The train to Florence

Getting around Italy by high speed train is easy and relaxing. We have regularly used it between Rome, Florence and Naples in the past and this trip is no exception.

The one thing we haven’t done before is try out Trenitalia’s premium class. This is half a carriage of luxury seating – 8 seats in all – right at the front of the train. It costs a bit more but comes with a meal service, a cabin crew member to look after you and your luggage and more legroom than you could want. There is even a conference room in the carriage if a quick meeting is needed en route.

On this leg of our journey from Rome to Florence we treated ourselves and booked seats 2A and 2B.


Family advice


This gallery contains 27 photos.

My nephew’s girlfriend and her sister are planning a trip to Tuscany in September. We have been asked for some advice on where to stay and what to do in and around Tuscany. It sounds as if the girls are … Continue reading

Chores in Florence

Having been back from Nice for a few days it was time to catch up on some chores. You know, those things you keep putting off because they are a bit difficult or mean going out of your way.

Well our chores revolved around a trip to Florence. Yes, alright, I can hear a chorus of “you poor hard-done-by things” reverberating around the world.

But, Florence is an hours drive away, and the parking is a bit of a trick, and it’s full of tourists, and it’s always warmer than around our place. Ok, reading this back it’s not really that much of a chore. And it is the birthplace of the Renaissance after all.

Anyway, we headed north on Wednesday with two planned chores and one that crept up on us over the last few days. My darling wife had an ear-ache – probably an ear infection. One of those that makes you miserable, hurts like hell and requires drugs – lots of them.

We decided to seek medical help in Florence because we had the name of an english speaking doctor who has a practice there – and we were going anyway.

On the drive north we called the doctor to find that, like most people in Italy, he was on holiday during August. He left some alternative places to visit, one of which was very close to the Duomo. Even we can find the Duomo in Florence so the plan was set.

We found the medical centre quite easily, signed in and waited for their ear specialist Dr Alonzo Attilio. He spoke very little English and our Italian is still a work in progress so things boded well for medical misadventure.

One thing we have noticed is that the Italian medical system – for people or dogs – seems very efficient. And sure enough our wait was only 5 minutes. We struggled to explain the ear problem to the Dr Alonzo but one look into Jean’s ear and he understood. He then explained, in great detail, what he was going to do to fix it none of which we understood.

Within ten minutes we knew what he had said – vaccum, prod, poke, vaccum, clean, prod, vaccum, syringe, poke, vaccum, a course of antibiotics, cortisone and pain klllers for an ear infection – grazie and arrivederci.

Jean said that if she had known what he was going to do she would have done a runner, so maybe a language barrier isn’t always a bad thing. Dr Alonzo must know his stuff as Jean’s ear is improving by the day.

On a happier note we then went to Tiffanys to collect a necklace for Jean and collected skin care products from the only pharmacy in Florence (or Siena) that stocks that particular brand – or in this case had to order them in especially for Jean.

On the way home we stopped at Piazza Michaelangelo which overlooks Florence and, along with about 1000 other visitors, took the classic photo of Florence.

All in all a successful day.

A Top Gear Challenge

It was simple.  Charmaine, Mike and James on a high speed train from Naples to Florence.  Jean and I and the dogs in the mighty Peugeot doing the same trip aiming to arrive before the train so we could help them collect a rental car and then follow us to our place south of Siena.

As with all Top Gear challenges there was a twist.  We left Positano at 11am and drove hell for leather north to Florence – a five and a half hour trip.  They left Naples at 1:50pm and were due to arrive in Florence at 4:50pm.

It was always going to be tight.  But I always thought the mighty Peugeot had the edge.  And so it proved as we blasted north along Italy’s version of SH1.

We were just south of Rome when the train was due to leave Naples which gave us a lead of 1 hour.  An hour that would be quickly eroded as the train hit it’s maximum speed of 300km/h on the straights between Naples and Rome.

So we put the hammer down and and spent considerable time close to the 150km/h mark.

But no challenge is that simple.  We got a text from the train travellers that they had run into problems – the train had stopped just 15 minutes out of Naples.  We continued on, extending the gap as quickly as possible.

An update from the train said the delay would be lengthy so we revised our plans.   Mike and Charmaine were picking up a rental car in Florence and were going to follow us south but the rental depot closed at 7pm and with the train delay we were not sure if they would arrive in Florence in time.  We would go to Florence via our cottage in Tuscany, drop off bags and then proceed to Florence with enough room to carry them if required.

Update – the train was moving again and halfway to Rome.  We were on our way to the cottage, it was going to be close.

Update – the train had arrived in Rome.  We were still on our way to the cottage, it was going to be really close.

Update – the train is halfway to Florence.  We had dropped our bags and were on the highway north, we were in trouble.

Update – the train has arrived in Florence.  We were still 30kms short of Florence.  Game over. I could almost hear Clarkson yelling “loser” with the dreaded right-handed “L” to the forehead.

Moral of the story – never race a high speed train.  The trip from Rome to Florence should, according to the train timetable, have taken about 90 minutes.  The train did it is less than 60 minutes – clealry they have a “little slack” in the timetable.


Over the last week or so blog posts have been infrequent – so infrequent that there haven’t been any actually. The reason is simply because we’ve had visitors – from New Zealand and the UK. We have been busy – a complete novelty after 3 months of doing, well, nothing.

In addition to Charmaine, Mike and little James we’ve had Danny Malone a mate from KiwiRail arrive on his latest European trip and Gill, Andre and Josh and Jordan jet in from the UK.

In the last few days we’ve been sightseeing in Pisa, Florence, Siena, San Gimignano and Volterra. We’ve eaten out in cafe’s, our local pizza restaurant and a restaurant with a carpark that turns into seating at night. We’ve laid by the pool, we’ve made a dent in the national stock levels of Chianti and Birra and generally had a great time.

A mixed assortment of pictures follow.