Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1114: Bergamo, Venice, Lerici, Piemonte, Friends & World Cup Mania
By girasoli from Hawaii, Summer 2006
Page 13 of 23: The Reason a Car Would be Nice - My Train Trip to Saluzzo
pretty building in Saluzzo
Next stop, Piemonte. But first, I had to get there. I knew when planning my trip that this would be my longest travel day. The train route I chose to get to Saluzzo involved taking three trains with a total time of four hours and 22 minutes, that was IF all trains were on time. This was the best train option available.
After enjoying my last wonderful breakfast at the Doria Park Hotel, I sat on my balcony for a few minutes taking in one more view of Lerici, and then headed back down to the desk to check out. I was happy to find out that the hotel arranged to have someone help carry my bag up all those stairs to the parking lot where a taxi was waiting. I decided on a taxi instead of a bus to get to La Spezia after my bus experience on the way to Lerici. I wanted to make sure to be on time to catch my 9:54 train.
My taxi driver was quite enthusiastic. He spoke rapidly about many things including the expense of living in Lerici, how most local people have been forced to find housing elsewhere, and how some tourists think he is ripping them off with the prices he charges but that he has to charge more since gas has gone up. I arrived at the train station with time to spare. He charged me about 10 euros more than the amount the hotel quoted but I still thought the ride was worth it since I didn't have to hassle with a bus ride.
The first of my three trains was an IC train and was scheduled to take almost three hours. The route was La Spezia to Torino Lingotto. I was pleasantly surprised to find new seating on this IC train. The seats were similar to the eurostar seats (except they were not red). I like this arrangement much better than those compartments on most IC trains. I had a nice seat by the window and the ride to Torino seemed to be quite pleasant. I listened to music on my new nano and worked on a sudoko puzzle. About an hour into the ride, we stopped. We were told over the intercom that there was an "incidente" in Levanto and that the train would be 10 minutes "in ritardo." Those are the two words you never want to hear when on a train or when waiting for a train. I looked at my schedule and saw that I would still make my next train connection. But, for some reason, we seemed to keep losing time along the way and in the end we arrived 25 minutes late, which meant that I missed my next train to Savigliano by five minutes.
I went to the yellow partenza board and looked at my options. There was a train that left in about 30 minutes stopping in Savigliano. So far, things were still okay. I then remembered that I needed to call the hotel as the woman I corresponded with told me that she would be happy to pick me up at the train station in Saluzzo. This was when things started to go wrong. I turned on my phone and nothing! I tried again and again to turn it on but nothing happened. It was dead! I was sure I charged it the night before. When corresponding with the hotel, I wrote that I would call that day to reconfirm my arrival time. I hoped that she would be waiting for my call instead of waiting for me at the train station, as I was definitely not going to be at the train station at my predicted arrival time.
My second train was a modern regional train. The train was pretty full but not overly crowded. It took about 40 minutes to arrive in Savigliano. When we arrived, I went to the partenza board to see when the next train left for Saluzzo, 16:03. My four hour 22 minute train excursion from La Spezia to Saluzzo was looking like it now would be a six hour and 22 minutes train travel day. I could have taken the 11:54 train from La Spezia and arrived in Saluzzo at the same time I was now set to arrive. At this point, I was not a happy traveler. If only I was brave enough to rent a car.
So, there I was with all my bags at a tiny train station with a lot to time to kill. I had read that the center of Savigliano was quite charming and so off I went. Outside the train station were three choices - straight ahead, left, or right, and no signs. I had not a clue how to find the center. I do not understand why there are not maps available at train stations. I think someone should suggest this to whoever runs tourism in Italy.
At this moment, I sort of lost it for a few minutes. I pulled myself together and started walking with my rolling bag, a bag on my back and a tiny bag on my front. I chose left. After a little while, I saw a sign pointing to a store with the words centro on the sign. This gave me a little bit of encouragement. Naturally, because it was the afternoon, everything was closed except for the bars and some pastry shops. The only thing I ate since breakfast was a piece of focaccia and a couple of nectarines and so I was pretty hungry. Also, it was VERY HOT outside, especially with all my luggage.
