This summer, I was lucky enough to travel around Europe – by train. In many ways, I was following in the footsteps of the British tourists. The first time the aristocracy and middle classes actually began to travel for pleasure, they did a “Grand Tour” of Europe. This would be done by train, and the famous Orient Express would carry passengers from Paris all the way to Istanbul! Of course, in the old days, this would have been very expensive. Nowadays, the Interrail pass costs travellers like me just under £300 for 3 weeks worth of train travel anywhere in Europe. As such, it’s very popular with young backpackers and students from all across the world who want to sample the delights of the Continent.
Our first stop was Paris. We happened to be there on Bastille Day, i.e. France’s main national holiday, and our experience there was so magical it deserved a full article. Check out “Paris on Bastille Day” to hear about that, or keep on reading this one to follow us into Italy.
Technically we stayed a night in Switzerland between Paris and Italy, but it’s ridiculously expensive there. Imagine our relief as we crossed the border and could afford to buy food again! We disembarked at the town of Como, which sits on the edge of the lake of the same name. In the evening, it was buzzing with both locals and tourists, most of whom appeared to be British. A meal in one of the town’s charming little piazzas seemed like a good way to soak up the atmosphere, and eating real Italian pizza whilst listening to a live band play outdoors is difficult to beat.
If anything could beat it, however, it would be enjoying an Italian gelato (or the original ice cream) whilst sitting on the lakeside beach under the starry sky. It was an incredible evening, but Como was even more beautiful by day. Lake Como is surrounded by green, verdant mountains, so it seemed natural to go up one of them. This meant taking the funicular, a train that gets winched up a slope. At the top were fantastic panoramas all around, and who knows, perhaps George Clooney’s Lake Como house was visible.
Como is less than an hour away from Milan, so it’s easy to go there for the day. Milan was next on the list. As with Paris, great cities like this deserve their own feature, which you’ll find if you take a look at my profile. We saw the World’s Fair, the Duomo, the business district and lots of cool museums. Milan is one of the world’s great fashion centres, and you can definitely see this when you walk around. Join us for the second part of my travel diary, in which we’ll explore one of Shakespeare’s favourite cities, and the setting for Romeo and Juliet - Verona. After that we’ll go to Venice, a city that needs no introduction. See you next time!
Photo credit: Alice Barnes-Brown