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Buongiorno from Firenze

August 13th, 2014 · 1 Comment · Abu Dhabi, Italy, tourism, Travel, UAE, World Cup

duomoModern travel is fairly astounding. When it works, of course, and it generally does.  Far more than it did in the past.

Wake up in Abu Dhabi, and two cab rides, one six-hour flight and an 80-minute train ride later … you can be checking into your friend’s hotel in Florence, Italy, in plenty of time for dinner — even after spending two hours in baggage claim waiting to meet up with some travel companions whose flight is late.

And Italian pizza, the circle of thin crust on your plate, with nothing more than tomato sauce and a bit of mozzarella … how can it be so good?

One of the advantages of living and working in the Gulf, as we have noted before, is the proximity to parts of the world Americans generally have trouble reaching.

Italy is not one of those, of course, though it is much closer to Abu Dhabi than it is to Los Angeles. LAX to Rome is about 11 hours. It is barely half that from the AUH to Rome.

After a wait at Fiumicino for the late LAX plane, during which we were doomed to miss our 4:05 p.m. train north … we caught a bandit cabbie, who may have overcharged us (60 euros) but did, in fact, speed like a bat out of hell from the airport to the chaos of Termini in mid-August.

Train travel in Italy has improved drastically in 25 years. When I covered the World Cup here in 1990, dragging yourself up and down the peninsula was often thoroughly unpleasant. No air-conditioning, the vaguest notions of seat assignment, the reality of selling more tickets sold than seats on the train. I made more than one trip to/from Naples standing up and getting off at stops just to get some fresh air.

The train from Termini stopped only once, at Tiburtina, and then it blew north in air-conditioned splendor, hitting a top speed (we were told, via overhead video screen) of 245 kph (152 mph), and viewing the green countryside as it flashed past was a delight, for those of us who had come from the desert.

We pulled into Santa Maria Novella, in Florence, 80 minutes after leaving Termini, a huge improvement over what would have been a drive of at least four hours in an expensive rental car.

Out of the station, across the street, down Via Nazionale … and there we were. A hour or two later, a Margherita pizza, almost inexplicably tasty despite its sheer simplicity (thin crust, fresh tomatoes, a bit of mozzarella) a bottle of white wine … and then the walk back through town at midnight, ending a day that began what seemed a world away.


1 response so far ↓

  • 1 David // Aug 16, 2014 at 7:11 PM

    I am officially jealous.

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