Sustainable Travel: How To Be Part Of The Solution In 10 Simple Steps

Mass tourism is completely untenable.

Beautiful cities like Venice are being destroyed by mass tourism.

If one good thing comes from the world being shut down due to the pandemic it could be the realigning of how we travel so that when the world does reopen, maybe this time we can get it right.

Mass tourism causes irreparable damage on many levels but the three most pervasive are: environmental damage, social and cultural damage and economic damage. As much as you may think several thousand people dismbarking from a cruise ship boosts a local economy, guess what – it doesn’t. In fact it does the exact opposite.

This post is the final in a series about sustainable travel, what it is and why we need to be part of the solution.

What Is Sustainable Travel?

Before you start thinking Sustainable tourism is about driving a Prius and eating vegan food let’s look at what it really means. Sustainable travel means developing ways to travel that don’t harm the natural and cultural environments, that minimize the negative impact of tourism and ideally are beneficial to the places we are traveling to. The idea is to keep everything in good condition for future generations to enjoy.

10 Ways You Can Become A Sustainable Traveler

We can make a huge difference by just making a few simple changes in the way we travel. Here are 10 simple things you can do that will make you part of the solution rather thn part of the problem.

1. DON’T Book A Cruise!

The cruise industry is one of the worst offenders in the mass tourism game. Cruises have a massive negative impact on the oceans and the ports they arrive into.

Cruise ship leaving Venice. During the tourist season there will be 5 ships per day in port in Venice. That’s 20,000 extra people decending into a very small town that is extremely environmentally fragile.

The influx of multiple thousands of passengers is bad for the environment, bad for local culture and bad for the local economy.

Here are eight places being completely ruined by the cruise industry:

  • Venice
  • Barcelona
  • Dubrovnik
  • Santorini
  • Mallorca
  • The Great Barrier Reef
  • The Galapagos Islands
  • Bali

You can read more about cruise ships damaging impact on the environment here

RELATED POST: 15 Things You MUST Do In Venice

2. Be Aware Of The Trash You Create

When thinking about the impact you have on any place you travel to, any city, town, village, beach, national park, at all times be aware of the amount of trash you are generating and leaving behind. Even if you are putting it in a trash can or dumpster.

The worst offenders are single use plastics, like bottles of water. Choosing to use refillable bottles or refilling the one bottle can make a huge difference.

Crowds on Barcelona’s Las Ramblas. Imagine if each of these people purchased 2 or 3 bottles of water. Where does all that single use plastic go?

Also think about the amount of trash your food choices create. Making an effort to only eat sitting down in a restaurant/café/food bar can eliminate the trash created by the packaging for fast foods. Try keeping all your trash for two days – you will be amazed at how much you generate! Try imagining that volume of refuse multiplied out by the number of tourists in that town that day. For example if you are in Venice and buy 3 bottles of water you may not think that’s much waste created, but multiply that out by the 20,000 passengers from the 5 cruise ships in port that day and you start seeing what a huge deal that really is.

Beach litter in Hawaii.

3. Avoid Major Chains

Outside of your home country or traveling to the U.S or U.K avoid staying at major chain hotels. When you book with a major international chain approximately 16% of your nightly hotel fee won’t go to the local economy, it will go to the conglomerate. Booking a local hotel keeps the money in that specific town.

The same applies to your dining choices. Avoid the major U.S fast food chains – you didn’t travel across the world to eat McDonald’s and drink Starbucks. Eat at local cafes and restaurants where the food is locally sourced and prepared by locals and where all your dollars are going back into the local economy.

4. Book Direct

When you book a hotel reservation (or any reservation) through a third party booking service like Booking.com or Hotels.com 25% of the value of your booking doesn’t make it to the local economy. Find out what the price is with the consolidator then call the hotel and ask them to match it. 9 times out of 10 they will, and now once again you are putting all the money back into the local economy.

5. Choose Less Traveled Locations.

The Greek island of Paros is much less touristed than islands such as Santorini and Mykonos.

