Thursday 23 January 2020

Deruta Italy Ceramics

The attractive little town of Deruta Italy is famous for ceramics, meaning, in this case, Italian majolica. Deruta is located on a hillside above the Tiber valley (the Valtiberina) in Umbria, not far from Perugia, and its economy is dominated by production of hand-made and hand-painted ceramics.

Much of the work is literally a "cottage industry" with potters bringing in their work to be fired, taking it away to paint it and bringing it back again to be glazed. These plates, bowls, vases etc are then sold in the outlets within the town and on the valley floor below. The style is extremely characteristic, being dominated by symbolic decorations depicting dragons, mythical animals and highly stylised flowers. Very good copies, labelled as such, of antique vases and other vessels are also available. For anyone interested in Italian pottery, Deruta is worth a full day visit both to buy and to visit the ceramics museum to admire the antique output of this Umbrian town.

More about Deruta, Italy.

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Tuesday 7 January 2020

Norcia Umbria Italy

For anyone who enjoys good food, the little town of Norcia, Umbria, Italy, is worth a visit. Norcia has been famous for centuries for its pork-based foods, including sausages, capocollo, salumi and hams. The best black truffles in Italy (the same species as Perigord truffles) are found in the area around Norcia and the countryside produces an excellent variety of lentil. In fact, even if you're in Norcia for only half a day, don't miss trying a plate of pork sausages and lentils for lunch or dinner.

Norcia, Italy, was also the birthplace of Saint Benedict and has the architecture appropriate to celebrate this important event. And, unusually for Umbria, Norcia lies on flat ground, despite its high elevation, which makes it a pleasure to stroll around its main sights. The air is fresh and clean, and excursions into the villages of surrounding Sybelline hills add to the pleasure of visiting this area of Umbria, Italy.

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Saturday 4 January 2020

Carsulae Roman ruins in Umbria, Italy

Visitors to central Italy, including southern Tuscany and Umbria, should take the opportunity to visit Carsulae Roman ruins in Umbria, Italy if they do not plan a visit to Pompeii and Herculaneum (Ercolano). While Carsulae does not offer intact buildings, frescoes and Roman city streets full of shops, it does nevertheless give a very good impression of the layout of a provincial Roman town.

Carsulae Umbria Italy
Aerial view of Carsulae in Umbria, Italy

Carsulae's growth into a major town was a result of the building of the via Flaminia, in 220-219-BC. Indeed, The Via Flaminia is the cardo or main street of Carsulae. During its golden age, Carsulae supported a large complex of thermal mineral baths, theatres, temples and other public amenities, the remains of many of which are clearly discernible today. Since the present ground level is much the same as in Roman times, not a great deal of excavation has been necessary to reveal the town plan, despite vast quantities of stone having been carted away over the centuries for use in other buildings in the mediaeval towns of this part of Umbria.

The location of Carsulae is pleasantly bucolic even today making it a nice place for a picnic break during your exploration of the site and the nearby towns, including Terni, which is about 20 km away and has a considerable Roman amphitheatre of its own.

More about Casulae Roman ruins.

More about Roman Umbria.
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Wednesday 1 January 2020

Porter service for Italian trains - Frecciarossa and Frecciargento trains

Most Italian railway stations no longer provide baggage trolleys. If your bags have some kind of wheels on them, it's usually no problem to get to your carriage. If you're evidently having difficulty lifting the bag into the train or, once inside, up onto the baggage rack, usually someone nearby will offer to help. If no one offers spontaneously, just ask the nearest strong-looking man - I've never known this request to be refused.

Porter service for Italian trains
Luggage trolleys are no longer available in most Italian railway stations.

Nevertheless, there is a porter service for Italian trains - Frecciarossa and Frecciargento trains. Passengers who are concerned about carrying heavy baggage to and into their carriage and vice versa might be interested to know that Trenitalia offers limited porter service on an advance booking basis, as follows:

1. The service is available ONLY at Roma Termini, Firenze SMN, Bologna Centrale, Milano Centrale and Venezia SL stations.

2. The service is available ONLY for Frecciarossa and Frecciargento trains arriving or departing between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., daily.

3. You must BOOK the service by calling 892021 in Italy, NO LATER THAN 8 p.m. of the evening PRIOR to your date of travel. You will be asked to provide the details of your ticket, including the PNR reservation code.

4. For departing passengers, the meeting point with the porter is agreed upon with the operator at the time of the booking call (e.g. at the head of a numbered platform). For arriving passengers, the meeting point is directly in front of the carriage in which the passenger is seated, at the time the train actually arrives in the station.

5. The cost of the service is a flat 5 Euros, payable directly to the porter: Official porter service

Separate and apart from the porter service described above, Trenitalia also offers a door-to-door luggage transportation service through a third party company, for people who prefer not to take luggage on the train: Official baggage service

Moving luggage and baggage in Italian railway stations
Those bags are not all hers!

In many large stations there are independent and also organised groups individuals who offer to transport passengers' bags. They are mostly Indians and Arabs. This activity is illegal and the authorities discourage passengers from availing themselves of this service, but no vigorous efforts are made to put a stop to it. I would guess that as long as you fix your price beforehand, there would be no problem letting them move your luggage.

An additional note - there are no baggage lockers in any Italian railway station (none in Europe, in fact), due to the possibility of bombs being left in them. There are manned baggage storage locations which should not be assumed to be open 24 hours a day - most are not. Usually your passport will be photocopied when you deposit your gear. These deposits are not cheap so you should condense your baggage a far as practical.

Vacation rentals in Tuscany

Today's top links for everything you need to know about what to do and where to stay in Chianti and Umbria:

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