What stood out to me once I got closer to the center was that there seemed to be a place to buy gelato on every corner, sometimes even two! I stopped at the first bar I came to and ordered a gelato. I continued on towards the center and then stopped in a pastry shop. There, I ordered my second gelato. A very kind woman waited on me. I asked her where I would find the most picturesque places. I walked a little further to the spot where she recommended and took a few pictures. The town was charming but it was difficult to get a real feel for the town since most everything was closed for the afternoon.
After taking a few pictures, I headed back to the train station and waited for the next train. This train was one of those tiny trains with only two cars that arrived and left on it's own special track. The ride only took about 15 minutes to reach Saluzzo. When I arrived in Saluzzo, I could see that this train station was another one of those tiny train stations as again everyone just walked right across the tracks. I later found out that the only train that runs in and out of this station is the train that goes from Saluzzo to Savigliano.
Now here I was in Saluzzo and I no longer had a ride to my hotel. My phone was dead and there were no pay phones anywhere. Even if there were, I did not have one of those phone cards to use. In the past, I had always bought one but since I had a cell phone, there was no reason to buy one, or so I thought. The Saluzzo train station was not even an operating train station (no open ticket windows). Luckily, I printed out a basic map of Saluzzo off the Internet. I started walking, heading towards what I hoped was my hotel. Thirty minutes later, I arrived with sweat pouring down me all over. My face was bright red. The woman at the desk immediately got me some water and had me sit and rest. I took out my passport, which was in my money belt. It was pretty soggy. After catching my breath, she took me to my room.
Hotel Antico Podere Propano is actually an old farm house redone with beautiful rooms, which just opened last fall. It is located about 15 minutes by foot from the center of town. It is owned and run by a very nice family. Jean is from England and her husband Tony is from Saluzzo.
Once I got to my room, Jean called me to apologize about not picking me up at the train station. She said that she did not know what time I was arriving and would have even picked me up in Savigliano had she known. I told her that it was my fault, as my phone did not work. The one day I really needed that phone and it did not work!
I usually am more of a shower person but when I saw the bathtub, I immediately thought about taking a long luxurious bubble bath to pamper my sore feet. Heavenly! After my long soak in the tub, I finished unpacking and checked out all the little brochures on the desk in my room, including a really good map of Saluzzo.
I decided to head out to explore the town and find a place for dinner. Tony volunteered to drive me into town. He also gave me a quick tour, circled where I was at the moment, sites to see in Saluzzo, and even some good places to eat on my map. I felt very fortunate to have found this hotel, as everyone was so kind and helpful.
Saluzzo was quite charming. I really did not know what to expect, as there was not much information out there on this town. The one thing that was mentioned was that it was said to be the "Siena of Piemonte." The upper portion of the town was the older, historic area and the lower portion, the more modern part of town.
I took a few pictures and wandered the historic part of the town, but the main thing on my mind was FOOD. I was starving. It was almost 7:30 and I was hoping that I would be able to find some place that served dinner before 8:00. I headed to a pizzeria/restaurant called Quattro Stagione, which was recommended to me by the hotel. I was so happy that they were open! The food was wonderful. I was also very impressed by the restroom, which I would definitely rate as a four or five star restroom. There was a mural painted on the wall, fluffy hand towels, flowers, beautiful sinks, and wicker baskets for the used towels.
After dinner, I was pretty tired. I headed back to my hotel to watch the Italy-Ukraine match. I started walking back just before the game was about to start. In town, there were TVs set up outside bars with chairs lined up with "reserved" signs on them. I was just about at my hotel when Italy scored. The reason I knew this was that all the cars started honking wildly as they drove by. As you all know by now, Italy won!!
This travel day ended up being a very long day indeed, in which a car would have been nice to have. But, I made it and both the hotel and the town were lovely. I was looking forward to more time in this wonderful area in the next few days.
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