Dozens Arrested For Baggage Theft In Italy

Having an airline lose a piece of luggage is a relatively common – albeit frustrating – part of travel. But when just a few items repeatedly go missing out of a bags, there is a major call for concern. CNN is reporting that’s just what has allegedly been happening over and over again with baggage handlers working with Italian airline Alitalia, leading to dozens of arrests last Friday.

According to the news outlet, police made 49 arrests at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, plus another 37 at airports in Bari, Bologna, Milan Linate, Naples, Palermo and Verona. The arrests came after an 18-month investigation spurred by reports of missing items at the airport of the Italian city of Lamezia Terme. Police maintain the alleged thefts happened during the loading and unloading of baggage onto aircraft, and that they have surveillance footage of thefts taking place. During the investigation, Alitalia security personnel worked with police to catch the supposed thieves.

Our only advice to you, dear travelers, is to either leave valuables at home or keep them with you in the cabin whenever possible (so long as these items follow security rules, of course). You just never know what could happen.

[Photo credit: Flickr user sun dazed]

Cyclists Train Like Locals In Italy, Then Eat Well

cyclists

Top cyclists train daily to race, often on varied terrain and through different weather conditions. Cycling enthusiasts who might dream of racing one day, prepare one step at a time. They find the right gear, become friends with others into the sport and possibly join a cycling club or just meet on Saturday mornings for a ride. Have you seen them? Cycling in packs on a weekend morning or afternoon? Ever wonder what they might be talking about among themselves?

Other than “that guy in the Honda just about hit me,” the conversation might trend in the direction of unique places they have cycled. One such place, and the stuff of dreams for cyclists, would be up and into mountains. Doing so has become so popular that tour operators are offering package deals that come with cycling experts, mountain guides and more.

In their “Train Like A Local” tour, Italiaoutdoors Food and Wine takes cyclists on a six-night bike tour into the foothills of the Dolomite Mountains in northern Italy.cyclistsClimbs on their “Train Like A Local” tour range between 900 and 1700 meters and provide an ideal introduction to riding at higher elevations. Held from May 26 to June 1 and June 16-22, the tour attracts adventure travelers that share a passion for cycling. But cycling is just one focus of the all-inclusive package, which is priced at $3,695 per person.

Along for the ride are cyclist and mountain guide Vernon McClure and cooking instructor/chef/biker Kathy Bechtel. They bring cycling routes unknown to mainstream tour companies, sharing their expertise and passion for cycling. But their programming has more than other tour operators.

Participants also get an in-depth introduction to magnificent Italian regional cuisine and local wines. On a seven-day Bike and Wine tour, they cycle through wine regions in Alto Adige, Trentino and the Veneto. Starting in Bolzano, (also in the Dolomite Mountains) they travel downhill to Lake Garda and the iconic city of Verona.

Really into food? Italiaoutdoors also has cycling and cooking tours in Italy. This one, at the foot of the Dolomites, cycles through a diverse region located along the shores of the Adriatic sea and highlights another element of the Italiaoutdoors programming: history. This tour follows one of the old trade routes used to distribute spices and goods from the east throughout Western Europe.

Boasting personal service and a custom plan for every trip, Vernon McClure and Kathy Bechtel, the owners and operators of Italiaoutdoors offer a variety of ideas for biking, hiking and skiing tours via their ItaliaOutdoors Food and Wine website.

Want to know more about cooking and biking tours in Italy? Check this video:


Six Of The Most Scenic Train Trips In Europe

Forget flying around Europe. At 30,000 feet it’s impossible to truly experience the continent’s remarkable landscapes. Rather than being shuttled around in a plane that only allows a birds-eye view, train trips immerse travelers in the terrain. There’s a reason why trains are often thought of as the most romantic mode of transportation: riding the rails makes you feel more connected and in tune than air travel ever could. Instead of feeling like a chore, as flying often does, train travel can be an experience in itself. In fact, there are plenty of scenic train rides in Europe that are worth the trip just for the view. The following are top rated train trips, and from the rolling hills of England to the craggy Alps of Switzerland, each one offers travelers something different.

6. United Kingdom
London to Edinburgh
The rolling, green hills and moors that are often associated with Yorkshire make this one of the most scenic train trips in Europe. When entering the northern parts of England, travelers will catch glimpses of the rugged coastline along the North Sea. During the 4 1/2-hour train ride, English speakers will notice a distinct difference in passenger accents as the train gets closer to Scotland. Although the common language is English, it can be hard to decipher as the Scottish brogue gets thicker and thicker.

[Flickr photo via boutmuet]

5. Holland
Amsterdam to Groningen (best in April)
In Holland, the most scenic train trip isn’t necessarily about being on the right track; it’s actually all about timing. Travelers will want to hop onboard in spring – particularly in April – to see the blanket of colors that results when the famous Dutch tulips are in full bloom. On the two-hour route between Amsterdam and Groningen, travelers will also be able to spot plenty of windmills, another quintessential part of the Dutch landscape.


