You know what’s great about Europe? Trains. Trains everywhere. Slow trains. Fast trains. Red trains. Blue trains. Twenty-seven smelly, old, car trains. Trains to Paris. Trains to Milan. Train rides next to old man John.
Stop! But you gotta know the territory.
Florence is north of Rome. Let’s go to Florence. We need to buy a ticket. We buy tickets at the station. If you’re brave (or dumb as a rock) you can try buying tickets at the window which are run by people who hate their jobs and get paid the same regardless of whether or not they help anyone. But you must be there between the hours of 0927-1053, 1127-1346, 1555-1556, 1643-1801 on most weekdays except Tuesday and Friday, religious holidays, federal holidays, undeclared holidays, transportation strikes, when the powers off, and when people forget to go to work. Good luck.
You can use the automated machines, which are 100% reliable 68% of the time. After pecking away at the abysmal touch screen, you are confronted with a myriad of poorly formatted choices. Blindly you choose one. “Warning! : The train you have selected is a train!!” I’m sure that makes more sense in the original Italian version. You dismiss the warning while simultaneously fending off the station’s designated homeless man’s arrant “helpfulness”. Basta! Basta! Basta! Finally, all is sorted out and it’s time to pay. Congratulations! Your stupid face managed to pick the one machine that only takes cash and you only have 10 Monopoly monies with you. Chance: Go back three spaces and start over at a better machine this time.
Regardless of where you are going in Italy it seems like you are going to pass through the madness at Roma Termini at some point, even if it is out of the way. Just think of Steve Miller. “You know you’ve got to go through hell before you get to heaven.” I highly recommend pulling up some Steve Miller, or anything that can be piped through headphones at high volume, while you trundle along the countryside on the Frecciarosa, Frecciabianco, Frecciagento, or Freccia-holy-cow-this-was-an-expensive-ticket. You are guaranteed to sit in a group of four seats of which yours is the only one not belonging to the Minicucci family and their three screaming kids all in desperate need of a diaper change the instant the train rolls away from the platform.
Fear ye not. When this baby hits 180 miles per hour, you’re gonna see some serious scenery. Before you know it, or manage to cram down that over priced tremezzino sandwich from the dining car, you’ll be in Florence wading through a sea of umbrella salesmen.