Tag Archives: Train

Christmas in Rome – A train to Florence, an overview of the city, and a delicious dinner

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Christmas in Rome – A train to Florence, an overview of the city, and a delicious dinner

In keeping with the tradition of adventure, Sarah and I went on a big trip for Christmas and New Years!

This year, we met up with Sarah’s family in Italy, traveling to Rome and Florence; not quite a perfect midpoint for everyone, but it was close enough. And, also, you know. Rome. Florence. Amazing!

Please forgive me for some of these being a bit out of order… the posts are organized somewhat chronologically… but also organized by theme and location.  Some may not be exactly in chronological order, so for reference please see the initial summary post, which has a complete day-by-day, blow-by-blow account of the adventure.

 

Thursday, 28-Dec-2018 – Overview of Florence, and a trip to a trattoria

Rome wasn’t the only city we were seeing on this trip though, and as all good things must come to an end so did our adventures in Rome. With one last cup of coffee, we caught our train out of Rome, headed North toward Florence.

Honestly, the train ride itself was pretty simple and non-noteworthy. It was pretty, seeing the Italian countryside… but we couldn’t see a huge amount of it through the drizzling rain, and the train itself wasn’t on elevated tracks and so didn’t have the best of views.

The more interesting note came once we arrived in Florence, and caught a taxi to our new base of operations – As taxi drivers are known for, our driver had opinions. And thankfully, she was willing to share her opinions on food with us… We seriously had a laundry list of places to eat by the time she dropped us off, so once we unpacked we had merely to pick a spot and walk on over.

First, a note about our AirBnB. Like Rome, it turns out it’s not easy to find a place for six people in Florence. But in this case, we didn’t have a penthouse apartment… no, in this case we had a palace. Seriously.

We’re talking 20ft ceilings. We’re talking sculptures, a jacuzzi, and murals on the ceilings. We’re talking a huge kitchen (with surprisingly few pots and pans…), and a back yard complete with grill and parking area. And of course, what palace would be complete without a crazy lock system, with a huge skeleton key. Yep, it had one of those too. It was grand, but was still dignified and functional with cozy couches and a lovely family area.

The AirBnB reflected the city itself – the city was grand and soaring, though it was definitely different than Rome. Where Rome was palatial and opulent, Florence was deliberate and dignified. Think an old Italian man, sitting in his vineyard smoking a cigar and sipping a fine wine. He’s not walking around telling everyone he’s cool, he just is. Florence wasn’t ostentatious – it knows who it is, and it’s dead set on enjoying that fact.

We were near the city center, right by the Ponte Vecchio, down a small side street in a neighborhood of narrow streets and tall buildings. Florence is definitely filled in – like more European cities, it was packed tight inside the defensive walls, and while the walls are mostly gone now they still effect the structure of the city itself. It’s crowded, definitely more so that anything in Portland, and probably even more so than most parts of Boston.

Rome was similar, but where Florence differs is that it’s more… renaissance, I think? Solid wood, big brass door knockers, for some reason the whole city brought Galileo’s telescopes to mind. That style of burnished wood banded with gleaming brass is what stuck with me, even though most of the buildings were still made of hewn stone (That Sarah and I could have totally climbed, FYI).

Short version: Florence is beautiful, and I found it a bit more personable than Rome.

 

But I know what people want to hear about – Food. This is Italy, after all, and delicious food is arguably the first thing people think of, probably tied with art and science. Our food journey started almost as soon as we got settled in; we did do a quick grocery run, but as soon as we were done we looked through the recommendations that our Taxi driver gave us, picked a spot, and headed out.

 

The winner? A small trattoria within walking distance called Trattoria Sant’Agostino. We walked in, and knew that we’d made the right decision. It wasn’t packed… but it quickly filled up as the night went on. By both people, and glorious smells… We went with the tried and true tactic of the tasting menu – we just ordered a ton of amazing bits, and everyone had a bit of everything.

    • Starters: Florentine bread (bread cooked without salt, traditionally from the Siege of Florence when salt wasn’t available), Prosciutto plate, sauteed / caramelized onions
    • Pasta Course: Papardelle with Boar sauce, and Spaghetti with artichokes
    • Main Course: Braised boar, Fried chicken with rabbit chunks, and Braised beef
    • Wine: A liter of the house Red, with two bottles of sparkling water

After we finished, it was honestly all we could do just to walk all the way home. We were crashing quick, thanks to the overwhelming meal… which was a good thing, since tomorrow was our visit to the Uffizi gallery!

Christmas and New Years break, 2016 into 2017: Train down to Edinburgh

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Christmas and New Years break, 2016 into 2017: Train down to Edinburgh

Train down to Edinburgh

 

Wednesday, 28-Dec-2016

We got back on a train!

After getting picked up at the house at roughly “how is it this cold and dark” o’clock, the warm train station was an awesome treat… and the train ride itself was a double treat.

Since we were going bright and early, we got to see the whole countryside waking up, and the sun breaking… which is something Sarah and I had missed on our train up from London, thanks to the super late sunrise.

But with all that… there’s not much to say about the ride. We worked on getting reservations for dinner, watched the landscape go by, and enjoyed ourselves. I hung out the side of the train constantly, taking tons of landscape pictures and enjoying the icy wind… a really nice change from the (in my opinion) super toasty train.

Christmas and New Years break, 2016 into 2017: The Train to Aberdeen

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Train to Aberdeen

Friday, 23-Dec-2016 into Saturday, 24-Dec-2016

I’m going to be honest here… I had a lot of misconceptions about this train. The size, the quality of the breakfast, how much the rocking would make my stomach into something more resembling an unhappy stomach… yeah.

I mean, it wasn’t the worst. Sarah and I got to the station with a fair bit of time to spare, so we were able to relax for a bit and settle into our bunk before we got underway. It was a quite small bunk, but still. Adventure!

Aside? I don’t really know what to write about it. It was a train ride, and we slept through most of it. I got a little motion sick, since our bunk faced backwards, but it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t ignore through some sleep.

Breakfast was a bit weak… especially after all the amazing pictures that they’d posted on their website. We were expecting a full Scottish fry up – eggs, sausage, steaky bacon, tomatoes, hash browns, and haggis. Instead… we got a small takeaway container of microwaved food. It technically had all of the components… but in much smaller and less appetizing quantities.

Thankfully, after Bill and Greta picked us up from the train, we had second breakfast at the house! Pecan waffles with everyone definitely helped make the train ride better.