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June 14-23: Feast of Corpus Christi in Spello, Italy

The Feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated around the world, but most especially here in Spello, Italy.  It lasts a whole week….in 2019 it will be from June 14 to 23.

Events during the whole week include: the Competition of Hand embroidery “Flowering Windows, Balconies and Alleys“, the competition of Flower Cake Design “Cakes in Bloom”, the floriculture exhibition market of “Spello in Bloom”, night tours of the citizen art sites “InfiorArt”.

Throughout the event it is open the Museum of Infiorate, you can see the beautiful flowered balconies and corners of the city and you can eat at the “Tavern of Infioratori”, menu based on flowers.

Preparing the streets for the celebration of The Feast of Corpus Christi in Spello, Italy
Preparing the streets for the celebration of The Feast of Corpus Christi in Spello, Italy

The townspeople work throught the previous day an in to the evening, then the highlight comes on Sunday, the Feast of Corpus Christi:  the streets are covered with a carpet of polychrome and perfumed of 70 infiorate by the religious theme, ready for the passage of the Sacred procession led by the Bishop.

You can check out our webpage on Spello here.

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Holy Stairs in Rome to re-open on April 11

Sanctuary of the Holy Stairs in RomeThe Sanctuary of the Holy Stairs….housing the marble steps that Jesus climbed, leading up to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem on His way to trial.

The frescoes and paintings on the walls had been dirtied through centuries of use, and were in need of restoration.

Beginning early last year, the Sanctuary was closed to allow the restoration to take place.

 

They are now restored to their formal glory, and the Sanctuary has been open to the public beginning April 11, 2019.  They will remain uncovered until June 30, 2019, when they will again be covered.

The steps themselves were covered with wood with slots in them so that pilgrims could view the steps as they climbed to the top (usually on their knees).

They are now un-covered…and for the next month pilgrims can climb up the actual steps without the wood covering.

You can read more at Catholic News Service (CNS)

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Yes: Your kids do need passports for international travel

Its the summer travel season for many, and often families travel out of the country.  In the rush to get everything arranged, sometimes things fall through the cracks.  But mistakes can be costly….and even ruin an otherwise well-planned vacation.

For citizens of many countries , all children must present a valid passport for international air travel. This rule applies regardless of age, including infants and newborns.

A slight exception exists for citizens of the U.S.:  if you’re traveling to Canada, minors 15 and younger may cross land or sea borders without a passport, but a certified copy of a birth certificate is necessary.  But we suggest you get them a passport anyway.  Most are good for five years and if any chances to travel come up, then you are prepared instead of having to wait weeks for a passport.

In almost 100% of the cases, if they do not have a passport they will not be allowed to board the plane for an international flight.  The airline faces heavy fines for failure to follow this rule, so don’t bother asking them to break it…they won’t.  So you can just get back in the car and drive home from the airport.

And don’t forget, if you are going on a cruise, the same requirements may be in effect if you are making a stop in any foreign country.  It is best to just go ahead and get the passport.

There are a few other examples of passport problems that can crop up…….as we have outlined here.  We suggest you check that article out.

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Air France Returns to Dallas/Fort Worth

Air France flights from DFWAlthough a major hub, the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport has not had any non-stop flights to Paris via the country’s carrier, Air France (other than a brief period right before 9/11).

American Airlines offers non-stop service to Paris, and has for several years.  With their connections from many other U.S. cities in the Southwest, they are a good choice for travel to Paris.

However, if you were connecting to other French cities it was often thought more convenient to fly on Air France. Unfortunately you either had to connect through Atlanta (using Delta, Air France’s partner) or drive south to Houston to take Air France non-stop to Paris.

Beginning March 31, 2019, Air France began offering three flights a week (Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays) until June 30, when they will expand to five flights per week (daily except Tuesday and Thursday). Then after the summer, they will go back to three flights weekly from September 4 through October 25. The airline will drop back to thrice-weekly service from Sept. 4 through Oct. 25.

After that, we don’t know if they will continue service from DFW….it will naturally depend upon the traffic they get during what is apparently a trial period.

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Facing a long airport layover? Ever wondered how to access the VIP lounges?

Interest in using an airport lounge?

