Florence Stories and Tips

An Unexpected Train Ride

Train from Hell Photo, Florence, Italy

After a the final day of meetings and some last minute panic shopping, we decided to catch the 6:13pm Eurostar to Milan. Our flight left Milan the next day at noon and spending the night in Milan would be easier than having to leave Florence at 6am.

The Eurostar is a fast train with only one stop at Bologna between Florence and Milan. It arrives at Central Station in Milan. From there, you take a bus or taxi to Cordona Station where you can catch the Malpensa Express train. The station in Florence is a busy hub with trains departing to cities around Italy and to international destinations. Announcements are made in Italian and English and there are several large "flip boards" that give the destination city departure time and track number. The Eurostar leaves on the dot at the stated departure time.

We took the first non-smoking compartment we could find. Each compartment had six seats, although even my skinny butt amply filled one of them. My colleague's larger derriere took up two seats. The seats were made of some worn leatherine. We couldn't fit our luggage into the racks provided, so we piled some on the floor between us. As the train pulled out, I excused myself to take a walk through the cars to see what facilities for food, restrooms, etc. were on board. 75% of the compartments were empty and those that were occupied seemed, in my surreal state to be filled with sinister characters. Suddenly, the train entered a tunnel. The air compressed by the movement of the train into the tunnel flowed into the cabins through the open windows and everyone simultaneously clamped their hands over their ears as our ears all painfully popped at the same time. I headed back to my compartment as we entered what would be the second of approximately 15 tunnels of various sizes that the train would pass through during the night.

"No food that I could see," I reported to my colleague.

It was nearly 11:30PM. I took off my shoes, lifted the armrests, took some clothes out of a suitcase for a pillow and lay down. Somehow, we both fell into fitful sleep. Around 1am, the lights in the cabin were thrown on. The conductor curled his nose when he read the hand-written scrawl on the backs of our tickets as if they smelled bad. He looked at us, looked at the tickets, and, after a dramatic pause, stamped them and turned off the light. I got up to hang out the aisle window for a while only to realize that we were just entering a city. Florence. A cart with some drinks was coming down the aisle and I was able to get something to drink. A Pepsi.

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