[Flickr photo by Amy Bonner]

4. Italy
Rome to Verona to Venice
Train trips don’t get much more romantic than the ride from Rome to Venice, especially if you make a stopover in Verona. The train ride starts in Rome, the enchanting “Eternal City,” and then makes its way through the Tuscan farmlands to Verona, a pleasant city famous as the setting for Shakespeare’sRomeo and Juliet.” Make a day of wandering around the city’s lovely corridors (pictured above) and passing some time in a local cafe or bar. Then head to Venice, Italy’s famed “Floating City,” that is by far one of the most romantic destinations in the world. The train approaches through Venice’s lagoon in the Adriatic Sea, and upon arrival you can hop on a gondola ride for two – what could be more romantic than that? Another scenic train trip in Italy is the route from Venice to Trieste. On this trip, the train hugs the coast of the Adriatic Sea until reaching Trieste, a charming destination with beautiful sea views and several cafes and pubs for you to spend your days and nights in.

Balconies in Verona, Italy [Photo by Libby Zay]

3. France
Montpellier to Nice
The train ride through southern France from Montpellier to Nice is another visually stunning trip. From Montpellier to Marseille, travelers will see the typical Provençal landscape of red-colored soil, tall cypress trees and expansive fields of lavender and olives. As the train gets closer to Nice, the coastal scenery along the Mediterranean Sea comes in to view. Note that if you have a France Rail Pass, it’s possible to break the ride up to spend some time exploring small Provençal towns, such as Aix-en-Provence, the famous home of Paul Cézanne, or Nimes, with its stunning Roman amphitheater that is second only to Rome’s Colosseum.

[Flickr photo by paularps]


2. Germany

Black Forest Railway
The Roman’s gave this thickly wooded and mountainous region in Germany the name Silva Nigra (i.e. “Black Forest“) because the dense growth of trees blocked out most of the light inside the forest. Experience the spectacular scenery on the Black Forest Railway, part of the German National Railway that connects Offenburg and Singen. The 93-mile-long route ascends (or descends, depending on which way you travel) more than 2,000 feet as it passes through 39 tunnels and over two viaducts. The section between Hornberg, Triberg, and St. Georgen is particularly pretty. The stretch is also popular with locals, who use it as part of their regular commute between the towns they live in and larger cities. Tourists, however, will probably think it looks straight out of a storybook – so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Black Forest is the setting for the Brothers Grimm tale “Hansel and Gretel.” But don’t worry, you won’t need to follow a trail of breadcrumbs to get back home.

Look closely for one of the viaducts trains along the Black Forest Railway pass over in Hornberg [Wikimedia photo by Prolineserver]



1. Switzerland
Wilhelm Tell Express (May to October only)
Switzerland is known for some of the most stunning scenery in all of Europe. This trip from Lucerne to Locarno connects two of the prettiest parts of the country, central Switzerland and the Italian-speaking Ticino region. While in Lucerne, travelers can opt to take a boat ride on a vintage paddle steamer where they can enjoy lunch or dinner. When the boat reaches Flüelen, step onto a panoramic train that will whisk you past lone cottages on pine-covered hills, glistening streams, cerulean lakes, vast valleys covered in green, and craggy, snow-covered peaks, as it makes its way to Ticino. If you get a chance, make a stop in the tiny town of Bellinzona, an easily walk-able place that is well worth a day trip in order to explore one of their three medieval castles. Switzerland has some of the most fantastic scenic train trips in Europe with the Golden Pass and Glacier-Express also offering awe-inspiring views through panoramic train windows.

[Photo by Libby Zay]

Chinese tourists chart a new European Grand Tour

new european grand tourAccording to BBC Travel and the China Daily, approximately 70 million Chinese nationals traveled abroad in 2011, up from 10 million in 1999. A chunk of this new crop of Chinese tourists is traveling to Europe, but their itinerary veers a little off the trodden path.

BBC Travel outlined some of the historical highlights of the “new” European Grand Tour: cities like Trier, Germany, the birthplace of Karl Marx and home to the Karl Marx Haus Museum, and Montargis, France, where a small group of Chinese youth studied in the early 1900s and lay the foundation for the Chinese Communist Party. Many tour groups also make a stop at King’s College in Cambridge, England, to visit a willow tree mentioned by Chinese poet Xu Zhimo in a famous poem called On Leaving Cambridge.

According to the article, Chinese travelers also seek out culture and shopping when visiting Europe. That brings them to Bonn, Germany, to visit the birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven, and Verona, Italy, backdrop of Shakespeare’s famous Romeo and Juliet. Shoppers apparently go crazy on High Street in London, at Louis Vuitton in Paris, and at the Hugo Boss factory outlets in Metzingen, Germany (who doesn’t love a great bargain?).

