"LAMEZIA" Lamezia by AsturArcadia
Lamezia Travel Guide: 0 reviews and 3 photos
Calabria. Azure seas embracing magnificent landscapes ranging from Mediterranean to Alpine in character, superb food and cheap wine, and two remarkable 950 mm gauge rail networks linked by scenic 1435 mm gauge lines. All within a compact area that can be explored on day trips from a single base. When RyanAir announced that they were starting up flights from London Stansted to Lamezia, curiosity got the better of me . . .
Getting there is all part of the fun
'Lamezia?' you ask. So did I. Even the airport code - SUF - gives nothing away. Lamezia takes a bit of finding on the map - even if you are aware that it is somewhere in Italy. Older small-scale maps will not even show the airport! Work down the western side of the toe, just left of Catanzaro. The small town (a railway junction) is probably shown as Santa Eufemia Lamezia. To make life more confusing, its station is called Lamezia Terme Centrale, a misnomer if ever there was one, since the thermal springs are up in the hills to the north, nearer the much larger communities of Sambiase and Nicastro, both of whose station names bear the appendage 'Lamezia Terme'. The economy of Santa Eufemia Lamezia, in years gone by, probably revolved around its importance as a railway junction. The fact is commemorated by the forlorn 4-6-0 (740 287) rusting away in the municipal park, facing away from the station and towards the airport.
Lamezia (Santa Eufemia) is not, I hasten to add, a picturesque town. Most of its buildings are post-WW2. Some of the brutalist architecture would not look out of place in a former Eastern Bloc country. If you want to stay somewhere more attractive, head for pretty Paola, a bit further up the coast, or crumbling Tropea, a Sorrento look-alike, on the original line to Rosarno. But Lamezia is accessible, and there are four hotels to suit all pockets within easy walking distance of the station. Even the airport is only about fifteen level minutes on foot from the trains, though the first part of the walk is a disagreeable one, with no pavements, and the low level of a motorway interchange to traverse en route.
Lamezia Terme Centrale lies on the Ferrovia Tirrena, the great trunk line which runs down the west coast of Italy, often within a stone's throw of the sea, all the way from Ventimiglia to Reggio di Calabria, where the Mare Tirreno meets the Mare Jonico and where the sharp Italian toe gives poor Sicilia an inelegant prod at the Stretto di Messina. In fact the Ferrovia Tirrena is in itself a good excuse for avoiding Mr. Ryan's services, or using them to an airport situated further north, such as Pisa (rail-connected) or Roma Ciampino (bus every 40 minutes to Ciampino). The London to Lamezia flight, on a clear day, does though offer some superb views of the Italian coast all the way down from the neighbourhood of Génova.
Let us suppose, though, that we are flying in via Ciampino, where the FS station is a mere half kilometre or so from the terminal . . . but on the far side of both the main runway and the racecourse! The Trenitalia service thence to Roma Termini is frequent on weekdays, particularly at rush hour, when the nearby motorways appear to be choked solid as far out as Ciampino and beyond. The line threads its way between the various Roman aqueducts that converge on the Eternal City from the southeast. This is the old inland route of the Ferrovia Tirrena to Napoli, via Caserta and Cassino, and it joins the Direttissima at Roma Casilina.
One of my very first Italian rail journeys, in April 1981, was from Roma to Napoli, via the magnificent Direttissima. In those days even the semi-fasts on that line still featured some stock with wooden seats, and on the busiest trains folk would line the corridors with the windows down and their arms resting out to savour the springtime warmth. You can't do that on a Minuetto!