Rather than choosing the most touristed places for your vacation, choose a place less traveled. Rather than Santorini choose one of the hundreds of equally beautiful Greek islands that don’t get cruise ships. Instead of Barcelona venture to one of Catalonia’s equally magical smaller coastal towns. Seeking out smaller, less touristy locations helps dilute mass tourism.

If you must go to (a.k.a. don’t want to miss) the most touristed cities and islands try to go during the off season when then are fewer people around. I love Barcelona but only go between November and March when the cruise ships aren’t running.

6. Get Off The Beaten Path

Florence streets
Florence on a super crowded day. There were literally thousands of people about 500 meters away, yet we had the city to ourselves.

This goes with number 5. Even in the big cities you can still get off the beaten path. Avoid the areas that are full of tourists and explore some of the lesser known sights. You’ll have a much more enriching and fulfilling experience. My rule is spend 25% of your time at the big sites and the other 75% at lesser known, lesser visited places, or “off the beaten track”. Of course you have to see the Colosseum in Rome – it would be madness to miss it. But then go explore the less visited sites and you will fall in love with the Eternal City.

RELATED POST: 18 Things You MUST Do In Florence

7. Support Local Artisans

Rather than shop in high street stores which you have at home anyway, or buying junky trinkets in made in China souvenir shops, support local artisans.

In a random little town in Tuscany we found this local artisan with her loom, making beautiful hand designed pashminas, scarves and knitwear.

Apart from helping keep the crafts and cultures alive shopping from local artisans significantly impacts the local economy.

We bought pieces both for ourselves and for gifts to take home. There were six of us and we equalled her entire month in sales. Always support the local economy.

8. Check Your Sunscreen

Believe it or not something as simple as your choice of sunscreen can have an environmental impact. Sunscreen gets into the ocean and other waterways when you swim or shower it off. You don’t need to be vacationing near the coral reefs for your sunscreen to have an impact.

In 2015 scientists estimated that annually 14,000 tons of sunscreen wash into the world’s coral reefs.

Coral reefs are being destroyed by pollutants.

Some of the most common sunscreen ingredients, oxybenzone, octinoxate, nano zinc oxide and nano titanium dioxide can harm both sea creatures and coral reefs. The damage is significant enough that some places are banning sun tan lotions containing them. In 2018 Hawaii banned the sale of sun tan lotions, sunblocks and suncreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate.

For a list of easily available and affordable reef safe sunscreens click here

9. Travel By Train

italo train Naples

Trains have been shown to be the most environmentally friendly mode of travel. Where possible use trains to travel through Europe rather than cars or planes. Using car only on the days you can’t get places by train has a significant impact on the environment.

RELATED POST: 21 Books That Will Inspire Wanderlust

10. Choose Your Animal Experiences Carefully

Animals shouldn’t be used for entertainment and should be able to live with as little human interference as possible. If you need to see animals in the wild take your tourism dollars to wildlife sanctuaries and refuges and marine conservation projects.

Kim Kardashian with elephant
Kim Kardashian said this was at an elephant sanctuary but sanctuaries don’t ride elephants and don’t use ropes on them. This poor animal was being abused.

Be aware that animals are mistreated and abused in the name of tourism. Don’t take an elephant ride – riding elephants can be extremely harmful to them and the process for getting an elephant ready to be ridden is inhumane. (Rescued elephants go to sanctuaries to escape a life of being ridden and abused.)

Avoid all experiences where animals are not behaving naturally. Also be aware that animals are being torn from the wild to be made available for tourists to take selfies with.

Want to know more? Listen to the Any Given Runway Podcast episode where we talk about sustainable travel and how you can make a huge difference by doing very small things. You can check out the webpage here

Join the Corinna B’s World newsletter and get secret Italy travel tips in your inbox twice each month! You can join the list here.

Why You Need To Know About The Beautiful Island of Procida

Everyone has heard of Naples and the Amalfi Coast but few seem to know about one of my favorite islands there, the picturesque island of Procida.

Procida is part of the Flegrean island chain in the Gulf of Naples, and sits just behind Ischia. Exquisitely beautiful and relatively untouched, Procida is one of the 10 most colorful places on earth.

