Lucca to Florence to Venice.
I arrived in Venice after a regional train took me from Lucca to Florence and one of Italy’s high-speed trains brought me from Florence to Venice. A couple of observations based on my limited experience with the Italian trains:
First, as noted earlier, although the Italians tend to denigrate their rail system, it’s really pretty good. At least that’s been my experience so far. Of course, I’m comparing what I’ve seen here to Amtrak and, I suppose, the Italians would be comparing their system to what the French offer.
What I have noticed is that many of the local and regional trains here in Italy have been vandalized by graffiti. It’s really a mess. And it’s not just the trains. There are spots along the rail routes–buildings and fences and stone walls–that have been hit very hard with this awful blight. But I’ve seen entire train sets covered with it … and each is a really a rolling billboard that tells the world, fairly or not, that Trenitalia doesn’t care all that much.
They do care about the high-speed trains. This is the train I took from Florence to Venice. It was hard to see the digital display, but the highest number I noted during the two-hour ride was 166 km/hr, or about 113 mph. I did notice that the ride was not nearly as smooth as the TGV in France or the Eurostar and there were a number of stretches where the train had to slow in order to go through a series of curves.
Getting from the Venice railway station to my little hotel was an ordeal. Venice is crowded with tourists, of course, and most of them were clambering to get on the water taxis we all needed to take. The boat traffic on the Grand Canal is nothing short of astonishing, with the traditional gondolas plodding along and serving as impediments to the motorized traffic.
And I cannot resist concluding whatever this is by recalling the story of American humorist and writer Robert Benchley. While on a first-time visit to Venice–it would have been sometime in the 1930s, I would guess–Benchley sent a telegram to Harold Ross his editor at the New Yorker magazine. The cable read: STREETS FULL OF WATER. PLEASE ADVISE.
More on Venice to come.