If you are flying during any busy time, from the holiday season to regular busy days/hours the key to avoiding stress and making it to the other end unscathed is to utilize these professional traveler, tried and tested airport travel hacks.
1. Always Check In Online
Checking in online 24 hours prior to your
flight gives you several advantages. You are less likely to be bumped from your
flight and you will already have your boarding pass. When you arrive at the airport
unless you are checking a full sized suitcase you can move straight to the TSA
Airlines will let you gate check oversized bags for free, so you can save yourself $30 checked luggage fee by doing it at the gate.
2. Arrive Early
You may be able to get away with arriving later for flights during non-busy times, but during high traffic periods plan on arriving at the airport 2-3 hours early. The most stressful parts of flying on busy travel days are getting stuck in long lines either at check in or at the TSA check point. It doesn’t hurt to have some extra time up your sleeve – worst case scenario you have a coffee or something to eat once you have gone through the TSA check point.
3. Use The TSA App
Use the TSA app to see how long the wait times are. If they are looking excessive you can leave home earlier than planned.
4. Pack Your Carry-On Properly
One of the reasons that TSA gets so backed up
is that travelers don’t think ahead when packing their carry-on luggage.
If you don’t have TSA pre check you know up front that your liquids and laptops will have to be taken out of your bag before going through the x-ray machine. Save yourself (and everyone else) time and aggravation by having your liquids/skin care/makeup products packed together in see through bags packed at the top of your carry on.
Another reason that lines get so backed up at the TSA checkpoint is travelers arriving not ready to proceed through.
don’t have TSA Pre Check be sure to wear shoes that slip on and off easily.
all jewelry, belts, small change from your pockets, jackets, hats, scarves
prior to entering the TSA line. Ideally do this before you leave home, and put
on belts and jewelry after passing through the xray machines.
bags and coats ready to go through the xray prior to getting to the front of
If you watch frequent flyers/professional travelers you will see that they have all of this thought out and prepared prior to arriving at the checkpoint.
6. Turn Left
Most people are right handed, so after having their I.D and boarding pass checked they turn right to the x-ray machines. The lines are always quicker to the left.
7. Bring Snacks
On busy travel days and busy flight times the lines at the terminal snack bars can get long. It is much easier and less stressful to bring your own snacks and just proceed to the gate.
Always arrive at the airport with a fully charged phone and a fully charged phone charger. You can’t rely on their being power socket/charging stations available, and even if there are phone charging ports at your seat on the plane there is no guarantee they will be working.
9. Bring A Refillable Water Bottle
Bring an empty water bottle and fill it at a filling station once you have cleared TSA. Should you encounter delays you will be glad you did!
flights now are fully booked which means they run out of overhead bin space.
Save yourself the hassle of wandering up and down the aisle trying to find
space for your carry-on bag by checking it at the gate.
There is no fee for gate checked bags and they get walked directly down to your plane, so unless you have a connecting flight you can be relatively certain your bag will arrive when you do.
If you are planning a trip to Campania chances are you are just thinking about Capri and the Amalfi Coast, and maybe a quick jaunt into Naples. Problem is, these are the places that everyone goes to, which means the crowds can be brain-bendingly overwhelming.
There is much, much more to see and do in Campania than just the big tourist spots. Whether you want to take a half day or day to do something different, or whether you may want to add an extra few days to your Amalfi Coast trip, here are 8 places to consider when planning your trip to the Amalfi Coast.
Be sure to read to the end as you probably haven’t heard of 6 through 8!
If you enjoy visiting European palaces this one is a must see.
Built to rival Versailles, Caserta is the largest palace in all of Europe. Like
Versailles it is a gaudy display of too much gold, over the top frescoes and somewhat
crass excess, all of which make it completely fantastic!
Rent a bike and explore the beauty of the garden and fountains
which extend 3.5 kilometers in front of the palace, have lunch in the café and
explore the royal apartments.
One thing I learned while there was how fascinating Marie Carolina was. Her well known sister Marie Antoinette gets all the attention, but Marie Carolina was a tremendous character, much, much more interesting. This was her palace and her story unfolds throughout the royal apartments.
