5 Must-See Places in Italy for Repeat Travelers 

By Gina Bang, Senior Manager of Inside Sales & Marketing at Avanti Destinations

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So, you’ve been to Rome, Florence and Venice, maybe even stayed in a villa in Tuscany or driven along the Amalfi Coast? You’ve only scratched the surface of this amazing country.

In these days when “overcrowding” is a genuine concern, travelers will do themselves a big favor by going beyond the best-known cities. Fewer tourists and an astounding diversity of landscapes, experiences, food and wine await.

Italy has so many wonderful places that are “off the radar” for most travelers, but here are five less familiar regions.

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Sicily

The big island off the toe of the Italian boot is a world of its own. Most Italians from the mainland don’t even think of it as Italy – it’s that different.

Sicily has been called the museum of Europe. The layers of history and the different cultures that conquered it are visible everywhere: Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Spanish – and finally the northern Italians who in the 19th century unified the independent regions to create the country we now call Italy.

Western Sicily has more Arab influence than the rest of the island – and it shows in its cuisine. You can’t miss the seafood in Trapani with couscous like you’ve never tasted before.

Basilicata

The mountainous region at the instep of the boot has a history that goes back 7,000 years. But it’s been overlooked by most tourists until now. Matera is the place to visit, particularly this year – it is one of the 2019 European Capitals of Culture, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This breathtakingly beautiful city is built above and around limestone caves, which were inhabited by as many as 15,000 people as recently as the 1950s. The town literally merges with the landscape.

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Puglia

The heel of the Italian boot is an economically poor region, but rich in a long and varied history, beautiful scenery, whitewashed hilltop towns and fantastic produce and food.

Top hits: orecchiette (cute little ear-shaped pasta), burrata (mozzarella with cream added – to die for), panzerotti (half-moon shaped savory pastry pockets), tiella con cozze (casserole with mussels, potatoes, rice). Puglia produces 40% of the country’s olive oil, and it’s out of this world.

Puglia’s long coastline has some of Italy’s best beaches. And there are limestone caves to explore – even a gorgeous restaurant in a cave near Bari. It’s a landscape that won’t be forgotten.

Don’t miss the charming traditional trulli, a style of buildings – unique to Puglia – with dry-stone conical roofs (no mortar). In Alberobello, there are more than a thousand of them!

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Umbria

This landlocked “green heart of Italy” has all the appeal of its famous neighbor to the east, Tuscany, but far fewer tourists. You’ll see much the same landscape as Tuscany with rolling countryside, vineyards, olive trees, and dramatic walled hilltop towns like Assisi and Orvieto.

Perugia is my favorite, founded by Etruscans, now a center for the arts and culture and home to a prestigious university – and site of the Eurochocolate Festival (October), as well as the Umbria Jazz Festival (July).

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Piedmont

The largest region in Italy’s northwest and bordered by the stunning Alps, Piedmont is completely different from central and southern Italy in so many ways. Instead of pasta, you eat risotto. Instead of flamboyance, there is northern restraint – in the architecture, and the dress, speech and behavior of the people.

Coffeehouses in Turin looked like they could be in Vienna or Budapest. Which makes sense, because Piedmont was for much of its existence part of the Holy Roman Empire as the Duchy of Savoy.

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Turin 

Turin is every bit the European powerhouse it was intended to be, with palaces, museums, operahouses, and other grand buildings in styles from medieval to Art Nouveau. FIAT is headquartered there. And Lavazza coffee. But best of all is the melt-in-your-mouth chocolate-hazelnut confection called gianduia (john-DO-yah).  Memorize that word and bring lots home – your friends will thank you.

But woman and man do not live by chocolate, coffee and risotto alone. Piedmont’s wines are considered Italy’s finest: Barolo and Barbaresco are reasons enough to go to Piedmont.

Arrivederci in Italia!

 

Gina Bang has an insatiable curiosity about other people, their history, their culture, and their cuisine. An unabashed foodie, she’s eaten my way through most of Europe, Asia, and the Americas!

As a Senior Manager of Inside Sales & Marketing at Avanti Destinations, Gina started as a customer service representative, then manager of inside sales and product manager for Central and Northern Europe.

Avanti sells customized independent and group travel exclusively through travel agents. They “connect the dots” of multi-destination itineraries to create a totally unique vacation, including extraordinary experiences, activities, accommodations, and transfers. Avanti can help your travel agent put together a unique, customized independent vacation to any of these five regions – or anywhere in Italy.

 


What Seniors Need To Know To Get Through Airport Security Easily

By Diana Cowgill of YMT Vacations 

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Getting through airport security can be a nuisance for anyone, but the experience can be especially stressful for seniors. The good news is that the Federal Aviation Administration has put rules in place to streamline the process for you. However, it helps to do research ahead of time and prepare yourself (and your belongings) accordingly. Here is what you need to know to make your airport security screening as simple as possible:

 

  • Travelers with disabilities and medical conditions may consider getting a TSA Notification Card, which specifies health conditions, disabilities, or medical devices that may affect your screening. Provide this card to the TSA officer when you get to the checkpoint so they can make special considerations for your screening. The card also provides instructions for calling the TSA 72 hours prior to your travels to request any assistance you may need.

 

  • Seniors who do not have this card can still request assistance once you arrive at the airport. Simply ask a TSA officer to request a passenger support specialist. These specialists will answer questions, address concerns, and assist with security.

 

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  • The TSA 3-1-1 rule means that carry-on liquids must be 3.4 oz. bottles or less; in one quart-sized clear, zip-top bag; and limited to one bag per passenger. However, there is an exception to this rule for larger amount of medically necessary liquids, gels, and aerosols – but you must declare them at the checkpoint for inspection.

 

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  • Medications in solid or liquid forms should be clearly labeled, with the prescriptions handy if possible. Let the TSA officer know that you have medically necessary medications and keep them separate from your other belongings before the screening starts. Items you should declare to a TSA officer include freezers packs, IV bags, pumps, and syringes.

 

  • Expect TSA officers to test liquids, gels, or aerosols for explosives or concealed prohibited items. They may also open containers and transfer pills to another container for testing. If you do not want your medication to be screened by X-ray or opened, let the officer know and they will take alternative steps to clear these items.

 

  • Passengers with medical conditions that prevent you from standing or walking at the checkpoint will not be required to remove shoes, though they will be manually inspected. Walkers, canes, crutches, and other mobility aids will be X-rayed or hand-inspected.

 

  • Travelers 75 years or older will receive expedited screening, meaning the ability to keep shoes and light jackets on. If you are unable to stand for the screening, you will be cleared by manual inspection.

 

Airport security can be an intimidating process, but being prepared will speed up the process. Have any medications separated, labeled clearly, and with the appropriate documents/prescriptions. Keep your doctor’s name and number within reach in case a conversation is needed to verify your pills, gels, and liquids. Knowing what to expect and how to get assistance will give you the confidence to get through TSA screening as effortlessly as possible.

 

Diana Cowgill is a copywriter at YMT Vacations. She and her husband love to flit around the world together, gorging on regional baked goods and petting as many street cats as possible.

YMT Vacations has provided affordable guided tours for mature travelers since 1967. Our guided cruise and land tours, to destinations around the globe, are designed with value in mind. By thoughtfully bringing together each separate element of your vacation, we can guarantee you the best price and an easy, worry-free trip. Visit ymtvacations.com to learn more!