Category Archives: Italy

The Night Train

Author: Amy

While planning our route we knew ahead of time that we would be going to Croatia to visit friends that live there and also we were lucky enough to be meeting a couple of families from our town in the states that would be there as well.  Our flight into Germany helped set the stage for our route and of course to hit Greece.

ANYWAY to my story . . . we took the night train from Venice to Zagreb.  They seemed relatively close on the map.  The original thought was to take a high-speed ferry from Italy to Croatia – however, there were issues with that plan.  One was timing, the ferry didn’t run every day and we needed to get out of Schengen* countries so we could come back in for the holidays.  Another was we needed to rent a car for transportation in Croatia and if we rented in the port town that the ferries arrived we would also need to return it there (the option to pick up in a small town and return at the airport in Zagreb was not available) and we were eventually flying out of Zagreb.  SOOOO we took the overnight train – very reasonably priced, we saved a night hotel stay, we had been on many trains in Germany and Austria, they were nice enough, just get a private room and we’ll all sleep.  This train was like no other that we have seen.  It was a Trenitalia (Italy train company), the windows were open, the beds were yuck (full of animal hair), the pillows you dare not look at in the light and you could hear the screech of the train that went up your spine every time it stopped.  While riding I felt like we were in midair from time to time – down hill.  I could never have imagined it would be this way.  Luckily the kids were extremely tired.  We flew in from Greece that morning and waited the day out to get on the train in the evening.  They slept through most of it.  I prayed through all of it.  We had two passport stops and checks along the way.  Border patrol would come and pound on the door with a huge flashlight and heavy accent.  “Border patrol, prepare passport”, they would pound on each door and repeat “Border patrol, prepare passport” many rooms had young 20ish people that don’t wake very quickly so we heard that phrase a lot.  It was a 7-hour train ride that will remain in my mind forever.  The best part was getting off at 4:20am and having a ride waiting for us to take us to the apartment so we could go straight to sleep – which we all did.  The payoff in having transportation waiting after train and flights is the best travel lesson learned.  As the commercial says . . . “priceless”.

"Border patrol, prepare passports!!"

*Schengen Agreement – an agreement between 25 specific European countries that have met requirements and have signed the agreement to remove controls at their borders so that, for example, people can move freely from one country to another without needing to show their passports (similar to one state to another in the US).  The rule for us as Americans is we can stay in Schengen territory for 90 of 180 days then we must be out for 90 days.


Posted by on July 25, 2011 in Italy


Venezia, Italia

Author: Amy and Steve

We took a train from Salzburg, Austria to Venezia (Venice), Italy to catch a flight to Greece.  The train ride was quite an adventure.  We ended up spending most of our time in the dining car.  We weren’t able to figure out how to reserve seats online so we didn’t – big mistake.  (We are however finding good family train deals and that it’s much less expensive to buy our tickets in Europe than doing the whole Euro-Pass deal like we thought of doing back in the US). The train was overloaded with people.  Sooooo our savings on reserved seats was spent on a delicious – very slowly eaten meal in the dining car.  We eventually were able to move to a “Harry Potter” cabin with 6 seats and a door.  We knew where to get off because it specifically stated it on the ticket and because we only wanted one connection (instead of 3 or 4 like some of the other options) it was a pretty clear ticket. When it was time to get off at our stop — Mestre Venezia, we got the backpacks on (which is work in itself) and headed to the door, as did many other travelers. The train stopped but the doors wouldn’t open – people were somewhat in a panic because eventually the train was going to start heading out at any moment. Well it did head out and no one was able to get off. We weren’t too upset because we knew we could get off for sure at the next stop which was Venice – main. We were just frustrated from a long days travel and were thinking – what the heck?! Our waitress walked by while we were waiting for our next stop and we asked her why the doors wouldn’t open. She explained that Mestre is simply a stop for train staff and not passengers – so sorry. Huh? But check out our tickets….oh well.  We were able to catch a different train quickly backtracking to the stop we needed.

Our flight to Greece was scheduled for a couple days later so even though we never planned on visiting Venezia, we were there already so we ended up taking a full day in on the Island.

About 5 years ago we went to Rome and down the Amalfi coast with the kids on an awesome land tour (where we were taken care of from the time we woke up till the time we went to bed) and we fell in love with Italy; the food, smells, views, wine, etc., what’s not to love? However, this trip we need to take care of ourselves and it makes for a different type of travel.  So instead of staying at a fancy hotel like we did on the tour years ago we stayed in a “modest” hotel in Venezia Mestre which is not on the island but much less expensive (it had a private bathroom so we can’t complain).  We heard a number of times how Venezia was dirty and expensive.  After our 20-minute bus ride from our hotel we were pleasantly surprised how clean and very “Italy” it was as we remembered back at our trip some years ago.  Expense wise let’s just say one coke (no refills) was 5.50 Euro! Sheesh!!!

Venezia is built on a lagoon and encompasses 118 islands, back in 2006 it was ranked 28th of the most visited cities in the world. Its vast amount of art is one of the leading factors of this ranking as well as being known as one of the most romantic cities in the world.

We arrived into the main station at about 11 am (it was a Sunday), it was very calm and stores and restaurants were just beginning to open. After a few hours it got very busy, definitely a tourist haven and coming from a tourist town we understand peak season. Okay so we’ve seen first hand that it is in fact a clean and picturesque destination, now on the expense.  Long story short, it became very clear very fast that this location was too expensive for our tastes. One day was (as beautiful as it is) good enough for us. We love Italy and can’t wait to go back but we agree when we do go back we’ll want to stay in the more rustic, non-tourist location.

A day in Venezia

Venezia, Italia

One of the canals in Venezia

Keegan enjoying the views

The Basilica di San Marcos which has been the city’s cathedral since 1807 is in the background

Keegan - Italian style!!


Posted by on July 15, 2011 in Italy