Pronto Soccorso (“Emergency Room” in Italian)

More than Just a Key – Unlocking the Trip of a Lifetime

The first time we rented a villa was on a vacation we took with another couple to Positano, on Italy’s beautiful Amalfi Coast. The view from this 2-bedroom / 2-bathroom apartment was just as spectacular as advertised. Breathtaking, really. Very, very romantic. Everything was perfect … except for the tiny detail that the second bedroom could be accessed only by going through the first bedroom. We had rented a beautiful two bedroom apartment with an incredible view and zero privacy.

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Don’t Be Afraid to Take the Train in Italy

Traveling by train while jet lagged in a foreign country may seem like a daunting task, but you can do it! I recently arrived in Rome, found the train station in the airport, bought a ticket and rode to the main terminal in Rome (Roma Termini), bought another ticket and rode to Florence (Firenze). After a few days there, I took the train to Orvieto, which is the closest train station to Benano.

I am woman of let’s say “mature” years, and I did all this train riding without any help, all by myself. And, it was a very pleasant experience—not to mention less stressful and cheaper than taking the same route with a rental car.

Of course, once you get to Orvieto, you will need to rent a car to get to Benano and see the sights in the nearby Umbrian countryside and small villages. For visits to the larger cities and more distant sites in Umbria and Tuscany, you can choose to drive to Orvieto and take the train. It will be easy since you have already got the hang of the Italian train system.

The first thing you should do is visit the Trenitalia website at www.trenitalia.com

Here you will find all kinds of information about the trains in Italy including instructions for buying tickets online and downloading a mobile app for your smart phone or i-Pad.  Here you can see schedules and times to help you plan your trip.

I do not recommend buying a ticket online to be used immediately upon arrival in Rome. Your flight might be delayed or canceled. Besides, it is very easy to purchase a ticket at the station.

In the Rome airport, after claiming your baggage and passing through customs, follow the signs that say “Tren”. Ignore the long line of people trying to buy tickets from a human being, and use one of the freestanding automatic ticket dispensers. It’s easy. Choose your language, and follow the instructions to purchase your ticket to Roma Termini.

Look at the board overhead to see what track (binario) your train will be on, and THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT: be sure to validate your ticket in the small box at the beginning of the track before getting on your train. If you don’t see it, just ask someone.

When the train stops in Roma Termini, avoid the temptation to walk into the building at a right angle to the train, unless you want to rent a car. Walk toward the front of the train and into the main terminal. This may be a little overwhelming, but take a deep breath and look for the now familiar automatic ticket machines straight ahead of you.

Buy your ticket to Orvieto if you plan to go straight to Benano. Take a look at the duration of the various options. The intercity trains will get you from the main terminal in Rome to Orvieto in a little over an hour; the regional trains take about an hour and 15 or 20 minutes and cost about half as much. My only recommendation is to choose an option where you do not have to change trains; there are many direct trains and this option is just easier.

Other advice

  • Watch out for pickpockets and panhandlers in the big city train stations. Keep your valuables on your person, and do not turn your back or walk away from your bags.
  • Watch out for gypsy taxi drivers. They generally approach arriving passengers at the end of the train platform or in the terminal. These are unlicensed and will generally charge you more than the official taxis just outside most train stations.
  • It’s OK to eat and drink on the train. Pick up a bottle of water, a snack or a carry out from one of the terminal shops before boarding the train.
  • When in doubt, ask a question. The people who work for Trenitalia wear gray uniforms and generally speak English. They are very nice and helpful. Do not hesitate to stop them and ask a question. The people who look like mechanics or train workers are also customer-friendly, but their English skills may not be as good.

Let’s Try Pinterest!

At the end of each rental season, I have to cull the collection of brochures, maps, and business cards that have accumulated on Rocca di Benano’s bookshelves.

I hate throwing these things away, because each piece of paper represents an adventure that  some cherished guest experienced and thought worthy of recommending to others. But when the pile grows too big to be useful, toss I must.

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Pinterest, the hot new social media site, made this job much less painful this year because I “pinned” those brochures or business cards on Pinterest “boards.” Have I lost you already?  If so, you may be new to Pinterest and this official explanation of what Pinterest is might be helpful.  And once you get the Pinterest gestalt, you may enjoy this decidedly unofficial exploration of Pinterest.

But back to Benano. For at least a week of my latest stay, I had piles of cards and brochures all over the dining room table. I grouped them by things like  “restaurants within 30 minutes of Benano,” “Deruta” (the pottery town about an hour from Benano) or “Rome,” and “things to do in or very near Benano.” Then, I created Pinterest boards for each category and pinned like a wild woman. And only then did I toss a map or card that a guest had left behind.

IMG_1651Anyone who has dabbled in Pinterest knows how intoxicating the crafts and recipes can be. I’m not saying it was easy to stay focused on developing the Rocca di Benano Pinterest page, because once you’re on Pinterest, distractions abound! (Wanna see the pillow I made using directions I found on Pinterest?  — but I digress.)

Back to Benano. I understand that Pinterest is gaining credibility as a tool for helping trip planners organize their ideas, options, contact information, and more. I love the idea and would be delighted if former guests and travelers add their comments to some of the recommendations posted on Rocca di Benano’s Pinterest page.

In case you’ve missed the hotlink above, here is the Rocca di Benano Pinterest page:  http://pinterest.com/roccadibenano/.

If you check it out, please let me know what you think.  And by all means, comment on anything on Rocca di Benano’s Pinterest site that catches your eye.