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You Can Now Enjoy the Alps’ Autumn Foliage Onboard a Train

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It’s Autumn again and you’ll be thrilled to know that spectacular foliage views can be expected everywhere in the Northern hemisphere. Enjoy some amazing views in Europe onboard a train ride and witness the colourful change of leaves come October.

The Vigezzina-Centovalli railway is a historical track in the Piedmontese Alps of Italy and brings you across to Switzerland. A Foliage Train has been organised, looking to provide guests with an opportunity to admire the beauty of the fall foliage via a slow-paced train ride from Italy’s Domodossola in the Alps to the Swiss city of Locarno on Lake Maggiore.

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This Foliage Train will bring you across 52 kilometres of journeys crossing 82 bridges along the way from Italy to Switzerland and back again. Passenger can choose to hop on at either side and also choose take a stop during the ride either in the Italian Vigezzo Valley or Centovalli in Switzerland.

Stops are made in historical villages such as Santa Maria Maggiore and Malesco, Villette, Re and Intragna just to name a few. Each of the historical villages house their own museums, sanctuaries and not forgetting a gourmet selection of fine food to accompany you while you enjoy the fall foliage of the Alps.

The trains will be running from 13th October all the way till 4th November. It is recommended that you book your tickets in advance as well as your intended stops. This is because buying a ticket might grant you some discounts and free gifts in each of the towns mapped on the Foliage Train’s route.

You can visit the railway’s official website for more information.

Starbucks Has Finally Set Foot On Italian Soil

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Image credit: Starbucks

The very first Starbucks in Italy has finally been opened. Starbucks’ first Reserve Roastery in Europe has taken over a former post office on the Piazza Cordusio in Milan. Complete with a heated, marble-topped coffee counter, a cocktail bar and a state-of-the-art on-site roastery, this Starbucks branch is unlike any other ones you have visited.

Although coffee beverages will be the main items on the menu, you’ll also be able to find artisanal cocktails and baked goods delivered by Rocco Princi.

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Image credit: Starbucks

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Milan amounts to 25,000 square-foot in total and at the same time creates 300 new job openings.

Starbucks has been looking into entering the Italian market for a long while now, as early as 1998. The world’s biggest coffee chain will also start rolling out regular cafes all across Italy this year, in hopes of successfully competing with over 57,000 cafes that are brewing in Italy.

Although Starbucks may encounter some difficulty to become a daily choice for Italians, there is a high chance that they will be able to attract the younger crowd.

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Image credit: Starbucks

An invite-only gala was held on 6th September and customers have been able to patronise the Reserve Roastery as of the morning of 7th September. The two other Starbucks Reserves are located in Seattle and Shanghai. Moving forward, Starbucks has plans to introduce more of these luxurious cafes to Chicago, New York and Tokyo.

 

The Busy Tourism Hub of Florence

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Many who go to Florence Italy would think that once you’ve seen Michelangelo’s David, Brunelleschi’s Duomo, Botticelli’s Primavera, The Ponte Vecchio, Palazzo Pitt, and weaved your way through the city’s many museums, you would be done. But Florence is more than just a terra-cotta maze for you to pinball around, it is a city that is often misunderstood and undiscovered.

The city of Florence is a great example of old meets new, with centuries-old buildings lined with high-end dining and casual bistros to brick roads with florists and shops selling home-goods.

However, the new is overshadowing the old. With almost 16 million people visiting the city annually, the volume of the crowds makes it easy to forget that the city is also home to 380,000 residents. Florence’s heritage and culture, centuries-old pursuit of “wild fantasies” that once made the city a civilization hub, is at risk of declining due to mass tourism.

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Most tourists would roam around the city with ant like intensity, marvelling and taking numerous pictures at the various antiquities they pass by. Florence is often approached by drive-by sightseeing, stopping at a location and taking as much photos they can that would last them a lifetime to post, instead of taking in the quality and the experience.

Effort is being made to develop and raise more awareness to the city’s identity. Recently, an exhibit showcasing Jeff Koons sculpture in the plaza of Palazzo Vecchio, marking it the first time in 500 years that an authentic piece of such scale had been displayed alongside sculptures by Michelangelo and Donatello.

An alternative way to find your way round the city without having to dodge selfie sticks every time, is by conversing with locals and follow them as your primary guide. Their enthusiasm and pride for the city will give you a whole new perspective of Florence.

Retire to Southern Italy and Live Tax-Free For Ten Years

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Have you always dreamed of retiring to Italy after working hard all your life? Packing up and retiring to an exotic location might have been a distant dream but there has been a new project that could see seniors living tax-free for up to a decade if they move to south Italy. This project has plans to repopulate areas of Sicily, Calabria and Sardinia that has been facing a steep decline in population in recent years. Retirees are encouraged to settle down there with the incentive of being exempted from taxes for a decade.

The Italian government is looking to discussing a proposal pitched by The League, the hard-Right party of the coalition that’s currently in power. The proposal requires pensioners to live for at least six months and a day in one of these three trial regions in order to qualify themselves for the tax breaks. The proposal hopes to attract 600,000 new residents.

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That aside, you can’t choose to just live anywhere you like as the towns and villages that qualify for the programme must have a population of less than 4000 people and have also suffered a population decline of 20% and above in the last decade.  Towns and villages are required to prove that they provide good healthcare, waste management and good parks and lighting. It is projected that average couples would be spending €20,000 to €25,000 annually in these regions, which would aid in boosting the local economy.

Retirees could see themselves enjoying the low-cost properties, excellent weather, mouth-watering delicacies and not forgetting to mention, living tax-free for ten years. The proposal is looking to appeal to foreigners to spend their retired life on a gorgeous Italian island.

