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Italian palaces welcome visitors

Italy is ALWAYS a popular tourist destination and every year there's more to see.  This summer you can see how the "other half" lives as a number of Roman aristocrats have opened their palaces.  At Montoro Palazzo Patrizi, Marquis Corso Patrizi Montoro conducts tours of his home which has been in the family since 1642.  Decorated with statues of Greek gods and Renaissance frescoes, the building is located near Piazza Navona and the Pantheon and is one of the most beautiful palaces in Rome.  Just in front of the Spanish Steps lies the Residenza Ruspoli Bonaparte.  Designed by Bartolomeo Ammannati in the 1500s, Emporer Napoleon III grew up here.  The current resident and hostess, Princess Giacinta Ruspoli, enjoys having tea with her guests while sharing the history of the palace.  Tenuta di Pietra Porzia was built in the 1200s by monks and bought by the ancestors of Count Vittoro Giulini in the 1800s.  The Count has turned his family's summer home into an inn with 16 bedrooms and a restaurant serving locally grown artichoke specialties.   Palazzo Ferrajoli is located on the Piazza Colonna and offers a unique view of Marcus Aurelius' pillar.  Built in the 16th century, the palace is famous for its Etruscan columns, floors of Venetian mosaics, coffered wooden ceilings, a labyrinth of mirrors and more.  Guests are guided through the palace by owner,  Marquis Giuseppe Ferrajoli,  who also offers them wine and snacks on the terrace at the end of the tour.  The Residenza Principi Ruspoli Cerveteri was built in the 1500s to defend the Vatican.  Now an exquisite inn, you can stay in splendid suites once inhabited by Handel, Caldarc and Benvenuto Cellini. As a man of the people, Pope Francis has eschewed such luxury and the Palace of Castel Gandolfo, the Papal summer retreat on the shores of Lake Alban, has been opened to the public as a museum.  Not only are visitors able to tour the grounds, but for the first time in history, one can view the pope's private chambers.    
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Airport News

Passengers originating in Boston or New York's Kennedy Airport no longer have to stand in long lines for mediocre take-out before boarding their flights.  Instead they can use AirGrub, the on-demand airport dining app.   It allows passengers to select their terminal and flight time, see available restaurants and menu items, order, pre-pay and schedule a time to pick up their meal.  When they arrive, their meal is freshly made and waiting for pick-up. DIA (Denver International Airport) used to be a $70 cab ride to downtown Denver.  But no more:  passengers can now take the new 23-mile electric rail link.  The line runs every 15 minutes, takes 40 minutes and costs just $9. Long layovers at Amsterdam's Schipol Airport may go by quickly if you spend them with a "friend."  KLM, Holland's flagship carrier has launched a " Layover with a Local" program, which pairs travelers who have at least 6 hours to kill with a local who's willing to show
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To Breathe or Not to Breathe

A recently published  guide comparing the air pollution levels in some of the world's top vacation destinations had some unexpected results. The research compared 28 cities in 19 countries; and while Beijing's "dangerous" Index of 328 is not surprising (anything over 151 is considered to be unhealthy) who knew that Dubai has an Index of 222!  And Mexico City, surprisingly, has an Index of just 91 (considered to be "moderate").  Luckily for travelers visiting Paris, Venice or Madrid, all three cities show an Index of 46 or below which is considered "good."   In contrast, Amsterdam has an Air Quality Index of 66 (with all those people biking?) and London is at  77. Bangkok  shows the lowest level ofpollution with an Index of 18 (go figure)  followed by Washington, DC (24), San Francisco and Madrid (both 25).  For further information check out http://waqi.info/
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Parks Less Traveled

Hopefully, you can find fresh, "good" air in our National Parks and while we're all familiar with the "usual" (Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, etc.) the following seem to have fallen off the radar screen and are well-worth a visit (beyond which they're NOT crowded):  National Park of American Samoa (balmy year-round temperatures); Lake Clark National Park (offers magnificent wildlife sightings, best visited during the summer months); Isle Royal National Park (situated on Lake Superior near the Canadian border); North Cascades National Park (stretching to the northern limits of Washington (State); Dry Tortugas National Park (situated 70 miles west of Key West these islets are a paradise for scuba divers and snorkelers); Channel Islands National Park (often called the Galapagos of North America, this archipelago is situated off the coast of southern California); Great Sand Dunes National Park (especially kid friendly with junior ranger programs); Big Bend National Park (straddles the U.S./Mexico border with some 500 million years of history); Redwood National Park (some great, moderate hikes);  Crater Lake National Park (the lake is more than five miles in diameter and over 1900 feet deep); and Havasu Falls in Grand Canyon National Park (with no roads in you can only access on foot, on horseback or via helicopter so the Falls are yours once you get there)
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