Woo woo woo on the choo choo

  • 31 March 2022
  • Prue Scott

The rather swanky, fast Italo train departs Venice Santa Lucia at 13.05. Given I need to get up the Grand Canal with the 30kg suitcase (I know, I know) and the 12kg carry-on (don’t say it), I’d better head for San Samuele early.

Thirty minutes to wait. Still better than having to lug the case over the bridge at Accademia. Five minutes later – it’s Italy – the vaporetto arrives and Signor Ferry helps me heft the bags on board. The vaporetto sinks a little under the weight.

“Crash” is driving today – we crash into every pontoon all the way up the Grand Canal. He doesn’t seem agitated; perhaps he just enjoys it. Several Nonnas stay upright – they’re made of sturdy stuff here.

Young women in athleisure sneaker-type shoes, some with soles inches thick. The latest fad is Levi’s 501s with the last three inches chopped off. It’s a good look if you can carry it off but must be a bit nippy around the ankles.

Given I’ve taken an unscheduled vaporetto, I’m now at Santa Lucia far too early. Sitting outside in the sun, I ponder whether to take an earlier train. Nope, Patricia and Roberto-the-schnoodle are meeting me at the Stazione in Lucca and Tanya the apartment agent says 5.30pm is fine for her. Time to just take in the activity with porters, tourists and carpenters heading for work by boat.

An ambulanza careers down the canal, makes a wide sweep pushing out water in an arc and hares off down a side-canal (well, you can’t really say side-street, can you?). It’s still a sight that makes me smile – an ambulance jetboat whipping it down a canal and cornering like a Mustang.

The journey back to the mainland features grey skies, smog and a washed out landscape, plus many tunnels. Also, many untidy backyards, falling down barns and trees bursting into white blossom.

There are many announcements with the English version a refined BBC accent featuring some odd pronunciation:

Innovative comes out as “e-nova-tive”
Sanitised become “sa-nye-tized”

It’s clearly some digital wizardry and takes a turn for the amusing when they mention the relevant government decree.


Woo, woo woo? Surely, they’re taking the mickey? No, that’s how they pronounce w.w.w.

At all times, we are addressed as “Dear customers”. The politeness here is delightful. The elderly and infirm are helped onto/off the vaporetto, one greets the person in the shop with “Buongiorno”, one always says “thank-you”.

My only regret with Wenice? A barge going down the canal loaded with tables, chairs, beds, etc – and a white toilet – and I couldn’t get the phone out in time.

Bathroom on the train is spotless and there is no lurching. Italian trains do not lurch. No one plays music. No one speaks loudly into their phone.

This landscape is unrelentingly flat with nary a cow or sheep to seen; this is part of the northern food bowl.

Bologna is a beautiful city but we plunge into the tunnels and the vast rail cathedral under the city. People queue at the doors and exit rapidly, their replacements spring aboard. We are here for all of five minutes.

Santa Maria Novella in Firenze, dimly lit by 40-watt lightbulbs as always, full of armed enforcers, red x’s and green x’s, and the café which still has food at 4pm. Time to change to a regionale for Lucca but because this is Italy, you need to ensure you take the regular train or you’ll spend another 20 minutes on board. Again, we are addressed as Dear customers and exhorted to sa-nye-tize our hands at all times. The skin on my hands recoils in horror; 30 hours in a plane and then two weeks in central heating and we’re getting damned close to the term “scaly”.

Patricia and Roberto are on the platform. Hellos and hugs and a short walk to the apartment. It feels like coming home.

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