1st September – a birthday with a view

Milano Centrale – Firenze SMN

After last night’s adventures, and with a lunchtime train booked, I was allowed a lazy start to my birthday.

People at breakfast are often interesting to watch. It is slightly out of everyone’s comfort zone, I guess. Yesterday it was a bossy mother and her quiet daughter who caught my eye. Today the daughter had come to breakfast on her own. She was clearly not used to this and found a place near to the buffet, where she was clearly watching other people and copying them, including me when I made myself a cup of tea from the unmarked flask of hot water.

Around 11am I checked out and took the subway to the station. It’s a direct service and only takes about 10 minutes to cross the city.

I phoned Mum once I’d reached the station, but was struggling to hear her properly. Not sure if the phone was the problem or it was the amount of background noise. I suspect a bit of both, but I am aware that my phone is showing it’s age now. A pet hate of mine is people making phone calls in speaker mode when there is no obvious need, but on this occasion I moved away from everyone else and did exactly that, as it was easier to hear her.

This is a fabulous station. I’ve posted photos of it before – this is I think the fourth time I’ve passed through it – but today it looked lovely.

This was one of those days where even though I only had one train to take, it was cost effective to use the pass. A first class ticket from Milan to Florence would have cost me €77, but even with the cost of a reservation, I was still well ahead. The train to Florence departed on time.

I’ve not done this journey before. the Frecciarossa speeds through the countryside at 280km/h, but you barely notice it. I was impressed by my brief look at the station in Reggio Emilia, with it’s wave effect roof.

An old favourite is the station in Florence. It is not like anything else I’ve seen and I find it absolutely charming. They must be proud of it as there is an exhibition about the construction, in the concourse.

I’d planned to meet my sister and her son here, and to be with them for the next few days. They had spent a couple of days in Lucca, but they were delayed after a train cancellation and I arrived well before them. I headed to our apartment at the appointed time, collected the keys and dropped my bags. Our building was next to the river and coincidentally we were staying almost directly opposite where I’d been on my previous very brief visit in 2019.

Back at the station, this train arrived on time. I met them on the (very busy) concourse and took the lead back to the apartment. We chose our rooms for the next few days and after a short pause for breath headed out for a first look at Florence.

We first headed across the river. The Arno isn’t the most beautiful river, but in the early evening light it looked good to us, and of course the architecture is stunning in all directions.

We took a quick look at the centre of the city. Near to the Duomo a soundcheck was going on for an open air performance later on. They had already gathered quite a crowd of onlookers.

By now we were starting to think that it was time for dinner and agreed that heading away from the centre would be wise. Almost everywhere you look in this city there is somewhere to eat, and after considering a number of options we settled on a small place in a side street. I’ve been trying local cuisine as much as I can in Italy (blame Stanley Tucci) which is a good reason to try things other than pizza and pasta. On this occasion I had pork with roasted vegetables, which was lovely.

We weren’t quite done yet though. I was determined to try and find ice cream brioche, which I’d discovered in Sicily a few weeks ago, and spotted in several places subsequently. Having looked at several options I finally found what I was looking for. It was huge and delicious. Who needs birthday cake anyway?

As the photo shows, we were back in the area of the Duomo so went for a quick look at the opera performance before heading home for the night. An amusing detail is that the entire “orchestra” was actually a group of synthesiser players!

A very good day, but by now we were all ready for bed.

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  1. Celia Lyon

    Happy Birthday Steve 🥳. I’m in Porto at the moment and the station here, Sao Bento, is stunning, with blue azulejo tiles. Have you seen it??

    • Thanks Celia.
      No I’ve never been to Portugal, though have twice got within a mile or so of the border, many years apart. Most recently I was turned back due to a rail staff strike at the start of April.
      Have a great time!

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