You Have to Get an Application to Visit Montecristo

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Image credit: Allumeur

You’d be surprised to find out that the toughest place to visit when you’re in Italy is not the top restaurant listed in Milan nor is it the new and trendy underground club found in Florence. It is actually Montecristo, an island just off the coast of France.

Montecristo has not been accessible and opened to tourists at all right up till 10 years ago, and access remains extremely limited even today. There are two travelling windows that are available for visitors, the first one from 1st April to 15th April and the second one from 31st August to 31st October. That being said, it does not mean that anybody can visit the island. The Italian government is only giving out 1,000 day permits annually, and up to 600 of these permits have been reserved for students.

The island happens to be the setting for the Alexandre Dumas’s famous “The Count of Monte Cristo”, resulting in a high demand to visit the island.

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Visitors will be rewarded with a remarkable experience at the island. Montecristo is a part of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park, and is home to various endangered species on the Montecristo Nature Reserve. A ban on fishing and swimming within 1km of the coastline has been erected in bid to protect the biodiversity of the area.

Montecristo also has a rich history having been occupied but The Etruscans, Greeks and Romans. In addition, the Turks, Catholic monks as well as the French have also passed through the island.

According to Tuscan Archipelago National Park, it is advisable to visit the park in groups of at least 40 as individuals may face difficulties in organising the trip alone. You can apply for your visit to Montecristo online, but don’t be surprised that you might have to wait years to receive a response.

Get Around Italy With a £20 Train Ticket

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Italy houses many of the world’s greatest artworks, architecture marvels and mouth watering delicacies. Owing to its central geographic location in Europe and the Mediterranean, Italy is also home to a myriad of people and cultures.

There is no question that Florence, Venice and Rome are Italy’s most popular tourist hotspots, from searching for exquisite cuisine to taking a trip down memory lane and learning about the region’s fascinating history. Travellers would be glad to hear that you can now visit all three cities for approximately £20.

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The European booking site GoEuro is collaborating with Italo Traino to offer huge discounts on the high-speed trains running between Italy’s most popular cities. Travellers who are wishing for more flexibility in arranging their itinerary should also be elated to know that fares start from £9.99 for one-way train tickets.

In order to qualify for the discount, travellers would have to begin their trip in either Florence or Rome and include a stop in Venice in the middle. The price of the tickets would be at £20 if you book and “open jaw” ticket between the three cities. However, prices would increase to £40 if you were to book a return ticket to the city where you journey started, travellers are reminded to check though their bookings before checking out.

Grab your tickets from now till 31st August and the tickets are valid for travel between 17th October to 8th December. Note that tickets are non-refundable and non-exchangeable.

Take a Trip to Italy’s Best Medieval Town

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Image credit: Alien66

If you haven’t heard, the town of Gradara has recently been nominated the best in Italy for 2018. Gradara is located in the region of Marche in central Italy, in the province of Pesaro and Urbino. The ancient town of Gadara is iconic for its double line of medieval walls and massive Castle, known to be one of the best preserved ones in Italy. Gradara is a borgo (village or small town) that treasures and preserves its medieval heritage.

Gradara was voted “Borgo dei Borghi” by the Italian television programme Rai Kilimangiaro and its panel of judges. Gradara emerged victorious amongst twenty towns, rendering Sicilian Castroreale in the province of Messina to come in second and Bobbio in the province of Piacenza of the Emilia-Romagna region to come in third.

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Featuring two superbly preserved set of walls daring back to the 13th century alongside a calendar full of historical reenactments whereby the town’s 3000 residents play specific and well-detailed roles, Gradara’s remarkable medieval history makes the town stand out. One of the main highlights of these reenactments is the commemoration of the 1446 battle that took place between the local Malatesta lords and the Sforza from Milan.

In addition, the theatre for one of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy most famous stories is located in the borgo. Known as the Rocca in Italian and built between the 12th and 13th centuries, the theatre holds great appeal to all travellers visiting this medieval town.

With reference to the data provided by the Italian ANSA agency, almost 550,000 visitors take a trip to Gradara each year, all thanks to the town’s location on the famous Riviera Romagnola, Italy’s Adriatic coast.

You May Have to Opt for Alternative Modes of Transport Around Venice

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Venice is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto region situated across a group of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges. It is known as a floating masterpiece that features a city of marble palaces built on the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay that sits between the mouths of the Po and the Piave rivers. Best known for the beauty of the architecture, artwork and simply the beauty of the city, the lagoon and a part of the city are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Unfortunately, a new regulation will now ban certain types of boats from the Grand Canal of Venice, locals and tourists would have to resort to alternative means of getting around the area. As of 1st August, authorities are prohibiting the use of recreational boats (canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, just to name a few) from being used in the Grand Canal. There are however exceptions to the ban – people who live or own businesses in the historic district would still be allowed to use their boats during restricted hours.

Tourists who are in town do not have to feel disappointed as they’d still be able to get themselves on a gondola ride, the traditional Venetian watercraft.

After the death of a German tourist in 2013, stricter regulations on the Grand Canal have been implemented. The new regulation is merely adding on to the pile of measures devised for public safety. Areas affected include the Grand Canal, Cannaregio Canal as well as several other waterways. As for the less crowded and smaller canals, the ban would be enforced during the daily peak hours.

Bormida Mayor retracts offer to people to move here

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In an attempt to save a village in Italy from becoming a ghost town, the mayor was reportedly offering €2,000 (SGD$3,066) to anyone who wishes to move to this remote mountain village.

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Affordable Ways To Travel To The World’s Most Expensive Places

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Is your travel bucket list filled with spots like Iceland, France, and Hawaii? While the costs fluctuate due to exchange rates, here are some tips to get the most bang out of your buck in these destinations.

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