How To Plan Amazing Travel With Pinterest

During this time of Coronavirus pandemic it is hard to imagine we will ever be able to travel again. But we will. After 9/11 it seemed as though international travel was over forever, but it wasn’t. We just had new restrictions that in no time at all became our new normal. SARS 1 back in 2002-2003 looked like it would stop travel forever too, but it didn’t.

There is no knowing when we will be able to travel again, whether it will be months or years from now, but when that window opens we need to be prepped and planned and ready to go. It may only be a matter of time before another epidemic / pandemic /major world event occurs, so we may only have a short time to see the world and experience the magic of international travel before it all closes back down again. Or maybe once this is over the world will adjust to the new normal, and we will be back to traveling freely. Regardless, there will be a time when we can travel again. So let’s get ready.

Most people think of Pinterest as a social media place for recipes and DIY/Craft ideas. Although both are prevalent they make up only a tiny fraction of what is on Pinterest. Pinterest is not a social media platform, it is one of the largest search engines in the world. And it has pictures. So whatever it is you want to know you can pretty much find it on Pinterest, the difference is that when you enter your search terms you don’t get a typed list of options to click on, you get a series of pictures with text. These are called pins.

This is a pin that links to a blog post about Civita di Bagnoregio near Orvieto

When you click on one of these pictures or pins it will take you into a website, magazine article or blog, the same way as clicking on an item on a google list does.

This is an example of a pinterest travel board.
I can keep adding as many pins as I want to each board,
keeping all the pertinent information in one place,
with pictures for quick reference.

When you set up a Pinterest account (they are free) you create a series of boards which function like a cork board. When you find a pin that has information relevant to your search and that you want to keep for later reference you then pin it to the board it goes with.

If you eat a paleo diet you might create a board for Paleo Recipes, search them and then pin the recipes you like or want to try to your Paleo Recipes board.

The same works with travel and planning travel. You create boards for things that apply to your future travel plans and dreams, and then wherever you might be on the internet, whatever article you may read in any publication, you can save to its appropriate board. Almost every article will have either the pinterest symbol at the bottom of it, or if you hover over one of the pictures in the article will offer you an option to save it to your pinterest. If you take that option it will bring up your Pinterest boards and ask you which one to save it to, so all your pins are saved to their corresponding boards.

My Morocco travel board

I use this for all travel I am planning or just dreaming about. For example, I have a board for Morocco Travel and another for Jordan Travel Tips. I may never end up going to either, but both places are fascinating to me. These boards have a collection of pins with all kinds of interesting things to see and do and eat and drink in these countries, as well as information about unusual things to do there, random little towns and villages I otherwise wouldn’t know to visit.

My Jordan Travel board

You can check out my Pinterest boards here and click around to see what I have saved.

If you want a travel experience beyond the big bus tours, or if you want to get information on things to do when your cruise ship comes into port, Pinterest is a phenomenal resource.

Even better, although the regular travel agencies have a presence on Pinterest you will find vastly more incredible information from professional travel bloggers. This can save you a small fortune by giving you better and much more affordable excursion options from your cruise. This is also where you find great information about towns you had never heard of, great places you can reach easily and not be overwhelmed with tourists.

The mass travel organizations like cruise lines and big bus tours are not in the business of showing you random, interesting things. They are about whipping you round the main sites and then getting you back on the bus or the boat. This isn’t always a bad thing, but maybe you want more, or maybe you want more information about the options they are offering. You can find all of this on Pinterest.

Chances are after the coronavirus pandemic mass tourism will disappear or take a long time to come back. This will mean smaller, more sustainable travel will take the lead. There will be more small tour providers like me with my Glam Italia Tours, as well as travelers wanting to just go it alone and have the big experience but without the crowds.

If you are thinking about planning some travel on your own or doing some small tour travel, this list of The 30 Best Travel Bloggers gives you lots of great reading. It’s fun to read the stories of really interesting people heading out there in the world, discovering fantastic places to travel and telling you all the ins and outs of how to get there, where to stay and what you mustn’t miss!

