Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Italia Day 6: On To Perugia

This is one of a series of entries from my travel diary of our Italy trip last fall. This entry is from Day 6, September 20, 2008:

The second panic moment of our trip was today. I guess every adventure has to have a panic attack or two. Our first came the morning of our flight from Portland when Wayne called the airline and heard that our flight to Rome was cancelled. As it turns out, only the part that originated in Texas was cancelled due to the hurricane there, and of course we arrived in Rome as scheduled.

Today started out with a flurry of activity and lots of trains and stations. First we rolled our luggage over a thousand cobblestones up to Roma's Termini station, about a mile and a half from our apartment (map above for route of the Walk of the Clattering Suitcases). Then it was the train to the airport to get our luggage, the train back to Termini, and then the train to Perugia. One reason to learn some of the language of the countries you travel to: we had to help some Americans who were unable to read the train schedule because they didn't know that "Bin." (for binario) meant the track number. Train schedules here are great - very straightforward for the most part once you get the hang of it.

Today's moment of panic came on the train from Roma to Perugia. We had asked the conductor if there was one stop or two stops for Perugia, because one of our maps said two. The conductor said that there was only one stop for Perugia, so it caught us by surprise when the train stopped at "Perugia San Giovanni", which did not look like a major station at all. Wayne already had his GPS out and it was saying that we were only a couple of miles from our hotel, so all of a suddent at this whistle-stop station we had to make a split-second decision to throw all of our heavy bike-laden suitcases off the train and disembark.

As we debated this plan, the whistle blew and the train started rolling again. Now the GPS was telling us that we were getting further and further from our hotel. The train maps were totally ambiguous, seeming to say that only the smaller regional trains went to Perugia San Giovanni. According to one map, if we missed the right stop for Perugia the train wouldn't stop again until it reached Cortona (which we should be hitting on our third day of biking!) So we were all panicking a bit at that, wondering how we would get back to our hotel. As it turned out, all was fine and the train stopped at the main Perugia station next. From there, we lugged our suitcases onto a bus and up the very very steep hill to our hotel.

The Hotel Iris is great and our room is very nice. They also have the nicest receptionist ever. She asked Asa to help her translate some email and help with her English (which was great to start with), so Asa got to sit with her down at the front desk while Wayne started putting the bikes together in our room. The hotel is very pretty, as is the town. Asa got this photo with her favorite receptionist on her own camera. She was really sad to leave this hotel, everyone there was so friendly and helpful to us. Especially as we were about to set up our bikes in their hallway. They were really great.

Today's moment of humor came when Mackenzie called out from the bathroom something about "these foot washers are great!!". "Foot washers?" we asked... "yeah, come see!" Well, you can just guess what he was washing his feet in. Or if you've never seen one, this is what's known as a bidet. it's not for washing feet. Although, having one large pre-teen boy, I have to say that a foot washer would come in mighty handy!

With feet nice and clean, the kids and I set out to explore the town while Wayne assembled bicycles. The town is so steep that you take these underground escalators to get from our hotel to the town center. The escalators go through this amazing underground city. Apparently in 1540, Pope Paolo III captured the city and to punish the rebellious Perugians, he built the Rocca Paolina (his papal fortress) right over their houses, churches, stores, etc. using their buildings as his foundation. So although the fortress is now gone, the underground ancient city still remains beneath it, and you can take these escalators up through it and wander the ancient streets, all underground now. It is amazingly cool, the kids and I were blown away! Poor Wayne missed this as he was still putting bicycles together.

The kids and I went up into the old walled part of the city on top of the hill, looked around and went into the local church and of course got some gelato. It's a bit windy and cold though, so we wandered back through the underground city to our hotel. There we had the most wonderful dinner at the restaurant at the bottom of the hotel. Just excellent food, yumm.

Wayne was the hero of the day, assembling four suitcases of assorted metal pieces into two fully-functioning tandem bicycles. Tomorrow: biking to Assisi!

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