Luckily the island is off the main tourist radar and hasn’t been ruined by mass tourism. It is mostly a weekend getaway for the people of Naples, which is just 40 minutes away. Many of the homes on the island belong to Napolitans. With the exception of August (Europe’s summer vacation month), for the most part if you are coming Monday through Friday the island isn’t too busy.

On January 18th 2021 the island was named Italy’s Cultural Capital for 2022.

Procida is tiny. It only measures 4 square kilometers, its longest stretch of coastline is a mere 16 kilometers long. Its highest point, Terra Murata is only 91 meters high.

Unless coming by private boat you arrive into Marina Grande, famous for its lively and vibrantly painted pastel houses. The same color scheme is visable on the opposite side of the island, with the houses painted in bright colors so fishermen can see their homes from far away.

The houses along the marina have a tall archway on the ground floor to store the family’s boat during the winter months, and an outdoor staircase gives access to the upper floor, saving interior space.

Houses along the waterfront in Procida

The main square along from the marina is home to the incredibly pretty Santa Maria della Pieta church. Built in 1624 and notable for the clock on all four sides of the tower, the lemon and white church is one of the islands most recognizable landmarks.

The little church of Santa Maria della Pieta in the marina piazza

The body of the island is made up of a web of very narrow streets. Locals come whizzing through on vespas and the occasional 3 wheeled ape. Everywhere you look you are surrounded by vibrant, pretty colors.

RELATED POST: 8 Things You MUST Do In Naples

Because the island is so little you can easily see a lot in one day. The walk from Marina Grande (where you arrive) to Marina Corricella on the opposite side only takes a few minutes.

Santa Maria della Grazie

The crossroads between the villages of Marina Grande, Marina Corricella and Terra Murata meet in a piazza known as the Terrace of Procida, (Semmarezio, la terrazza di Procida) also known as Martyrs Square. The terrace is anchored by another lovely yellow church, this time the baroque Santa Maria della Grazie, built back in 1679. From here you can turn left and wander up to the Terra Murata with the fortress, Palazzo d’Avalos and another church with an amazing view, Santa Margherita Nuova. Palazzo d’ Avalos was built in 1500 for the d’Avalos family who ran Procida until around 1700. In 1830 the palace became a prison, up until 1988. You can visit and take tours but need to book ahead online.

walking down to Marina Corricella from the terrazza di Procida.

Alternatively you can turn right and weave your way down the hill to he lovely little Marina Corricella, passing houses and clothes hanging out to dry along the way. Corricella is the oldest part of the island.

Marina Corricella

Marina Corricella is a working fishing marina. On the hill above you can se the fortress and at the end the church of Santa Margherita Nova. Not only is the waterfront punctuated with colorful fishing boats but you also see piles of fishing nets drying in the sun.

RELATED POST: 10 Things You MUST Do In Ravello

Fishing nets and eateries along the marina.

This stretch of the marina is full of fabulous little eateries. The food is excellent and very inexpensive. The movie Il Postino was shot here, and you can sit out under the umbrellas and take in the views from the movie while you eat.

lunch in Marina Corricella

Portions are huge, so beware when you order. This seafood platter was an antipasti for one, but fed 3 of us. I think we paid about 10 euros.

Beaches

There are several beaches to choose from. There are a couple at the tip of Marina Grande, but you have to figure all the detritus from the ferry and the hydrofoil is also floating in that water.

Chiaia Beach

Chiaia Beach, image via Procida Review

The most popular beach is probably Chaia beach, a long sand tongue further along from Marina Corricella. You can reach it by sea or by foot. From piazza Olmo you duck down an alley and then take 186 steps to the sand, earning yourself a gelato when you get back! From the beach you can look back to Terra Murata at the other end and the marina below. There is a restaurant and a bar at the far end of the beach. You can take the C1 and C2 buses to and from Piazza Olmo

Chiaiolella and Ciraccio Beaches

Cirraccio Beach, image not my own

This is a gorgeous beach at the far end of the island, shortly before the causeway to Vivara island. It is separated by two huge tuff rocks from another beach, Spiaggia Ciraccio. Prior to a landslide they were one single long stretch of beach.