Pinterest is a genius tool for planning your own travel. If you want to go to Paris but aren’t sure what to do there you can ask the Pinterest search bar What to do in Paris or Things to do in Paris and hundreds of pins will populate for you to scroll through and look at. There will be some dingbats telling you to visit the Eiffel Tower, eat a croissant and walk the Champs Elysees. But there will also be lots of travel bloggers who tell you about unusual things to do in Paris or cool things to do in Paris that take you away from the tourist crowds and show you something really special.

There are always pins linking to blog posts that tell you how to do things in any city, from which events you need to book in advance to how to use public transport. You can find out how to use the metro to get around (it’s super easy) and how to see some of the famous sites without booking a tour. Why pay extra to do a package tour of Versailles when you can buzz out there on the train, pick up an audio guide and make your own way around the palace and its gardens?

If planning a trip to Italy (my specialty) set up a variety of boards for different regions and/or cities you are interested in seeing. You may also what to set up a travel packing board. Just type What To Wear in Italy in April into the search bar and endless pins will pop up with outfit ideas and packing tips.

This is my travel packing board.
I’m pretty much set for what to pack for any country ant any time of year!

One of my favorites is to search Unusual Things To Do In (add city or country). This will vary from simple things to do that are not on the mass tourist radar, to really offbeat and unusual things.

Type in What To Do In Rome and you will see endless pins about the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. Type in Unusual Things To Do In Rome and you will discover fascinating things to see such as Domus Transitoria, the Porticus of Octavia and the Pyramid of Cestius. Even better, when you actually go to these places you will not only find them amazing, but there will be very few tourists there so you won’t be squashed in with crowds and will actually be able to see and experience these amazing places. For more fabulous things to do in Rome check out my international best seller Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome, available world wide on Amazon

It is always good to be planning your next trip, even if it doesn’t happen for years. It gives you something interesting to do (especially while on quarantine!) and gives you something new to dream about and look forward to. Pinterest makes it much easier.

You can get really specific too, so maybe you want information on camping in national parks in the US, or travel with small children, youth hostels in Europe or 5 star hotels in Singapore, hiking tips in Peru or ski trips in New Zealand – it’s all there. No matter what your travel style or travel dream is, there is something here for you, with pictures.

So even if it feels like a fantasy right now, and you can’t see how you could ever pull it off, have some fun exploring the world on Pinterest.

Happy pinning!

Not sure where to start with planning travel either for now or for the future? Download my Free Resources pdfs to help you get started building your perfect trip. You are welcome to print off as many copies as you need. Get your Free Resources HERE

Want more help planning a trip to Italy? My book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy (Secrets To Glamorous Travel On A Not So Glamorous Budget) is an international best seller, available world wide on Amazon.com

How To Get The Best Gelato In Italy

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.

lemon gelato in Capri Italy
Lemon gelato in Capri. Not to be missed!

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 gelato.

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!

Gelato franchises/chains are always scattered through the high tourist areas and are generally very close to major tourist attractions. If you have read my book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) then you already know to avoid tourist trap eateries of any kind!

RELATED POST: HOW TO ORDER COFFEE IN ITALY

Always Buy Artiginale

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!

Buon Gusto artiginale gelato in Pienza Italy
Inside Buon Gusto gelateria in Pienza, Italy

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.

RELATED POST: HOW TO MAKE ITALIAN COFFEE IN A MOKA

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.

strawberry gelato italy
Gelato made with strawberries and basil.

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!

Gelato from Buon Gusto in Pienza
The one in back is the spinach and carrot gelato. As awful as it sounds it was actually sensational!

Mix It Up

Can’t decide which flavors to order? Try a scoop each of two or three!

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.

gelateria Teatro, rome
white peach with sage and raspberry with rosemary gelato at Gelateria Teatro in Rome

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…

RELATED POST: HOW TO USE THE TRAINS IN ITALY

How Can You Tell If It’s Artiginale?

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.

artisanal pistachio gelato in Volterra, Italy
Real pistachio gelato will be a slightly dull shade of green

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.

