September 8, 2017 – We woke up around 6:30 am to gather our things, then we had breakfast in the lobby at 7:00 am. I was so impressed with the breakfast at both of our Swiss hotels. We didn’t stay anywhere fancy, but they both had a full-service breakfast. The food was served buffet style, but they brought us coffee or whatever we wanted to drink. Our hotel neighbors were down there with us. After talking about the rest of our journeys, we were off to the train station to start traveling from Zermatt to Florence.
We caught the 8:13 am train to Brig from Zermatt. We had some brief “excitement” when all of a sudden our train came to an abrupt halt in the middle of a tunnel on the side of a cliff. The train started moving about 2 minutes later but immediately stopped again. Not just a typical gradual stop like most trains do, this was a hard jerking stop. At this point, I was concerned, but we started moving again less than a minute later and it never happened again. No idea what happened, but just thankful it wasn’t serious! Since it was the first train of the day, Eric thought maybe they were testing the brakes, but we really have no idea.
So on we went to our first stop, Brig, Switzerland (not to be confused with Birg which is above Mürren). It was nerve-wracking because we only had 7 minutes in Brig to transfer to our train to Milan, Italy. We had to transfer to an international train since we’d be going into Italy from there and we were currently on a regional train.
We were getting nervous because that little train-braking episode cost us about 4 minutes. The Swiss are always on time, but this train was actually now running late. This meant we now had about 3 minutes to transfer.
We arrived in Brig and ran as fast as we could with our packs on to the new platform. We had to go underground then back up to get to the international tracks. By the time we got up to our platform, the train was still there and we were able to get on without a problem other than the fact that I could barely breathe and my heart hurt from sprinting with 40 pounds of gear on. But we made it so the pain was worth it to me.
The train ride from Brig to Milan was relaxing since we knew we had an hour transfer once we reached Milan. It was also nice to know we wouldn’t have any more crazy train transfers for the rest of our trip. No more missed trains or running with gear on.
Once we reached Milan, Italy, it was like a new world. A new language and a new type of chaos. No more guten tag or danke, it was now buongiorno and grazie for the next week!
We were standing by the big screen that showed all the trains with their platforms waiting for our train to pop up when a little old Asian woman turned to us asking for help. She didn’t speak English or Italian and was just showing us a text she had with her train information. She kept saying “platform” over and over so we guessed she was trying to figure out her platform. We saw her train up on the board and I was trying to tell her platform 4. Do you know what everyone understands no matter what language? Fingers. I held up 4 fingers, she said something and ran off. In my head, she said thank you and went to her platform, but who knows really.
Our train finally arrived so we hopped on and we were off to our final destination of the day: Florence.
Traveling from Zermatt to Florence was relatively easy, but I was looking forward to ending our long multi-country train journeys. We were now in our 4th country of the trip. Belgium, France, Switzerland, and now Italy. I was so excited about the food (and some cheaper prices)!
We had the route to our Airbnb ready to go when we walked off the train in Florence. The walk was about 10 minutes. When we arrived, we followed our host’s instructions and buzzed up to the apartment from outside. Natali, our host’s friend, answered and buzzed us in. We walked up 3 flights of stone stairs until we reached the apartment.
These pictures are terrible, but they show where we stayed.
Natali explained everything to us and then she was gone. One thing we had to deal with that was new to us was water issues. In order to take a hot shower, we had to turn the sink faucet on and let it run while we showered. Annoying, but at least we had hot water. Also, the pressure in this old building was almost nonexistent. The water barely trickled out of the shower. But we survived!
After we got settled, we set out to explore a bit. We didn’t really have a plan, but I did want to find where our meeting location was for our wine tour the next day. So we decided to just wander that way and see the sights as we walked.
Our Airbnb was right across from Basilica San Lorenzo which has such stunning architecture. Our path would take us past the basilica and over the Ponte Vecchio to find a little wine shop called Tuscany in a Bottle.
We found the shop and there just HAPPENED to be a gelato shop next door. We stopped in for our first Italiano Gelato. I got pineapple and Eric got pistachio. No pictures because I ate it too fast, but here’s the gelato shop!
We decided we probably needed some real food at this point so we went on a restaurant search. We found a wine shop right on the river with a beautiful view of the Ponte Vecchio. They had a small menu with meats, cheeses, and bread. It was perfect! So we got a great spot outside on the river and ordered a cheese and meat platter. It was HUGE!
After our late lunch, we kept walking around. We found ourselves near the Uffizi Museum which I honestly didn’t think we’d have time to see. Our Airbnb host told us that unless we bought tickets ahead of time, there’s no way we would get in. Well, we took a peek inside and there was zero line to get in. The museum was only open for another hour, but we weren’t even planning on going at all so we just decided to check it off the list!
I was excited that we were getting to go to the Uffizi because they have so many paintings by Leonardo da Vinci and I totally forgot that they have The Birth of Venus by Botticelli!
The views from the Uffizi were beautiful as well.
Once it was closing time, we continued our random walk through Florence. We didn’t go very far and just decided to call it an early night. We were still full from our late lunch so we skipped dinner. I think we hit a wall.
So we returned to our Airbnb, took showers, and went to bed around 8:30 pm. We had to be at the wine tour office by 8:30 am for a full day of exploring and drinking our way through Tuscany so we wanted to make sure we were well rested. I’m so glad we did!
Continue reading the Travel Diary here: Day 11: Tuscany Wine Tour through Chianti, Italy