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Fiesole & trains & holidays

#1
A week from today my husband, 18-yr-old son and I will arrive in Italy where we'll spend 21 days (9 in Florence, 5 in Levanto & 7 in Turin). This is our first trip to Italy - my first trip to Europe in 30+ years! I've been lurking and searching Slow Europe for weeks now and have learned so much - I really appreciate all of it and have been so impressed by the kind, respectful, encouraging tone of these forums!

My first question is about walks around Fiesole:

On unseentuscany.com, I read about some interesting-sounding walks around Fiesole. The site mentioned four: an "Etruscan trail", "The route ‘Orchids in the world,’" "The route ‘Montececeri Park and its caves,'" and "The route ‘Ancient rural roads.’"

I couldn't find any specific information about accessing these routes. Is anyone familiar with these specific walks or any other walking routes that you'd recommend around Fiesole? I've read there is a tourist office in Fiesole, so perhaps we can find maps there?

Next, I need some train advice: I'm considering booking a steam train excursion from Siena to Chiusi and back on Sunday, May 27th. The excursion leaves Siena at 8:55 a.m., so we'd have to travel from Florence earlier that morning. Using Rome2Rio, I found a train that leaves SMN at 6:20 and arrives in Siena at 7:47, so it sounds like it could work. We're morning people, so an early-morning walk from our apt on Via del Bobolino in the Oltrarno to catch the train to Siena seems OK. Yet I'm hesitating. It could just be I'm apprehensive because this would be our first experience taking the train anywhere in Italy. Or Is my inexperience with trains & Italy & travel in general causing me to miss some crucial detail that could make this a hassle logistically?

And finally, we're scheduled to leave Florence and travel to Levanto by train on June 2, which I just discovered is Festa della Repubblica. Anything we should keep in mind for traveling on a national holiday? Super crowded? Should we get our tickets in advance?

Thanks very much!
 
#2
These trips in general would be on Regionali, which don't take reservations and you would take any open seat. The tickets would be designated for your date of travel. At www.trenitalia.com you can get e-tickets that you can show on a smartphone or tablet, or you can buy them at self-service machines at the station. If you're getting paper tickets, you can decide if you want to do it on an earlier day, designating the tickets for your day of travel, rather than worrying about allowing extra time for the purchase on the morning of travel.

For the trip from Florence to Levanto, you might look for a direct train, such as the 7.47 departure, rather than one of the many that call for two changes and a segment on a reservable train. That holiday is a Saturday and I don't think it will be much different from any weekend as far as crowds.
 
#3
These trips in general would be on Regionali, which don't take reservations and you would take any open seat. The tickets would be designated for your date of travel. At www.trenitalia.com you can get e-tickets that you can show on a smartphone or tablet, or you can buy them at self-service machines at the station. If you're getting paper tickets, you can decide if you want to do it on an earlier day, designating the tickets for your day of travel, rather than worrying about allowing extra time for the purchase on the morning of travel.

For the trip from Florence to Levanto, you might look for a direct train, such as the 7.47 departure, rather than one of the many that call for two changes and a segment on a reservable train. That holiday is a Saturday and I don't think it will be much different from any weekend as far as crowds.
Thank you so much, Andrew. So sensible - I hadn't thought of buying the tickets in advance for the early morning excursion but that would certainly help minimize anxiety. Time to go familiarize myself with TrenItalia.
 
#4
Last year, I traveled by train from Treviso to Venezia Mestre on a regional train on June 2nd, Festa della Repubblica. It was a Friday. I would suggest leaving as early in the morning as possible. The train I was taking offered both 1st & 2nd class. I bought a first class ticket, hoping that would help, but when I boarded the train, it was so crowded, I was not able to move into one of the cars. I stood with 17 other people and all of my bags, and everyone else’s bags, squished in a corner in that space between two train cars for the entire ride. My train did not begin in Treviso, so many others were already on that train. This is a photo I took when I got off the train in Venezia Mestre. I stood in this same area during my ride that morning.

img_8634.jpg


I also traveled the following day, Saturday, June 3rd, from Modena to Faenza on a regional train. The train was packed but I was able to get a seat. I did not have luggage with me that day. Many who boarded the train at later stops had to stand. I ended up standing in that spot between the 2 train cars on another train on a Monday, so you just never know!

Looking at the train schedule that day, I agree with Andrew that taking the 7:47 am train, a direct train, would be the train to take, not only because you would not have to change trains, but because hopefully others traveling that day will start their trip a little later in the day. Another bonus is that this train begins travel from Florence. This means you will most likely get seats, but get there early so you can board as soon as they allow it.

I also agree with Andrew to buy that ticket in advance. You don't want to have to deal with waiting in line to get a ticket that morning. There are automatic ticket machines in the Florence train station where you can easily buy your tickets. Just make sure to validate the ticket that morning!

This is a photo of people waiting for a train to arrive at the Venezia Mestre station on Friday, June 2nd, Festa della Repubblica. I am not trying to scare you. I just want you to be aware of how there may be a lot of people traveling that day. You should be fine though If you take that early train that starts its journey from Florence.

img_8636.jpg
 

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#5
Is anyone familiar with these specific walks or any other walking routes that you'd recommend around Fiesole?
I've been to Fiesole twice and enjoyed it very much. The first time there, I walked a loop from the main piazza in Fiesole, to and through Montececeri Park and back. I found the route here - walking routes - and would certainly recommend it. The link to download the map is at the bottom of the page. I walked the "stonemasons and Leonardo" route. I used to blog, and just reread my old entry about it (found here - scroll halfway down the page for the Fiesole part), Evidently I'd found it rather tiring, but I think it was a hot day and I'm not especially fit, physically speaking!

The second time there was with my mother and we walked a route similar to the "terrace overlooking Florence" itinerary, plus a bit of the stonemasons route - from the piazza up via Santa Maria - Via di Belvedere - via A.Mari - via dei Poeti - and then out around via della mura Etrusche.

On a train note, one year, in August, we were heading from Cetona (Tuscany) to Milan for our flight home next day. We arrived at the station to buy our tickets, only to discover that the direct train (probably Eurostar?) we planned to take was sold out. Bit of a pain, but we got tickets for a regional train that was leaving immediately for Bologna, and changed there to another regional train headed to Milan. Wasn't a major problem, but would have been easier if I'd thought to buy advance tickets on the direct train, since we had all our suitcases with us.

Enjoy your visit!
 
#6
About Susan's point about validating the tickets: I should have mentioned that, if you get paper tickets, you need to validate them by getting them stamped at devices at the station, just before boarding.
 
#7
I appreciate this train advice very much - Susan, the photos are so instructive! I'll ask to check out of our apartment as early as possible on the 2nd in hopes of getting that early train.

Anne, thank you for the Fiesole information and the links. I'm really looking forward to walking there now. I fell down the rabbit hole into your blog a bit - most enjoyable!

I read somewhere - hope I bookmarked it - about a walking path between Settignano & Fiesole, so I'll be investigating that more, too.

Thanks again!
 

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