Have you read my books yet? Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) and Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things to Do in Rome: Beyond the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps are both available worldwide in paperback and on Kindle and the Kindle App. Both books are bestsellers and will change the way you experience travel in Italy!

Look For Locals

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.

Rail Europe (Americas)

10 Things NOT To Do In Italy

Being that I am in Italy at the moment leading the Glam Italia II private tour, I thought this blogpost from Fodor’s was particularly pertinent!

10 Things NOT To Do In Italy

 

The more time you spend in Italy, the more you’ll notice that Italians love telling you what to do…whether you ask them for advice or not. Try this wine. Try it again. Pass that semi truck—you can do it! Wear different shoes. Change your hair; you’re not eighty. Loosen up. Mangia, mangia! For a change of pace, here’s a list of things NOT to do in Italy—a country as beloved for its passionate people as its natural beauty and delicious cuisine.

DON’T….

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HEAD TO VATICAN CITY IN A TUBE TOP

We know the desire to charm the Italians with your spaghetti strap sundress might be overwhelming, but visitors in skimpy clothing are forbidden to enter holy sights. If you can’t bring yourself to wear a top that covers your shoulders, tuck a scarf or cardigan into your bag, and use it to make yourself presentable when you’re on holy ground.

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PARK INSIDE THE YELLOW LINES

Or the pink ones, if you’re eating for one. Or the blue ones, if you want to save a few euro. Few things are as gutting as heading back to the parking lot and finding a parking ticket on your rental car, or worse, a stark gap where your car used to be. In an Italian parking lot, the white-lined parking spaces are free, the blue-lined are paid, the yellow-lined spots are for disabled motorists, and the pink spots are for expectant mothers. As for potential parking spots that have no lines at all, be sure to look for Zona di Rimozione (Tow Zone) or Divieto di Sosta (No Parking) signs. Or just do as the Italians: cross your fingers and park on the sidewalk. Sideways.

Related Post: How To use The Trains In Italy

EXPECT THINGS TO HAPPEN ACCORDING TO SCHEDULE

One of the first things any visitor to Italy will learn is that there’s time…and then there’s Italian time. Italian time is elastic (don’t be surprised when your 4 p.m. Colosseum tour starts at 4:30) and so are business hours. Many businesses—even, bafflingly, restaurants—shut down for lunch and will also be closed two days a week, days which vary from business to business. Double-checking business hours is crucial unless you enjoy making empty treks. Public transportation is also often “out of order” or delayed, so give yourself ample padding between travel connections.

Get-Fleeced-by-a-Gondolier.jpg

GET FLEECED BY A GONDOLIER

Taking a gondola cruise in Venice might seem like the most romantic thing on earth until you get the bill. Surprise: a gondola ride can cost upwards of $65 per person (!), and even more if you have a shady gondolier. If a $65-$130 boat ride isn’t in your budget, but you still have your heart set on floating along Venice’s canals, consider hopping aboard a traghetto—one of the water taxis used by Venetian locals when they want to cross the Grand Canal. The ride will be much shorter, but the traghetto boats are exactly the same as the tourist gondolas and tickets will cost around $5.

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TAKE THAT GOOGLE MAPS SHORTCUT

Should you be renting a car to explore the country, you’ll probably be using a GPS or Google Maps. You might be tempted to save on autostrade tolls by taking one of the outlined shortcuts. But the farther south in Italy you go, the worse-kept the roads tend to be. Razor-narrow passages, huge potholes and an absence of streetlights can make navigation difficult for a traveler unfamiliar with Italian motorways; the SS7 (Via Appia)—a mostly-unlit winding coastside path running from Rome to Brindisi—is particularly perilous. You might have to pay a bit extra to take the autostrade, but at least they’re well-kept.