 

Most of us have been there:  whiling away the hours in an airport while waiting for your flight to be called, sitting in those uncomfortable seats, watching endless news on the overhead TV screens……..while a few lucky ones are in one of the VIP  lounges that offer plush seating, coffee, wine, food….even showers in some cases.

Here’s a comment we received:  “A few years back, we decided to cash in some of our frequent flier miles for a couple of first class tickets from LAX to Paris.  One of the advantages that came with those tickets was access to the Air France lounge.  Leaving LAX we got to relax, have a glass of wine, some great snacks and then board at our leisure.  The morning we flew back, the lounge had fresh orange juice, delicious buttery croissants (this was France, after all) and fresh brewed coffee.  A great way to start the long flight home (quite a bit longer due to the prevailing westerly winds), and we did not have to pay for breakfast at our hotel.”

So how can you take advantage of that?  Well, obviously if you have a first class (and sometimes business class) ticket, it comes along with the extra cost.  For the rest of us, there are a couple of options.

 

1.  In many cases you can purchase a short time pass directly at the airline’s lounge.  It depends upon the airline, and its policy of course, and there is no guarantee that you can get it that particular day and time.

2.  Some airlines offer access for an annual fee. If you fly regularly, it may be worth looking into a membership with a particular airline.  Usually for a fixed annual fee, you will receive a certain amount of passes per year. After you’ve used the passes, you can purchase more, or often receive a discount on booking future visits. Some of the high-end VIP airport lounges may only be accessible to premium class passengers, some still are available for cash access.  And, you are usually limited to that airline’s club….not any others.

3.  Some credit cards have arranged for you to pay with miles to access their clubs…..but it is an expensive way to use those hard-earned miles.

4. You can try our newest advertiser, Lounge Buddy.  They have an app that is easy to use without an annual fee, the costs to access are often lower, and there’s usually a wider choice of lounges available to the ‘casual’ flyer.

Lounge Buddy works by providing details of every available lounge in an airport, and how to access them. Lounge Buddy offers genuine reviews by real customers, details of all facilities, and photographs. For example, if you need fast wi-fi, find which VIP airport lounge offers the best by browsing them on Lounge Buddy. Likewise, if you’re interested in a drink and some snacks, but don’t want to pay the high price of the airport concessions, use Lounge Buddy to discover which lounges offer complimentary drinks and snacks.

Find out more about Lounge Buddy here.  They also offer reviews of hundreds of lounges around the world…(not all of them are worth the money), where they are located in the airport, and what services are offered.

If you purchase via them, The Catholic travel guide may earn a commission – although the cost to you WILL NOT increase. But commissions like this help support our website.

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Reminder: The “Holy Stairs” in Rome are still closed for now

 

The entrance of the Holy Stairs before its' closure
The entrance of “The Holy Stairs” before its’ closure

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The restoration work is not being done on the stairs themselves (which are protected by a wood covering) but of the frescoes on the walls surrounding the stairs.  Over the years they became darkened and could barely be seen. Restoration will restore them to their original beauty, but has necessitated closing of the stairs themselves.

But you can still visit:  Although a temporary image of the entrance has been placed over the actual entrance, an additional set of stairs has been installed next to the stairway, and pilgrims can climb those instead.

The stairs will reopen in late 2018, but we do not have a definite date at this point.

Here is a great video about the work being done from Catholic News Service.

 

 

 

 

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Best travel insurance for hurricanes

For 6 months out of the year, hurricanes pose a serious threat to travelers taking their long-awaited vacations. Many travelers look for travel insurance to offset that risk during hurricane season, however finding the best travel insurance for hurricanes is important to make sure you’re covered.

The Best Travel Insurance for Hurricanes is Comprehensive

Travelers who are worried about a hurricane or tropical storm ruining their trip should search for a policy with the Trip Cancellation benefit. Most cancellation policies automatically include Hurricane & Weather coverage.

Trip Cancellation can refund 100% of your prepaid and non-refundable trip expenses if you have to cancel your trip altogether before leaving your home. To search for travel insurance policies with this coverage, go to Squaremouth and select “Yes” when asked “Should this search include Trip Cancellation coverage?” By doing so, you will be prompted to enter the trip cost you would like to protect.

