Traveling in Italy

We are back from our week in north Italy! It was quite an adventure, and truly, the Italians are a unique people. We experienced a LOT of firsts while there, not the least of which was the being there.

We arrived in Italy (our first First!) at Marco Polo airport near Venice with easyJet, which, while cheap, I do not consider easy. It’s like flying a la carte, which isn’t bad, but carries a lot of details to track. We were taking the high speed train(our second First!) to Florence right off, but weren’t sure how many delays we might encounter transferring to the train station by bus. Also, the afternoon trains are much cheaper than the morning ones, so we chose a later train. I figured we could find places to hang out, drink coffee, whatever at the train station.

First miscalculation:The train station in Mestre is small and for the most part unenclosed. Mestre itself in this area is unattractive and offers little to do. Several hours’ layover is something I think I would pay more to avoid next time.

Waiting on the train, thinking, we are pretty sure, at the right platform.

Waiting on the train, thinking, we are pretty sure, we are at the right platform. Pretty sure.

Not an attractive station, and the McDonalds is small and about the only place to wait.

Not an attractive station, and the McDonalds is small and about the only place to wait.

The train itself was nice and comfortable for a two-hour trip, I thought. We zoomed along at over 130 mph.

A wall zooming by.

A wall zooming by.

However, it didn’t FEEL that fast, unless another train passed us going the other way. It was remarkably peaceful.

Not as exciting as one's first high-speed train trip might have been.

Not as exciting as one’s first high-speed train trip was expected to be.

The station in Florence is much more like what I was expecting. There are shops, a large McDonalds/cafe, and is surrounded by, well, Florence; so if someone had to have a layover here, it would be manageable. At this point, let me also add that, unlike the French, Italian transportation staff are only minimally helpful, and actually rather rude. It pays to be as familiar with the system as possible beforehand.

Florence train station

Florence train station

Soooo much nicer!

Soooo much nicer!

Mostly we traveled Florence on foot, but our hotel was a little farther from the main tourist area than I had realized. This made for some very sore-footed days. It also meant that after hiking up to the Piazza Michaelangelo, I had no intention of hiking back, especially since that was a rainy day. We took the bus. The bus routes and map were a little confusing, but we managed to get off at a stop we recognized. The regular buses don’t travel in the center piazzas at all; those are little electric buses, and I have no idea how to catch one of those.

Compare the size of ths bus to the man walking behind it...

Compare the size of ths bus to the man walking behind it…

Italians really do drive fast and crazy. Loads of people walk, and the sidewalks aren’t really wide enough to easily accomodate two people walking abreast, so you would think drivers would be slower and more cautious around these literally overflowing sidewalks, but no. They just honk a lot. And we witnessed a nasty crash at an intersection where we were standing. After that, I was VERY cautious about crossing only with the light!

Another First was, after returning to Venice by train, taking the vaporetto (or waterbus) to our hotel. It is only a 15 minute walk, and we could have easily done that over a 6 or 7 euro vaporetto ticket, if not for the bridges. Hauling your suitcase over bridges is not pleasant. I know, because we did that on the way back. Besides, the vaporetto ride down the canal was one thing Theo enjoyed!

The view coming in on the vaporetto was truly charming.

The view coming in on the vaporetto was truly charming.

Stoney wasn't so much a fan of the waterbus.

Stoney wasn’t so much a fan of the waterbus.

We never did ride a gondola or a traghetto, but getting around on foot in Venice is much easier than Florence. The walkways are quite wide, and at the time of our trip, early April, Venice wasn’t nearly as crowded as Florence. We also took the bus back to the airport rather than the train or the Alilaguna airport shuttle, and that worked fine for us, actually leaving earlier than schedules said.

So there begins our trip! I feel much more able to navigate their transportation system in future, although I realize there is still a lot about it I don’t understand.

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