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What to use while traveling... opinions please...

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I am a 21 female that is traveling from the US to Europe for a Study Abroad. I will be going to Italy for a week with friends, then to Greece for 2 weeks by myself. After that, I will be going to Germany for 4 and a half months for studying.

I would like everyone's opinions on what type of bag to carry while exploring (even if it is more than one). Here are some of the things I'm trying to keep in mind:
--walking/hiking in Cinque Terre and Florence with friends
--walking/hiking in Athens, Delphi, Meteora, Santorini, and Thessaloniki by myself
--traveling on weekends to Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, London, etc on weekends

I'm most concerned about Italy and Greece because those are at the beginning of my trip, therefore I might need to bring the bag with me. I have a purse that is big enough to carry the things I would like to take with me (SLR camera and extra lense, guide book, moleskine, and other odds and ends things that are needed).

I am looking into a hiking type backpack for clothes etc, but should I look into smaller backpack to use? Or just a purse? Or a messenger type bag (someone suggested getting one of these while in Europe as a nice useful souvenir)?

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