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Davide and Germana: no-fly Europe

Germana and her thirteen-year-old son Davide write the No Fly Europe blog, documenting their travels by train around the continent. Davide tells Flight Free UK why he's loved train travel from the age of three.

15 Nov 2020 4 min read

Davide and his sister on the sleeper train
On the sleeper train

"Our family loves travelling around Europe by train," 13-year-old Davide writes on the No Fly Europe blog.

"We try to avoid the use of aeroplanes as much as possible because of their big impact on climate change. Plus, we also really love travelling by train anyway as we can see many places on the way."

We spoke to Davide about his travels and his passion for trains. Here's what he said…

I learned about climate change when my mum went to the Paris Climate Agreement Conference of 2015 – also known as COP21. 

Hearing about polar ice caps melting and the increasing risk of flooding in coastal towns makes me concerned.

I have loved transport ever since the age of 3 or so, specifically trains.

I was in my mum’s womb the first time I travelled from London to Italy by train, and my parents went all the way to Rome.

I have travelled from London to Milan by train almost every year of my life so far. That probably means I have done it around 9-10 times.

My favourite part of the journey is when we stop off at Bardonecchia, a mountain resort after the French town of Modane, on the Italian-French Border. 

I like this town since I enjoy sledging there in the winter. When we stop over in the summer, I like to do big walks (you can actually walk back in to France!), cycling trips (you can rent bikes there), and going to the local swimming pool and lovely restaurants. 

image shows Davide sledging in the snow
Sledging in Bardonecchia

There is also a bus service which is completely free of charge, which takes you to many local villages, including to the various cable cars and chairlifts which run in the winter for skiing, and in the summer for those wanting to go on long walks.

On the Eurostar I really like going at speed through the rural areas of France, Belgium and the UK.

The TGV is probably the most popular way to get around France, as the trains have very high capacity and high speeds. 

TGV stands for ‘Tren a Grand Vitesse’, which translates to ‘High Speed Train’. Some routes are served by double decker units, and others (for example the Paris-Milan service) are served by single decker units. I enjoy riding on the top deck of the double decker TGVs, although watch your suitcase if it’s out of sight (we had one stolen in Germany, which complicated our trip a lot)!

I would avoid flying from places like London Heathrow to Paris Orly/ Paris Charles De Gaulle.

This is because the planes use loads of fuel, and by the time you arrive at the airport from home, it has probably already taken you about an hour or so. Me and my family take the train to Italy most of the time since it’s more eco-friendly. The journey from Paris to Milan takes about 7 hours or so, but it’s worth the view and scenery, including going through the Alps.

The sleeper trains often have border checks in Switzerland at about 3 AM local time but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t recommend it. I would have a good night’s sleep anyway on the sleeper, but it means you don’t get to see as much scenery. 

An advantage of travelling by rail around Europe is that there are excellent options to get around all the countries.

For children on the Eurostar, during the journey through the channel tunnel, there is a type of a virtual reality game (headsets and other requirements are offered at both stations) where you can explore beneath the ocean, collecting and discovering different marine animals, with the assistance of two divers.

In my and my sister’s opinion, it is a great opportunity for education while travelling.

In general, travelling by train is a lot better than flying.

It's because you get to see countryside, wildlife, small and not-so-well-known towns, compared to air travel, which brings you through the country quicker, but then you don’t see as much scenery across the country or continent.

Read more from Davide and Germana at NoFlyEurope