Bologna to Florence

I love Florence but it seems like everyone else does too so it is very expensive to fly into Florence.  From Chicago a much cheaper alternative is to fly Turkish Airlines to Bologna.  You’ll need to spend at least one night (or more) in Istanbul but that is a bonus rather than a sacrifice for me.  Other airlines also fly to Bologna and a lot times at lower fares than Florence.  Another alternative is to fly into Pisa.  

Once you get to Bologna getting to Florence is easy.  We arrived at the airport and took one of the many city buses that takes you to the train station.  It costs 6 EUR a person and takes you through the whole town so it’s like getting a cheap tour.  Once you get to the train station you can use one of the machines to buy a ticket. The cheapest available tickets the day I was there were 24 EUR.  The only problem is that all the tickets were sold out for a couple hours.  So we had to wait.  There aren’t a lot of things to do near the train station with suitcases.  But we walked down one of Bologna’s many arcades and went to an outdoor clothes market.  You could buy really cheap clothes there.  We also ate some gelatto.  Not too bad a wait but not fun having to wait.  The train drops you off at St Maria Novella, the main station in town.

Another option which we took on the way back is to take the Appennino Shutlle.  This is a great service that takes you from Piazzale Montelungo (right behind the SMN train station) right to the Bologna airport and vice-versa.  It costs 20 EUR if you purchase it online or 25 EUR onboard.  At the Bologna airport you can pre-pay at the Welcome Center.  The shuttle runs the following times:

Florence ——>Bologna

3:50                      5:10

6:10                      7:35

8:10                       9:35

10:10                     11:30

12:10                     13:35

14:10                     15:35

16:10                     17:35

18:10                     19:35

20:10                      21:35

22:10                      23:30

The shuttles are rather small so I recommend  you arrive a few minutes early because at some times they do fill up.  Other times I saw no one on the shuttle.  I do have to say I like the way they treat their customers.  The shuttle we took was completely full but there were 4 girls who had purchased their tickets from a travel agent.  Instead of telling them to wait for the next one and maybe miss their flight, the driver called his supervisor and a cab was ordered.  The company paid for them to be taken to Bologna via taxi.  That is good customer service.  

We were dropped off on the far left hand side of the Bologna terminal and I assume that is where you catch the bus.  I tried asking around but no one seemed to know about it.  The departure times from the Bologna airport are : 7:50, 9:10, 10:10, 11:50, 14:00, 15:50, 18:00, 20:00, 22:00 and 00:30.  Their website is http://www.appenninoshuttle.it

Next time you want to go to Florence see if it is cheaper to fly into Bologna and don’t worry about getting there. 

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Back from Brazil (almost didn’t make it)

I will be posting several things about our latest trip to Brazil but I had to comment on my flight back from Sao Paulo.  It was a nightmare.  I didn’t think I was ever going to get home to Chicago.  

We were on the Sunday flight and every thing seemed to be going okay until the crew came to the gate and just sat there and sat there and sat there.  After a long time they simply left because they were told that the flight was cancelled way before we were.  Of course by then all the other flights to the US had already departed.  Thank you United!!!!

So we have to go back through passport control, get our bags, get in a gigantic line to get our vouchers and get rebooked.  I called the customer service line and they got me another flight on Copa through Panama better than the airport crew but it had a long delay in Panama and I wasn’t up to it so I told them I would wait for the direct flight.  Finally at 1:30 am we made to our hotel.  It was good but they put our whole family in one room even though we had separate reservations.  Oh well.

The next day we get to the airport and we have a gigantic line.  Come to find out that United cancelled the scheduled flight from Sao Paulo to Chicago and just kept our flight.  So they were busy trying to get people from two flights to their destinations.  Simply idiotic.

But we had our seats and got aboard.  But little did we know that the plane wasn’t quite fixed yet.  So we sat there waiting…. When it was finally done we had to wait for air traffic.  So we were delayed a mere 26.5 hours.  That’s a new record.  Thank you United.  

