Taking the Train to Fiumicino from Termini

Cross Pollinate posted this video on taking the train to Fiumicino from Termini. I wish I had seen it before I took my trip!! I stood in the long line to buy a ticket. I didn’t know how to use the machines. This young girl makes it seem like a snap. It is good to know about the 15 minute walk to the train gate. I used cross pollinate to book a room at a B&B in Rome. They were very helpful.

It was also fun to watch the video and recognize a street corner near the Termini Station, as well as parts of the train station and airport.

Travel Tips-What to Pack and Cell Phones

 

 

 

Cell Phones:

Most people today will not need this advice. It is easy to buy a Sim card for your cell phone that will work in Italy. Just call your company and discuss your travel plans with them. It is not that I am a luddite, but I have not bought into a cell phone plan. I use a cell phone only for travel and the Virginmobile phone that I bought years ago with the pay as you go plan works fine for me at under $10 per month. Of course it is expensive per minute, but I use it very seldom. And don’t leave me a message on that cell phone, because I never retrieve the messages. That costs me money.

Before leaving, I told my neighbor that I wanted to rent a cell phone in Italy.  He said – hey, remember the 70’s and those people called hippies? They traveled without cell phones. They survived. Yes, I survived and the lack of a phone made for some adventures. In all of the seventeen days I was in Italy, there were two or three times when a cell phone would have saved me time and hassle. There are few pay phones left in Italy. I still have the phone cards that I bought to use at a pay phone. I never used them.

There are two major cell phone companies in Italy, Vodaphone and Tim. Marissa told me that Vodaphone works in Calascio. She bought a vodaphone track phone at the post office, I think in Rome. You can find Tim and Vodaphone stores in major cities. The National Geographic site has phone rentals for cellular phones abroad.

Packing Tip:

I used Rick Steves’ Packing list for women almost to a T. I packed light and used only my carry on luggage on wheels plus a briefcase.  This worked well as I took buses and trains and hiked up the hill to Rocca Calascio with my luggage. (Well I hiked part way up and then stuck out my thumb.) I packed a light weight nylon duffel bag and filled that with gifts on my last day in Rome. Then I checked one bag on the way home. Note to myself: Next time, check the duffel bag. Fill it with clothes. It is not fun to lug the duffel bag around the airports. Keep the wheeled carry on bag with plenty of room to add gifts as you use up your Euros at the duty free shops in the airport.  Or keep it light and enjoy walking around the airport. There is also a lot of walking at Termini Station to get to the train for Fiumicino Airport. Plan accordingly. Then, rent one of those airport trolleys for luggage when you get into line for U.S. customs. I was in a slow moving line for over an hour.

Bring an extra luggage strap or two to wrap around the duffel bag before you check it. This can keep it tight and strengthen it for the luggage handlers. I also used the luggage straps when my luggage started to bulge a bit or to tie things together when I walked with all of my luggage.

Shoes were the biggest weight. Make sure your shoes work well. Since I was hiking, it would have been nice to bring hiking boots. Instead, I brought old gym sneakers and ditched them after the hiking. They were comfortable and I did not miss them later. I brought two good pairs of sandals and that worked well for summer. Keen and Ecco sandals were my choices. One pair more rugged and one more citified.

I read that you can bring an old pair of jeans and leave them behind. It’s a thought. I found the jeans even too warm for hiking in June. Lightweight pants and capri pants were a good investment before the trip. I bought one pair of pants that you can roll up into capri length and two other very light weight cotton capris. They were all easy to wash and dried quickly. I brought a skirt and some tops that I never wore. I never used the scarf, but I did not get to the Vatican where it would have been handy as a head covering.

Abruzzo Food

Life in Abruzzo shared Porta dei Parchi’s recipe for Shepherd Steak. We ate this wonderful cheese dish at the end of the transhumanza. It is a good way to use day old or dry bread. We were at the shepherd’s hut in the alta plano and ate Shepherd’s Steak and a stew with wild greens. This is truly one of the first times that I had mint and liked it! Maybe I am not allergic after all.

Tourist Offices

I took this picture of the sign in the tourist office in Scanno. It is the first time I actually found the tourist office in a smaller town. Of course, it was not open.  According to the sign, the office is closed for vacation on the 18th through 26th  of June.  I was there on the 18th along with hundreds of other tourists.

