Sunday dawned colder and gloomier that Saturday had been, and now the prospect of heavy rain was moving in as we moved out. We arose at the dark hour of 6 a.m. for our baggage pick-up at 7:30 a.m.
The two uniformed guys from Trasbagagli showed up at our campiello a few minutes before 7:30 a.m., and we did not hesitate to shove off as light rain started to come down. The best aspect about this company’s service is that we could ride the delivery boat with our luggage right to the train station. Our helmsman backed the boat the entire length of our little canal before turning around and moving forward in the Grand Canal, a feat of boat driving that rivals the guys at the Moorings in the BVIs.
The transport boat is not elegant, but neither is the vaporetto, and we saved the 15 euro bus fare for the two of us. That brought down the net cost to 25 euros to haul our three heavy bags out of the campiello, across one bridge, on to the boat, off the boat and into St. Lucia train station. A rare bargain in Venice.
The train ride to Florence takes about two hours and unfortunately is not very scenic. The route travels through U.S. style junk yards, graffiti bedecked crossings, countryside laid barren by winter and long black tunnels as the train rolls through the Apennines instead of over the mountain range that forms the geological backbone of Italy. The rain didn’t help the scenery, but then neither did the dirty windows of the Italo train car.
Instead of the full service bar and food cart that we have enjoyed on other European trains, this one offered only salty or sweet snacks and coffee. Our first class coach filled up quickly once we reached Bologna, and as luck would have it, the occupants of the seats directly in front of us chatted away on a cell phone whose ring tone could shatter glass.
But the ride was smooth and very fast–300 kmh for most of the open route between Bologna and Florence.
Our apartment was only a five-minute 10 euro cab ride from the train station, and truly we could have walked on a nicer day if we knew our way around. The building looks out over a park, and–wonder of wonders–our apartment is on the ground floor of a very substantial and imposing 400-year-old building.
Now that’s a front door.
After a bit of unpacking, we ventured out to the huge central market just a couple of blocks away for lunch. Inside the market on the first (second in the U.S.) floor is a food court, the likes of which we have never seen. It is the size of the food court at Grand Central in New York, but all squeezed into one huge 500-seat area of tables and counters surrounded by food vendors and bars. We couldn’t find a spot to sit on a Sunday (and San Valentino at that), so we retreated to a very fine restaurant across the street, where we enjoyed two different ravioli dishes and a pichet (or whatever the name is in Italian) of house wine.
Our Florence neighborhood is very much different from what we have become accustomed to in Europe. The park across the street is populated by many groups of men in their 20s and 30s, definitely not Western European natives. Any number of tiny restaurants on the side streets advertise their halal and Indian cuisines, and street vendors are everywhere hawking umbrellas and the like. In other words, lots of diversity around here.