Day 15 - Adventure to Cortona and a Tuscany train station

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October 6th 2012
Published: October 7th 2012
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We started the day early, but didn't get out the door of the hotel until the 10 am. We were going to wait for the hotel shuttle, but a taxi / limo was dropping off a family from Canada and was able to take Francesca and I to the Roma Termini. Then we could make the 11:13 train to Cortona.

We got into the termini without any incident. The lines to the biglietti (ticket) windows were terribly long. We wanted to be sure to get our return ticket and information on the schedule. When I checked on line the day earlier, there seemed to be trains running into the late night. It didn’t seem that this wait would be in our best interest. We opted to purchase tickets at the automatic Biglietti (ticket machine) with a bit of a challenge, but we made our purchase and headed to the track. These small trains were not on the main tracks so there was a a hike to the right platform. We had it in about 10 minutes before the train left so we felt good about the trip. It was going to be a "good day" for sure!

We weren't sure the train would stop so many times, but it did. The trip was 2 hours and it seemed that all the small villages along the way had people departing and boarding. It makes a person wonder what everyone does in the area as they travel along the train. The countryside was beautiful, but pictures from the train don't do the scenery justice.

We arrived at Camucia - Cortona at 1:30 pm. There were no taxis at the stand, so we decided to climb the little hill into Camucia right outside of Cortona. The maps don't define the fact that Cortona is on top of a hill about 4 miles straight up. Hmmm, we really needed a taxi or a triple espresso! We found a little coffee shop and had some cappacino. The coffee shop waitress told us we could take the bus. After we walked over to the bus stop, the sign stated we needed a ticket. There was a young girl at the stop we tried to ask her about the tickets and she told us to go back to the coffee shop. Or she just didn't understand our question. As we were walking back to the coffee shop, the Cortona bus went by. Back at the coffee shop, we found out the bus driver could sell us a ticket so we attempted to call a taxi. We called 4 different numbers with the help of the very nice waitress that spoke a little English and fluent Italian of course to assist us with interpretation. The first number we called the driver was in Rome and it was not possible for him to pick us up and drive us up the hill. We could have had him drive us from Rome, how silly of I? The other 3 numbers gave us more bad news. We decided to have our first glass of wine while we waited for the next bus, 45 minutes of waiting ... no problem!

We made our way to the bus stop. The bus arrived on schedule as we noticed it had a different schedule for Sabato (Saturday), but I didn't pay attention to the last bus trip down the hill. That was probably my first error. We got to the top of the hill but didn't pay too much attention to the route because a couple from Minnesota boarded the bus at the next stop (the train station - we never saw that when we arrive - oops!) so we all chatted as we drove up the hill. I did see that there were no sidewalks as we drove up the switch backs and was thankful we had a ride.

The arrival to Cortona was filled with awestruck moments. What a beautiful town and the views to the valley were magnificent. More beauty and no words could describe what we were seeing. I posted over 60 pictures in this blog of Cortona ... you decide, but I have already decided I want to go back to this town and spend more time there with the beauty, wine, and friendly people.

As promised to my friend at Kansas State University (Alumni president, Amy), I delivered a package with gifts, KSU t-shirts and the Anthony Bates Foundation bag with gifts and materials. It was so apropos to arrive in Cortona and present these items to another KSU graduate, Megan, and her husband Italian jewelry shop owner & maker, Sebastian, on Anthony's 33rd birthday. What a blessing to make new friends and share the "Purple" connection! Plus, Megan & Sebastian, owners of Del
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Del Brenna Jewelry in Cortona, Tuscany Italy
Brenna fine Jewelry in Tuscany Italy, come to the US for trunk shows and vacation every year. We hope to make this a long lasting friendship! Many times during the winter months they are in California (San Diego & San Francisco) and Kansas. We encouraged them to come to Phoenix / Scottsdale to showcase their works for our friends and supporters!

Our new friends were so warm and inviting! We wanted to stay longer ... weeks and months if we could ... but we only had one day. After making our much desired jewelry purchases, we were given a private tour by Sebastian. What a lovely town with such charm and great energy. We then said our goodbyes and found some food (wonderful and tasty) and of course some of the local wine (Syrah is the local favorite produced in the Cortona area).

Then we walked around again and took pictures, shopped in the quaint stores, and then found our way back to the main square to say our final goodbyes to Megan & Sebastian. We were offered a ride to the train station by Sebastian and now I kick myself for not accepting the offer. We wanted
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Megan, Sharon, Sebastian, Francesca (Joy) in Cortona with our new friends!
to eat dinner first and have more wine before we left this beautiful town. We settled a quaint restaurant in the square by the theater for dinner. There were children all around us, playing and having fun. It makes you wonder how a family can raise their children in such a different environment. Life is good when there is laughter from a child!

We finished our meal and made our way back to the bus stop. The sign showed the last bus had already passed about 30 minutes prior ... darn! We knew from our earlier experience we would not be able to get a cab ... walk down a hill, that shouldn't be so bad! Well, it was dark and as I stated earlier the roads were narrow with no sidewalks. Off we went! We had gained LOTS of courage from the consumption of wine, but I knew by the bottom of the hill my buzz would be gone. The sites were beautiful, even in the night, but my camera couldn't give you a good image of the scenes. The traffic that drove by was driving a little too fast for my liking, but we plodded on. The
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Megan, Sharon, Sebastian, Francesca (Joy) in Cortona with our new friends!
weather was cool so it made for a better experience until I tripped on the uneven pavement and fell on my left knee. Not too wounded, I got up and continued on. As we walked, I was hoping for a port-o-potty, but a cypress tree would do until I fell into a sticker bush and decided that was not the spot for me. Francesca had to rescue me from the sticker bush because I was laughing too hard to get up (I am such a dork!). Further down the hill an olive tree seemed a little safer and off the road from the on-coming traffic. Finally at the bottom of the hill, Francesca opted for a local bar. There were dozens of men in the bar and only 4 women on the outside ... hmmm, is that how it works in Italy? She got to use the toilet and then got herself a shot of tequila to make the rest of the evening bearable. If she only knew what was in store for us, she should have bought the whole bottle!

