A Gourge-ous Panoramic Train Ride

We went home from our great train adventure on the Bernina Express a different route, via the Centrovalli Railway.  The Centovalli Railway line runs between Locarno, Switzerland and Domodossola, Italy.  It is operated by the FART (the Ferrovie Autolinee Regionali Ticinesi).  Seriously, our tickets said FART on them. We couldn’t help but giggle when we read FART on our tickets.  Apparently there is a 8 year-old boy in each of us.

We took the FART mainly to get from point A to point B with a different view.  It took a few train changes to get from Luganoto Locarno, but it was worth it.  The train ride was a pleasant and scenic, if hair-raising, surprise.  It was a remarkable two-hour, 52 km trip through the mountains.

The panoramic train hugs the mountain through deep gorges, cascading waterfalls, past vineyards and forests.  It is billed as the one hundred picturesque valleys.  We didn’t count to see if there were actually 100 of them, but the number can’t be far off.

When I said the trains hug the mountains, I wasn’t kidding.  The trains wind their way through the forested mountains, through mountain tunnels, across precarious bridges, over viaducts that tower over ravines.   There is a 17 km stretch near the Italian border where the train goes through 22 tunnels and over 7 bridges.    While that part is particularly exciting, the whole thing is pretty darn cool.

The railway was built in 1923.  Many of the towns along the way don’t appear to have changed much over the years.   Notable views along the way include:

  • An iron viaduct spanning the 75m-deep gorge of the Isorno  (near Verscio) torrent

  • The photogenic village of Intragna tucked into the rugged mountains, Its 65m steeple of its bell-tower is the most recognizable sight.
  • Santa Maria Maggiore is the highest point of the line at 830m (2720 feet) above sea level.

  • The Verzasca Valley where the river has been dammed to form a lake.  You can actually see the Verzasca dam.

In 1978, the railway was severely damaged by floods.  Thankfully, they were able to rebuild it and no one was injured.

By the way, you can connect to trains headed to MilanBernBasel or Geneva from Domodossola.

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Why I Love Running

I had a bad day yesterday.  It was crushing.  After bawling for a few minutes, I decided should just go for a good long run because it never fails to make me feel better and clear my head.  On the run, I saw Mont Blanc behind lush, green fields and thought “god, I love this.”

Here’s why I love to run:

  1. There are no shortcuts.  What you get out of it is what you put into it.
  2. I am a nicer person when I’ve run all the piss and vinegar out of me.  I swear it’s true, just ask him.
  3. I love how train running forces me to be in the moment.  To avoid roots, holes, etc.  I must be hyper-aware of my surroundings.  My brain can’t make grocery lists or worry about trivialities.  That being said…  While I am thinking about getting up the hill, my subconscious works on things.
  4. Running clears my mind.  I solve problems, write blog posts, prioritize…
  5. I am almost a midget little person.  There aren’t many activities where I get to feel physically powerful, running is one of them.  Catching (and dropping) a couple of big, strong guys running up a giant hill yesterday brought me my first smile of the run (FYI, Switzerland isn’t flat).
  6. You don’t have to be pretty or dress up.  Most of my favorite things to do necessitate a shower and don’t require makeup.  Running, cycling, hiking, painting, skiing, gardening…you get the idea.
  7. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to run.  Even when my day is bad, if I am still healthy enough and safe enough to have the opportunity to run. It reminds me that I am pretty lucky.
  8. Gettin’ high.  Who doesn’t love themselves some runner’s high?
  9. You don’t have to wait for the gym to open.  You don’t even need a gym membership.  There’s no fancy equipment.  All you need is a good sports bra (or two if you are double-bagging) and you are off and running…literally.
  10. I love being outside.  It is a great way to experience beautiful places.  Some of my favorite runs have been on vacations, but I could probably wax have waxed nostalgic about my high school cross-country course too.
  11. Running has taught me how to break down a big task into smaller manageable ones.  A marathon training program is a series of smaller activities that add up to something huge.
  12. Energy begets energy.  It’s true.
  13. I have no natural gift for running, but the longer I do it, the better I get.  I am one of those who will have to age into her Boston Marathon qualifying time.  I’m okay with that.  I should be so lucky as to be the last woman standing running.
  14. I love to eat and would be overweight if I didn’t exercise.  Period.
  15. Better nutrition.  Running also helps me to make healthy choices.  I may not be smart, but I learn from my mistakes.  Eating fried pickles (dipped in copious amounts of ranch and bleu cheese) and sweet potato fries (dipped in honey mustard) for dinner the night before a long run was a mistake I will only make once.  I don’t eat as much crap when I know it will feel like it (yes crap, a pile of steaming poo) on the next day’s run.  Decent food nourishes me and allows me to have the energy, the stamina to do long runs.
  16. The camaraderie.  In Geneva, I have run by myself.  Our incessant traveling has gotten in the way of joining a weekend running group.  It is better for the blog, but worse for socializing.  In North Carolina I used to gleefully hop out of bed well before dawn to go meet my running group.  I am not a morning person and can’t function without a cup of coffee, but even without coffee I would be excited to go (and not just for the caffeine in the GU’s).
  17. It’s a challenge.  Challenges are good for us.  They teach us how to push ourselves beyond our limits.  Running has taught me about strength, how to push myself, that I am capable of more and how complaining doesn’t help (even if I still do it).  Trying something new and pushing beyond our comfort zone, even if it is hard, is good for us. It can also be habit-forming tackling one challenge makes me want to tackle others.
  18. I am always happier at the end of the run than at the beginning.  It is (almost) never because the run is over.  Running is a great stress reliever.
  19. I love the sense of accomplishment.  Even if I did nothing else productive during the day, knocking out some miles is a measurable, quantifiable accomplishment.
  20. It is something that I do for me.  I like to help others, but running is something I do because I love it.  There aren’t many things (or weren’t until we started travelling so much) that I do just because I want to.
  21. I love a good project.  Training for a race, particularly a marathon, is definitely a good project.
  22. It’s easy.  I am short and have no coordination.  You don’t even want me in right field.  Any sport with a moving ball is out of the question.  Running = a sport for the uncoordinated.
  23. It is a great way to explore.  I have learned how to navigate Geneva and the surrounding area not by studying a map, but by running its streets.  I am constantly intrigued by what I see.  Sometimes I even run back with a camera to take pictures of cool stuff for the blog.
  24. It is supposed to be good for my health.
  25. Running here, I get to see more men in spandex.
  26. Who doesn’t love an hour (or more) with a rockin’ playlist?

Sorry, the photo above is an old pic. I didn’t bring my camera.  I should have.  Yesterday was clearer and even more beautiful.