Italo Train/Florence The Land of ATMs and Drinks

I didn't want to leave Rome. If there was another way around it I would have stayed. I was hopeless about moving on. I just knew no matter what was scheduled or planned things would be up in the air. They were indeed because we sort of walked on eggshells about checking out. She wanted to leave without breakfast and I thought it was important we get one last free meal. I had to face it. Our next meal wasn't guaranteed and the city ahead was my last stop. I only had so much cash and I didn't want to waste it. However, when we turned in the card keys we were offered breakfast with a twist. It was free to us considering we did stay the night but since we were leaving it was time for us to pay our city taxes. Also when closing the account they tacked on a room service fee for our first night's evening tea. So I left on a full stomach with an empty wallet. She was rushing and that put us at our train station two hours early. All the while I was really dreading getting on another high speed train.

I expected a dismal station because I'd become accustomed to it. However, this place was obliterated. Looking around there were private lounges for certain ticket holders but not us. I didn't see a gift shop or a restaurant of any kind. When I went to the restrooms they were closed and roped off in caution tape. There was a detour of sorts to an upper level but I didn't care to go on an adventure. So we headed to our bay for the Italo trains. We went through a series of underground passages that lead to massive tunnels with offshoots to above ground train bays. There were so many they were separated by name and number. There was no one around. No staff. No tourists. No one. There were vending machines every few tunnels but they were all empty. This alone was scary because we wondered were they emptied by people that we didn't see or never filled because no one ever came. There were random puddles of water. Dimly lit monitors for inbound trains. The whole place was just sketch and we we're stuck there for two hours.

Above ground on the platform we were hot and thirsty. Even the vending machines there were empty. There were no water fountains and no way to back to the city for tasty Roman water. We chewed gum. We didn't really talk. I remember rolling my suitcases around, playing SpellTower which works offline and when my battery ran low making origami with gum wrappers. Meanwhile trains came through the station and people were here then gone. A lot of trains stopped temporarily as passengers got off to smoke or make calls. The trains that did pass through were horrible looking. These were the local trains - big metal boxes with gates for windows and caged cabooses. Finally the Italo came - a new, maroon colored beast with the finest enhancements. It rested for some time with people again getting off to smoke and then the crew changed. Our crew came up the ramp like something out of a movie. They were all incredibly good looking, smiley and all escorted by each others arms. They had little fanny packs and roller suitcases. They were obviously going to be on the train for a while.

The former crew got off in the same fashion. They embraced their new crew and kissed and hugged. They then did their little checks walking around with clipboards. Once they exchanged roles some of the crew stood on the platform nearest to the car doors. They did these little formations and gestures. We ultimately felt the show was something new or revised because of what had happened in Spain. We were to believe this train was safe and the people on it were prepared to smile through death. Thank goodness this was our train because we were impressed and parched. Inside the seats were premium and the train was obviously brand new. I immediately made way for the bar car and was stopped by a crew member. There was no bar car only vending machines but they would provide refreshments. I was handed a menu and told to make my way back to my seat. So two broke girls dying of thirst were made to wait to move about the cars for vending machine fare or wait for thimble sized freebies. Meanwhile, the menu was this gourmet spread of chic Italian lunch boxes complete with things like frittatas, insalata and potted desserts. This sounded lovely and the pictures didn't help. I surely wanted one but not for 19 Euros. Oh and these boxes are sponsored by Eataly of all places.

By the time we got rolling I felt like I was going to die. I immediately made my way to the vending car. Of course she wanted Diet Coke or Coke Zero. So I was made to carry a fistful of both our loose change and then make my way back with two cans or bottles or whatever they had. The vending car was packed but most people were using the fascinatingly automated Illy cafe machine. As much as I love that coffee it was a waste because it was not only extremely hot but partially on the floor when you got back to your seat. I realized they didn't have any diet options so I bought my Coke and made my way back to ask her what she wanted. I actually fell on the way back. The Italo was a fast beast already clocking speeds of 250 kilometers per hour. It was probably the fastest and most turbulent train I had rode while in Europe. I got back to our seats and leaned over the back with my Coke dangling in my hand. I told her the news and she snatched my Coke opened it and drank it saying "oh this is fine". I was thinking she would take her own change and experience the joy of walking the train four cars back to the machine herself. Now I had to do it all over again and possibly face the man I'd just fell on. Soon I finally had my own damn Coke and came back just to have service begin the moment I opened it. Both our vending finds were slightly warm anyways and this lovely countessa was kind enough to give us six ounce cups of both ice and cold Coke for $Free.99.

I don't remember looking out much. She had taken the window seat and I was exhausted. I believe I slept most of the short ride and would wake up to make sure we were still alive. I loved how most people on our train kept leaving their valuables unattended like their phones and iPods. There was free wi-fi that took some effort connecting to and that kept things interesting when I was awake. She could never seem to connect to it and I refused to help her. We still weren't talking even about what was ahead. All I knew of Florence was we had a RoomMate hotel. Then as we exited the train and entered the station there were no sights. There was two McDonald's - one inside and another just across the street. That pretty much dulled any excitement for the remainder of Florence. I did however keep my Eataly menu to lust after. We had no money for a cab and she thought it best to walk. It was about six cobblestoned blocks to our hotel. We took a meandering way via tiny sidewalks crowded with people. Most of the trek I sipped on warm Coke and tried hard to maneuver while keeping up with her. It was at least 100 degrees and we were both covered in sweat.

When we finally found the hotel we were greeted with lemon water, an actual butler and 24 Euros in city taxes to be paid up front. I had no money but there was free American breakfast every morning complete with things like "baconene and scrambledi eggs". She paid the taxes and wanted her money back immediately. So my first few hours in Florence just off what I thought would be my last train ride things were back to our sort of normal. Yes instead of resting, eating, drinking or site seeing - I found myself looking for an ATM to make her blood pressure decrease. Thank goodness Florence has understanding hotel staff, cheap fast food and a lot of alliance ATM's. Oh and we had been forced into thirst for a good reason. Florence was the land of most fabulous drinks when I could afford it - salty mineral water, grapefruit soda, blood orange Powerade oh my. Three more days.

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