Venice is not that far from Milan, but if you can’t wait to see all those gondolas and vaporettos, high-speed trains are at your service. To get to the city of many islands in no time, you can use, for example, one of the ETR 675 trains. They run seven times a day. Every day.
The Mightiness of Milano Centrale
My train to Venice departs from Milano Centrale, the main railway station of the city. Its front entrance is turned to the square called Piazza Duca d'Aosta. Among other things, this place hosts the La Mela Reintegrata (aka The Apple Made Whole Again) — a 8-meter-high sculpture of the fruit, made by Michelangelo Pistoletto in 2016.
The railway station itself is the largest in Europe (it occupies an area of 103 acres). It has five floors, including the underground one. It houses almost everything service-related that one can imagine: countless shops, cafes, and so on. The massive colonnade opens a way to the halls of colossal proportions.
The building is almost 30 meters high, and such a scale makes me feel smaller than usual. This overwhelming sensation is supported by the decorative elements. Heads of lions and humans roar at me, and some other shapes that I fail to identify puzzle me in addition.
These details, impressively high ceilings and solidness of walls together create what I’d call the Cathedral effect. This kind of architecture is astonishing yet suppressing. And there is another distinctive feature which is uncommon for a railway station. Meet the stairs of Milano Centrale!
There are lots of stairways, and all of them are unbelievably high and rather steep. Going up here is a proper physical exercise, even if you don’t have to carry your luggage. Fortunately, there is also a number of travelators.
Everything is humongous and monumental here, and I am fairly fascinated. But, before leaving the station, I want to explore an oasis of quiet relaxation, which I have access to. Let’s move in the direction of smaller sizes and comforting ambience!
The Coziness of Italo Club Lounge
My ticket allows me to begin enjoying the trip even before it starts. It gives me an opportunity to spend some time in a place called Italo Club Lounge. This uncrowded room offers a nice way to wait for a train in comfort. It has a set of soft red couches. And coffee. And soft drinks. And snacks. And a toilet. And a long working desk. Along with free Wi-Fi and priceless silence.
Also, and I like this the most, it has a perfect view on the biggest of the station’s bay of arches. I taste some kind of potato sticks, drink cold water and look down at the hectic atmosphere of a big railway station. How cool is that?
Сonveniently, the lounge area has a display with actual information about arriving and departing trains. Thanks to it, I can go to the track at the right time and not too early. 10 minutes before the departure, a proper number is announced, and I leave this pleasant spot.
The Excitement of Waiting
Waiting for a train is always exciting. If you are up for a ride, it is the point of a beginning adventure: now you stand on the platform, and the next minute you move someplace else. When you, on the contrary, expect somebody to arrive, the moment is also thrilling: the new impressions are within your arm’s reach. One way or another, this brief period of time is not indifferent and savor-worthy.
I stand near the track number eight. The crowd around me is eclectic. There are train staff members. There are tourists. There are even a number of Venetians, I am sure of that. We all have different reasons to be here right now, but we are all united by the exciting process of waiting for the train.
Well, let me lower a degree of romance with a mundane fact about Italian railway stations. As far as I know, all of them are smoking-free. However, at the start of each train track there is an officially confirmed smoking area. It is an interesting bend of policies, which also unwittingly gives a keen observer a curious pattern of rails and cigarette filters.
The Elegance of ETR 675
The train appears. Despite its rather uninventive technological name — ETR 675 — it is, in my humble opinion, one of the most beautiful high-speed trains I’ve ever seen. I would compare the elegance of this vehicle to my two favorite trains of the same category: Thalys and Snabbtåg.
This is one of the newest trains of the Pendolino family, a tilting train capable of reaching the speed of 250 km/h. It’s not one of the fastest, but look at this cutie! Apart from the appealing long-nosed face, it has a bright red exterior and a nice inner design, full of eye-pleasing items.
The abbreviation NTV, that you can see on the front side of the locomotive, means Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori. It is the name of the company that operates this train, as well as dozens of other high-speed ones. This is a private-owned (which is quite rare) and relatively young (since 2012) enterprise. And what about the name Italo? It’s a short and easy-to-remember brand that the NTV company owns.
The Pleasure of the Ride
Here is the first thing that happens right after I come inside the train, find my place and take a seat: a car hostess comes and offers me a cup of espresso. Isn’t this nice? Of course, I say yes to the proposition. Not surprisingly, the coffee is great. And, needless to say, it is included in the ticket price.
The journey starts, and this is a good time to talk a bit about the route. The trip won’t be long: it is less than 300 kilometers between Milan and Venice, which is nothing for a modern speedy train. So, any self-respecting ETR 675 makes it in approximately two and a half hours. The duration slightly varies depending on the time of departure, in my case it is 2:25.
The landscape, for the most part, is half-agricultural and half-urban. There are some charming cities with famous names on the way, like Verona, Vicenza and Padua. There is also a considerable amount of fields which, as far as I can guess, are vineyards.
This time, I travel in the Club Class. It offers the highest level of service in the trains of the Italo rolling stock (there are also Smart, Comfort and Prima classes). Sure thing, everything in this car deserves a like. There is a lot of free space and legroom. The staff members speak fluent English and look impeccable. Free Wi-Fi is also available (although, the authorization process is comparatively complicated).
The chairs are anatomically-friendly. Each seat is equipped with a personal light, a power socket and a USB plug, a clothes hook, a net for small things, and a table which, quite magically, unfolds from one of the armrests (exactly like in the Executive Class of Frecciarossa).
The ride is smooth. The ticket control is barely noticeable. From time to time, train staff members offer meals and drinks (too sad, I am not hungry or thirsty).
All voice messages have English versions. I assume, this is the sign of a route which is popular among international tourists. There are not so many passengers in my car, though. Probably, due to the day of the week (it’s Tuesday) and the season (I travel in May).
Anyway, the train approaches its destination, and the last part of this trip offers an entertaining view. There is a section of the route between two railway stations of Venice (Venezia Mestre and Venezia Santa Lucia), which connects the mainland area of the city with its historical center on the islands.
Water is on the right. Water is on the left. Water claims its leading role in the life of the place. We enter the city of channels, where wheeled transport loses its power and cedes control to hordes of various boats. So, it’s time to say goodbye to my new high-speed tilting friend. It is a pleasure to get acquainted with such a pretty train!
The Conclusion of This Text
Traditionally, as I often do at the end, I’ d like to mention a hotel. During this journey, I stay at Dimora Al Doge Beato. This place has a homelike feeling and a calm atmosphere. There is a balcony in my room overlooking old houses on a narrow street. And the room itself is comfortable, spacious and clean.
It is 12 minutes of walking from the railway station to the hotel, if you know the exact turns and moves. I highly recommend to use a map application and construct a proper path beforehand. Otherwise, the walk could turn into a tough experience — let’s be frank: Venice is a pedestrian’s hell.
Well, you probably will love the unique experience of being here. Or not. In any case, it’s worth trying — so I leave you with a couple of links which can help you to book a train ticket to Venice: Omio, and Trainline, and NTV Italo!