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How and where to spend 5 days in Italy after a week in Paris in June?

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My boyfriend and I are spending June 13-20 renting a flat in Le Marais district of Paris. We will be doing a couple of day trips as well as enjoying the fabulous local food, people and city culture.

We fly home to the US out of Milan on the night of June 25 and are trying to decide where to spend those last five days June 20-25.

He has never been to France or Italy, but I have been four or five times in the last 20 years, traveling throughout both countries and can't wait to go back.

We're looking for your ideas about where to go and what to do without overextending ourselves or spending too much time in transit.

Thoughts/Impressions so far:

-We aren't hard-core tourists on a schedule. We prefer doing one or two scheduled things a day and letting serendipity rule, lingering over wonderful meals and drinking wine. Will do touristy things but don't want to be crushed by humans all day.

-We love natural beauty. Gorgeous landscapes. Hills, vineyards, water, that kinda stuff. Would be good to get some pastoral therapy after the City of Light.

-We are foodies in our forties. Love finding fabulous eateries that are locals' favorites. Like to change it up with both luxury and cost-conscious choices.

-Much prefer smaller hotels/B&Bs to bigger chain-type places. Can spend 100-150 euros per night.

-We prefer not to drive but are certainly open to it if it means we can get to more out-of-the-way places. If public transport can comfortably take us, all the better.

-My favorite places in Italy have been in Tuscany, Florence in particular. Also loved the Roman ruins. Would do it again or open to a region in northern Italy (Piedmont?) since we could stay closer to Milan that way. I visited Lake Como long ago, Montecatini Terme, Padua, and Milan. Not as in love with Milan as I was Florence but don't feel I know northern Italy well.

-Maybe we could rent a flat in a non-touristy northern Italy town where we could experience a smaller-town feel, shop for food at local market, enjoy gelato on summer evenings while strolling in a piazza where musicians are playing

-TGV from Paris to Milan (or northern Italy) a good way to go? Night train? Other trains?

-What about a train down to Rome from Paris then winding our way back north to Milan? Worth it or too much for five days? By car or rail?

Thanks, fellow travelers, for your thoughts and suggestions. Now you see why we need your help -- too many good options and we must narrow it down. All details big and small are welcome!


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