-up and delivery at any train station in the Abruzzo region. Tell him Tim and Linda sent you . . . and rest assured that you’re getting the best deal and the best service around!

 

Buon viaggio!

 

 

 

 

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(Nearly) a Month in the (Old) Country

Monday, May 22, 2017 | Category: Travel Stories, Travel Tips, Travel Writing

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I am not a great cook, I am not a great artist. But I love art and I love food, so I am the perfect traveler — Michael Palin

 

It keeps getting better, Italy. And I’m pretty sure that’s not just a comparison to what’s been going on in the good ol’ USA these days. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, it’s hard to argue the fact that we are of late an enormously divided people who wake up to unsettling news each and every morning.

Celano, en route from Fiumicino to Sulmona

For a little more than three weeks, Tim and I have been back in Italy, answering endless questions (“Is it really true?”, “Did you learn nothing from us with Berlusconi?”) and trying to focus on showing our travelers a good time and enjoying the food, wine, vistas and slower pace that rural Italy offers.

And our travelers! Every tour has its own special ambience, and this year was no exception. Our “Taste of the Mezzogiorno” group was seven enthusiastic people strong and included one fellow who had never even been to Italy before. I love the fact that he was introduced to the South first, before being overwhelmed by Rome, Florence and Venice. Now he understands about the “forte e gentile” Abruzzese people . . . about the strategic importance of the beautiful blue Adriatic . . . and about the rugged communal life of the interior.

Un trabocco, along the Ortona coast

On this tour we tried to show off three ways of life in three different regions: small city life in Sulmona (Abruzzo), a jewel of a port city in Trani (Puglia), and the remarkable sassi settlement of Matera (Basilicata). Along the way we stopped in Ortona, saw trabocchi along the coast, were wowed by Polignare a Mare and got a close-up look at the trulli houses of Alberobello. It was a lot of driving and, once again, my eternal gratitude extends to my husband, Tim, for driving a nine-person van up and around the surreal switchbacks of southern Italy.

In each region we ate local food, visited local wineries and learned about history and culture from knowledgeable local tour guides. I think it’s a great way to experience the authentic (an overused word, I know) Italy. Our small groups receive warm welcomes, hear good stories, make friends and even get an occasional invitation to someone’s home. It cannot be beat.

Trulli in Alberobello

This fall we are doing something a little different. By popular demand from former travelers, we are going to Venice. I said I would do it only if they agreed to see Vicenza, as well. So we go off on a non-driving tour of two great Northern cities, and then Tim and I will return to Sulmona, where our hearts are.

Ciao from bella italia!

 

 

 

 

Our next tour of the Abruzzo region (and who knows where else?) will be in May 2018. Think about it if you’re up for a small group experience like no other. Watch this space and my Facebook page for more details.

Tim and I go back to Salem, Massachusetts in a few days, where we know a thing or two about witch hunts. We’re looking forward to Venice in the fall . . .

 

Buon viaggio!

In Abruzzo: Arrosticini on the Range

Tuesday, April 18, 2017 | Category: Travel Stories, Travel Tips, Travel Writing

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This article first appeared in DreamofItaly.com

 

If you’re a fan of spaghetti westerns, you might recognize the location of Ristoro Mucciante, a barbecue-delipicnic spot on Campo Imperatore in the region of Abruzzo. This is the area Italians call “Little Tibet” because of its similar mountainous terrain, but also because of the geography of spirit that the area invokes.

In 1970, Campo Imperatore was the site for a series of westerns, including one called They Call Me Trinity whose star, Bud Spencer, just died this past June. For those who are too young to remember, “spaghetti westerns” were a genre popular in the 1960s thanks to director Sergio Leone’s film-making style. The term was coined by American film critics because most of these westerns were produced on limited budgets and directed by Italians. Think A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Today, what’s left from this era is a log cabin rising out of nowhere, nearly 5,000 feet above sea level at the foot of the Gran Sasso mountain, and there are always scads of cars and motorcycles in the parking lot. And that parking lot? Filled with BBQ grills and coals ready for cooking the local favorite, arrosticini (lamb skewers) that you can buy inside. What’s going on here?

This is the home of the freshest Abruzzese farm-to-table street food imaginable — and the locals make regular pilgrimages out here, hauling their salads, side dishes, tablecloths and kids for a picnic experience like no other. On sale besides the lamb skewers: a variety of sweet and hot pork sausages, gorgeous thick beef filets, three or four different kinds of local cheese (Pecorino is my favorite), homemade bread and an assortment of chips, cookies, sodas, beer, wine and soft drinks. Just add the ambiance — and cook your own meat!

And because it’s well situated between Castel del Monte and the resort at the top of Campo Imperatore, a lot of tourist traffic passes by this curious place as well. Why? For film buffs, this area is famous, having provided backdrops for films like The American, The Name of the Rose, and Ladyhawke. As for Campo Imperatore, its historical claim to fame is that from August 28 to September 12, 1943, the local hotel served as the prison of Benito Mussolini until he was liberated by the German armed forces.

Today, the Campo’s Rifugio Campo Imperatore (www.refugiocampoimperatore.com) is the main accommodation of its namesake ski resort and is a good starting point for hiking on the western slope of the Gran Sasso. There’s even a notable observatory here which, since 2001, has been home to the international program that led to the discovery of some 61,000 asteroids.

Back to the Ristoro Mucciante: it is owned by brothers Rodolofo,

Rodolfo at work!

Roberto and Gianni, who grew up in nearby Castel del Monte, the grandsons of a butcher. They still raise some 500 sheep in the area and their next project is working to earn a “biologic” (organic) designation and complete the vertical integration by raising all the plants their sheep need to eat.

Rodolfo and his brothers do not do this fulltime; in fact, Rodolfo is an accountant by profession. But they are very happy to work with their parents, keeping this unique tradition alive. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and it’s clear they do this as much for love as for profit.

“This is the best work in the world,” says Rodolfo, with a grin. “When people ask me what they should see in Abruzzo I tell them Castel del Monte, Calascio and Santo Stefano di Sessanio. But first, see Ristoro Mucciante.”

Ristoro Mucciante

Localita Madonnina

Castel del Monte

(39) 0862 938357

Open daily from May 1 to October 31, 9:00 a.m. –

8:00 p.m. Open on weekends during the rest of

the year, weather permitting.

— Linda Dini Jenkins

And here’s a video I shot with Rodolfo last May, in a raging wind storm. Thanks to Melissa Vice and Cucillo Conad for their hard work!

https://www.dropbox.com/s/gwqr5mejaxb5y9j/Ristoro_Mucciante_2016.mov?dl=0

 

Buon viaggio

 

 

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Happy National Poetry Month!

Monday, April 3, 2017 | Category: Salem Stories, Travel Stories, Uncategorized

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Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash — Leonard Cohen

 

I’m always excited when April comes around, because I can officially come out as a poet.

People who know me well know that I teach poetry at Explorers (Lifelong Learning Institute) at least once a year and that I always offer the option to facilitate journal writing on our tours. Introducing the poetry of travel, and encouraging travelers to make poetry from their travel journaling are favorite activities of mine.

I was lucky enough to be asked to participate in a program at the Salem Athenaeum last month called The Writers in Your Neighborhood and, unbeknownst to me, Tim filmed my part of the program. The first :10 is missing, but the rest of the 7 minute reading is captured here for your enjoyment.

Herewith: a few poems derived from travel and the places that travel and memory take you.

Bon viaggio!

https://youtu.be/koF1cQmXg_E

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