Marina Chiaiolella, Procida

Behind Chiaiolella beach is the Marina Chiaiolella. There are 3 hotels and 2 restaurants, and this is the marina used by most private craft coming in from Naples. You can use the L1 and L2 buses to get to and from Chiaiolella.

Pozzo Vecchio Beach

Il Postino beach, procida. Image via Procida Review.

Also know as Postman’s Beach or Il Postino, this is the beach used in the movie. This horseshoe shaped beach has both private and public sections, and due to its position and typography is known also to have incredibly blue water. As with Chiaiolella beach it gets non stop sunshine all day. It is on the west side of Procida and can be reached with the C1 bus.

RELATED POST: 15 Fabulous Books Set In Italy

Must Eat In Procida:

Lingue di Procida. Image (and recipe in link) via NoChef.it

When you arrive on the island take a few minutes to stop for un caffe and una lingua di procida. These “tongue” shaped pastries are light and fluffy and are filled with a custard cream made from Procida lemons. This is definitely not to be missed! See more here at NoChef.it.

Every restaurant offers endless seafood. Everything is caught fresh that morning and I have never had anything that is less than outstanding.

Procida Lemon salad from Bar del Castello

Also not to be missed, anything made with Procida lemons. Try the fresh and light summery lemon pasta made with fresh mint, lemon zest and a little chili pepper (it’s unbelievably good!) and be sure to try the famous Procida Lemon salad pictured above. Procida lemons have a particularly thick pith under a very sheer rind. This thick white mass is known locally as lemon bread due to its texture. The salad is prepared with lemon slices that have softened in a coolwater bath before being mixed with fresh mint, garlic, pepperoncino and local olive oil. It is out of this world.

Procida is a lovely day trip from Naples and is a great place to not only escape the tourist crowds but to also absorb some authentic Italy. There are a few small hotels on the island as well as some airbnb’s, should you fall in love with the island and never want to leave! (or if you want to plan ahead and stay for a few days.) Procida is very close to Ischia, so you can combine the two islands over the course of a few days vacation.

Getting there: From the Beverello port in Naples you take the hydrofoil to Procida. It takes about 40 minutes and costs 15 euros.

Want to know about more fabulous places to visit in Italy? Join my private members newsletter for a monthly email about a secret place you’ll want to add to your itinerary! You can join the newsletter HERE

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How To Plan A Really Amazing Trip To Italy

Villa Rufolo, Ravello

After the world being locked down for most of 2020, it now looks like international travel may finally be back on the horizon. Now that the vaccines have arrived along with the imminent arrival of the Common Pass, the world may just be ready to open back up. If you are anything like me then you too are more than ready to fly the friendly skies again!

Travel May Look Different

I am expecting travel to look different as we move forward with reopening the world. The mass tourism model has been so destructive to everything from ecosystems to local economies. Not only do I want mass tourism to be curbed, I also think that post pandemic people will be hestitant to take big bus tours, and leary of spending time floating around on giant petri dishes with 4000+ other cruise ship voyagers.

My hope is that more travelers will opt for small group travel, either with small tours or venturing out on their own

Research

While we wait for travel to reopen this is the perfect time to do some research for your trip.

Beyond the usual travel guide books I recommend watching movies set in Italy, reading books set in Italy, listening to podcasts about travel in Italy.

My Amazon storefront has a list of movies set in Italy to watch as well as a list called Books To Inspire Wanderlust, which is full of fantastic books set in Italy that I personally have used to help plan trips.

Podcasts

Check out episode 53 of the Untold Italy podcast where I talk about tips and tricks for planning a trip to Italy.

I just did an episode of the Untold Italy Podcast that was all about how to plan your trip. In the episode host Katy Clarke and I give you fantastic tips for how to put your dream trip together – (remember your most perfect trip won’t be the same as mine or as the person down the street’s perfect trip. The trick is to build the trip of a lifetime for you.) Then we also go over mistakes that we have each made. I learned everything the hard way, which gives me the perfect experience to guide you away from mistakes and keep you on track to do it all the easy way.

