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Our train experience in Italy, FYI

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We were in Venice in September, and at the end of that stay, took a train first to Bologna, then another to Milano. Here's what we learned:

1. I wished I had less luggage -- but it was a long trip that began in sunny September Rome, and ended in cool English October. Oh, and a Windstar cruise also. We still had a few things we didn't use, but the luggage started to feel like a ball and chain!

2. We weren't sure about what time we'd want to travel, so did not buy a Venice - Bologna ticket till we were actually in Venice. We decided to check out the vaporetto trip to the station the day before, so bought our tickets then when we could easily see what would work best for our schedule.

3. We bought first class tickets, thinking there would be more room there. WRONG! The rail car was packed with travelers from all over, many of them coming from cruises. With lots of luggage. It also turned out to be the train that continued on to Firenze and Roma, so it was very popular/convenient.

4. We were a bit too leisurely to board the train (our seats were reserved), so all the prime luggage space in racks and at the end of the cars was pretty full. Thanks to helpful fellow passengers, we managed to wrangle our bags okay -- but the storage space soon filled up, and some bags were just left next to the rack where they blocked the walkway... No issues from the train conductor, but I don't think it would be approved on BritRail!!

5. When we arrived in Bologna (a very busy and large station) we decided to buy our tickets for Milan right away. I joined a very long line for the booking office, but a guy in an official "Travel Information" vest came over to say that he would help us book tickets from the machine. I was a bit dubious at first, but it worked out great. I speak some Italian, and he spoke a bit of English, so we worked it out. He was very helpful, found us seats on the fast train (in First again), and then found a half-price rate as long as we did not change our reservation. Not a problem, and we were happy with the savings.

6. Train to Milan: we arrived at the station in plenty of time, and discovered that the train was going to be 35 minutes late (it was coming from Naples). We had already learned that to change platforms at Bologna station, you have to take an elevator down to underground tunnel, then another elevator up to your platform. It was well signed, but I had High Anxiety about how much time we would have to make the move once our platform was posted, and get ourselves to the right place on the platform for the first-class car.

7. As it turned out, no worries. They posted the platform number about ten minutes before the train arrived (55 minutes late), so we had enough time to get us (and our luggage, grrrr) into place. It was less crowded, so there was space to put the bags between seats and in overhead racks, with a bit of an assist from a fellow passenger. The train turned out to be a comfortable, roomy high-speed Eurostar, and we zipped along. Speed gauge in the carriage kept us posted about speed, and at one point we reached 300 km/hour!!

So my advice? Travel as light as you can, and be grateful for help from officials and fellow passengers with muscles. And get yourself into place on the platform before the boarding scramble begins. :-)

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