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July 2013 Europe - Northern Italy or Corsica + Paris/Barcelona/Marseille?

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I'm eagerly awaiting my South Africa trip (which I leave for next week and hope to report on when I return). In the meantime, my boyfriend who is not coming on the upcoming trip wants to start considering a summer vacation destination (July most likely), and is particularly interested in two different locations:

A) Corsica and an urban center with direct flights (i.e. Paris, Barcelona, Nice, Marseille, Lyon)

B) Milan and Venice, maybe time spent in Lake Como or small towns in Lombardy/the Veneto

Neither of us have been to Italy or France before, and I know July is the high high highest of the tourist season besides August. I'm not usually a high season traveler - South Africa in Jan will be my first test - I'd love some feedback as we start budgeting and planning.

-Which itinerary will be less chock full of tourists? I realize both will be FULL of tourists, but if one might be less crowded and overwhelmed, we'd lean that way.

-Which is more easily executable in a short time frame? We'd probably have 9-10 nights to work with total, so we want to keep it to two locations ideally. In Italy, he's desperate to go to Milan, but I'm less interested, so we'd be willing to spend time in a third location.

-If you're recommending the Corsican option, what city would you pair with the island: Paris, Barcelona, Lyon, Marseille, etc.? At present, I'm leaning towards Paris (most flights to Corsica, capital of culture) or Barcelona (have always wanted to go there, seems like a very outdoor oriented city)

We're keen on combining relaxation and adventure, having some luxurious experiences but also looking to explore smaller, quieter areas. We're both very interested in food and wine, hiking, great scenery, and great outdoor interests.

Thanks for your time, and happy travels!

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