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3 Months in Europe: Paris, Italy, and Croatia - How long to stay and where?

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Dec 9th, 2012, 09:28 AM
  #1
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3 Months in Europe: Paris, Italy, and Croatia - How long to stay and where?

My family has the amazing opportunity to travel to Europe for 3+ months (April, May, June/early July). It is me, my husband and 4 year old son. Our goal is to experience the culture and dive into the places we visit more deeply than just checking off must-see tourist sites. We want to feel the rhythm of the places we see and also make this trip something our young son can enjoy.

We are getting ready to start reserving accommodations, and have the following itinerary planned so far and welcome any suggestions you may have about how long to stay.

FRANCE
Paris: 3 wks, 21 nights
(Decided to skip French Riviera, would love suggestions on how to see "French Country Side, perhaps a day road trip)

ITALY
Cinque Terre (we're thinking Monterosso or Le Spezia): 1 wk, 7 nights
Florence: 3 wks
Rome: 2 wks
Amalfi Coast: 1 wk
Bari: 10 nights

CROATIA
Dubrovnik: 10 nights

Thank you fellow travelers!
~The Jarvis Family
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Dec 9th, 2012, 09:32 AM
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Leaving aside Croatia (not in Schengen), other two countries are in Schengen and you can only stay in total 90 days in 180 days, if you aren't European citizens.
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Dec 9th, 2012, 09:52 AM
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Are you going by car or train? I would recommend for that slow-moving trip - a plus IMO - and a 4-yr old you'll rent a car - if so check into drop-off charges if renting in one country and dropping off in another - can be very steep. For lots of good info on trains if they are in the mix check out these IMO fantastic sites - www.ricksteves.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.seat61.com.

Perhaps for such a long trip leasing a car like thru the Renault proram (if still around) would be better than renting but still may have to return to France to drop it off without daunting charges.

Or rent in each country - drop off in Nice, take the train to nearby Italy, rent there - return in Italy and fly or take a ferry to Croatia and rent one there?
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Dec 9th, 2012, 10:01 AM
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Renting or leasing a car makes little sense given your intended itinerary. Most of your stays are in areas (Paris, Cinque Terre, Rome etc.) where a car is useless. Given the length of stay in each area, a point-to-point purchase of train tickets ahead of time (for steep discounts) might be in order.

The recommendation for stays of a week or more is generally to rent an apartment, which also has the advantage of avoiding eating out all the time.

There was an excellent recent trip report on travels around Paris, which might be of interest to you to see some French countryside; others might know the specific reference. A day trip to Giverny would also be worthwhile.
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Dec 9th, 2012, 01:07 PM
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Here's the trip report I was thinking of:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-de-france.cfm
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Dec 9th, 2012, 03:49 PM
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Paris, Cinque Terre, Rome etc.) where a car is useless. Given the length of stay in each area, a point-to-point purchase of train tickets ahead of time (for steep discounts) might be in order.>

And also check out the France-Italy railpass if doing the train - teh more days the cheaper per day it becomes and can rival point to point tickets and often, if traveling enough, beat them and also give you flexibility to chcose which trains to take once there and not have to book online discounts that cannot be changed often and which are sold in limited numbers so much be booked weeks in advance to guarantee.

That said the pass dictates a 3 (sometimes more) euro per TGV or Corail Teoz trains above the pass prices and 10 euros in Italy so factor that in as well.

The France-Italy Railpass is a flexipass, valid for two months and you buy a certain number of unlimited travel days to be used when you want over that 2-month period, which begins when you activate the pass in Europe at a train station ticket window. And I think a 5 year old always travels free on trains in both countries though this does not guarantee him/her a seat.
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Dec 9th, 2012, 04:35 PM
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I love the idea of three whole weeks in Paris, but if you really want to see some "French countryside" you might want to take a 3- or 4-day (or even a week) trip to someplace in the country not too far away, like Normandy or Brittany or Burgundy or Strasbourg or the Loire. Just a thought (I'm usually trying to convince people to spend MORE time in Paris). At any rate, with 3 weeks, you certainly have time for at least a few nice day trips out of the city.
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Dec 10th, 2012, 10:03 AM
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(Decided to skip French Riviera, would love suggestions on how to see "French Country Side, perhaps a day road trip)>

I agree with St Cirq - why not spend some days in the French countryside, which really is not all that accesssible on a day trip from Paris - when heading to Italy you could well go via say Burgundy or Provence (Avignon-Arles) area - two places where you can really savor the French countryside - then go onto to Italy or go via Switzerland if you have never been there - stay some days in one of the fabulous Swiss Alps dream spots like the fantastic Jungfrau Region - this is about half-way by train to Italy - then go onto via Milan to the Cinque Terre from there, etc.
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Dec 10th, 2012, 01:04 PM
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We leased a car in Paris for 3 months (89 days actually) after spending a couple of weeks in the UK. We covered a lot of France, Italy & a bit of Croatio & Slovenia. Best thing we've ever done.

If you hit on my name and go to 'Trip Reports' there's an extensive report.

Where are you leaving from?
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Dec 10th, 2012, 01:37 PM
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I never thought I'd read myself write this, but are you sure that you want to spend such long periods of time in big cities? France and Italy are both more than Paris and Rome and especially with a small child, you might want to think about finding a small town or city where you can really get to know the place and the people.

if you are going to spend 3 weeks in Paris and Florence, and 2 weeks in Rome you'll clearly want to be thinking about apartments. Even if you cut down your time in those places, wherever you stay villas/gites and apartments are going to give you more freedom and space, as well as making feeding your little one easier.

can i also ask why 10 days in Dubrovnik? it's a lovely place, but then so are the islands off the Croatian coast - it would be a shame to miss them.
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Dec 10th, 2012, 01:39 PM
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I can't imagine spending ten days in Dubrovnik; the town is not that large.
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Dec 10th, 2012, 03:46 PM
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Hi JarvisFamily,

For Italy, La Spezia is a truly boring town -- although it has the advantage of being flat and uncrowded, and has lots of services. By contrast, any of the le Cinque Terre towns are overrun with tourists, with few everyday services, and so steep having a small child with you is a real pain, especially when it is hot.