Getting a cancellation policy with comprehensive coverage also means you will have Trip Interruption coverage. This benefit covers the same events as Trip Cancellation, however coverage begins after you have left for your trip. If you need to cut your trip short, Trip Interruption can refund the cost of the unused portion of your trip, as well as the additional transportation expenses you incur to return home.

Because most policies are comprehensive, a cancellation-style policy will also have coverage for medical emergencies, travel delays, and luggage.

When You’re Covered if There is a Storm

Most comprehensive travel insurance policies can refund your trip costs if a storm significantly impacts your trip or prevents you from traveling. Each policy has specific situations that can trigger coverage. In order for coverage to begin, typically one of the following must occur:

  • Your flight or cruise is delayed by at least 6-48 hours, or canceled outright
  • Your hotel at your destination is severely damaged and deemed uninhabitable
  • A mandatory evacuation order or a hurricane warning is issued at your destination
  • Your home is rendered uninhabitable by the storm

Cancel For Any Reason: an Option for Added Flexibility

For additional flexibility, you may be able to upgrade a policy to include Cancel For Any Reason, which refunds you if you have to cancel for a reason not covered by Trip Cancellation. This can include simply changing your mind and not wanting to travel, fear of traveling, or loss of enjoyment at your destination, such as the beaches being less appealing than you were hoping.

There are, however, some stipulations regarding Cancel For Any Reason coverage:

  • Cancel For Any Reason is only available for 14-30 days after making your first trip payment
  • Your premium will typically increase by about 40%, and you must insure 100% of your prepaid and non-refundable trip costs
  • You can be reimbursed up to 75% of those trip costs
  • You must cancel at least 2-3 before you are scheduled to depart.

See this video on  “Cancel for any Reason” here.

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Tips to make Italy train travel a breeze

Italy is one of the world’s most beautiful places. Since the time of the Romans and before, travelers have long sought out this part of Europe. From the snow capped mountains of the Italian Alps to the joys of the pretty beaches at the foot of Italy, Italy is a traveler’s delight. Despite offering culture, art and wonderful views at every turn, the nation of Italy is a relatively compact place. This makes it easy to get around. There are many ways for people to travel around Italy. People can flit from village to village by boat or head out one of the country’s famous highways. One of the most popular forms of all transport is by train. Italy’s trains are famously run on time and crisscross the entire country.

While travel by train is a great way to see both urban Italy and the Italian countryside, Italian trains can also be stressful. It helps to keep a few tips in mind when buying tickets, boarding, sitting on the train and heading out from the train platform. It also helps to keep a few tips in mind when navigating from one Italian line to the next.

 

Different Types of Trains

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that most Italian trains have two classes. There’s first class and second class. There are few differences between the two. Many local city trains, such as those found in Rome, do not have classes at all. Another important thing to keep in mind are the many different types of Italian train lines. There are both public train lines and privately run train lines.

In general, the Italian lines are divided into three types.

The Le Frecce trains provide high speed rail transit between major Italian cities.

Other important lines are the EuroCity, the InterCity, and the international train lines. These trains are part of a much larger network of trains typically spanning not only Italy but the surrounding nations as well. These are often covered by a rail pass.

There also regional trains. Regional trains are the local workhorse of the area, serving both travelers as well as commuters on their way to work.

 

Advance Reservations

It’s highly important to keep in mind that some lines require travelers to make advanced reservations. The Le Frecce lines require such reservations. It’s a good idea to make them as soon as your travel. Travelers can purchase specific passholder seat reservations that are reserved for their use. These are sold at both train stations and from many travel agencies in the United States and other places. If you have your agenda already, you’re in luck. You can easily reserve more than one of your planned trains during a single visit to the platform. You are not required to meet deadlines so this can be shortly before boarding. It’s a good idea to do this well in advance before you travel. Look up each route that you want to take before you go so. Make sure you know when the train departs and when it arrives.