The palace at Caserta is a quick and easy train ride from either Naples or Salerno.
2. POMPEII, HERULANEUM AND OPLONTIS
While in the area of Naples and the Amalfi Coast take a morning to visit the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum and Oplontis
If you are not familiar with these incredible sites these are the ruins of three towns taken out by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The towns vanished from the face of the earth for 1700 years.
Over the centuries when people tried to find the fabled Pompeii they looked along the coast line, as it had been a port city but the eruption of the volcano moved the ocean 2 kilometers out to sea. Pompeii was discovered in the 18th century when a farmer inland had been digging for a new well.
Pompeii is Italy’s most unique archaeological site, its 109
excavated acres giving us a snapshot of 1st century Roman life.
I recommend visiting in the morning at opening time (8:30am)
as for much of the year Pompeii gets overwhelmingly hot. Be sure to wear good
walking shoes and a hat and bring a water bottle to refil at the fountains
staggered around the site.
I suggest doing Pompeii first as this will give you insight into the life of 1st century Romans, their social structure, the absolute genius of their technological innovations, and the devastation caused by the eruption.
Herculaneum/Ercolano is only 3 stops away on the local train (the Circumvesuviana) and makes an incredible second excavation to visit.
After seeing the destruction of Pompeii, much of which was crushed down to one level, Herculaneum lets you experience the multi storied homes replete with their red Pompeii style frescoes. Resplendent in its own right, this site is jarring also because it gives you greater insight into the way Pompeii would have looked up until the day the volcano blew.
Herculaneum is about 1//3 of the size of Pompeii, and rather
than being an important merchant port city was a luxury resort town for wealthy
Romans, so features more elegant villas than commercial buildings.
The caves at the beach level are filed with skeletons. When Vesuvius erupted the people of Herculaneum were certain rescuers would come by sea, so the women and children were waiting in the safety of the caves while the men waited on the beach.
Unfortunately for all of them a pyroclastic current of trapped gases at a heat of more than 500 degrees Fahrenheit (and up to 900 degrees) blew their way, instantly vaporizing their bodies.
Their instant death meant they were in fact luckier than their neighbors in Pompeii who suffocated and in many cases took multiple hours to die.
From the 1st century B.C Oplontis was a super
elegant suburb of Pompeii where the uber-wealthy had their country villas. As
with Pompeii it disappeared for 17 centuries and was only rediscovered in the
18th century. There is just one villa is open to the public, but it
is spectacular and well worth the visit.
Poppea Sabina was Emperor Nero’s second wife. This is thought
to be her villa due to an amphora with the name of her freedman and a vase with
her mark on it being found on the grounds.
This is actually the largest Roman suburban villa ever
discovered and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, largely due to
the sensational frescoes. This villa is enormous, with large portico opening to gardens lined with
statues, a swimming pool, loads of rooms, passageways and cubicle as well as a
kitchen still recognizeable.
One of the most extraordinary features of the villa is the wealth of frescoes and mosaics all remaining in situ rather than having been carted off to a museum somewhere.
Interestingly there is no sign of life here at the time of the
eruption. Some of the statues were found on a storeroom, suggesting that
perhaps the villa had been closed up for renovations after the earthquake of 62
An alternative to the frequently overcrowded and always
expensive island of Capri is the delicious little island of Procida. Almost
completely off the tourist radar this one is a weekend getaway for the people
of Naples, but with the exception of August the streets are delightfully empty.
So try to come here on a weekday if possible.
Procida is one of the most colorful places on earth. As you
arrive into its little harbor your eyes don’t know where to land – all the
fishermen’s homes lining the seafront are painted in bright pastel hues, the
sunshine sparkles off the sea, which like the sky is a completely impossible
shade of blue. Procida is visually stunning.
This tiny island is part of the Flegrean island chain, off the
coast of Naples. The island is between Capo Miseno and Ischia, and occupies a
mere 4.1 square miles. Its history dates back as far as the 16th
century BC with Mycenaean objects having been discovered there, although the
first known settlers were Greeks in the 8th century BC.
