Monday, May 31, 2010

Trains, Transport & Tuscany

Part of the fun of any European adventure is getting around. You can experience a lot on the way. Getting around Italy is exceptionally easy. Transportation to and from the airports is made easy for tourists with charter busses. Competing lines have dropped the price to 4 E for a one way ticket between Ciampino Airport and Roma Termini (train station).

If you need to continue on from the train station, there are tons of options. A train leaves every 20 minutes in the direction Florence! There’s no need to plan ahead; just show up as your schedule permits and hop on. Of course, you will need a ticket, but Trenitalia makes it easy with dozens of self-service kiosks. Unlike the French equivalent, these automatic tellers have understandable instruction (in five languages) and a simple interface. Click the “fast issue” icon to quickly select the next one way ticket your destination, or proceed through the cascading menus to select more details - even pick your seat on the high speed rail.


Like the TGV in France, Italy’s high speed rail is the way to travel. With large reclining seats, amble leg room and fold-back tables, it’s like flying first class. I can only imagine the luxury available to those who spring the extra 15 E for first class. Another trip to travelers: don’t bother paying to use the rest room in the station before your trip; the train has plenty of free clean bathrooms. Forty-two euros seems like a lot to pay for the 1:40 minute ride to Florence, but for once, you really do get your money’s worth.

From Florence to Pisa I took the regional train. It’s not as comfortable, but you can’t beat the bargain price of 5.80 E. The train makes several station stops along the way. Whereas the countryside becomes a green blur on the high speed rail, on the regional transport, you get a little more time to take in the Tuscan countryside.

Two traveling Australians highly recommended taking a bus tour through Tuscany. Set up for tourists, it takes you to the major cities, including Sienna, and wine growing farm. Eighty euros seemed a bit steep to me though. I preferred to explore the region at my own pace on the train.

The Lost Posts

It's hard to believe, but I've now been back home in Chicago for as long as I lived in France last year. The time has flown by. I've stayed incredibly busy. Adjusting back to a full time job was a bit difficult. On top of that, I even taught an online algebra course over the Winter.

Adapting to the Chicago winter was another rude awakening. Six months of beautiful blue Provencal skies ruined my weather expectations. Finally, spring has arrived in Chicago, and I feel that I'm awakening from a hibernation of sorts.

Recently sunny weather and a trip through rural Michigan have stirred many memories of Chusclan. While reviewing some of my notes from last year's trip, I realized that I wrote several blogs that were never published. Even worse, I found a list of blog topics that I intended to write about but never did. Well, it's about time to open the vaults and finish what I started almost a full year ago.
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