Monday, July 20, 2009

fabulous firenze

Originally written July 14th 2009 on the train from Florence to Milan.

After 2 days in Florence, and an overload of paintings and art information saturated in our brains, we were ready to depart for Milan. It has been getting increasingly hot I'm not surprised if it reached 35 degrees.

Since the Firenze Santa Maria Novella station was halfway from Francesco's apartment to the Uffizi Gallery, we left our bags at the luggage storage. We could have made special reservations online to skip the queue but that would mean double the price of the entrance ticket itself.

We decided to wake up earlier to try to avoid the long queue, but apparently 9:30 was not early enough. We ended up having to wait for a total of 3 hours! Ironic considering that we were only left with less than 2 hours to tour the art gallery.

Reputed to be the world's oldest museum, we had to pay E10 to get in. I wish I had done my reading before going there, then I would have had at least a background to properly enjoy the paintings.

Our original train ticket was supposed to depart at 15:36, but for some reason the guy at the counter gave us a ticket that departed from the Firenze Rifredi station, instead of the Firenze SMN, where we were. We only realised this when we noticed that there was no announcement for our train.

While I stood to guard our luggages, Imm went to confirm our train. She bumped into a friendly Florentine lady who happened to speak English who told us that we could join her on a train to the next station which was the Firenze Rifredi station, and from there we could take the train that our ticket stated. However, we only had less than half an hour left, and we did not know that time her train would arrive.

Furthermore, her train would stop at platform 8 and our connecting train may be around platforms 1 or 2. Doing a rough mental calculation I knew with certainty that there would be no way we could make it for that train. So I asked if we could somehow exchange our ticket for the next train, even though it would mean taking the faster Eurostar Italia, which would also cost double. Plus a fine.

Since her train was due to arrive anytime soon, she found a guy waiting at a line if he could take over from her instead. Even though he did not speak much English, he was most willing to help us out. In the end, we went back to line up at the ticket counter with Lorenzo.

Poor Lorenzo, he was supposed to go off for his work in half an hour's time, but he stayed long enough to make sure we sorted out our issue. The next train leaving at 16:19 came at platform 9, and we managed to ask the trainmaster for permission to board that train. We finally went up, got ourselves some empty seats, and had to pay the fare difference and a fine of E8.

Even though we found ourselves some empty seats, we were still not sure if later on someone from the next station may come up to claim their seats. So we lingered around the compartment area for awhile till we reached Bologna station, and when we saw that everyone had had their seats, we took the ones allocated by the trainmaster.

And here I am typing this because God has given me another amazing race to go through! I don't think anything can beat that Hokkaido race because in this case, we still had ample time to reach Milano, and we had enough cash to survive the next city. That Hokkaido trip taught me to be calm and to evaluate all options available.

I figured, even if we couldn't get on the train we wanted to, we could have taken the bus to Milan, and just arrive slightly later than planned.

Now that we're on the Eurostar, I think this is really God's providence and blessing. Even though we have to pay double of our original ticket price, we will still get to Milan on time. With this, we have added another mode of transportation to our list. Italy's version of the shinkansen.

By the way, I think their Eurostar feels cosier than our shinkansen. The warm lights and dark brown seat upholstery give the carriage a warmer ambience. compared to the largely blue, grey and white colour and super-clean shinkansen. And you are also allowed to talk as loud as you want and even on the phone!

Thank God for Vanessa and Lorenzo from Florence!

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