Lots of layovers

I have to make a confession,  I just went on my first trip with lots of long layovers.  The first one was a 7 hour layover in Detroit. That was long but that airport was actually okay. We ate a nice lunch at the Mediterranean grill then walked a lot.  It is a very long airport perfect for getting some exercise done.  Then we sat and watched a movie thanks to the half hour free wi-if and then read.  Overall it wasn’t a terrible experience. Our next layover was in Amsterdam. I liked that airport.  It had lots of shopping, some stores had some good sales even. Then upstairs they had fake trees and birds and some really comfy chairs.  Some of them were loungers that you could sleep.  They also had bean bags and science activities for kids and some exercise equipment.  How exciting it was to see that someone thought about the comfort of us poor people who travel coach. There is also a hotel which you can use overnight or even hourly but I don’t know the prices. Finally Athens was our last layover. It was the shortest only 2 hours but I had to get luggage (Yes I did check in this time due to all the layovers) and transfer to another airline and I knew that was going to take time.  However check in was super quick and then you go into the terminal where all the shops are and you do the security right before the gate.  Weird but it was quick.

Overall it wasn’t a bad experience. I think I slept more than I usually do because I took naps in each flight, rested in each airport and got to watch a whole season of Downton Abbey on my long flight. It beats running like an Olympic athlete from one terminal to the other so I don’t miss a flight because my first flight out off Ohare was delayed.  That’s life in Chicago

Moments that take your breath away

One of my favorite quotes is “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but the moments that take our breath away.” I’ve learned that when traveling I am often surprised by when I have my breath taken away.  Some times it is at all the expected places, others it is completely unexpected.

Art

Art has the power to speak to you in ways that words can’t.  It can reach down to your inner most feelings and express hidden thoughts or ideas.

David by Michelangelo

One of the most amazing moments in my life was standing in front of Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia in Florence.  He was so beautiful that I cried.  His eyes were piercing, his body was perfect, his size was overpowering.  It was the first time that art spoke to me in almost a paralyzing way.  I just stood there for almost an hour looking at him.  The most amazing thing was that my son, then 13, had a similar experience.  He was transfixed by this majestic artwork.

Last year I had a similar experience and I must say it was very unexpectedly.  I love impressionists and I simply can’t stand many modern art pieces, especially cubist.  They don’t speak to me.  Picasso has never been one of my favorites.  I respected his work but I simply didn’t get it.  That is until I stood in front of Guernica.

Picasso's Guernica

I never knew that a painting could make me hear the cries of pain and anguish that this majestic painting did.  It was like I was transported into that awful scene and I was helpless, I couldn’t stop the slaughter.  All I could do was witness it.  It was such a powerful experience.  I hope I am a better person because of it, that when I see injustice I will try stopping it so no more Guernicas will happen.

I must say that I was expecting a similar experience when I went to the Louvre.  Mona Lisa is one the masterpieces of all time.  I am sad to say that I didn’t feel the overpowering experience that David or Guernica gave me.  There was a painting in the grand gallery that caught my eye so Mona Lisa was almost secondary.

Monet’s Water Lily

One of my  favorite Impressionist art experiences was visiting Monet’s Water Lilies (Nympheas) at the Orangerie in Paris.  Once again the size is impressive.  The play of color, light and movement make this work so interesting. There are several panels that show all the different seasons and times of the day.  And he did it while going blind.  The will power and the passion that certain people display never cease to amaze me.  I am sad that I was not able to visit his garden, but it’s on my to do list next time I am in Paris.

Two Sisters by Renoir

Renoir is my all time favorite painter and I am so lucky to live near Chicago where I can often visit my favorite painting, Two Sisters.  I simply run up the stairs of the Art Institute of Chicago and find the girls.  I must always say hello them first.  The colors are so vivid and the size is powerful.  I wish I could paint like that, brush strokes that don’t seem to have a purpose but overall give you a play of light, depth and texture.

When traveling go to the museums don’t miss out on some of these experiences.  I know some museums can be very boring, some can be very exhausting but you never know what  will move you.  After all “a picture is worth a thousand words” and you will be a better person for having taken that mental picture.