I’m a strong advocate of slow travel. My wish is that this issue’s cover feature will tempt you to pause and take the train on a tour through Europe (p. 42) as an alternative to hurtling between airports or fighting your way along freeways.
An unpronounceable Icelandic volcano led me to attempt a similar rail journey in 2010. The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull released vast quantities of ash into Western Europe’s airspace, grounding all air traffic. Meanwhile, my wife, who had been attending a conference in Florence, Italy, found herself trapped in a glorious old guesthouse at the edge of the Piazza del Limbo. I felt it would be a more romantic than reckless gesture to leap on the last train from London to Paris that Friday night, gambling on achieving a reunion.
European booking websites went into meltdown. By dawn, I had little choice but to stow away on a train to Zürich. With a stereotypical precision of planning in the face of total chaos, the Swiss rail authorities cleared out a carriage in readiness for the arrival of random characters such as me.
I had scarcely imagined how beautiful the passage through the Alps and onward to the gleaming spires and lake of Zürich would be. I made it into the arms of my wife by Saturday evening, just in time to share a bottle of chianti and a bistecca alla Fiorentina. Our flight home failed to depart for another week, and so we were gifted the chance to wander between Florence’s grand cafés and Renaissance treasures at a uniquely crowd-free moment.
Our cross-Europe cover story concludes in an equally famed Italian destination, Venice. For tips on finding original angles and releasing pressure on the city’s creaking tourism infrastructure, be sure to read “7 New Ways to See Venice” (p. 12).
Peter Grunert, Group Editor