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Whether you're a frequent flyer or an armchair traveler, there are certain details it's nice to review before making plans for that next big trip. Every week, we'll squeeze our mindgrapes and share tips to make sure you're the best informed flyer in seat 1A...or 38K.
Italy has been a major destination for travelers since...well, forever. In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was the building block of The Grand Tour, designed to "enlighten" and inspire foreigners. In the 20th and now, the 21st century, modern air travel has made a quick hop to Italy totally doable.
Despite centuries upon centuries and billions upon billions of tourists, some finer bits of Italian etiquette still escape visitors. Here, we'll share a few details we've been enlightened to, over our own many trips to La Bella Italia:
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Milan is quite the hotspot lately, but then when hasn't that been the case?
Joining the aircraft on Malpensa Airport's tarmac is another American Airlines plane, as AA has just begun a new nonstop route from Miami to Milan. To properly celebrate the launch for these two capitals of style, American is asking travelers to tweet a quick video showing off a short runway walk.
Granted, you won't have the same backdrop as the video above, but it doesn't matter how well you sashay so long as you enter the contest. One winner will be chosen by random drawing to claim two roundtrip tickets from any US city served by American Airlines, to Milan.
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Lots of new changes coming to Alitalia over the next few months. From a full fleet renewal, more transparent fares on their most popular flights, and even a very generous offering for their passengers from young to older. In true Italian fashion, they have named their newest classes of services super romantic names.
In the past 3 years, the Italian airline has spent a considerable amount of time, not to mention, euros, on creating a more pleasurable experience for all of their passengers. In a quest to fly the youngest fleet in the world, they have bought new planes and refreshed existing planes. By the beginning of next year, the entire fleet will be an average of about 6 years old.
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Part 2 of 2 on our travels in Italy's Lake Como district. Read Part 1 here.
So we found ourselves in Varenna, and we were definitely enjoying all that the lakeside town had to offer; however, there was still more of Lake Como to explore. We knew that Bellagio seemed to be the place to go when on the lake, so for a little less than $6—about €4.60—we hopped the ferry for a ride across the lake.
Gestione Governativa Navigazione Laghi runs the frequent service, and they’ve got things down to a science. Cars roll off and on the boats with regular service, and all the tourists follow right after for a quick trip across the lake. Just be sure to double check the schedule, or you might be visiting a different town—not that that’s a bad thing!
The ride across the lake was probably one of the best aspects of visiting Lake Como because it allowed for great views of both Varenna and Bellagio right from the waterfront. It probably didn’t hurt that we had pretty much perfect weather as well. Even if you didn’t have time to walk around and explore the different towns and villages surrounding the lake, it might be worth it to just take a roundtrip ride to get a few snapshots to show off back at the office.
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Sometimes you just need a little bit of a vacation from your vacation, and we found exactly that when hitting up Italy's Lake Como for the day. Not that we didn’t love the sights and sounds of Milan, but at some point pounding the pavement in search of the city’s treasures is just a little too much. That’s why we gladly handed over €6.25 in exchange for a ticket and an hour ride between Milano-Centrale and Varenna-Esino.
The train was pretty uneventful, except that we told two older women that they couldn’t sit with us (blamed squarely on our lack of Italian language skills). Don’t worry—we realized our problem, and quickly fixed the situation. Don't make our mistake, and be sure to enjoy the trip northwards towards Lake Como, with all its awesome scenery. Be sure to sit on the left side of the train, as views of the lake start appearing around Lecco.
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The final walk at Kevork Kiledjian's F/W 2012 show at NYFW
Okay okay. Calm down. New York Fashion Week will be over and done with in just a couple days and, until it returns in another seven months, the world will hardly be devoid of models strutting runways.
Quite the contrary, actually, as "fashion season" is just revving up. Following NYFW comes LFW, then MFW, then PFW and on and on until the cycle repeats. To arrange your social calendar, and to avoid attempting reservations at the hottest hotels and restaurants in these cities during the Fashion Weeks, here's when and where to expect Fashion Weeks:
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One of the major perks to flying to Europe from the US is not just that you're on your way to Europe for heaven's sakes, but also that you'll likely be treated to some amazing sights outside your plane window. For example, on both our recent to and from flights for JFK-Milan on American Airlines, we enjoyed almost a full hour of looking straight down to the snow-capped peaks of the Swiss and Italian Alps. There's nothing quite like being reminded exactly how high in altitude those peaks are as when you're sharing airspace with them.
