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11 Ways To Spend A Perfect Weekend On The Italian Riviera

While Portofino and Cinque Terre are the best-known spots on the Italian Riviera today, Rapallo is a destination that can provide all you want for a perfect weekend (or longer) getaway. As one of Italy’s first modern seaside resorts, a place the beau monde flocked to in the early 20th century, it has glamour and history, along with incredible seascapes. Rapallo’s prime location makes it easy to visit most anywhere on the Riviera di Levante, the halcyon strip of coast that runs from Genoa to Portovenere.

Here are 11 ways to have a perfect (preferably extended) weekend here.

1.See the Riviera from on high. The views from the beautiful Santuario di Nostra Signora di Montallegro, a shrine dating from the 16th century 600 meters above the town, are among the most extraordinary in a region filled with exceptional vistas. Take the cable car from Piazza Solari for the seven-minute ride to this dreamy perch. Occasionally the service is available at night, when you’ll be able to see the coast at its glittery best.

2. Sail the exquisite Gulf of Tigullio, the beautiful coastal area that stretches from Portofino to Sestri Levante, or to Cinque Terre. Rapallo is well situated to get you to some of the Riviera’s best-known destinations without having to deal with departures from crowded harbors. Portofino is about a half-hour’s sail away, ideal for a sunset excursion; for a wonderful day outing, cruise to the Cinque Terre. (You can choose from a variety of boating companies in the area, for example, Portofino Taxi Boat, run for several generations by the Viacava family, offers a number of area tours. For a trip to the Cinque Terre, Luxury Charter Portofino could either pick you up near the Villa Porticciolo in town, or send a car to take you to Santa Margherita Ligure for departure there. If you’re staying at the Excelsior Palace Hotel, the concierge will arrange boating excursions. See below.) Should you not be traveling by sea, note that train connections are easy and fast—only three minutes to go from Rapallo to Santa Margherita Ligure; nine minutes to Camogli; and between 35 minutes to an hour to Monterosso al Mare (the closest Cinque Terre village). The fastest trains to Vernazza run between 36 and 56 minutes.

3. Pamper yourself in sumptuous style. One of the Riviera’s grand retreats, the Excelsior Palace Hotel will pamper you with its refined blending of modern and old-world luxury. At this property you’ll feel as if you’ve been invited into the (very large) home of a Genovese aristocrat—there are period paintings and decorative objects, silk-covered furnishings and antiques, along with plush modern bedrooms and bathrooms. Spectacular views from seaside rooms and dining areas are sure to keep you in a permanent swoon. The Excelsior is not only a palatial site, but a historic one, where the Rapallo Conference was held by the Allied nations after Germany’s defeat in the first World War. Prominent names have been coming here for decades—the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, King Hussein of Jordan, Marilyn Monroe and Ernest Hemingway were all guests; in more recent times, George Clooney and Bruce Springsteen as well.

Start your day with the lavish breakfast buffet (with prosecco if you’d like) served in the Lord Byron restaurant overlooking the sea (there’s a spacious outdoor terrace too). In summer the Lord Byron also serves dinner, with a menu offering dishes like an asparagus flan appetizer with zabaione; risotto with roasted lobster and peas; and fresh grilled fish. (The seaside Eden Roc restaurant is the hotel’s summer lunch spot; in winter the Lord Byron serves lunch.) You can work off calories at the sleek modern spa and fitness area, which has an indoor pool to use in cool-weather months. The Excelsior offers another special amenity—a private dock at the beach club where you can depart on boating excursions (booked in advance) to such destinations as Portofino, Cinque Terre and Portovenere.

A stay at the hotel can run less than at other five-star properties along the French and Italian Rivieras, where room rates in summer are often well over €1000 a night. This year doubles with sea views and a balcony in peak season range from €770 to €965; the rate for a non-sea-view room, double occupancy, during the second half of August and September is €386.

4. Enjoy a posh beach scene. Although Rapallo has limited beach areas, there are lidos in town where you can while away the day. But if you want to experience Riviera beach style in a way that reminds you of a Slim Aarons photograph, go to the Excelsior Palace’s Beach Club. (You can pay a fee to use it if you’re not staying at the hotel.) Two striking infinity pools and their lounge areas overlook that gorgeous Riviera coastline and beach terraces on the levels below provide access to the vividly colored sea. You probably won’t want to budge from this spot all day (or ever), unless you decide to swim to the floats (materassini prendisole) positioned offshore, so it’s good there’s both a snack bar and the chic Eden Roc restaurant close at hand.

