‘Where should I fly to?’ This is the question I am asked the most. The answer is, you can take your pick … Pisa, Perugia or Rome. Or you can go the whole way from the UK by train and indulge in a two day trip, taking in Zurich and crossing the Alps – but that’s a whole other answer!
My favourite way is Rome. It’s such a contrast, flying into Italy’s biggest airport, with all its throngs of travellers and then, by late afternoon, finding myself on Isola Maggiore – no traffic, nobody rushing, just peace and tranquillity..
Rome has two airports, but the one you need is Italy’s equivalent of Heathrow: Fiumicino. My flight from Yorkshire lands just before noon. From there, I take the non stop Leonardo Express from the airport into the city centre, which runs frequently and only takes half an hour. There’s a cheaper train, but I’m always too buzzing with excitement to choose that one.
When the Express pulls into Roma Termini station, I head for a light lunch. Like London King’s Cross, Termini is big and bustling and has plenty of places to get a coffee, a panino and, of course, to people watch … I’m in Italy, joining in the national pastime! Then I head for the train that will take me north east to Lake Trasimeno.
One of the many things I love about Italian trains – apart from their low prices – is the fact that each service has its own number and usually leaves from the same platform each time. I always remember to validate my ticket before I board though – there’s a fine if your ticket’s not stamped.
Within minutes of leaving Rome, the train’s soon plunging in and out of about half a dozen tunnels through the city’s famous hills. Then it’s time to just sit and watch the gorgeous landscape go by for a couple of hours. In May, the tracks are lined by mile after mile of poppies. By now, I’ve usually slipped my shoes off, and am sitting with a bottle of water in some kind of dream, smiling at washing hanging from balconies and the familiar creak of the train as it pulls into stations.
Gradually, deep wooded valleys give way to slopes of vines and the Umbrian hill towns, topped by churches. By the time we leave Magione, I almost have my nose pressed against the window, because I know that there’s a tunnel coming up. And on the other side of the tunnel, the lake.
Then I’m stepping down from the train at the shimmering little station of Passignano sul Lago. Just a few minutes walk round the corner is the ferry that will take me back across to Isola Maggiore. It’s around 4 o’clock by now, but who cares? Soon my watch and phone will barely get a glance – all that constant clock watching will be left behind. It’s time to check in at Da Sauro and relax with a drink by the lake.