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.

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.

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

 

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

Getting to Calascio

In all of my research on Calascio, I had not devised a plan to get there. Why? Because I did not want to rent a car. Why? I would love to say that my reason is totally my  green travel scruples, but fear of driving in the mountains played a large part. I have become a flat-lander here in Wisconsin. A few months before leaving  I found a bus schedule, so I knew car free travel was possible. Finding a place to stay within walking distance was the bigger obstacle. When I found  a B&B or an agriturisimo, they required a car. The bus left from L’Aquila, but again I could not find a room near the bus line. I started to think of how to make a day trip. Leave my luggage in a hotel in Pescara or Chieti and bus to L’Aquila then bus to Calascio. Walk around Calascio, then return. The free time at the yoga retreat paid off.  Bingo! I found Rifugio della Rocca in an Abruzzo Bradt Travel Guide on the bookshelf in the den. I made a reservation. After a night in Pescara, I left in the early morning for L’Aquila then Calascio. A young man returning to the University in L’Aquila was also taking the bus. He told me about the two buses. One is for university students and one for the center of town and the Collemaggio Bus Terminal. He was in a dorm during the earthquake, but survived. The university is now on the outskirts of town. Thanks to him I took the correct bus. I just did not plan on how to get from the bus stop in Calascio to the Rifugio, nor did I realize how far Rocca Calascio is from Calascio. I told the bus driver where I was going and he dropped me off at the closest possible spot. In hind sight, I should have known to get off in the center of town, find a bar (a coffee shop in Italy) and find a phone. Someone at the Rifugio could have given me a lift.

The bus dropped me off in this intersection with no businesses and no phone. The Rifugio della Rocca is 3km all up hill. I started to walk, pulling my luggage.

00:55  11:30  L’Aquila-Terminal Bus Collemaggio  Calascio  12:25 Vedi il dettaglilo della corsa

This wonderful Mother and Daughter gave me a ride up the hill to the Rifugio della Rocca.