A train from Firenze to Lucca 2015 Summer
As usual in Italy, you are supposed to book at least two days in advance. Go to the “Sala Blu” office at the station (Santa Maria Novella in Florence) and arrange your trip with the staff. They are quite random, often rude and officious but sometimes very nice.
You arrange the assistance first, then get the tickets from the ticket office. The Sala Blu person may accompany you. Jump the queue by going to the front and making yourself known. Chances are it will all go wrong so be very diligent and cross-check times, dates etc.
For example, I went on Monday to book this trip. My Italian is quite good so we conducted the whole thing in Italian. I distinctly said Mercioledì (Wednesday) and 22 Luglio (July). However the tickets were “open” so did not show a specific date. I was not given a confirmation document re assistance although I tried to get one. The new system used SMS confirmation, but only if you have an Italian mobile number!
We turned up on Wednesday 30 minutes early as required. “No”, she said, “it was next Wednesday, I distinctly remember. Or maybe Monday. Yes, it was Monday.” Haha. Anyway, despite lots of lectures about not turning up early she managed to arrange assistance on the spot. After we got an espresso for fortitude the assistance guys were very friendly and helpful. We used the electric elevator/ramp gadget to get on and all was dandy.
Don’t forget to get the fast train if possible, some of the local ones stop at every station, have dodgy air conditioning, and may even require you to change trains!
Final note: when arranging assistance, la donna asked the weight of my wheelchair. It is heavy-duty with long-range batteries etc, so it weighs about 120 kg. I’m about 90 so that makes 210 kg. “Troppo pesante (too heavy)” she said. No, I’ve done this trip 4 times before, sez I, it’s no problem. No, she says, it’s impossible. Oh, I lie, I made a mistake, it’s only 50 kg. “That’s better”, she says, while her companion smirks knowingly. Problem solved, and the lift had no issues with my actual 210 kg of course. When travelling, be prepared to improvise.
Postscript: I have taken this train a few times more, most recently in 2016. Things have improved on the Sala Blu booking front, but it’s still a good idea to give them notice.
I missed my train and they arranged access on the next one with little fuss.
The main issue is that the train often doesn’t stop at platform one and the others are hard to get to.
If they have notice they will divert the train to platform one for you!