Monday, February 16, 2015

Travel Tip:Taking The Train!


  Getting ready for our trips is half (well…1/8th) of the fun as the trips themselves.

  I love going over my notes from the past year, looking through photos, recharging my Italian's just the thing to put me in the travel mood.

  As I was flipping through photos, I came across a series I took at the train station last year. I had decided that a travel-tip post on taking the train would/could be helpful to someone. I know I would have benefitted from one, back in the day.

  There are most likely YouTube videos, etc. that go over this stuff, but what the heck. I hope someone out there gets some good info from this….

  Our local train station, just a twenty minute drive from Panicale, is in Chiusi. It's a great spot, halfway between Rome and Florence. We can take a day trip to either of these standout cities, and be back by evening, no problem. 
  We love having the option to hop the train instead of dealing with the stressful city driving and nightmarish parking. In most cases, the train station is a short bus ride, or an easy walk to where ever we want to go, so it's a no-brainer.

  First, decide where and when you want to go. Trains run all day, and you can often have several choices of departure times. Go into your train station, and find the displays of departures and arrivals. Even small stations without an actual attendant have these posted, with machines to purchase the tickets.

A typical glass cased "departure" schedule for this particular day.

Arrivals are on the other side of the case...

  So, they break down the day by hour, and it's on a twenty four hour clock, thirteen being one o'clock in the afternoon, etc.

   On this day, we were going to Bologna. We looked at the times and stops, above photo, and found Bologna was on the train that was ending it's trip at Trieste Centrale. 

  In the photo, below, we can see what's up. We are just looking at the "top" box.
  It would depart our station at 12:10(on the upper left), stopping at each station listed in this box, so the first stop after us would be Arezzo. We also see the train number is TI  588.

 Anyhow, here you can see that the Bologna stop is the fourth stop, at 14:43(2:43). Then the train moves on to Ferrara, etc.
  You can also see that the train leaves from "BIN 3"on the upper right. This is "binario" three, or "track" three. 

It also gives days of the week it runs,
or whether it runs on holidays...

If you have questions, the attendants are helpful. I try to do as much as I can on my own, just because.
You can go straight to the window and get it all done, though.

Above the window it says
"Tickets , Reservations"

  I like to use the ticket machines. Especially when there is a long line at the windows. It's so easy. Choose a language, pick your destination, choose a time and pay. Either with cash, or a credit card. Below, there are two machines. The one on the right only takes credit cards, the other takes both cash or credit cards.

  Don't get tricked into letting someone "help" you. This may happen in the bigger stations…some guy or gal will help you figure the machine out, help you buy your tickets
  Then they want to be paid for their service. These people are basically harmless, but I always get a little bugged when they close in on me. I just say "No, grazie" in a firm voice.

The lines can get really long at bigger stations, like Florence and Rome. This is when I choose the machines. They are easy, and take you through, step by step.

  The ticket, below, shows the full price for two adults(top right), when it leaves, where it is going, and when you will arrive at your destination(Chiusi/Chiancino - Bologna Centrale).

  In the middle section, you will see the train number, 588, which car the seats are in, 005, the car is a second class car(no big deal) and the seat numbers, 55 and 56. We also see that we have window seats, "finestrino". 
  This is a train ride with reserved seats, in a certain car. Sometimes, it's just a general ticket and you can sit wherever there is a seat available.

Here is the return ticket, with all info.

  Next, we check the big board…which can be really big and full of trains coming and going…Here it's a small local station, with few tracks to worry about. 
  Give yourself time to figure it all out, if possible. It gets easier each time, honest.

  Ok. The schedule board shows us the Trains(treni) in Partenza(departing). 
  On the left is a list of trains departing, with the final destination. In our case, Trieste Centrale. It stops in Bologna along the way, at 12:10. 
  On the right, just out of the photo(sorry), it tells us this train is coming in and leaving from track(BIN) 3.

  Now that we have our tickets, and know where we need to jump on the train, and know what time it leaves…we can RELAX.
  Train stations have full on cafe/bars. With snacks.

It's never too early for a glass of  Proseco!


We aren't done yet, though….


  You will see little machines like this in the ticket office, as well as near the tracks. Just stick the ticket in the slot thing and it will get "punched" and validated.

Some of the models are yellow. These are pretty new.
You can get fined if you don't validate.

  Seems there are almost always stairs. Look for a small elevator to make things easy, if you have big bags to carry.

Elevator at our local station.

Here's where we need to be:
Track 3, going to Trieste at 12:10.

Mr. J loves a train ride.
Note the signs. Track 3 and 2, on the other side.
Also, again the destination and time confirmed.

Another validation box, in case you forgot inside.

  There will be big station signs as you get close to each stop. Another way to know when to get off. Sometimes they announce it, but not always.

Our local station.

Here she comes….

We find our car…..

We find our seats, 55 & 56, next to the window.
Be careful, each car has the same numbered seats…make sure you
are in the correct car. We have made this mistake…no big deal, you just move.