More than 30 movies have been filmed here including Il Postino
and the Talented Mr. Ripley.
If you take a day trip to Procida be sure to wander the waterfront
and the streets of the Marina Grande, then head over to the back side of the
island. Walk along sun-bleached little streets (but watch out for vespas
zipping around) and head to Marina Corricella for lunch. This darling fishing
village was one of the locations in Il Postino.
A variety of eateries line the waterfront, picturesque with
fishing boats bobbing at their moorings, fishing nets lying out to dry and
colorful buildings all around. Lunch here is authentic, inexpensive and
wonderful. I recommend having a long, leisurely lunch with a view, then having
a swim before heading back to the mainland.
Procida is easily accessible by hydrofoil from Naples.
Another absolute treasure lies at the bottom end of the Amalfi
Coast, the lovely medieval town of Salerno. Not only a wonderful place to take
a day trip to, Salerno is also a tremendous place to base your Amalfi Coast
With train access (including the high speed AV trains) you can
move around much more easily than if you are staying in any of the towns along
the coast road, yet still have ferry access to the entire coast and Capri.
The crowds, tour buses and cruise ship travelers don’t come here, (well, maybe a few small cruise ships do, but not the monsters that invade the rest of the coast)so you can wander around freely, enjoying the beauty, the history, the ambience.
If you stay in Salerno the local nightlife is infectious.
Everyone comes out at night to enjoy a glass of wine and see friends in the
cafes and bars dotted around the piazzas and the picturesque little streets.
The restaurants are fabulous – I love evenings in Salerno.
Along with the castle, the Duomo, the medical school (the first in Italy, it dates back centuries) and the medieval town center, another benefit to staying or visiting Salerno is that it is the gateway to the beautiful Cilento region.
Only 30 km or so south of Salerno you will find one of the
coolest and most un-touristed places you have never heard of, the Greek temples
The 8 best preserved Greek temples in the world are in
Southern Italy. Five of them are in Sicily, the other 3 are here in the former
town of Poseidonia, now known as Paestum.
2500 years ago this was part of Magna Grecia. Greece sent its
young men out to discover and conquer new land. Southern Italy and Sicily were
hot favorites, benefitting from amongst other things, incredible Greek
architecture. Be warned that these three temples are breathtaking.
I love arriving by car (you can also get here by train)
because as you drive through the countryside surrounded by open fields and buffalo
mozzarella farms, these 3 giant temples erupt up out of nowhere. And they are truly
Built in 550 B.C, 500 B.C and 480 B.C the temples of Hera, Athena and Hera II are in unbelievably good condition.
Also still in place are a heroon, a pool and various other
structure dating back to the Greeks.
The temples are surrounded by the remnants of a Roman town.
Romans loved Greek architecture so instead of pulling it down opted to build
around it. Roman roads, houses and apartment buildings can still be seen here.
If you have been to Pompeii and understand the layout of a Roman home, you will
appreciate being able to walk inside the ruins and identify the front and back
doors, the views from the homes as well as their layouts.
As if that weren’t enough, the cats eyes and mosaic floors are
still intact. Not a cigarette butt, coke can or McDonald’s wrapper inn sight –
it is all just here for you to enjoy.
If at all possible try to be here at sunset – it is just unbelievably beautiful. Also noteworthy are the famous roses that bloom here in the spring, famous since antiquity, bathing the temples in their gorgeous perfume and draping the area in even more beauty.
If you enjoy seeing really ancient sites and are in the area,
not too far south of Paestum there is another treasure, the town of Velia.
Velia (originally named Elea) was founded around 540 B.C by
Phoenicians from Corsica who fled the island after a brutal battle with the
Etruscans ad Carthaginians. The town had a long period of economic prosperity
as well as being an important cultural center. Home to philosophers such as
Parmenides who founded the Philosophical School of Elea in the 6th
century B.C, and Zeno, who was around in the 5th century B.C
The Romans took over in 88 B.C. The citizens of Elea were
recognized as Romans but were allowed to maintain their Greek language and
Things to see here include the monumental Porta Rosa gate.