We continued down the hill into what seemed to be Camucia town square but wandered into a residential area. Our first attempt to ask for directions was a couple at a water refill station. We tried to use a little Italian & English but got nowhere. There was a pizzeria down the street so we headed in that direction. The restaurant seemed to be closing and we tried to ask the owners (man & wife it seemed) where the termini / train / trene / stationi, but they were not helpful. We walked to the right (also seemingly towards the train station) to find another bar with young people pouring out ... we stopped 4 young men and asked them the same question ... they were much more helpful and sent us in the same direction about 10 minute walk. Whew, we were close!

We arrived to the train station, just as the 11:10 pm train was arriving. We walked / ran to the platform and jumped on the train. Before we were seated the train started moving! Phew, we felt relieved and delighted. I was able to clean my wounds. Turns out I had a scratch on my right heel from the sticker bush that drew blood and my knee was scratched & bruised and my
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Del Brenna is under the stairs in the main piazza
pants were a little torn. Looks like I would be able to patch the pants and this would make a good story. Well, the story wasn't over yet!

The train continued and made a few stops at the little towns along the way that we had recognized so we were going in the right direction at least. Then we stopped! The train just stopped and didn't move in the normal 3 minute window. Francesca looked into a few cars and sat back down. The train lights were still on but we could tell the engine was not. I got up and walked into a few more cars and found an open window. I stuck my head out the window and saw a worker walking towards me with a mop ... not a good sign. He didn't speak much English but what I was able to interpret was the next train to Roma was tomorrow! GACK!

Francesca and I dis-barked the train and went into the little dinky train station with about 3 rooms. We found the attendant and he showed us the schedule that the next train would not go through Chuisi until 4 am. It was only
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Francesca showing the height of the small shop on the other side of the stairs with the more beautiful peices
12:30 am at that time. Neither of us wanted to spend the night in the train station, so we headed to the taxi stand. The only driver that was there pointed us to the hotel across the street. There was a security guard inside in the lobby of the hotel but he waved us off. We walked around the corner the only other hotel had all their lights were off. Hmmm, not a good sign. Well, I remembered that American Express had told me when I mentioned I was going to be traveling, to contact them in an emergency. Eventually, I got through but had to tell our story several times to 3 different people before I was offered help by Darlene in the "emergency travel" department. She was going to call around for either alternate transportation to Roma or a room for a few hours. She was going to call me back in about 10 minutes.

We headed back to the train station to wait for news. Francesca had a cell phone also, but here battery was not good. She found a pay phone and called the SPG group for help on alternate transportation. My phone rang in 20 minutes and it was Darlene. No good news! She called the only two hotels to find out there was no room at the inn and no manger to lay our heads. She tried contacting 7 different taxi drivers but no answer by any of the published numbers. Francesca came back from the phone with the same news! Double GACK! So we were stuck in this crappy train station with about a dozen other people.

Then the polizia arrived! Apparently, 5 of the dozen people in the station (not us) were not of the local homeless that had already bedded down for the night. They had to show their papers to the polizia and there was lots of Italian conversation, but no trouble or arrests. These young men looked a little scary, but I wasn't worried. The draft from the door was what was not appealing to me. I only had a scarf and long sleeve shirt to ward off the night. After closing the door, I still needed more protection from the cold. At least Francesca had a sweater and some bread ... still no comfort. We found a corner out of the way and set up our
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Sharon wants to take it all home with her!
protection for the next 3 hours. Have you ever sat on marble and the wall you lean against was marble? ... brrr!

About 3 am the train board showed the next train to Roma was due in at 5 am ... Holy Bat Sh*t! What was the lesson in stranding us in the train station? There was no rest, sleep was totally out of the question, the noises and nervous behavior of several of the station guests (not us) kept me on our toes. By about 4 am, the count-down was more bearable, but still not enjoyable. A woman that was going to meet a friend for a train to Roma shared with us in English her concern about the homeless that were in the train station. "Society should be helping these people!" What a lesson and reminder about my own blessings and compassion for the men (and women) that do not have the basic comforts of life in society. I am so very blessed and so very fortunate in my life, a few hours (less than 6) in a train station was not pleasant, but I did have a bed waiting for me, room service the next day and a home with loving pets and family waiting for me at home!

The train arrived at 5 am as expected, but there were no seats. This was a sleeper train from Venezia, so the only seats were jumper seats on the wall in the very very small hallway! That didn't matter as were heading to Roma! Took a taxi after a paid bathroom break in Roma because the bathrooms in Chiusi were closed until 6 am ... so crazy! Back at the hotel at 7 am and directly into bed for much needed sleep. We figured we would be on our home clock after much needed rest.

Ciao Ciao!

Additional photos below
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a bride and groom in Cortona. One of the top spots for weddings in Italy!
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the theater in Cortona
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The ceiling in the theater
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Francesca and the wine table ... hint, hint!

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