The podcast episode is fabulous and I’m really proud of it. You can listen to it here: Untold Italy Episode 53, How To Plan Your Trip.

How To Plan An Amazing Trip To Italy

Here are 9 important tips to consider when planning your trip, whether it’s your first time or whether you’ve already been to Italy multiple times.

1. What Type Of Trip Do You Want?

It seems obvious but oddly enough most people are so busy checking off bucket list sites that they don’t stop to think about what type of trip they really want.

Do you want to lie on the beach and swim in the Mediterranean? Do you want to have a relaxing couple of weeks staying in a villa in Umbria or Tuscany, driving around and exploring little towns and villages and wineries?

Do you want to visit as many Roman ruins as possible? Or maybe you are more interested in Etruscan ruins? Or shopping? Whatever it is that really lights you up and that would make this your absolute trip of a lifetime, that’s what we have to set about planning – rather than squeezing a twenty swim in between two big tourist stops.

2. What Type Of Traveler Are You?

This one is about being realistic. If you are a frequent international traveler the way you approach this will be different than if you are venturing overseas for the first time. If you are new to travel some things such as driving in a foreign country may be overwhelming. If you are a frequent traveler many things may be too touristy for you or you may want to get further off the beaten path.

The key is to design a trip that meets your needs and expectations. For example I would hate a trip that was staying in hotels every night – I prefer vacation rental apartments and villas. But the next person might hate that and prefer to be in hotels every night. No one is right or wrong, it’s just about finding th perfect style of travel for you.

3. Make A long List of Cities And Towns

As you research – watch movies set in Italy, read books set in Italy, listen to podcasts about Italy travel and read the posts of travel bloggers, make a long list of everywhere that sounds interesting or that you might like to visit. Ideally you will make a really long list.

4. Follow Travel Bloggers

I particularly like following travel bloggers as it is easy to find ones that do your type of travel. For example bloggers that travel with their kids, bloggers who backpack around the world, bloggers who like fashion inspired travel, foodie travel bloggers – basically whatever you personally are interested in. If you are a woman traveling on her own you will find solo female travel bloggers great resources and incredibly helpful. It doesn’t seem to matter how far you want to niche down, there are travel bloggers who not only do your type of travel but speak in a voice that makes sense to you.

I also find bloggers who specialize in towns and regions I’m interested in. In the podcast I talk about doing some research on Turin and googling travel bloggers, Turin as a starting point.

The two best ways to find travel bloggers are Google and Pinterest. I use Pinterest all the time. It is a giant search engine that speeds everything up by being a visual medium too. At a glance you can tell whether a place is for you or not. Most travel bloggers have a consistent presence on Pinterest. You can follow them and not only get quick access to their posts, but also they will be saving pins from other likeminded bloggers who are going to help flesh out your trip.

Not sure where to start with Pinterest? My Pinterest account is @Corinnamakeup. I have board set up for multiple different cities and regions in Italy as well as the rest of the world. You’ll not only find pins that link back to all of my travel blog posts, but also to those of other travel bloggers. Check it out here.

5. Look On A Map, Refine Your List

Once you have a big long list of cities, towns and villages that you would like to visit, its time to plot them out on a map and see what is feasible for this trip and what needs to be shelved for another trip.

I recommend staying at least 3 nights in any place. Constantly packing up, checking out, getting to the next town and checking in to your next accommodation is exhausting and chews up too much precious vacation time. For a 12 day trip I will try to stay overnight in only 3 places, using them as home bases from which to do day trips to some of the other towns and cities I want to visit.

When you block things out on a map you get a better idea of which places can be in this trip and you can avoid wasting precious vacation time by doubling back on yourself.

6. Plan Your Transport

As you refine the list of cities, towns and villages for your trip you also need to start researching your transport methods. You may want to rent a car or use the trains or do a combination of the two. Trains in Italy are fantastic, inexpensive and very easy to use. The high speed trains are game changers when it comes to accessing cities that would otherwise take hours to get to.