If you really want to " experience the culture and dive into the places we visit more deeply than just checking off must-see tourist sites," stay in Sestri Levante instead.

That goes triple for the Amalfi coast, which is a hideous tourist cliche of what Italian life is, and mobbed with foreign visitors -- plus expensive prices to boot. Worse, your small child will have a lot of difficulty on the jam-paced buses that move along the very twisty roads, creating motion sickness in even the stoutest adults. The many many steps in the hot sun are also small-child unfriendly. If you would like to peek at the famous seaside, stay in a town like Maori, or Cetera, Vietri sul Mare, with an occasional boat or bus trip to an expensive boutique tourist town along the Amalfi, or a boat ride to Capri. Or stay in Paestum with a car.

Bari will be like a frying pan, and in general it is a difficult town, with very few holiday apartment rentals. If you are going to put up with such high temperatures, I would suggest Napoli or maybe Cefalu in Sicily. (Do you have family in Bari?)

Presumably you have a reason for choosing the destinations you have, but over the summer with a small child, you will find you need to GET OUT OF THE SUN a lot, and find ways to beat the heat. Were it me, I would be looking at the beaches of Belgium, small towns in the Netherlands, and northern Spain.
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Dec 10th, 2012, 04:08 PM
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To visit just Dubrovnik would be such a shame. You should consider Split and it's surrounding islands for the lovely beaches, Lake Plitvice (easy trekking awesome views), Istria (countryside villages and vineyard visits possible, coastal towns also in this area) and Zagreb which is a cute little town.

If you would be driving in from Italy, do consider Slovenia too, could get a glimpse of the Julian Alps!

Echoing the rest, you can't spend 3 weeks in France without exploring the countryside!
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Dec 12th, 2012, 12:03 PM
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Of all the 5 Cinque Terre villages I've been to and also La Spezia I'd chose Vernazza if I had to chose one - Monterosso and Rimomaggiore - the two of the five lands bookending the three more isolated villages - both have lots of traffic coming into their peripheries and are generally much busier than the middle three. Vernaza has a lovely old port - Corniglia however is high up in the hills so no sea front at all. I think being seaside is sweeter than hovering high above the sea but perhaps the views are better from up then at sea level?
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Dec 12th, 2012, 12:56 PM
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Yes consider splitting ten days in Dubrovnik - a simply lovely lovely old city and yes taking the scenic coastal road by car or bus or the coastal boats to Split and over to some islands like Hvar - which would also make for a romantic stay.
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Dec 12th, 2012, 03:28 PM
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We found Bol (on Brac Island in Croatia) a fantastically easy place to stay with our 3 year old. We island hopped from Korcula, Hvar and then Bol, and were very sad to leave (went to Split, then on to Istria).

Bol had three playgrounds that we found, all near the water and near places to get "take-away" coffee. There's the famous (and clothes optional) Zlatni-rat beach, but there's a really wonderful coastline with dozens of little coves that are semi-private and perfect for full family afternoons of picnicking and swimming. Best of all, most of the town was walkable.

I remember one evening we ate outside at a neighborhood restaurant with other travelers staying at the same sobe we were. Our daughter fell asleep, and the owner brought over a nice fluffy blanket to wrap her in.

We also went to Cinque Terre and stayed for a week. I would recommend Monterosso with a kid. It's flatter and has a big sandy beach (at least it did before the floods). Your child will have a much easier time finding another kid to play with there.

I echo the recommendations of cutting time from Paris and spending at least a few days in the countryside.
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Dec 22nd, 2012, 07:28 AM
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Thank you all very much for such helpful recommendations and insight! We've just booked accommodations for Paris, Florence, and Rome. We're now getting to the coastal towns and Croatia and still have a lot of research to do and your comments are a huge help! Just wanted to touch in with an update of our planning thus far...

We're likely to skip Bari (the reason we wanted to go there was to have a chance to stay in cool resort: http://www.hoteltorrefiore.com/hotel). Maybe another trip we'll do this.

We still need to look into how to see the french country side while keeping our logistics simple.

We chose big cities so we can see museums, churches, etc without cramming them all into a few days which would not be fun for our little guy. But our extended stay should afford us to visit the smaller towns. Haven't figured out what to do about renting a car (curious if there are "flex cars" in Italy similar to what they have in Seattle where we live - you can borrow a care for a single day and then park it back at their lot at night).

As for Croatia, we'll definitely NOT spend all 10 days in Dubrovnik. But don't have that leg of the trip nailed down yet.
Also considering working in:
Bosnia: Mostar 1 night
Montenegro: Kotor 2 nights Budva 2 nights
Trogir, Old Town: 2 nights
Split

We're flying out of London because we have family there and will end our trip with just under a week there.

Then head back home = Seattle!

Thanks All ~ The J Family
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Dec 22nd, 2012, 08:58 AM
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I would not spend a week in Monterosso. Spend three nights( two full days) there as it will be crowded and it's all about the hiking; and the balance of the time a little bit north in one of the beach towns such as Levanto or lovely small city Santa Margherita Ligure.
After two weeks in Paris, take a train to Avignon and spend a week in Provence.
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Dec 22nd, 2012, 03:28 PM
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>>"(curious if there are "flex cars" in Italy similar to what they have in Seattle where we live - you can borrow a care for a single day and then park it back at their lot at night).<<

No. Doesn't exist in Italy.
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