More trains - Milan to Venice.
The thunderstorms from yesterday and overnight did a lot of damage. The rail line was closed from Como to Chiassa in Switzerland and there was lots of local flooding and tree damage in the Piedmont region. In Milan the skies were clear so after a quick breakfast (it is such a pleasure to have good Italian coffee again. The Swiss try hard but can't quite get it right) we headed off to the Duomo.
We only had a morning so just walked around. The queue to get into the Duomo was already massive as we had anticipated as you cannot book tickets online and the tickets purchased on the spot are timed. Most people focus on the view from the piazza but at the rear of the building are enormous stained glass windows. They would look amazing from the inside because the morning sun shines directly through.
We listened to the buskers who are incredibly organised with their mini PAs, backing tracks and CDs for sale. One busker played her bass guitar to backing tracks of more bass guitars and it sounded fantastic.
We dodged the ever present touts trying to peddle selfie sticks, scarves and coloured string and headed into the Galleria. Now this is shopping with style. Through the other side we paused by the statue of Leonardo. With some more time to waste we walked some of the surrounding streets before returning to the square for gelato. We even saw the couple sitting next to us from the Bernina Express.
We headed back to the hotel, collected our bags and returned to the train station. We managed to wave off the Romany gypsies begging for money but the lady sitting next to us was not so lucky. The gypsy took the chocolate right out of her hand. Much to all our laughter. It was the same lady who had tried three times with us the day before.
Onto the high speed intercity train between Milan and Venice. This train is similar to the Japanese Shinkansen, with comfortable seats and fold down tables for food and drink. It took a while to slowly get out of Milan but once into the countryside things sped up. We got a complimentary service - prosecco, bottled water and rosemary flavoured crackers. You don't get that on the Shinkansen!
The journey to Venice was supposed to take 2.5 hours but an obstruction on the line delayed us by a further 20 minutes. In front of us was an American family with two young girls. The whole family was having a tired, hungry, thirsty and cranky moment ("Parker! Stop pulling your sister's hair!" "Paige! Turn down the sound on your iPad!" "How much longer?" "When are we going to cross the bridge?"). We think they were from Wisconsin - they were singing songs about cheese and milk.
Finally we made it to San Lucia station in Venice. Our hotel was on Murano, so we hopped straight onto the vaporetto outside the station. Here we had our first 'damn tourists, we don't want you here' moment. The conductor wanted the bags to go downstairs, which meant a lady had to move from her seat. Much muttering in rapid Italian ensued.
Our hotel was right at the Murano Museo ferry stop, so only a five metre walk was required from the dock. The Sofitel LaGare Venezia is a new hotel built within the walls of an old glass factory and is the only hotel on Murano. Inside the walls it is modern, sleek and very beautiful. The upgrade count moved to five as we were put into a room with a mezzanine bedroom, motorised opening skylights and a separate sitting area. Although it's only twenty minutes away from the main island, the benefit of being on Murano is all the tourists go back to Venice in the evening. We had the island almost to ourselves and it was wonderful to walk around the deserted calles. With only locals we sat down next to the canal and had dinner made by Mama out the back, she intermittently appeared in her apron to pour herself beer. The sun was setting and with Aperol spritz in hand we could not ask for much more.