I also took a picture of the bus schedule.

True Beginning of My Fascination with Calascio

Joyce B. introduced me to the book, Italian Hilltowns by Norman F. Carver. Carver’s beautifully evocative black and white photos of hilltowns across Italy included several photos of Calascio including one of  the Rocca Calascio castle. The mystery of the photos worked on my imagination and my wallet. I bought copies for several relatives. Carver, who is also an architect, wrote about the history of the architecture and the urban design of the towns. Small diagrams showed the organic town structures.

Archway in Calascio

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I met Joyce B. when I lived in Seattle in the early 80’s. She worked in a weaving store and I was a weaver. Joyce had just returned from living in Italy for a year. She visited Calascio where she still had relatives. For a brief time we thought we might be related. Then my Aunt Ida explained that she and Joyce’s mother were good friends. So Joyce and I are Calascini cogine, but not technically related.

August Transhumanza

Count the sheep as they jump over the water trough.

Porta dei Parchi is hosting the third and last (ultima) transhumanza of 2011 from August 26-August 28th. This video shows the transhumanza very well. Still no matter how many pictures you see, it does not compare to being there in person.  On the first day, they will walk from Anversa to Old Frattura. You can find them on facebook on the Adotta una pecora page.

Getting Around by Bus

Bus Lines

Getting around in Abruzzo without a car leads you to buses. The bus system in Abruzzo, as reported in Life in Abruzzo, is run for the locals and may not have service on Sundays. Mid day may also be a hard time to make connections. There are several bus lines that service Abruzzo. ARPA is the major one and it is easy to find schedules online. Some towns, such as Vasto, can be reached by the Di Fonzo Bus Line. If you plan way ahead, Di Fonzo offers low cost (5 euro) tickets online for travel between Vasto – Lanciano – Rome or between Pescara – Chieti – Rome. Check other links on the About Abruzzo blog.

ARPA: Link to search for schedules.

Orari = schedules
Fermate di Partenza = departing stop
Fermate di Arrivo = arriving stop
 

Transfers:

While trains run from Rome to L’Aquila and Pescara and a few other major towns, if you plan to transfer from train to bus, it will be easier to take a bus in the first place. Then you will be at the bus station or stop. In L’Aquila there is a large bus station, the Collemagio. All the buses stop there. It is easy to buy tickets on the bottom floor and ask advice.  The attendant usually knows enough English to tell you the number of the stall where you will catch your bus. Even with a good skill in basic numbers, I carried a small notebook and asked them to write the numbers when I wasn’t sure. When there is no bus station, the right place to make a transfer is not always easy to determine. Some Italian may or may not help here. If there is no bus station, get off in the center where you can go to a Tabacchi, bar, or cafe. You can buy a ticket at the tabacchi and you can ask advice at a bar (coffee shop in Italy) or cafe. In Sulmona, make transfers in the center near the north side of town where there is a city park filled with trees and paths. The train station in Sulmona is down a hill and not convenient for bus transfers. Lonely Planet, however, suggests Bus A from the train station.

Leaving from Rome:

A good description and map of the bus terminal can be found at this site:  how to get to the Tibertina bus terminal.  While this pdf tells how to find the Di Fonzo bus line, it is the same bus terminal for the other bus lines. I took the ARPA bus.

Cost of ARPA buses:

I paid:

Rome Tibertina to L’Aquila-Collemaggio –  9.50 euro
L’Aquilla-Collemaggio to Sulmona – 5.50 euro
Pescara Plazza delle Repubblica to L’Aquila-Collemaggio – 7.80 euro
L’Aquila-Collemaggio to Calascio – round trip ticket – 5.20 euro

 

Good links:

ARPA  Regional Bus Lines in the Abruzzo Region

ARPA search for schedules

Di Fonzo Bus Line – www.difonzobus.com

DiCarlo Bus

DiCarloBus – schedule of bus directly from Pescara to Fiumicino airport. One per day.

About Abruzzo

Life in Abruzzo

 

The Day of “Non lo so.”