 

Specific Trains

Many Italian trains travel a route that includes several major cities in a single city. For example, a train may go from Florence to Rome and then to Naples. However, some trains stick to specific route. Be aware of these routes before you leave. For example, the Circumvesuviana brings travelers from Naples and then to Pompei and to further south to Amalfi. This is the only train that covers these routes. Likewise, the Malpensa Express train is the train that will get you from the center of Milan to the airport. These train lines should be reserved in advance whenever possible. If you have not done so, you should make sure to allow enough time to get the station. During the busier and more popular tourist times, seats fill up fast. Getting there early will help you make sure you don’t miss your connections and you do get a seat.

 

Where to Buy Tickets

It is possible to buy a rail pass. However, the rail pass is not accepted on all lines. In that case, you may need to buy your tickets at the station. There are ticket machines found in all railways. At the same time, many people avoid these machines as they can be complicated and confusing. Buying ticket at the ticket window gives you more options and a person to speak with. Make sure you are standing in the right line or you’ll have to start all over again. Buying tickets at travel agencies may cost a little more but it can help avoid crowds and work with people who understand the local trains intimately. They frequently have discounts not available to the general public. Keep in mind there are discounts available for certain groups. For example, if you are sixty or over, you can save money on your train fare. The same is true for those under twenty-five and under. They can also be eligible for discount train tickets. Sensible measures will make your Italian train travel far easier and far less stressful.

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Five Tips for Train Travel in Europe

5 tips for traveling by train in Europe

See and experience so much more by embarking on a European train adventure. Traveling by train in Europe is the quintessential method for touring Europe and it is no mystery why. The rail network is extremely developed so travelers can conquer multiple countries and cultures in one epic trip. As with any form of travel, it is good to prepare yourself to ensure that you have the easiest and most enjoyable journey possible. Here are our 5 tips for traveling by train in Europe.

Research the different rail passes available

If you are planning to see numerous countries it may be wise to consider investing in an Interrail Pass, or what non-EU citizens call the Eurail Pass. An Interrail Pass will make your train voyage easier. However, if you are on a tighter budget, individual tickets may work out cheaper (especially if you’re mainly traveling east of Germany). Consider your budget and do some research before you book your rail pass. The website saveatrain.com is the perfect place to start to help plan your trip across Europe.

Try to reserve your seats

Train tickets and seat reservations are two different things. A ticket allows you to board a train, and a reservation guarantees you a seat on a specific train. Before your trip make sure you understand whether your train requires, recommends, or doesn’t accept seat reservations.

If possible, try to reserve your seat, especially if you are traveling in uber-popular countries such as France, Italy or Spain. For most trains, you are not required to reserve your seat, however, boarding the train and hoping for the best is not a good idea. You could be told to get out of your seat mid-journey if someone else has booked it. By reserving your place, you can choose whether you would like an aisle or window seat. You can sit back and enjoy the ride knowing you won’t be interrupted to move.


Keep your belongings safe

European train travel is known as one of the safest ways to travel. However, it is important to keep an eye out for pickpocketers, particularly with trains that stop in major cities. Don’t leave your luggage unguarded on the train or in the station. On night trains, if you intend to sleep, make sure to secure baggage to the rack with a small bicycle lock. To have peace of mind, wear a waist pack under your clothes to keep your passport, phone and any important documents protected from any potential thieves.

Less is more –  tips for traveling by train in Europe

Going from country to country or city to city is a fun and exciting journey. However, the trip can become tiring if you are carrying a heavy load. Pack the essentials and leave any items or products that are not needed behind.

Depending on the train you are traveling on, there can be limited storage space in over-seat racks and shelves at the ends of carriages. Instead of carrying a big and heavy suitcase, a quality lightweight backpack is another way to lighten your load.

Pack the right supplies for the journey

Traveling through Europe provides sensational views; however, it is a good idea to bring a few key items to help you pass the time especially if you are embarking on a journey of more than 2 hours. Read a book, watch a movie on your tablet, write in your travel journal or strike up a conversation with another passenger and before you know it you will be at your next destination.

Most trains have either a restaurant, café carriages or snack carts that come by selling sandwiches, soft drinks and more. But if you are on a tight traveling budget or you have specific dietary requirements, it is wise to bring some snacks with you on your journey.

Thinking of traveling by train in Europe? Go online to check out all the exclusive fares at Save A Train and start planning your next adventure!