5. Golf at a historic club. Il Circolo Golf e Tennis Rapallo, dating from the early 1930s, has hosted everyone from screen legend Rita Hayworth to Bill Gates. The 18-hole (par 70) course can be played year-round thanks to the Gulf of Tigullio’s balmy climate. (Contact the club for booking information.) As the club’s name indicates, tennis is available here—there are four clay and two synthetic-grass courts. The club is about two kilometers from the Rapallo train station.

6. Learn how to cook Ligurian dishes. At the Vecchia Rapallo, a noted restaurant with a prime location in the historic center, there are classes to help you master the art of making such Ligurian specialties as pesto, lasagne with pesto, and stuffed vegetables the way the pros and locals do. After lessons are complete, you get to enjoy your culinary efforts at lunch. If you want to savor a range of Ligurian flavors, come back for dinner and try one of the restaurant’s tasting menus. On the Menù Contadino, for example, there’s pear ravioli served with cheese; on the Menù Marinaio the octopus salad with pistachios, tomatoes, oranges and olives, is followed by sea-bream ravioli in scampi sauce.

7. Indulge your sweet tooth at one of Italy’s iconic pastry shops. Since the 19th century the Caffé Pasticceria Canepa 1862 has been tempting Riviera residents and visitors with irresistible pastries and cakes. Try their signature cubeletti, quince jam-filled treats that have been produced here for more than 150 years. There are many other sweets to savor including pandolce, the Genoa fruit bread/cake; colomba, the Easter specialty; solluccheri cookies and sugar-flecked airy brioches. This atmospheric shop, owned today by Giovanni Garbarini and pastry chef Andrea Zino, can ship their delicious products anywhere.

8.Explore lesser-known nearby spots like San Michele di Pagana. Relax at this beautiful seaside hamlet between Rapallo and Santa Margarita Ligure, which has a small harbor, several coves (Pomaro, Trelo and Prelo) and beach areas. Despite its small size this haven has a major piece of art, The Crucifixion by Anthony Van Dyck, in the church of San Michele Arcangelo.

9. Head to Zoagli, another under-the-radar retreat, and the neighboring towns of Chiavari and Lavagna. Zoagli, a favored spot of wealthy Genovese for centuries, was long known for its production of fine velvets, coveted by Europe’s elites. Stroll the lovely seaside promenade, then head to Seterie di Zoagli Cordani, where beautiful silk velvets and silks have been made since 1849, and Tessitura Artigiana Giuseppe Gaggioli, for exquisite hand-woven velvets and damasks, along with fine silks. When in Chiavari, a bustling sea town, stroll the medieval quarter and the various arcades, and if you’re in the area the second weekend of the month, check out its well-known antiques and flea market. In Lavagna, you’ll find a long (4 kilometer) beach, along with six medieval sestieri, or districts.

10. You can even visit castles. A series of waterside castles in Liguria serves as reminder that for centuries many Riviera coastal villages lived under threat of invasions from the sea. Rapallo’s 16th-century castle, built after a fearsome raid by Turkish pirates when locals were captured and made slaves, sits on the Lungomare and is one of the town’s famous markers. The space is often used for exhibitions. (Reconstruction work from last fall’s storm is expected to be completed shortly.) In nearby Portofino visit Castello Brown, perched high on the promontory and dating from the 1400s. You can also stop by the Castello di Dragonara in Camogli and take in the remarkable sea views from its exterior. There are number of other castles to see as you work your way down the Riviera di Levante coast to Portovenere.

11. If you’re doing a three- or four-day weekend, find time to head north to Genoa, a fascinating city with great art, where you’ll find palazzi housing masterpieces by Caravaggio, Rubens, Dürer and Veronese; a large historic center; fascinating shops; and the cool Porto Antico, the old port, which was revitalized by the Genoa-born superstar architect Renzo Piano.

