This is the fourth of the series on vacation travel. The first three installments hashed through travails of newbies in a strange land. We figured that once we got things straightened out our travel adventures would wind down. Not quite.
Out of Florence we planned on day trips to Pisa and Feisole. These were places we had visited twelve years ago, so there should have been no surprises. There were only a few.
The trip to Pisa is a short train ride, and here is something about the rail pass. The pass is good for so many travel days. Once you start a travel day on the rail pass you can make as many rail trips on the pass as you want that day. We did that before. In 2002 we came into Florence on the train from Venice in the morning. We unloaded at a hotel across from the station then hopped another train for Pisa. That worked out just fine. We didn’t have to burn an extra day on our rail pass.
This time we were likely feeling either too tired or too extravagant. We postponed the Pisa trip until the day after we arrived in Florence. And we counted on learning from our previous experience.
The first time we went to Pisa everything years ago worked out just fine until we got ready to head back to Florence. We went to the station, checked out the train schedule and found a train going to Florence. We needed to catch it on a certain platform.
What we had to do at the station was go down into a tunnel beneath the tracks and cross over to the assigned platform. That we did (this was 12 years ago). And we stood there, waiting for our train. Then we thought. Let’s double check. I took the stairs back down into the tunnel and took a look at the postings.
Yikes! they had changed the platform assignment. I hurried back up to Barbara, and we scurried back through the tunnel to the correct platform. And caught our train.
We settled in, but I was still concerned. I asked two Italian guys who were sitting together if this was the train to Florence. They told me it was not. Now I was alarmed.
Not so fast. A third Italian, sitting closer to us shook his head. Those two guys were wrong. This was the correct train.
The train started off. The two Italians sitting across the aisle were engaged in conversation. Then one of them looked out the window. “Oh shit!” (in Italian). The got off at the next station, and we had a nice laugh after they left.
Wiser now, we were determined to avoid further trouble. The handy rail planner gave us a clear view of what to expect and when.
- Train 23413 leaves Florence S.M.N. at 8:53 (the rail planner cannot tell you in advance what platform).
- Arrive Firenze (Florence) Rifredi at 8:58.
- Arrive Signa at 9:11.
- Pass through Montelupo-Capraia without stopping.
- Arrive Empoli at 9:26.
- Arrive S. Miniato-Fucecchio at 9:33.
- Arrive S. Romano-S. Croce at 9:39.
- Arrive Pontedera-Casciana at 9:49.
- Arrive Pisa Centrale at 10:10.
Pretty much a straight line route. And it was another fun day in Pisa.
Came time to leave, and we were back at the station, back where it all happened 12 years ago. We were on the correct platform. Our train was scheduled to arrive. We looked at the display above the platform. There was a train coming, heading for Florence. It was not listed in my rail planner, but it was going to Florence, and it was going to leave right now. We took it. The adventure started.
The train pulled out of the station, and we watched the countryside roll by. We came to a station. It wasn’t a station we passed through on the way to Pisa.
Oops! I watched carefully. We came to Lucca. Big Oops. Look at the map. Lucca is a little out of the way if you want to go to Florence.
I did some quick research. Yes. This train was going to Florence, but it was going by way of Lucca, Pistoria, and Prato. We got a good view of the Italian countryside, and it only cost us an extra hour on the train. Worth the ride.
This was one of the local trains but not a slouch as trains go. A display up front told us a bunch of interesting stuff. For example, if the toilet was free. It also told how fast we were going. This bugger got up to 100 mph in some stretches.
The trip next day was out to the hill-top town of Feisole, and this required a bus. Last time we did that we caught the bus at the S.M.N. station. Bought the ticket there, also. The ticket included entrance to the museum. Things have changed.
The bus now leaves from Piazza San Marco, and the ticket does not include entrance to the museum. It’s not all that much a walk from the train station to Piazza San Marco. If you know where you’re going. Over an hour on the hoof from the station we finally found Piazza San Marco and found the news stand where we could purchase bus tickets. We purchased four. We planned to go the following day. It turns out we could have purchased any bus ticket anywhere in the city. They appear to be all the same. Get on. Run your ticket through the validate machine, and you are good for 90 minutes. They don’t care where you’re going.
Luxury awaited us the next few days. Our trip to Venice was on one of the high-speed trains. All we had to do was find our reserved seat on train 9412. Then it was Florence to Venice in two hours and five minutes at speeds up to 200 mph.
Going back the other way three days later was a little more interesting.