Get-Yourself-Psyched-for-Authentic-Spaghetti-alla-Bolognese-in-Naples.jpg

GET YOURSELF PSYCHED FOR AUTHENTIC SPAGHETTI ALLA BOLOGNESE IN NAPLES

In Italian restaurants outside of Italy, all of the boot’s many regional cuisines are slapped with the giant umbrella title—ITALIAN FOOD—so you’d be forgiven for not knowing that pesto was invented in Genoa and Limoncello is from Sorrento. But you wouldn’t head to Los Angeles hoping for the best barbecue of your life, would you? Do yourself a favor and stick to local foods on your Italian trip. A (very) quick cheat sheet: Genoa for pesto; Naples for pizza; Bologna for bolognese sauce and filled pastas like ravioli, tortellini and lasagne; Milan for risotto alla milanese and ossobucco alla milanese; Rome for spaghetti alla carbonara, spaghetti all’amatriciana and lamb. Gnocchi, bresaola, polenta dishes, and the ultra-popular Italian dessert tiramisù are found all over the country, but are native to the northern Italian regions like Lombardy and Veneto. Prosciutto—or Parma ham—is most commonly associated with central and northern Italy.

Related Post: How To Order Coffee In Italy

 

TIP EVERYTHING THAT MOVES…NO MATTER WHAT THEY TELL YOU

Tipping is not obligatory or common in Italy. However, tourist-savvy service people may have heard that Americans are genetically programmed to tip everything from waiters to performing rabbits, so the cheekier ones might try to work you for some spare change. Unless they gave you the best service in the history of the planet, resist. They’re getting a living wage.

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ASK YOUR WAITER FOR PARMESAN CHEESE TO PUT ON YOUR SEAFOOD PASTA

Unless you want to see a grown adult cry, that is. One of the holiest commandments of traditional Italian culinary etiquette is that cheese and seafood never, ever mix. Only very recently have certain cheese/seafood pairings cropped up—i.e., ricotta with sea bass, gorgonzola with clams—but this is considered very avant garde (the elder generation won’t touch such dishes). Regardless of your age or level of sophistication, mixing parmesan cheese with seafood remains a cardinal sin, so don’t even ask. And for the love of Saint Peter, don’t let an Italian see you cutting your spaghetti with a fork and knife.

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KILL YOURSELF TRYING TO FIT ROME INTO A CROWDED ITINERARY

Twenty regions, so much to see! Most visitors enter Italy throughRome, but if you plan to enter via Sicily or Milan and can’t bear the thought of missing out on Roman ruins during your trip, take heart: the Romans were a busy bunch. Spectacular Roman ruins can be found throughout the peninsula, namely Volterra in Tuscany, Villa Jovis on the Isle of Capri, Pompeii and Oplontis in Campania, Piazza Armerina in Sicily, Verona in Veneto, and Mediolanum in Milan. Use the money you’ll have saved on extra flights to fill up on wine.

Related Post: How To Make Coffee In A Moka

PLAN ON CONDUCTING YOUR ENTIRE TRIP TO ITALY IN ENGLISH

Yes, the movies would have you believe that any time you travel, your host country will be chock-full of citizens who speak your language perfectly, albeit with a charming accent. But Italy consistently earns moderate to low proficiency rankings on English proficiency indexes—among the lowest-rated in Europe. You’ll do all right at hotels, historical sites, and restaurants in heavily-touristed cities like Rome and Naples, but set foot outside of those perimeters and, well, in bocca al lupo.

P.S. That means “good luck” in Italian.

Photo Credits: Get Fleeced by a Gondolier: Thats where I live by Saurabh Thakur Attribution-NoDerivs License; Park Inside the Yellow lines: blue like the line by Emiliano Attribution License; Get Yourself Psyched for Authentic Spaghetti alla Bolognese in Naples: Trattoria Anna Maria by Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License; Ask Your Waiter for Parmesan Cheese to Put On Your Seafood Pasta: Getty Images/Hemera; Take That Google Maps Shortcut: Appia Antica by ChrisSteph LewisBoegeman Attribution-NoDerivs License; Head to Vatican City in a Tube Top: Lisja | Dreamstime.com; Kill Yourself Trying to Fit Rome into a Crowded Itinerary: Shootalot | Dreamstime.com