When you leave the bus you enter the mass confusion that is Milano Centrale, the main train station in Italy. I had printed out the train schedule before leaving home so I knew about when the next express train to Florence would be leaving.
I had enough time to grab a bite to eat and went to the little café in the train station. It was my first meal in Italy which was surprisingly good. I go to this same café every time I eat at the Milan train station and every time I go I do it wrong. I order my food and sit, only to be told that I cannot sit since I ordered my food at the counter. You can only sit if you order your food from the waiter at the table. So I stood and ate and thought I am going to remember this next time, but of course I probably won’t.
Since I took the bus I decided to treat myself to a first class train ticket to Florence. This was totally unnecessary since the train was not full. But I was tired and I have had times in the past where I could not get a seat and had to move to first class once I was one the train and pay the surcharge. By mistake I bought my ticket at a travel agency near the bus and was charged a 5€ surcharge. I should have bought my ticket at the counter in the station, but it was easier and there was no line so in the end it was just as well.
In order to know what binario (track) your train leaves from you need to look at the big board at the top of the stairs in the main part of the train station. I walked up the stairs which even with light luggage was a bit of hike. There are escalators nearby which are a better option. There is so much confusion it is hard to keep everything straight!
They have moved the restrooms so now you have to go down the escalators to reach them and you have to pay to get in. I opted to wait and use the bathroom on the train. In my experience, the restrooms on the train have always been at least as clean as those located in the station. Don’t panic if they are locked when you first get on the train, they often wait until the train is moving to unlock them.
The express train from Milan to Florence takes about 1 hour 45 minutes. It goes through Bologna to get to the Santa Maria Novella station in Florence. The train continues on to Rome and Naples. Since the train ends in Naples it is referred to as the Naples train and that is what you will see on a lot of the signs and the big board that lists all the departures and arrivals. It can be a little confusing, but believe me it has gotten a lot better in the last 5 years. In fact the whole Italian train experience has gotten a whole lot better. When I first started going to Italy I would wander through the train trying to find my seat asking my fellow travelers where my seat was. They had no idea where their seat was much less where my seat was. Eventually you were tired enough that you just sat where you found a seat and refused to move should someone question you since it was unlikely they had any proof that they belonged in that particular seat.
You can easily fit carryon luggage overhead and you can put larger luggage either between the seats or on the luggage racks located in the front or rear of the train car. If your luggage is really large that is your only option. You will not be able to see it to keep an eye on it, but I have never been with someone who had their luggage stolen. I have no idea whether or not that is a common occurrence or not. Keep in mind that you have to be able to carry your luggage up three large steps to get on and off the train so packing light will make you life easier. You cannot count on there being anyone there to help you with your luggage.
An elderly gentleman who was gently prodded by his wife to help me, assisted me in getting my luggage in the overhead bin, but you can’t count on that.
I have used Rio luggage for years. It comes in bright colors so you can easily find it in overhead bins and baggage crousels. The suitcase is durable, the collapsable handle is sturdy and there are carrying handles on both the end and the side so you can easily retrieve your suitcase from overhead storage. Rio luggage is also inexpensive so if it gets banged up and dirty, as often happens, you have not lost a lot of money.
In first class you get a free thimble sized drink and some delicious olive bread sticks as well as an Italian newspaper. I always look at the newspaper because even though I cannot read much of it I can generally get an idea of what is going on in Italy.
Although I would have liked a Coke, there was not a Coke in sight. The Italians don’t like ice in their drink and if you ask for ice they only give you one cube, so I drank my slightly warm orange juice, ate my bread sticks and pretended to read the paper and was very happy to be in Italy. I sat back and enjoyed the passing scenery, the red clay tennis courts, people biking along paths and lots and lots of empty fields.
The train only stops for about 10 minutes at each station, so I was careful not to fall asleep since under no circumstances did I want to end up in Naples.