Sunday, February 3, 2013

Florence, Italy: The Train Station

Train travel.  

As a kid living in Europe, I learned to appreciate the railway and had respect for it as a staple of convenience of European travel.  I remember the train station in Florence being a meeting place of sorts, a thoroughfare, a hub.  It was a busy and transient space of coming and going, and a great place to people watch.  I remember a vivid world of Eastern European gypsies and less fortunate children begging for food and Lire, the Italian currency at that time.  I'd see businessmen dressed smart in business suits and trench coats and mothers with kids in tow, wearing wool toggle coats and penny loafers, the Italian classic. There were cafes, tabacchi shops and newsstand agents, street performers, portrait artists, backpackers, lovers and tourists. 

The train station was a very lively and urban place, energetic and not always clean, sometimes seedy, but aways available.  It was active with lives steadily merging without notice.  There was a rhythmic beauty to the hustle and bustle of it all.  It is reminiscent of the train station scene from the more recent films, Slumdog Millionaire and Hugo.  Yes, films depicting different cultures and of different times, but with the same ambiance and relevant symbolism, nonetheless.

I remember happy times traveling the trains with my brothers and parents, when life was carefree and simple, and our experiences, rich and full.  During summer break from school or when time allowed, we'd travel to Tuscany, the Italian countryside, and to surrounding nearby cities and towns, Pisa, Rome, Assisi, Torino, Portofino and Siena.  Life was easy.  Life was good.

Traveling throughout Europe by train as an adult, I am still in awe of the "train station", of its beauty and grandeur at times.  The train station is a special place and train travel equally as unique.  I have memories traveling in a sleeper car from Moscow to St. Petersburg and Florence to Naples, of riding the bullet train from Osaka to Yokohama, and traveling the Eurostar through the English channel to France. 

This blog post pays respect and tribute to my memory of train travel and honors the value of the train station and it's meaning to the community.


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