It was our first morning in Italy and we woke up early to catch our train from Milan to Venice. We had a nice breakfast at the NH Hotel which included Italian specialties like Panna Cotta, meat and cheese. It was raining outside so we had the hotel call cabs for us to get to Milano Centrale.
Le Frecce Trains – High-speed Trenitalia Service
At the station we boarded the high speed Trenitalia Freccia Bianca (part of the LeFrecce offerings from Trenitalia) for Venice. This train had extremely comfortable seats with trays and foot rests as well as large windows to watch the landscape go by ridiculously fast. This was my first time on a high speed train. You don’t feel like you are going that fast but looking out the window you can see the speed.
Sitting in first class, drinks and light snacks were included. They even had some Prosseco so we could enjoy a Mimosa. A bunch of beautiful villages flew past us with their terracotta roofs and endless vineyards. The landscape is very flat but there are gorgeous rivers and streams.
The Sun Gives us a Warm Welcome, in Venice
As we entered into Venice, the train went over a bridge where there was endless Adriatic Sea on both sides. We caught a glimpse of a couple gondolas and regular boats out in the sea. As we exited onto the platform we noticed that the sun came out. Perfect weather for our tour.
The Venice Santa Lucia train station has left luggage (place to store your bags) so we used this service for our bags during our tour. It is 5 euros per bag for 5 hours. This train station also costs 1 euro to use to bathroom – so try to use the bathroom on the train. They are also very strict on 1 person entering the bathroom per euro but we won’t go into the details of that.
Taking a Tour of the City of Venice
We exited the train station and were immediately faced with the Grand Canal. The blue/green water of the canal is gorgeous with boats and water taxis riding back and forth. We walked across one of the many foot bridges which arch over the canal. You can get some great views of the canal and architecture from up here. We took a water bus along the grand canal to meet our guide for the Original Venice Walking Tour. A water bus is an excellent way to get an introduction to Venice. The views are spectacular the entire way.
The architecture in this city is quintessential Italian. The gorgeous ancient architecture is amazingly beautiful. The canal has many alleyway canals that branch out. When you look down these canals you get great views of lots of beautiful stone bridges. Gondolas operated by classically clothed operators move slowly up and down the canal.
We met our tour guide at San Marco Square. This is the only real piazza in Venice. This square floods frequently so they have wooden platforms that they set up for walking. At one side of the square there is the church of San Marco. This, unfortunately, was under construction and had scaffolding up. Even with this though, you could still tell how beautiful the church is with its paintings and stone statues. The tour included a lot of the history of the origin of Venice which was very interesting. I love when tours include lots of history.
We learned that the constitution of America was actually inspired by the constitution of Venice (prior to it being a part of Italy). The guide took us through many back alley ways to get the feel of what Venice used to be like. As we walked, we passed tons of luxury clothing stores. Venice is apparently the most expensive city in Italy. I am actually really relieved after coming to Venice. My only experience in Italy prior was Milan, and that is more of an industrial city. Venice is the classic Italian city that I’ve been craving.
Experiencing the High-Speed Italo Train
After some pizza at the station (actually very good) we boarded the Italo train for Florence. This train is very luxurious. We sat in smart class (second class) but it felt like first. We had a set of 4 comfy leather seats that were facing each other across a large table. There were also outlets and free wifi. On the monitor above the door it tells you how fast the train is going, it reached 260 kmph. We walked to the other class cars to see what the difference is. Prima class and Club class have larger seats and less passengers in the cars. Club seating had very few people in the car and also offered Salotto compartments which are private compartments that can hold up to 4 people. For these compartments you will be charged for all 4 seats regardless of if you fill them all or not (kind of like renting a room). Another way to distinguish between classes is the color of the seats. Smart is gray, Prima is blue, and Club is yellow. The bathrooms on here are also extremely clean and modern.
Winding Down in Florence
When we got to the Florence SMN train station we took a cab to the NH Hotel in Florence. The hotel was very modern. The bathroom had 2 sinks as well as a shower and a tub. There was a balcony overlooking the city which was great because it is much warmer here than where we’ve been before.
After checking in we took cabs to Fiaschetteria Cambi for dinner. It is a cute little trattoria that looks typical Italian. Wooden tables, prosciutto legs hanging from the ceiling, and exposed brick. We started out with an assortment of cured meats as well as a tomato and mozzarella platter. The meat was so good, the prosciutto was amazing and almost tasted glazed. The tomatoes were incredible and reminded us of a tomato that you can get in the summer. Such a deep and delicious heirloom flavor. For my main course I had a filet that was topped with arugula and balsamic vinegar. This was a really great dish. I love arugula and putting it on top of a perfect steak with balsamic vinegar worked perfectly.
I am very excited for tomorrow where I go to Pisa for the day before finishing off with dinner in Florence.