The Chinese may have the right idea when it comes to off-the-beaten-track European itineraries, which tend to be cheaper and less crowded. Start creating your own with these top underrated European travel destinations.

[Thanks, BBC Travel]

10 great romantic destinations

Some people like to travel for food. Others prefer to travel for sun. Still others enjoy traveling so they can share a secluded destination with a loved one. Here are ten romantic destinations for couples of all ages to enjoy… together.

Verona, Italy
Located in the northeast part of Italy near the Swiss border, Verona is most famously known as the setting of William Shakespeare’s passionate Romeo and Juliet. Many tourists and lovers travel to Verona simply to see the balcony that has a historical connection to the fictional characters of that famous play. The covered passageway that leads to the balcony is covered in graffiti and letters from visitors asking Juliet for luck in love.

Visitors may also go googly-eyed with a romantic stroll over the Castelvecchio Bridge, along Verona’s winding Adige River. Be sure to walk all the way to St. Peter’s Castle for an awe-inspiring view of the city shrouded in sunset.

St John, USVI
There are numerous secretive retreats in the Virgin Islands, but Moon Cottage is said to be the Caribbean’s “most romantic villa.” Located on the island of St. John, Moon Cottage offers lovers a hidden getaway and is the perfect place for couples to expand their relationship. Amenities include a private heated pool, walking distance to the beach, and complete seclusion.

For those seeking to mix some adventure with their passion, consider a day-trip to Jost van Dyke, the “New York of the Virgin Islands,” and home to (quite possibly) the world’s most amazing bar.
Kauai, Hawaii, USA
Routinely selected as among the world’s best beaches, Kauai is the oldest and the most northern of all the Hawaiian Islands; it’s also the least populated of the islands. Kauai was given the nickname of the “Garden Isle” because of its lush tropical forests. This is ideal for couples because lovers can spend time together in a quieter, more secluded setting, unlike other, busier islands in Hawaii.

Though dining options on Kauai may be a bit unromantic, there are countless ways to wile away serene hours in Kauai with a loved one.

Los Roques, Venezuela

Los Roques is great for lovers, because the secluded beaches offer the chance for couples to enjoy the sun… and each other.

Los Roques is Venezuela’s archipelago in the Caribbean. It’s most famous for its beautiful beaches — and even more beautiful water. This is a great place for lovers to visit because of the limitless secluded beaches offer the chance for couples to enjoy the sun… and each other.

In fact, the most popular activity on Los Roques is to be dropped off in the morning with a cooler filled with food and drink, and just spend the day exploring the uninhabited island on which you (and your partner) find yourself.

Napa Valley, California, USA
Famous for its wineries and cozy bed and breakfasts, Napa is the perfect couple’s getaway.

Lovers can visit local wineries, take tours, have dinner in various restaurants with cuisine ranging from French to Italian, then cozy up next to each other in front of a fire at one of the many local bed and breakfasts.

Venice, Italy
Located in northern Italy, this city is best known for its gondolas and canals. Lovers can take a tour of the city while sitting on velvet seats and Persian rugs. Though not the quickest way around the city, a gondola ride is certainly the most romantic.

An estimated 20 million people visit the sinking city every year, but Conde Nast has an excellent overview of the city, which includes details about disappearing within Venice’s ancient walls with your lover.

San Luis Obispo, California, USA

San Luis Obispo, along the Central Coast of California, is home to the famous Madonna Inn. The Madonna Inn has 110 rooms, each decorated with a different theme; there’s also a European style pool and a beautiful day spa, and it’s all located just minutes from San Luis Obispo. Couples can enjoy unique food, art and culture in town, or they can visit the Hearst Castle.

Paris, France
Paris offers couples seemingly endless options: Lovers can visit the Eiffel Tower, see a ballet or opera show, dine on fine French cuisine by candle light, take photographs to share later, or visit the famous Notre Dame Cathedral.

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New York City, New York, USA
This is the ideal romantic getaway for the couple that likes to be active. Lovers can catch a show on Broadway, take a carriage ride through Central Park, and then grab a coffee in Rockefeller Center. The city is full of restaurants and fabulous hotels for couples as well, including many romantic places and bars.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
All-Inclusive is the way to go. Many resorts in Cabo San Lucas offer an all-inclusive package. This is great for couples because not only do you get a room for two, but food and beverages are all included. Lovers can enjoy the beaches and night-life without any hassle.

If you’re thinking about Cabo as a destination, be sure to remember that at least one Cabo hotel offers in-room aphrodisiacs to help couples set the mood.

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Of course, romance is what you make it. You don’t need to be in one of these cities to enjoy a romantic weekend with your lover. While these destinations help set the mood, nothing coos romance like simply paying unending attention to your significant other.