The Diretissimma is a magnificent beast, even nearly 80 years after its inauguration (1927). Electrified at 3000 V DC in 1935, it strides across the low undulations which form the foothills of the Colli Albani on a series of viaducts, skirts the Monti Lepini, then, scarcely bothering to gain height first, dives under the great ridges of the Monti Ausoni, Monti Aurunci and Monte Massico in long tunnels (Mont’Orso 7561 m, Vivola 7355 m and Monte Massico 5377 m). There are brief glimpses of the Golfo de Gaeta and the old fishing port from which it takes its name on the approach to Formia. The latter town is an ideal overnight break, with the Hotel del Golfo just across the station car park – cheap, with spotless ensuite rooms, recently modernised. Dining, in a country rapidly becoming addicted to fast food, could be more problematic – I opted for ‘Il Gatti e la Volpe’ in the lower part of the old quarter, east of the harbour, and was very satisfied indeed with the lamb chops and white wine.
Formia really merits more than a one-night stopover. From here CAREMAR ferries and hydrofoils depart for Ponza and Ventotene, the two principal islands in the seven-island Pontine archipelago, which has a wintertime resident population of just 300. I visited Ventotene in June 1983 and found the island a paradise – practically the only motorised vehicles were the ubiquitous three-wheeled vans beloved by Italian deliverymen, the fields were full of poppies, and there was an almost complete absence of commercialisation.
During WW2 the Direttissima was extensively wrecked by the retreating German forces. 51 bridges and viaducts out of a total of 129 structures with a span of more than 5 m were demolished, and six of the nine tunnels were blown up, explosive charges often being placed deep within the bores to create roof-falls. 13 km of track were ripped up by a machine known as the ‘Rooter’; a further 50.5 km were wrecked with explosive charges. Rebuilding was undertaken by Allied troops in spring and summer 1944.
Continuing south from Formia, opt for one of the infrequent through stopping services to Salerno. These trains are routed from Villa Literno via the coastal arm of the Direttissima, passing through Pozzuoli Solfatara (not far from the famous hot springs), with the occasional view of the Golfo di Napoli before the line burrows underground all the way from Napoli-Mergellina to Napoli-Piazza Garibaldi, emerging at the triangle where massive reconstruction is at present under way for the high speed line. Moreover, having traversed the oldest stretch of public railway in Italy (Napoli to Portici-Ercolano, inaugurated in 1839), and skirted the foot of Vesuvio and the waters of the Golfo (Capri, Ischia and Procida being visible in clear weather), these Regionali services use the steeply-graded original line from Nocera to Salerno, rather than the Direttissima, which being in tunnel (the 10,265 m Santa Lucia, inaugurated on 25 May 1977) throughout is not particularly scenic. The railway slips through a narrow gap in the Lattari range, which forms the forested backdrop to renowned resorts such as Amalfi, Positano and Sorrento, and the final part of the descent from Vietri sul Mare – Amalfi into Salerno offers some superb views over the rocky coastline and the port area of Salerno itself.
Beyond the junction with the Potenza line (the original route to the far south) at Battipaglia, the Ferrovia Tirrena strikes arrow-straight across the Piana del Selle, the mountains receding, temporarily, into the background. There follows a brief incursion into the hilly interior between Agròpoli and Ascea, and it is from here onwards that one can have an interesting time trying to identify the many locations where ‘varianti’ were built when the line was doubled. The doubling explains the fact that many of the numerous tunnels on this route are twin single track bores. The coast is followed closely for a while between Ascea and Pisciotta, the line high up on the steep slopes, then comes another inland stretch where the mountains once again crowd in on the coast.
Sapri. Overlooked by high summits, set on its own semicircular bay. A modest little resort. Take a break between the hourly Regionali for lunch at Lo Scialandro, on the seafront and popular with the locals. The seafood antipasti are superb; the desserts look particularly tempting, but I only had an hour between trains, worst luck. Time for one course, no more. From Sapri onwards, the sea is always in sight - whenever the train is not in a tunnel. And tunnels there are a-plenty, especially on the first part of the run as far as Scalea, there being a particularly spectacular stretch of cliffs visible at the southern end of the long bore between Sapri and Acquafredda. The mountains are as constant a companion is the sea, rising to summits approaching 1800 m in places. And it is here that we pass from Catania into Calabria.
The text is continued on my page for Paola.
- Pros:Ideal base for exploring by train.
- Cons:Walking route to town from airport not signposted!
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