Shermanstravel Blog

Italy

1 MGM Grand Hotel and Casino

Each year, countless Americans make the New Year’s resolution to work on their wellness and get healthier. We’ve already told you about the ways you can stay healthy on vacation, but for those who’d like to incorporate a healthier lifestyle right down to their hotel stay, check into one of these wellness-and-fitness-focused rooms to maintain that resolution.

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Flickr Steve Montgomery National Gallery London 2

As tourism destinations, many major cities across the globe — New York and Paris, Stockholm and Sydney — are certainly monumental or historical or beautiful or all of the above. What they often aren’t, however, is cheap. The good news is that if you’ve got your mind set on visiting any of these metropolises, you can often find free activities to enjoy when you’re there. We’ve built a list of museums, cultural events, and even transportation that won’t cost you a thing in 10 notoriously pricey locales.

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PalazzoVictoria

Salviatino Collection’s five-star resort, Palazzo Victoria, invites guests to check into its chic Verona accommodations by offering a 25 percent discount off the best available rates, now through March 31, 2015.

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Villa CampestriVilla Campestri, a stunner of a property that’s situated in the hills of Mugello, just 45 minutes from Florence, and has something that other Tuscan resorts don’t: an on-site olive grove and production facility.

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Switzerland, ZurichSwiss Air Lines is offering some good fares to a number of European cities for the fall and winter, but you will have to make your mind up quickly as the sale ends at midnight tonight. If you’re wondering whether you’re ready to make a spontaneous booking, take a look at our handy checklist. Otherwise, you can book through our Travel Search tool, or visit the airline’s web site directly.

PIazza_Mattei

If you’ve been to Rome, you probably visited Piazza di Trevi, Piazza di Spagna, or some of the other, more popular public squares. But Rome’s other piazzas offer just as much culture and history as their touristy counterparts. Here are five lesser-known piazzas worth seeking out:

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Expo Milano 2015Ready for a modern version of the World Fair, and in a place that you were already planning to visit? Milan has been chosen to host the 2015 Universal Exposition that will run from May 1 to October 31, 2015. This six-month event will showcase the best of the participating countries’ technology and innovation. This year’s theme is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,” which will focus on the culture, traditions, and creativity of the participating countries and how they relate to food and diet. Visitors can expect an open-air theater, a wine pavilion, tastings, and lots more. With Italy’s incredible food culture, it’s easy to see how Milan was a logical choice. Here’s Milan’s Expo by the numbers:

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venice - st marks - san marco - anna fox - 620

Flight: booked. Hotel: reserved. Language podcasts: Completed. What else do you need to prepare before jetting off on vacation?

Most of us would probably never think that feeding pigeons in parts of Venice could get us fined as much as our plane tickets there cost. Likewise, while we always leave a substantial tip after dining at a restaurant in North America, the practice is a foreign concept to many international visitors. Needless to say, very diverse cultural customs abound around the world. Here are a few quirky ones that we love and think are useful to know for preventing cultural mishaps abroad.

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Locals can usually deduce at some point that you’re not one of them, but there are still ways to avoid sticking out like a sore thumb when you travel.  And blending in has a more practical purpose than just making you feel comfortable — it can open the door to better interactions with locals and make you less vulnerable to pickpockets and other scammers who specifically target travelers. Here are 10 dead giveaways that you’re a tourist… and what to do about it.

1. Unfurling a paper map in the middle of the sidewalk.

maps - kevin dooley

Yes, sometimes it’s easier to carry a paper map (see tip #4  here). But there’s nothing else that screams “I don’t know where I’m going” more loudly. Here’s where it’s useful to have a smartphone or a tablet. Even if you’re in a foreign country without a data connection, it’s possible to download detailed maps with just a little planning and forethought. We’ll even go as far as to say that, with Google’s Offline Maps feature, it’s pretty easy. Of course, there are instances where you won’t want to be brandishing a shiny phone in public either. Use your judgment.

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cannolo di ricotta - flickr-neekoh.fi - 620If there’s one thing all travelers end up doing in Italy, it’s eating. And in Sicily, discovering all of the island’s native foods — which are distinct from those in the rest of Italy — is akin to learning a new language: practice is the the only way you’ll ever really gain proficiency. For your next trip to the Mediterranean’s largest and most delicious isle, here’s a crash course on essential dishes that can, and should, only be eaten in Sicily.

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SicilyAh, Sicilia. The soccer ball to Italy’s boot is an island rich with history, from the crumbling mosaics of Piazza Armerina to sky-high Taormina. But on a recent trip, we skipped the museums and temples for some traditional R&R. Our home base was Modica, an ancient, church-filled city that teeters between two hills, about half an hour from the coast. In between day trips to the surrounding towns of Palazzolo and Ragusa, we spent our time trekking up (and down) Modica’s endless stone steps, taste-testing in its signature laboratori del cioccolato, and spying vintage Fiats. What more could an Italophile ask for?

Below, a few highlights from our trip. Read more

bregenz festival - seebuhne - austria - 2014 - anja kohler - 620What’s better than getting cultured with a round of opera in Europe? Doing it en plein air. Whether you prefer soaking up some sun during the day or catching the sunset in the cool evening, summertime brings a boon of theater and music festivals all over the region. Here, four open-air celebrations worth battling the crowds and heat.

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After a year-long absence from Eurail’s Select Pass program, France officially returned to the network last month, becoming the 27th participating European country. (Other changes: Eurail has chosen to do away with passes that allow travel between three and five pre-selected countries, in lieu of a four-country pass only.) To celebrate, we’ve put together three wanderlust-worthy itineraries for taking advantage of the newly revamped program.

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Intercontinental ThalassoMake no mistake, collecting points to use for travel is a hassle. With black out dates and restrictions, actually using them for travel can be an even bigger hassle. That’s why loyalty programs are often overlooked as too conflated or difficult to actually enjoy, but those who put in the effort can be rewarded handsomely. Case in point: I recently used a combination of points to fund a visit to a remote island paradise in the southern Maldives. It wasn’t easy, nor was it straightforward, but it enabled me to travel to a place I could never afford otherwise. Here are five astonishing properties around the globe that may not be so far out of reach after all… Read more

mushroom - flickr - furtwangl - 620Foraging is a culinary trend that isn’t going away, and it’s only getting bigger in travel. Many credit the movement to chef René Redzepi of Noma, the Michelin-starred restaurant in Copenhagen that frequently tops “Best in the World” restaurant lists. And it makes sense, especially at a time when travelers are seeking local and immersive experiences, the appeal of foraging for your own food is clear. It’s a fresh way to connect with a destination; it’s wonderfully tactile; and it’s a reminder of the wonders that nature has to offer.

These days, foraging in travel goes beyond reserving tables at a restaurant with an adventurous chef. More and more foraging tours and excursions have popped up in many locales. Here, we’ve rounded up some ideas and destinations to get you started. Just keep in mind that there are dangers in gathering your own food – including risk of illness if you eat the wrong thing – and the issue of sustainability in the harvesting process. That’s why we suggest that you always connect with a local expert or company that specializes in foraging; you’ll also want to know the local regulations and best practices. Read more

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