It was a lazy old start this morning; but eventually, I checked myself out of the guesthouse in Pisa, and I jumped on the midday train to Venice. The local train from Venice to Florence was fine; but when I reached Florence, I realised that the city has two main train stations, and that my connecting train on to Venice departed from the station that I wasn't at. Eek! Apparently, while I got off at the "main" station of Firenze SMN, the InterCity train to Venice leaves from the "other main" station of Firenze Rifredi. Anyway, I managed to get the high-speed EuroStar Italia service to Venice instead: that train does leave from SMN; and although it has the added cost of a compulsory seat reservation and supplement, it is quite a nice train, and it didn't get me there too late (less than an hour later than planned).
The thing with the Florence station mixup was, it wasn't my fault: there was no way I could have known which station to go to! First of all, the ticket that I bought in Pisa is an absolute joke of a ticket: it tells you that you're travelling to Venice via Florence; but it doesn't tell you the departure, arrival, or connection times; it doesn't specify which station in Florence you need to change at; and it doesn't specify any of the train service numbers. Secondly, the attendant from whom I bought the ticket (in Pisa) neglected to mention that for the InterCity service, you need to change in Firenze Rifredi. Seriously, what kind of frikking ticket and service is that?! I ask you, my dear friends at TrenItalia: is it humanly possible for you to be any less helpful, or to make my life any more difficult? Of course, I've been having some rather bad experiences with TrenItalia lately — this ain't the first.
They claim that the tickets tell you nothing for a reason: it's because they're "flexible" — you can use them at any time, on any valid train that's travelling the route specified on the ticket. It's up to you to know what train to get, and where to change — and it's also up to you to validate your ticket before boarding the train (which I forgot to do today, and which the a$$hole conductor refused to forgive me for: meaning that I had to run off the train halfway to Florence, and shove the daym thing in a validating machine, then run back on before it left me stranded). But it's just plain stupid: because when you buy the ticket several minutes before you board the train, and you tell the attendant what time you're leaving, it's pretty clear that you don't need any daym flexibility. You just need to get the train!
Anyway: TrenItalia is useless; they stuffed me around today as usual; but miraculously, I did actually make it to Venice by this evening. I arrived in Italy's most romantic city, to find it a dark maze of endless alleys, canals and bridges: great place to wander around with a 20kg backpack, looking for your hostel. I enquired about getting the ferry down to the hostel, as the web site had instructed me: but the ferry attendants assured me that the street I was looking for was within easy walking distance, and that it didn't warrant a boat ride. And sure enough, they were right: it only took about 15 minutes of walking (through the main street of Venice), and I only had to ask directions from about 5 locals (of whom there are only 7 in all of Venice, by the way :P), before I found A Venice Fish, and dumped my shwag for the evening.