Monday, November 3, 2014

How we got around..

One of the few vaporetti running on the day of the strike going to the islands. Fortunately, most got off at Murano
people mover between Terminals B and A at DTW

lights keep changing. This was my longest walk of the day even with the help of the people mover

Steve's plane flying over the Swiss Alps

Milano Centrale..I'll find his photo with actual trains

The steamers that got us around Lake Garda

Malpensa Express..goes from airport to Milano Centrale

cable car that took us from the village of Siusi to Compatsch high up in the Alpi di Siusi

Regionale train..this is the fancy kind that we took between Ravenna and Ferrara

Map of Ferrara. Blue dot was where we started; patch of red on the yellow-purple border is where we wanted to be. We had one hour. What this map lacked was a scale. Turns out it was a 2 mile round trip power walking with suitcases. Fortunately smooth and flat

Vaporetto is smack in the middle of the photo. Stations are bight yellow

Me finally at the front of the ticket line in Desenzano. Buying tickets was the biggest time waster

Our bus that got us between Castelrotto and Siusi and Bolzano

Steve in an elevator. Not all our hotels had one. Our Ravenna place was 4 stories up.
Bologna Centrale. Multilevel tracks. Fast trains, which we were waiting for 4 levels down

Milano subway. We left our luggage at the train station to head to the old city
We took a variety of transportation modes on our trip: commuter jet, giant jet, regional trans, fast trains, lake steamers, private car, provincial bus, cable car, vaporetti, the Metro, airport van, and a city bus. All had challenges.

We made our air arrangements way back in May. Steve had found a small window of time in which flights to Milan were about $600 less than usual from JFK. I was going to use miles that I have been squirrelling up. Unfortunately, each flight had only one cheap seat. We played around with the possibilities for an entire frustrating afternoon. and settled on us arriving in Milano around the same time. We did take the tiny commuter jet to JFK together but was quickly separated as my flight to Milano was boarding NOW!!!! My fellow passengers and I were whisked away to a distant terminal in a shuttle bus while I texted complicated instructions for Steve to find our first hotel without me and without knowing Italian. Our last hope of pleading with the powers that were to put us on the same flight was in vain complicated because I was on a Delta flight and Steve was on Alitalia. We didn't know until the last minute that we were on the same flight coming back as Steve had a Delta number and I had an Alitalia one plus I could not select a seat nor was I sure I really had a seat. And then we different flights back to Michigan from NY which were complicated by Alitalia putting the wrong tags on our luggage.

Trains: I read that the Italian train system is not for beginners but after 2 vacations using them, I think I am finally getting a handle on it. I used the RailEurope web site to see which cities had train stations and how long would each trip take. The website did NOT include regional trains which we mainly used. RailEurope takes a commission on each reserved train. Trenitalia, the national train system does not but I would have to load the app and I wasn't going to buy a data plan for Europe. Trenitalia does not put its regional trains on line for the week in advance but schedules don't vary much from week to week. Why not get a pass? One would have to try very hard to make it cost effective. Regionale trains are very inexpensive. To get on a reserved fast train with a pass, you have to pay ten euro reservation fee.
Sample rates for Venice to Verona:
Regionale train 8.8 euro..time 1.5 h
Regionale velocitale train 1.2 h..same price (we always aimed for the rv trains..same cheap price but almost as fast as the expensive trains
Frecciaargenta train 1.1 h, 24 euros. or 10 euros if you have a pass (and the considerable cost of buying a pass already toploaded with commissions). Advantage, you get a  reserved seat

Then there is a whole hierarchy of fast trains belonging to trenitalia.
Top to bottom:

And they have three classes of travel. So on certain days, we did take the Frecciarossa or the Frecciargenta because of long distances (such as Bolzano to Bologna) or we had no choice (Bologna to Firenze and back). They are nice even in second class with wifi and ports to charge our electronics.

The regionale trains varied widely in how nice or wornout they were. Some had no working toilets. You buy an open ticket good for 3 months for a given leg. You must time stamp your ticket right before boarding or pay a big fine (this I wrote in my complicated instructions for Steve..he did not validate his ticket but the conductor let it slide.) Conductors only check your tickets about a quarter of the time even for the reserved trains. Again, we tried to get on the RV trains, cheap but fast, when possible. One advantage of open tickets is that if you miss one train, another will be there in 30 minutes to an hour.

If you buy your tickets ahead of time, you can get cheap prices if you travel at certain times. There is a competing private train company, Italo, run by the guy who owns Ferrari so the trains are especially fancy. Occasionally they have some deals on their long distance trains.

Paying for tickets: A pain. There are machines but they do not accept American credit cards. I could use cash but as Steve didn't bring his cash card (!!!!$#@), I was nervous that one day my cash card would be eaten up and then we would be in big trouble. So I waited in long lines to pay with a credit card. I did try to buy several days worth at a time. In the future I would see how I could do this in advance on their website.

Boat pass: We bought these so we could travel all over the lower half of Lake Garda to our heart's content.  Complicated pricing otherwise. Also it took a long time to decipher the schedule. I had spent a lot of time in advance figuring out which of the many villages I wanted to visit. Turns out, it was a moot point as we could only get to certain villages. But we loved the ones we did get to.

The SAD pass. S is for Sudtirol..not sure what the other letters are short for. This enabled us to take any public bus or train and certain cable cars in the entire Sudtirol region (which is quite large). Unfortunately, no schedules were provided. Also we found out the hard way, not all buses are public as a private company had a more extensive system. If worse got to worst (we had to get on the last bus back to Castelrotto one night and I thought we'd miss it) we could take a Silbernagl bus (which I called the Stupidnagel bus) back to our hotel.

Vaporetti pass. We got 48 hour passes good for local routes and the outer islands in Venice. Unfortunately the vaporetti operators went on strike on our full day in Venice but we found out they could not cut off the outer islands such as Burano so away we went.

Miscellaneous modes: Bus from train station in Verona to Piazza Bra where our hotel was. Our b&b lady in Desenzano drove us in her car back to the train station (a relief as it would be straight up a steep hill), hotel shuttle to and from the airport to our airport ordeal to find the pick up point in time. the subway in Milano to get a little sight seeing in.

What we didn't do is bike despite many of the places offering free bikes. Also in Sudtirol (the Dolomites), for 38 euros, you can rent a good bike for a week and get on their trains or buses when you are too tired to go further. They have very nice bike paths completely separated from cars..hundreds of miles of them.

Almost done editing all those photos..a huge ordeal.


1 comment:

Elephant's Child said...

Congratulations on nearing the end of the editing ordeal.
I really don't like travel - and particularly crowded travel. Packed planes/buses/trains do my head in.
Perhaps I needed to live in an earlier, slower time...


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