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How to turn a rundown castle into a luxury retreat

<i>Castello di Fighine</i><br/>A South African couple bought a rundown castle on a Tuscany hilltop and turned the fortress into a luxury second home.
Castello di Fighine
A South African couple bought a rundown castle on a Tuscany hilltop and turned the fortress into a luxury second home.

By Maureen O’Hare, CNN

In travel news this week: a restaurant on the edge of space is now taking bookings, a hypersonic startup promises to fly people from Europe to Australia in under five hours, and couples transform incredible properties in Italy and Japan.

Inspirational projects

A little English island that inspired legendary crime novelist Agatha Christie is up for sale, and it comes with its own Art Deco hotel and helipad. Burgh Island, off the Devon coast, has a 25-room hotel with mermaid pool and billiard room — an ideal spot for Colonel Mustard and the candlestick.

Seems like too big a job to take on? Well a South African couple bought a rundown castle on a Tuscany hilltop and turned the fortress into a luxury second home. Then they bought houses in the nearby hamlet and turned them into five stunning villas with pools and two apartments, which they rent to vacationers.

And on a scale that’s smaller but just as perfectly formed, a Japanese-Israeli couple bought a traditional Japanese countryside home, known as a kominka, and turned it into a unique guesthouse experience.

Shoot for the sky

If you’re going to pay tens of thousands for a trip to the edge of space, you’ll want the food to be out of this world. A French company is promising deep-pocketed would-be space tourists Michelin-star-level meals served at an altitude of 15.5 miles (25 kilometers), meaning guests can admire the Earth’s curvature while sipping their cuvée.

And if these high flyers have a lunch date in Europe and a dinner in Australia, before long they could be able to do that trip in under five hours, if Swedish hypersonic aviation startup Destinus realizes its vision. It plans to introduce hydrogen-powered passenger flights at five times the speed of sound by the 2030s.

However, this year it’ll be two decades since the era of supersonic commercial flight ended with Concorde touching down for the last time in an airfield in England. Concorde pilots told CNN what it was like to fly the legendary plane.

Disney dreams

Walt Disney’s hometown of Marceline, Missouri, was the inspiration behind the Main Streets USA that pepper Disney theme parks around the world. But Walt’s final unfinished project was an attraction in Marceline that would recapture his youth there. The story of Disney’s “lost park” is now told at Marceline’s Walt Disney Hometown Museum.

Taylor Jeffs, now 39, grew up near Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm in California, back when “it definitely wasn’t cool to be into theme parks,” but he was “obsessed.” Now he is a theme park designer and creates immersive worlds around the globe. “It’s an art and a science,” he says.

Our partners at CNN Underscored, a product reviews and recommendations guide owned by CNN, have spoken to theme park veterans to put together the ultimate Walt Disney World packing list. Here are the 22 items you’ll need.

Law and order

A man was accused of installing a hidden camera in a public bathroom on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in late April. It had been there several days when another passenger spotted it. And on April 28, a woman was caught at India’s Chennai Airport with 22 snakes packed away in her luggage. Watch the video here.

Decades of dedication

A tour boat sailing down the River Nile in the 1990s. A moped weaving through Paris streets in the 2000s. A New Year’s Eve celebration in the party town of Goa in the 2010s. We have three more tales for you of love that struck fast but lasted long — hold onto your heart strings.

Trekking South Africa

South Africa is the continent’s undisputed champ of hiking, with more than 3,700 trails and epic adventure around every corner.

In case you missed it

People laughed when this golden statue was erected by a local government.

Then gold prices skyrocketed.

The world’s most controversial seasoning is making a comeback.

Racism has helped keep it off menus.

US airline passengers are getting increasingly frustrated.

Here’s why.

A spicy sausage is fueling protests across France.

The appetite for revolution is strong.

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