Dating back to the 4th century B.C it is thought to be one of the
only intact monuments of the ancient world. It is perfectly preserved too, cut
blocks of volcanic tufa perfectly placed together without the use of lime to
hold them in place, reaching a height of 6 meters. Interestingly it is the only
example of a rounded arch in Greek architecture to be found in Italy.
The gate leads to an ancient road and paved steps that take
you down to one of the town’s 2 ports.
In the other direction from Porta Rosa there are 2nd
century Roman baths, and a lovely town square.
The acropolis has a medieval church sitting atop a Greek
temple, and just below it a small theater dating back to the 3rd
Also to be seen here are remains of ancient homes and frescoed buildings.
7. BADIA SANTA MARIA DI PATTANO
Not far from Velia you can find the best preserved
Italo-Albanian monastery in Southern Italy, the Badia Santa Maria di Pattano.
Although the first known mention of this site was in a document dated to 933
A.D it is thought to be much older.
The complex is noteworthy for its church of Santa Maria, an
example of Angevin architecture with polygonal apses and ribbed groin vaults.
The bell tower is one of the most ancient Early Middle Ages bell towers in
Southern Italy. Standing 15 meters tall it may have been built in stages,
because it has 5 different decorations, making it fascinating from an artistic
point of view.
The Church of San Fidelfo was built on top of Roman ruins. (A thermal structure can be seen under a glass floor.)
The interior walls are decorated with some amazing Byzantine frescoes, in my opinion, alone they make the trip worth while.
8. THE CILENTO COAST
If you are not one for stone beaches, the crowds, high prices
and overly manicured visage of the Amalfi Coast, this could be the area for
Stretching 65 miles from Salerno to the Tyrrhenian coast of
Basilicata, the Cilento coast is a beautiful alternative. With sandy beaches;
pristine, clean ocean, affordable accommodation and dining options, this stretch
of coast is authentic, a little erratic and the antithesis of the Amalfi Coast.
Don’t expect glitzy hotels or the lamorous posturing of the uber rich, instead
think of ancient port towns with the local fisherman still taking their boats
out at dawn and fishing with handmade nets.
Break your days up with mornings spent discovering ancient Greek
and Roman ruins, lunches in quaint little piazzas and afternoons on the beach.
Some of the towns to look for:
Agropoli, the largest town in the area can be a great place to base yourself.
Only 15 minutes away is Castellabate. The castle ruins and the views of the ocean are fabulous, as is the main piazza. Although pretty tiny it is buzzing with cafes, a wine bar and restaurants.
Acciaroli is a lovely little seaside village you won’t want to leave.
Interestingly it is known for the longevity of its inhabitants, with around 300 centenarians wandering the streets, 20 percent of whom have reached the ripe old age of 110!
Pioppi is another lovely seaside village. Ancel Keys lived here for 28 years studying and living the Mediterranean diet.
Palinuro is yet another beautiful coastal village with a rugged but spectacular coastline broken up with sandy beaches, the ruins of a medieval castle, a blue grotto – it has a lot to offer.
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If you are traveling to Italy anytime soon (or ever!) there
are 3 things you can pretty much guarantee you will eat at least one time while
you are away.
Pasta. Pizza. Gelato.
Some people are lucky enough to have a digestive system and a metabolism that lets them run wild with all three, others of us have to be selective as to how many times we can indulge while away. Whether you fall into the once only category or the multi times per day group, you have to make every time count.
Today we are talking gelato, Italy’s answer to but 1000 x
better than, ice cream.
So what’s so hard about ordering ice cream you say? Well, there’s a little more to it than meets the eye.
It Starts With Where You Buy Gelato
This is in my opinion the most important factor when getting a
With tourism being so huge in Italy (it is one of the most
visited countries in the world) gelato chains started popping up everywhere.