I have worked for Italian publications in the US and Italy, including Harper’s Bazaar, Mondadori’s Linea Italiana and RAI’s Moda. For Clarkson Potter/Crown I produced and authored two books on design, ‘Italian Style’ and ‘Italian Country.’ In addition to living in Milan and going to school in Pisa, I have produced and written features from many countries in Europe and throughout Italy. For American publications I have been editor-in-chief of the Forbes Special Interest Publications group and Gotham Magazine. My focus is on travel in Italy and Western Europe

Source: 11 Ways To Spend A Perfect Weekend On The Italian Riviera

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Why You Should Never Book Your Flight And Hotel At The Same Time

When it comes to booking vacations, have we been doing it wrong all this time? For many of us, planning a vacation typically means choosing a destination, doing some research, comparing prices, and then reaching for a credit card. Once we’ve got our ducks lined up in a row, we go ahead and book our flights and hotel. A significant percentage of travelers always buys a package that bundles the flight and hotel together because conventional wisdom says that packages save you money.

Except that’s not true, says Sam Shank, CEO of HotelTonight, a platform for last-minute hotel booking platform. That’s because the optimal time to book the various different elements of your trip happen at different times – and this is the crux of how to save. “If you don’t book your flights early, you’re going to spend a fortune. With airline tickets, prices shoot up a lot if you wait too long,” says Shank. “But it’s the exact opposite with hotel prices, which decline the longer you wait.”

In other words, it makes zero sense to book your flights and hotel at the same time. To get the best price on both elements of your vacation, you should book flights six to seven weeks ahead and wait until much closer to your travel dates to book your hotel. This is a particularly good strategy if you’ve chosen a destination with a lot of hotels and your heart is not set on a particular property during the peak travel season.

Shank’s advice is founded in stats. The average hotel is only two-thirds full on any given night, so unless there’s a convention or some other major event going on, there is likely to be plenty of inventory available in a destination even on your arrival day.

You can book a hotel up to three months in advance on the HotelTonight website or app (available for iOS and Android), but the longer you wait, the more you save. Booking a week out nabs you a better price than if you book a month out, but the biggest savings of all go to last-minute Charlies who wait until the same day, when hotel rates are, on average, 10% less than the day before, says Shank.

Have you been told that travel packages always save you money? Again, you are booking your flight and hotel at the same time and only one of those elements will be at its optimal price. “Unbundling helps you save because you can get the benefit of booking the flight early and the hotel late,” says Shank.

There’s another benefit to booking your flight and hotel separately. “The selection of hotels included in these packages is often limited, so you’re often not able to choose the perfect hotel for you,” says Shank. “By unbundling, you’re going to get better choice as well.”

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I’m always looking for new ways to travel better, smarter, deeper and cheaper, so I spend a lot of time watching trends at the intersection of travel and technology.

 

Source: Why You Should Never Book Your Flight And Hotel At The Same Time

U.S. Travelers Are Benefiting From The Lowest Domestic Airfares In At Least 9 Years – Dan Reed

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With only one month left in 2018 it now appears almost certain that the average inflation-adjusted domestic round-trip air fare in America this year will be the lowest it has been in at least nine years.

Based on data and analysis from the U.S. Department of Transportation and Airlines for America, the major carriers’ trade association, the average domestic round-trip fare paid during the first of 2018 was $338, excluding ancillary fees, and $360 including those fees.

That’s 15.1% lower than the $398 that travelers paid, on average, in 2014 excluding ancillary fees, and 14.9% lower than the $423 they paid, on average in that same year when fees for ancillary services are included. The year 2014 turned out to be the costliest, on average, for domestic air travel year out of the last nine years.

Average U.S. domestic round-trip airfares since 2010Airlines for America/ U.S. DOT

The cheapest year for domestic air travel, on average, out of the previous eight years was 2017, when the average domestic round-trip fare, excluding ancillary fees was $347, and $370 with those fees. Those figures were  both about 3% higher than the average domestic round-trip fare in the first half of this year.

All dollar figures in the data and analysis are inflation adjusted and stated in 2018 constant dollars.

The final calculation of the average domestic round-trip fare price for all of 2018 won’t be available until sometime next spring. But it is very unlikely – in fact, it’s almost statistically impossible – for the full-year 2018 average fare price to rise above the 2017 full-year average price. That’s the case for several reasons.

