There presumably must be a hidden clause deep within the smallprint of the 'Single European Act' that stipulates that every country in Europe is allowed to have fast, clean, reliable and efficient trains which are cheap to use; except Britain! Mussolini has lot to do with it in Italy apparently, his greatest achievements seem to have involved railway timetabling, but fascist dictators can't be the whole reason, after all France has railways but didn't embrace Fascism, and the Vichy regime were hardly going to build a new infrastructure in the middle of war!
Mussolini or otherwise - we took a day trip to Florence on the train. The ride was excellent, and train travel remains the best way to see a country I think. It would be good one year to explore Italy by train!
Florence itself was a mixed bag. Not only was it extremely hot, but it was also cripplingly crowded, with several hours of queues to get into the most noted attractions like Michelangelo's famous David sculpture or the Duomo. Only the tower next to the Duomo had a short wait to get in, so Boris, Norris and I endured the hundreds of narrow steps to the view-point at the top; this was fantastic!