Mass made, factory made ice cream with added color, added sugars, added
God-only-knows-what. Chain store gelato doesn’t taste as good and can be so
over sugared that it bites the back of your throat. As authentic as a Big Mac
and with a provenance and nutritional value equally as questionable, these are not
the places to buy gelato in Italy.
Their gelato either ships in frozen or is made from a packet. This is not the gelato you traveled across
the world to eat!
Everywhere you go in Italy you can find fantastic, artisanal
or artiginale gelato shops. These are owner operated stores where gelato is
made freshly each day from fresh ingredients. The taste, texture and quality
are superb. Think of it as chain store gelato being like eating Kentucky Fried
Chicken versus artisanal gelato being like fine dining. Technically both will
fill your belly but the experience is drastically different!
Artisanal gelato flavors tend to be only what is in season.
You won’t find strawberry year round.
Some artisanal shops only make a handful of flavors each day. In Pienza my friend Nicola’ from Buon Gusto makes only 6 flavors per day. When I take my Glam Italia Tour groups to Pienza I have learned to take them to his store when we first arrive, because we only spend a few hours in town and everyone always wants to go back for another gelato before we leave!
Explore the Flavor Profiles
Artiginale gelato shops offer some really fascinating flavor
combinations. Don’t order the flavors you do at home – try something different!
Look for things like raspberry and rosemary, peach and sage, figs and honey.
They always offer samples so you can try before you buy. I
find the more unusual the flavor combination (unusual to us, quite normal to
them) the more amazing the gelato is. I always try anything with lavender,
sage, basil or rosemary as they give such a fantastic flavor to gelato.
On one of my tours one of the travelers tried orange,carrot and spinach gelato, the thought of which wasn’t overly enticing, but it was so incredibly good we all ended up going back and ordering one!
Mix It Up
Can’t decide which flavors to order? Try a scoop each of two
Don’t be surprised if they refuse to pair the flavors you want
or if they look at you funny. They get so invested in their creations and your
taste experience is so important to them that sometimes they won’t want to put
two flavors side by side.
One time in Sorrento a gelato guy refused to give me 2 flavors
together. It was pretty funny! I couldn’t decide between the two so in the end
he gave me 2 separate cups each with one flavor, then told me which one I was
to eat first. He wasn’t being a jerk, it was because he didn’t want me thinking
his gelato flavors were bad.
I go back every time I’m in Sorrento, which is multiple times per year, and now he just chooses two flavors that play nicely together for me. And I feel no guilt at having two scoops either, because the walk up the hill to the apartment I rent there is savage, so I’m convinced I burn it all off on the way home…
Most artisanal or artiginale
gelato shops will proudly post signs saying they are artiginale/artisanal. You
can also just google artiginale gelato
near me and get walking directions, invariably just around the corner from
where you’re standing!
An easy way to tell if gelato is artisanal or not is to just
look at it. Chain store/mass made/made from a packet gelatos tend to have
punchy, bright colors, whereas artisanal gelato colors tend to be more dull.
Gelato made with fresh strawberries will be a slightly dull pinkish hue, whereas mass market strawberry gelato will be bright pink. Another one to look for is pistachio, a flavor you will find year round. Artisanal pistachio gelato will be a dull, mossy or grey/green whereas mass market pistachio will be a vibrant green.
The best gelato shops are like the best little local eateries
– heavily populated by Italians. Watch where they go, and buy your gelato
there! Sometimes you will see long lines of people stretched out across the
piazza waiting to buy gelato. At Dondoli Gelato in San Gimignano the lines get
crazy long and sometimes stretch beyond the well in the middle of Piazza
Cisterna, but the gelato is award winning and is definitely worth the wait.
Funnily enough the café across from it also sells gelato and never has a line.
Those in the know prefer to wait and have the good stuff.
This tends to be a really good sign, unless it is a bus tour
and that’s where the tour guide told them to go. Bus tour groups are generally
easy to spot though – if everyone in line looks like a tourist, this is not the
place for you to be!
If you can’t spot a good gelato shop don’t worry – ask a local. There is always a good gelato shop close by.