First, to push that much higher from the first half 2018 average fare price, second half 2018 fares prices would have to have been significantly, even painfully higher throughout the second half of this year. But that has not been the case.

Only this week has Southwest been able to push through a modest fare hike that other carriers followed. Southwest is a long-established discount carrier that now struggles with higher costs than traditionally was the case. Still, it tends to set the floor price for fares charged by the nation’s largest, more conventional airlines. Southwest raised its prices $2 to $5 each way on about 90,000 listed fares. American, Delta, United, Alaska, JetBlue and Hawaiian airlines all followed suit.

That increase was welcomed by analysts and investors who had been complaining for months that airlines’ fares were too low this year because the industry had added more capacity than consumer demand could fill without airlines resorting to increased price discounting. But even that new, modest price increase isn’t big enough, nor will it be in effect long enough for it to significantly alter 2018’s downward pricing trend line.

Airline profits in 2018 also are expected to be down from 2017 and from the peak year of 2015, when the group as a whole earned an unprecedented $23.7 billion net profit and an operating profit of $26.8 billion. Last year U.S. airlines reported combined operating profits of $20.3 billion and combined net profits of $14 billion.

Through the first nine months of this year, U.S. airlines saw fuel prices move up 50% from the previous year, only to fall precipitously again over the last six weeks.

The fact that U.S. air travelers are getting a relatively good deal on the average domestic fare prices paid this year does not mean that every passenger is scoring a great deal.

The calculation of the average fare price includes a large number of factors that impact the percentage of seats sold at various prices. Business travelers and leisure travelers willing to spend extra for comfort frequently end up paying twice or three times more than the price of the average fare. Conversely, those willing to forego “extras” or even service features that used to be considered basic (like the ability to choose a seat or carry on a bag for free) frequently pay half, or even only a third of the “average” fare price.

Then there are business travelers who pay somewhat lower fares for full service treatment because the big corporations for which they work negotiate substantial net discounts based on the high volume of business travelers they place a particular carriers’ flights.  Then there are those who travel for free, or virtually free, by using mileage points earned as members of carriers’ frequent flier programs.

Price-sensitive travelers tend to make up a much greater share of passengers on board any given flight. But the wide gap in prices paid by the most and the least price-sensitive travelers can push the average price up even though relatively few travelers pay those higher fares.

Not surprisingly, data from A4A, the carriers’ trade association, illuminates the effect that different carriers’ marketing approaches can have on the average prices paid by their passengers.

U.S. Carriers’ Average Domestic Round-trip Fares* – 1st Half 2018

Carrier                                 Fare                      Market Share

Southwest                          $261.52                 23.3%

American                            $411.63                 19.6%

Delta                                    $413.01                 18.8%

United                                 $428.70                 14.4%

Alaska                                  $320.78                  6.3%

JetBlue                                $296.36                   5.5%

Spirit                                    $ 90.32                    4.3%

Frontier                               $114.71                     3.1%

Allegiant                              $133.65                    2.5%

Hawaiian                             $349.12                    1.5%

Sun Country                       $268.60                   0.4%

Southwest, which continues to be a discount carrier though it no longer positions itself as industry’s absolute low price leader, had an average roundtrip domestic fare price, excluding fees and taxes, of $261.52 in the first half of the year.

American, the world’s largest airline, had a first half average fare of $411.63, while No. 2 Delta’s was $413.01 and No. 3 United’s was a relatively whopping $428.70.

But because Southwest, which has a very small international footprint, carries an industry-leading 23.3% of all domestic travelers (to the Big Three’s 19.6%, 18.8% and 14.4%, respectively), its first half average domestic round-trip fare of $261.52 has an out-sized effect on bringing down the industry’s average fare price.

The carrier with the lowest average domestic round-trip fare in the first half of this year was Spirit Airlines, at just $90.32. Thus, though it carries only 4.3% of domestic passenger, Spirit, which features Spartan service and extra fees for virtually any service beyond a seat on the plane also has a strong downward pull on the industry’s average fare. Though slightly pricier – and, in each case, smaller that Spirit – fellow “ultra low cost carrier” Frontier, Allegiant and Sun Country exert similar downward pull on the industry’s average price.

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