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My holidays typically begin at an airport, but something about the idea of travelling by train always intrigued me. Nothing will replace my love of flying, but the idea of a different type of trip sparked this excitement in me that I hadn’t felt since I spent a month travelling (at speed) around Dubai, Australia and Bali back in 2015.
Once I’ve committed to an idea it pretty much becomes my entire personality, so I spent some time researching the concept of Interrailing, purchased two Global Passes in their January sale, and began planning my two-week adventure through Europe.
Booking the passes
Travelling with my husband, the first big decision was how long our Interrail Global Pass should be. We knew that we wanted to travel for two weeks and see as many places as we could in that time without completely exhausting ourselves, so we settled on the seven-day passes.
This meant we could travel for seven days within a one-month timeframe, taking as many eligible trains as we wanted on each of those seven days, which allowed for connections and longer journeys.
At the time, two passes cost us around £530.
Planning the trip
The planning phase was intense because I love to be organised, so before I knew it I’d built a multi-tab spreadsheet with every fragment of information you could imagine. Thankfully between the Interrail website and TikTok, we found useful route suggestions and railway maps that made planning our adventure much easier.
When had our route set in stone, had pre-booked as many trains as we possibly could, and secured our accommodation, all that was left to do was plan what to pack.
Our two-week itinerary
Day one: London to Cologne
On Saturday 03 June 2023, our adventure began. But not without a hiccup from yet another British train strike, meaning my poor mum had to drive us to the outskirts of London so we could hop on a tube to St Pancras Station at silly o’clock in the morning.
Our first train was the Eurostar taking us from London to Brussels, which we needed to pay an additional fee for, before connecting onto a second train bound for Cologne, Germany.
The first day was a breeze, and before we knew it we we out exploring a country that was new to us both. We spent one night here, staying at the Urban Loft Hotel which was conveniently located just a short walk from the train station.
Day two: Cologne to Munich
We’d slightly overestimated the time needed in Cologne, but the beauty of the Interrail app is having the option to adjust your train times if needed, so we set off a little earlier than planned and later arrived in Munich with one easy connection on the way.
Giving ourselves approximately 24 hours to explore the city, again we spent just one night here. We booked a room at the beautiful Schwan Locke Aparthotel and made full use of the kitchen facilities to save us from splashing out on restaurant prices.
Days three and four: Munich to Lugano
Our time in Germany was incredibly short, but it gave us a good taste of a different part of Europe. Next on the itinerary was the town of Lugano, marking our second visit to Switzerland having visited Zurich and Schaffhausen a few years ago.
Arriving in Lugano felt worlds apart from the busy German cities prior, and I was relieved to have booked two nights there. Staying at the Flat Iron Apartments with kitchen facilities, again we had a way to keep the costs down in what’s a notoriously pricey country.
If you’re into your lakes and mountains, Lugano will blow you away, and I’d even make the bold claim that it’s better than Lake Como. There’s plenty to explore on foot, and you can take a cable car up to the viewpoint from Monte San Salvatore or catch a boat to one of the nearby towns if you want to see more. We sailed down to a hillside town called Morcote and fell in love with it.
Day five: Lugano to Lake Como and Milan
Today we were heading back to the hustle and bustle, but we broke up the already short train ride into Italy with a lunchtime stroll around Lake Como. It was easy enough to hop off the train, pay a small price to leave our bags at the shop inside the train station (this is an actual thing, not a dodgy deal) and explore somewhere I’d heard plenty about.
A few hours later, we arrived in Milan. We were only spending one night here so booked a hotel near the station, but this meant getting in and out of the centre took up a lot of our limited time. In hindsight, staying closer to the sights might have been easier. I also didn’t like the hotel so I won’t bother sharing it.
Our 30 hours in Milan were spent wandering the streets, eating excellent pizza, and drinking strong Aperol Spritz cocktails to cool off from the intense heatwave that was smothering the city.
Days six and seven: Milan to Venice
Feeling ready to head towards open waters, we caught our late afternoon train across to Venice, somewhere that had been on my bucket list for a long time.
Spending two nights at an apartment called Residants 8 Loft, we were able to get some mid-trip washing done and stock our fridge with a few breakfast and lunch supplies for the days ahead. Thrilling stuff, I know.
We potentially crammed a bit too much sightseeing into our visit but managed to cover a huge amount of ground, even taking a few water taxis through the canals and across to neighbouring islands Murano and Burano. We also enjoyed dinner out on both nights, without completely blowing the budget.