  Now we just make ourselves comfy and enjoy the ride.
  I bring a book, some munchies and always water. 
  Hopefully the company is nice.

  Can't wait to get back on the train!
  See you soon-

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Art Supplies And Lunch, Cortona

  Not that we need an excuse to hop over the border into Tuscany and visit Cortona, but it is one of our first day trips after arriving in Panicale. There is a very sweet art supply/bookshop on the main corso that is a "go to" for Johnny to buy painting stuff. He really likes the shop owner, who has been there for decades, it seems.
  On our 2014 trip, we hit the road for the 40 minute drive, and were stopped in nearby Terontola by a roadblock. 
  What the? 
  A bicycling race! How fun! Johnny and I found a parking space, and settled in for the duration. There wasn't much of a choice, unless we turned around and headed back home…and besides, we love to watch the Tour de France every year, so we grabbed a prime spot and enjoyed the show.


Done. Now…. where's the car again?

  Back on the road, we continued on to Cortona, where our first stop was for art supplies.

If you are ever in Cortona, stop into this most charming shop.
About half way up the main drag, on the left.

  I always have a grand time looking at all the books and wonderful stationery in this shop. It's a very easy place for me to kill time while Mr. J  loads up on various art supplies. 

  These small shops are always a joy, and they are treasures, as well. It's always a shame to see any of them go away. We never know when this will happen, and have seen it happen too often. This place seems secure, it's in Cortona, a very busy town…so fingers crossed it will still be around for a long time.

  Next on the list: Mangiamo!

  Always a favorite for lunch, we had to stop into Trattoria Dardano. Especially after all the hard work of watching that bike race. My tummy was growling.
  Ok, my tummy is always growling…

   Trattoria Dardano is a perfect spot for us. It's causal, with simple and traditional Tuscan dishes. On weekends, the place is busy at lunchtime, so we try to grab a table soon after the doors open. We like to take our time here.

Lots of locals here, too.

For those of you who are fans,
this is Johnny channeling Wallace. …

Me? I'm just excited to be here.
Oh, Pasta, how I do Love Thee!

  After ordering some wine and water, we happily dive into our starters...

Mixed vegetarian bruschetta..

….and fried trumpet mushrooms.
This was a special on this day, and so good. Super crispy and just salty enough.

  You may notice that the above photo of the superb mushrooms is a little unfocused. Why? Well let me tell you. 
  As our pals all know, we go into a pretty extreme regiment of exercise and dieting for several weeks leading up to our trip. Drives family and friends nuts. We are no fun to be around, believe you me. 

  You can just imagine how very excited I might be, confronted with these much anticipated plates of goodness that come our way, soon after arriving.
  Hence the shaking hands, as I take the shots. Also, hence the astounding amount of food we order!

  Yes, all in the name of, ummm…..research? Yeah, yeah... that's it…Research.

This is some damn swell tasting research.

  We can only imagine how good the meat dishes are here. We see the plates go by, and the smells are fantastic. I bet they do amazing things with beef and pork.
  As vegetarians, it's usually a carb-filled wonderland. And we love it.
  For me, it's always the simple pasta dishes here. The sauces are just right, and I can easily eat the whole plate. No problem.

The real deal.
Pasta, sweet tomatoes, garlic, a touch of red pepper flakes. Good olive oil and parmesan….basta.

Johnny loves the gnocchi.

Some of our very favorite grilled veggies are here.
The oil has a wonderful mix of herbs, garlic, and spice. Mmmm.

For some crazy reason, we also ordered stewed white beans.
We ate it all, too. So simple, so good…!

  So, after rolling ourselves out of Dardano, we needed a good walk, or nap? Walk, nap? Nap, walk…? We walked. Uphill. Always a good way to wake up after a large lunch.

A perfect antidote for a large, carb filled lunch.
Walk up, up, up!

The view is well worth the hike uphill.
Hi, Lago Trasimeno!

  Besides the walk, we also wanted to see if the tiny church of San Niccolo was open. There is artwork to be seen here, including a dual-sided piece by Luca Signorelli, which Johnny has wanted to see.
  We have tried to visit this place many, many times, and it's always been at times when it was closed. This year, we did it!

Finally, we made it through the front gates!

  The church was beautiful, and we enjoyed the young man who was the docent for the day. He let us linger for as long as we wanted, and was there to answer any questions we had. We had the place to ourselves, which was so cool.

  Afterwards, Johnny had himself a little "set down", which soon became a full blown nap. Me? I took a stroll for more photo ops.

PS…Note the incline (in the photo below) of that there path? 


I didn't have the heart (read: guts) to take a shot of him actually asleep…
Bless his lil' heart…..he would've killed me.

While my beloved takes a snooze, I take photographs….

  Later, as we left town for the day, we strolled through the Giardino Pubblico, the public gardens, which were on the way back down to the car.

A favorite fountain.

Another bench for another nap, on another visit….

  See you next time, Cortona.