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We’ve already listed 31 reasons why train travel pretty much wins out over any other mode of transportation, but one thing we haven’t mentioned yet: train layovers.

I love train layovers because they give me the chance to explore a city that I might not otherwise have had a chance to see at all.

And because train stations have virtually no security, no lines, and are generally located in the heart of cities, even 15 minutes is enough time to exit the building, get a little taste of a place, and still catch a connection.

Here are two of my favorite train layover experiences:

La Spezia, Italia (La Spezia, Italy)

I travelled with my sister-in-law between Rome and Vernazza, then from Cinque Terre to Venice in 2015. Each time we had about a 40 minute layover in La Spezia around lunchtime.

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A short two minutes into exploring, we found a quaint pedestrianized street full of shops and cafes. We were hungry, and stopped to look at a chalkboard menu with a panini lunch special. The owner of the cafe  sized each of us up, and suggested a sandwich he thought we would like. He saw our backpacks and asked us how much time we had — we had twenty minutes before our connection. He said no problem, so we followed him into  his cafe and chatted while he made us our sandwiches. Classic rock bounced off walls covered in a wide variety of original artworks. When it was ready, we took it to go, caught our train and headed to Vernazza.

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The sandwich he made us was perfect — fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil.

It was so tasty, and the experience so enjoyable, we decided to return during another layover on our way out of Cinque Terre.

The second experience was even better than the first. The Italian gentleman remembered us when we walked up toting our backpacks again. He smiled and said he knew the perfect sandwich for us this time. While we waited for him to make the sandwich, he motioned for us to sit, and he opened up his personal fridge and pulled out a cake that one of his lady-friends had made him. He said that he could not eat it all, and cut us each a slice. I don’t know what kind of cake it was — nothing quite like anything I’ve had before, but reminded me most of Tres Leches.

We talked about traveling, and food, and laughed through the language barrier. When he was done, he sent us on our way to catch our train with another panini masterpiece: pesto, cured ham, cheese, and tomato.

Köln, Deutschland (Cologne, Germany)

We were traveling between Bacharach and Bruges in 2010 with a short layover in Köln. As we exited the station, we were immediately confronted with one of the most impressive Gothic cathedrals in all Europe.  It is so massive that the twin towers disappear into the sky above in a bizarre feat of 3-point perspective.

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Photo via Jason Mrachina

— Laura Rowley

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Written by Laura Rowley

I am an artist, flight attendant, and travel blogger.

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