Bus station near Tribertina Train Station

Bus station near Tibertina Train Station

I made a big mistake the day I left Rome for Anversa degli Abruzzzi. I knew I needed cash to pay the rest of my bill at Porta dei Parchi and I knew that there would be few cash points out in the country. But I did not go to a bancomat in the Roma Termini Train Station. I took the 10 to 15 minute walk from my hotel, the Domus Nova Bethlem, to the Termini Metro stop. For one euro, I took the Metro from Termini to Tiburtina, another train station. I assumed that it would be easy to find a bancomat there. But it wasn’t. In hind site, I took the metro, not the train and while the two transportation systems are connected underground, I did not go to the areas at either train station where there would be a bancomat. Eager to be on my way, I decided to go ahead and find my bus and try to change money in L’Aquila. The bus station was not easy to find. There were no signs. If I asked anyone, they just said, “Non lo so”. “I don’t know it.” I walked from the Metro stop towards the train station and then outside where I crossed streets under an overpass. Once there, the biglietteria, ticket office, was easy to find.

Excited to see the mountains, I took a seat in the upper deck of the bus to L’Aquila. The dinner at the bioagriturismo was not until eight that night. So I had time to see a little of L’Aquila before getting the next bus to Sulmona, then another to Anversa.

The bus station in L’Aquila, the Collemaggio, is at the bottom of a hill. The walk to the center of town is up the hill. At times I felt I was going nowhere. Then I found a park and then buildings. Buildings were fenced off and strapped with metal or encased in wire mesh to contain the earthquake damage. But no one was working on reconstruction. Three military personnel in camouflage hung out and chatted near their vehicle. The post office mentioned in my old guide book was cordoned off as was the church, a major tourist site. There was one man walking around taking pictures, but very little activity. I tried to use the bancomats on the side streets. One after another refused to give me cash and cited my need to contact my bank at home. My bank, however, knew I was in Italy and I had money in my account. As I started to enter another bank, an older man with a cane who was visiting with the armed guard started to talk to me. I told him that I was in Abruzzo because my grandparents were born in Calascio. He told me his daughter lived in Miami. I told him as best I could about my problem. “La macchina della banca mi dice, ‘No’.” I didn’t know the term bancomat, so I said the bank machine tells me, “No.” Perhaps I said non functiona per me. Anyway, he understood and wanted to help, but didn’t know how to help at first. I heard “non lo so” again. After I tried once more at another machine, he offered to take me to another bank. So I made a leap of faith and put my luggage in his car and he drove me to a bank away from the center. We talked about Calascio and about my upcoming trip to walk with sheep. Familiar with Porta dei Parchi, he was impressed and told me about another Abruzzo farm where they raise donkeys. Away from the center, life appeared suburban and normal. The bank machine here gave me money! I returned to the car proclaiming “Va bene! Va bene! Grazie mille!” My first experience with the Abruzzese proved what I had heard and read. The Abruzzese are strong and gentle. My fatherly friend drove me to the bus station and I thanked him profusely again.

Near the center of L'Aquila

The next bus took me through the mountains to Sulmona. I followed the route on a map. I knew that I traveled close to Calascio, but could not quite see it from the road. I asked the bus driver where I should get off for the bus to Anversa degli Abruzzi. He motioned for me to stay on the bus as he drove through the town center. At the outskirts of town, he told me to buy a ticket at the small kiosk and wait across the street for the bus. But the kiosk was closed and there was no other place to buy a ticket. A driver waited with a small bus, the size of a van, and I asked him where to buy a ticket. “Non, lo so.” Where to get the bus to Anversa. “Non lo so.” I tried to ask others, but there was no one to ask. I was near a hospital and a parking lot. It was mid day, hot and sunny, and most people relax during the mid day break. Another bus finally arrived and I asked the same questions. “Non lo so.” Finally this bus driver took me back to the center of town without a ticket and dropped me off at a park. He told me to buy a ticket at the Tabacchi and wait for the bus on the other side of the park.

As I pulled my luggage across the park, gravel walkways clogged my luggage wheels and had to lift the luggage. Finally I made it to the other side and walked towards the shops. The tabaccaio or tobacconist told me the time for the bus and that I should wait on the opposite side of the park. I had enough time for a gelato from a shop near the park. For one euro, less than half the price in Rome, the sales clerk piled the gelato into a cup for me. As I crossed the park, I remembered Elizabeth Gilbert’s favorite Italian word in Eat,Pray, Love:  “attraversiamo”, “let’s cross over”. I was not thrilled to attraverso again. I stood waiting for the bus and although early, was determined not to move until the bus arrived.