If you're heading to Switzerland for some skiing or northern Italy for any reason, be sure to choose your seat for the best views based on the POSH ruleport out, starboard homeand you too can catch the full panorama, kinda like this:
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Hey New York, congratulations! You've made it through another Fashion Week yes you have, but before it comes around again in just over six months from now, Fashion Week will go on to take over several more cities around the world: London, Milan, and Paris. What they don't tell you about Fashion Week is that it's really Fashion Month, and tourists to each of the four major cities hosting scores of models, scenesters, celebrities and the runway shows they attend, may be blindsided by the sudden unavailability of select tourist attractions or great bars and restaurants.
Therefore, it's a good idea to arm yourself with the knowledge of when and where the Fashion Pack is heading, and either avoid those cities on those dates or, if you're into models choking public transportation and not being able to get into clubs to hit on them, book a trip.
Here's the rest of the Fashion Month schedule:
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Via Montenapoleone in Milan. It's the Italian equivalent of New York's 5th Avenue or Avenue Montaigne in Paris, but Via Montenapoleone is a bit smaller, slightly less of a tourist draw during the low season (aka winter, so long as it's not Fashion Week). We recently took a stroll down it just to take advantage of what it's best for, which is not shopping, but window shopping. We were all set to focus our gaze on shiny patent pumps and quilted bags, but instead we spent all our time looking down at the sidewalk, and the unexpected street art right below our feet.
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Here's something that many who've visited Italy and definitely those who live there already know: one of the first and best friends you can make is your local barista. You see, when a place has the simple sign for a "BAR," that doesn't indicate a place for ordering booze, but rather for coffee, panini, pastries and other sweets and it's from your barista that you can hear the day's gossip and get a perfectly pulled espresso. Or...you could just learn how to use one of these super-easy Lavazza Blue machines, which, if widely introduced into the states (like, on every street corner in Manhattan especially), could put Starbucks out of business.
You find these machines typically in shops that don't have the space or money to install a proper bar with barista. Occasionally, these are even on the street and in other public places, like train stations. This particular one we fell in love with inside a pastry shop in Bergamo, so let us introduce you:
When we travel, one of our favorite things to do is to pop into a local grocery store and check out the food products and candies we'd never find anywhere else. So we're trying out this new feature, Foreign Grocery Friday, where each week we'll feature some of our (and your) favorite overseas treats. Got a recommendation? Let us know!
When you're traveling through Italy it can quickly appear as though each city, each little town has its own specialty pasta, or pastry, or both. Well they really do, and in Bergamo--a medieval town about an hour's train ride northeast from Milan--the dish is a sweet trick played by making cake take the appearance of polenta. It's called "Polenta e Osei," which translates to polenta and birds, specifically little ones like uccellini, or swallows. The dish can be prepared as actual polenta with actual birds, but for the sweet Bergamasco version, it's only yellow cake with a chocolate bird.
To make the "polenta" appear to have the correct texture, the cake (topped with yellow fondant) is rolled in sugar crystals. These form the first impression upon biting in: "wow, this is pretty crunchy!" Alas, once beyond the sugar, you hit the plain yellow cake and the real money--the sweet, whipped hazelnut cream heart. We were tempted just to scoop this out and devour it without the dry cake around. On top of the whole thing is a dollop of apricot marmalade and, naturally, a perched chocolate swallow to complete the "Osei" requirement.
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Ahh...duty-free souvenirs. Buying stuff at the airport is always a Catch-22; you have extra currency and maybe want to bring home a few extra things to give as gifts, but you sure don't want to pay the prices they charge and sometimes, the selection just sucks.
Not so at Milan's Malpensa Airport, however. Yesterday, while we (thankfully) caught the last direct flight back to JFK before the snow cancellations set in, we managed to stock up on everything from Provolone cheese and Bresaola cured beef to squid ink-infused risotto. And then we grabbed the most kitschy souvenir of allthe 4 Euro Monumenti d'Italia bag of multicolore pasta. The details are...glorious.
Can you name all of the Italian landmarks depicted in the pasta above? Answers this way...