Day eight: Venice to Bologna
Onto the place that is home to the best pasta I’ve ever eaten, Bologna. We checked into another new hotel for one night, which I won’t recommend as it was a little too far out, and embarked on a self-guided foodie tour of the city.
We didn’t have long here, but I felt 24 hours was enough to see the sights and consume all the carbs. I fear ragu will never taste as good as that again, which I guess gives me a solid reason to go back.
Day nine: Bologna to Florence
Leaving Bologna behind, we continued onwards to Florence. I’d heard great things about this city, especially if you’re into your wine, and it did not disappoint.
We checked into the Terra Artis Guest House which I loved, and set off in search of lunch, finding a shady spot away from the burning heat of the mid-June sun.
We found a ‘wine wall’ for a fun vino experience, and later walked up to Piazzale Michelangelo with a takeaway pizza in hand for a panoramic sunset view. It gets busy there, but there’s something lovely about watching the sun sink behind the city with a few hundred strangers for company.
Day ten: A day trip to Pisa
In under an hour you can reach Pisa by train, so we booked some cheap individual train tickets and spent a few hours exploring the humid and stormy city, before returning to Florence for you guessed it, more pizza, pasta, and wine.
Day eleven: Florence to Sorrento
This was another long journey, eventually swapping the comfort of a high-speed train for a rickety old thing in Naples, but when you spot Mount Vesuvius on one side and the blue hues of the ocean on the other you quickly realise that the end of your trip is going to be special.
Staying at Dreamers’ Rooms Sorrento for four nights, we could allow ourselves to fully relax in what was our eighth and final hotel of the two-week holiday.
Better still, we just managed to catch the sunset from the viewpoint overlooking the beaches below, before indulging in another Italian feast.
Day twelve: Positano
We’d heard getting the bus to Positano can be difficult because every other tourist in Sorrento is doing the same, but luckily with it being early in the summer season, we didn’t have too much trouble.
The twisty and somewhat precarious journey along the cliffside ended at the very top of the town, forcing us to begin the intense scramble down the many steps, all the while trying not to think too much about having to climb back up again later.
A big storm was on its way, increasing the humidity to an unbearable level and leaving us sitting like statues on the sand, picking at our packed lunches in a desperate attempt to cool down. Thankfully a delicious Amalfi lemon sorbet did the job.
Day thirteen: Sorrento
In desperate need of some downtime and with continued downpours forecast, we had a slow morning and waited for the clouds to clear before renting a couple of sunbeds down at one of the beach clubs. If you don’t want to pay, there is also a small free beach on the other side of the cliff which you can walk to.
We managed a bit of sunbathing and a few dips in the water, before the rain returned and sent us squelching back to the hotel to wash away the salt and suncream.
Day fourteen: Capri
The sun had finally returned, and where better to bask in its warmth than on the isle of Capri? It’s easy and affordable to get a ferry across from Sorrento, giving you the option of anything from a couple of hours to a whole day there.
Sadly I didn’t spot any celebs, but I did love exploring this island before tucking into yet another packed lunch on the beach. Europe is expensive, but Capri takes that up to another level.
Feeling emotional that our trip was coming to an end, we enjoyed one last dinner before repacking our bags for the last time.
Day fifteen: Sorrento to London
We’d need a few more days if we were planning to train it all the way home, so instead we caught the train back to Naples, took a bus to the airport, and boarded our flight to London.
No words can explain how brilliant that trip was. Exhausting and expensive despite the budgeting, but utterly incredible.
Tips for planning your Interrail adventure
- Once you have your pass, download the Interrail app, link your pass, and search for your trains on there
- You might need to book some trains outside of your pass depending on the route you’re taking, but try to plan it logically to avoid extra costs
- For some trains you will also need to pay a small fee for pre-booked seats, but those will be highlighted clearly to you
- Be mindful that not all trains have Wi-Fi, so you might need to use your mobile data now and then to access your tickets on the app
- I can’t advise on what to pack without knowing where you’re going, but I would suggest using a good backpack instead of a suitcase purely for ease when getting on and off trains
- Don’t overpack as you can always do some washing on the trip
- Plan as much as you can before you go so you can maximise your time in each place
- Don’t be put off by difficult weather, Europe can be unpredictable even in the height of summer
- Print out all your important documents and upload a copy of them to somewhere like Google Drive
- Having a language translator app to hand can be useful when you’re in a rush and trying to find your train
- Be aware that train platforms can change quickly and the data doesn’t always match what it says on the Interrail app
I really hope this has been helpful. If there’s anything I’ve missed, don’t hesitate to reach out!