RELATED POST: HOW TO USE THE TRAINS IN ITALY

For example, Florence to Venice is only two and a half hours on the high speed train. Florence to Rome is an hour and a half. If Rome is your home base you can buzz up to Florence for a day trip one day and another day whip down to Naples, which is an hour and 15 minutes by high speed train.

The intercity trains and local regional trains also open up all kinds of options for you. Using Rome as our example again you can take a day trip to Orvieto in around 2 hours and you can take a day trip from Rome to Ostia Antica in 30 minutes by train. To get a better idea about day trips by train check out this post: Day Trips From Rome by Train and this post: Day Trips From Florence by Train.

Another way to get from one city to another or to do day trips either to places the trains don’t go, or just to be out driving through the countryside is to hire a driver. Professional drivers in Italy are NCC licensed. It is really important thaat you only hire an NCC driver and not someone’s cousin Bob who needs some cash. This post tells you what you need to know before hiring a driver in Italy.

Because all professionally licensed drivers in Italy belong to NCC they can help you get a driver somewhere else. For example if I am going to Piemonte, where I don’t know anyone, but I want a driver to pick me up at the train and take me to a winery, I can ask my Florence/Tuscany driver and he gets me the contacts I need. (I actually do this all the time.)

When planning your transport look at all the options. Sometimes the bus has a more direct and expeditious route, other times the train or a driver will. Flix bus has really nice coach style buses that are super comfortable to travel in and the tickets cost next to nothing. I took a Flix bus from Genoa to Florence. It was a really nice, modern luxury coach and it only cost 20 euros.

7. Make Lists Of Things To Do In Each Place

Now that you know which towns and cities you will be visiting, and how you will get around, you need to make a list of things to do in each place. In the podcast I talk about how I make a list of 20 to 50 things in each town but only plan on doing a maximum of 10. (For a day trip)

This way if the thing you planned on seeing is closed that day or if something goes wrong, you have other options up your sleeve. Things seldom go 100% as planned, so it’s a good idea to have some alternatives planned.

8. Be Mentally Flexible

If you’ve read my international best seller Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) you will already be familiar with my travel philosophy that if Plan A goes sideways, Plan B is invariably 1000 times better anyway.

The trick to a completely fantastic trip is to be mentally flexible. If the thing you had planned on doing doesn’t work out you are bound to find that Plan B far exceeds anything you had imagined. This happens to me all the time. Over decades of international travel I have had so many absolutely incredible experiences that came my way because what I originally planned didn’t work out. From a missed train to Caserta to a Venice day trip being cancelled due to torrential rain, to a (local) friend winding up in hospital the night before we were supposed to go to Naples, to many, many other unexpected twists to my travel plans, every time something hasn’t worked out, whatever I did instead turned out to be amazing.

The key is to relax, don’t get stressed out and above all be mentally flexible.

The 25 – 75 Split

When you are planning your trip and looking at all the amazing things to do in any given city or town, plan on spending 25% of your time at the big ticket tourist sites and 75% of your time at the lesser known locations.

Most tourists just hit the same spots, which are invariably overcrowded. In every city there are masses of other things to see and do that are equally amazing but are off the tour bus radar. My books are all about the other things to do (you can see my books on Amazon here). Another great resource is Pinterest. Just search for “unusual things to do in” (fill in the city) or “other things to do in” (fill in the city) and you will find all kinds of fun and fabulous things to see and do that take you away from the tourist crowds.

You don’t want to miss the most famous sites but you also don’t want them to be the only things you see.

Want more guidance on Italy trip planning? My newsletter tells you about secret towns you may want to visit, foods and wines you need to try (and which regions they’re from), festivals you won’t want to miss, and much more! It only comes out twice each month so you don’t need to worry about getting endless emails from me! Join the thousands of newsletter members who love getting the inside scoop here.

Images used in this post are by Keith and Melissa Photography taken during a 2019 Glam Italia Tour