After fifteen minutes of waiting, more people arrived. I told a young man where I was going. He told me to wait on the other side of the park. My bus going toward Scanno left from the other side. I had no choice  but attraversare il parco di nuovo and fast. I cursed the tabaccaio under my breath and cursed myself for not listening to the bus driver. A young man in this line confirmed that I was indeed in the right line. He was returning to Scanno from college. With a dreamy look in his eyes, he insisted that I should go to Scanno where I would find the most beautiful mountains. Although I tried to tell him that I would get to Scanno while walking with the sheep, he seemed disappointed that I would get off the bus before seeing Scanno. The bus drove through Sulmona and into the beautiful mountains. Lo so. Lo so.

Park in center of Sulmona

Exploring Calascio

View of Calascio and Rocca Calascio from the cemetery

View of Calascio and Rocca Calascio from the cemetery

June 27, 2011

After treating my dehydrated body to a coke, I walked to the castle. I was alone at the castle for a while. First it felt scary to walk alone along the massive walls. As I relaxed it became magical. Then other tourists arrived to break the spell. Most were Italian, but some were English, Scottish or  German. Later I tried to beg a ride down to the town of Calascio from Paolo, the hotel owner. He gave me the phone numbers of the three Americans in Calascio. Paolo said I should buy a house here and learn Italian with the other Americani. He had his children direct me to the path. The path is much quicker than the road. It crosses the road 3 or 4 times.

I walked through the town and found churches, buildings that were empty, buildings with large cracks, a building with workers, and many buildings with flowers in front and lace in the windows. One of the first streets I found was Via di Mezzo la Terra or middle Earth Street. I felt suddenly transported to a Tolkien novel.

Via di Mezzo La Terra

At 4 pm I found a computer in Vittoria’s Bar on the lowest or main street where I had a gelato. The girl behind the counter said I could use the computer “quando vuole”. Vuole, “you want,” is a word I studied very much, but it took me a minute to register that she was actually offering me free access to a computer.

The step-bridge that Vittoria crosses to get from her house to the road.

The step-bridge that Vittoria crosses to get from her house to the road.

After writing home, I headed back up the hill to return to my room. On the top street, I began to look for the start of the path. I knew I was close. I watched a woman walk over a stepped metal bridge that connected the door to her house to the road and then I asked her where the path was using my best Italian. She didn’t understand me, so she shouted down the hill to a man. When she said I was Americani, he quickly found several other people. Suddenly there were people asking me where I was from in English. “Wisconsin”. “Where in Wisconsin?” “Eau Claire.” “NO! We’re from Ettrick!” Thus I met Marissa and Fred who have a house in Calascio and a farm about one hour from my house in Eau Claire. In no time I was sitting at their dining room table discussing our ancestors and Windber, Pennsylvania. I heard their story: how Fred came to Calascio to find his roots and met Marissa. They have been married for 42 years. Marissa said, “We are all Calascini, we are all cousins.”

It felt like I was back in Windber in a relative’s kitchen. Everyone knows about Windber. When Calascini emmigrated in the late 1800’s, either they went to Windber, Pennsylvania or to Riverton or Toluca, Illinois. Everyone was racking their brains for my family connections.

Marissa

Hiking to the Summit

Count the sheep as they jump over the water trough.

The third day of hiking was much like the the first in length and intensity. We started at Agriturismo Valle Scannese da Gregorio where many stayed for the night. Gregorio’s farm is close to Scanno and features a restaurant, retail shop, and rooms.

We ended the day at 1666 m. (5,466 ft.) at  Stazzo Casone Chiarono. Literally this translates as the big sheepfold house of Chiarano. The shepherds will stay at this large shepherd hut with the sheep until the August transhumanza. Mountains and rocky outcroppings ring this high green plain. Brown ski slopes of Monte Pratello crisscross one mountain to the east.

We are treated to traditional shepherd’s steak (bread topped with cheese and mint and baked with milk) and a stew mixture made of a dandelion-like wild greens served over dry bread. After staying to watch the Romanian cheesemaker make fresh ricotta, we pile into his car for the ride back to Anversa. With loud Romanian folk music blasting, we drove down to the National park entrance, through valley towns and back to the restaurant for one more meal as a group.

View from 1666 m. (5,466 ft.).

We made it!

Fresh ricotta ready after twenty minutes.

Fresh ricotta ready after twenty minutes.