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3 Week Trip to Italy and Paris - Suggestions

3 Week Trip to Italy and Paris - Suggestions

Mar 6th, 2014, 02:23 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 7
3 Week Trip to Italy and Paris - Suggestions

Hi expert travelers to Italy/France!

I would like to take a trip to Italy and Paris in the fall. I'd like to start in Rome and end in Paris. In Italy I'd like to go to Rome, Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre and then Paris. Do you think a trip to Milan is worth it? On our trip we'd like to do a little of everything. Shopping, sightseeing and wine/food.

Since this is a big trip I'd like to save money where I can without having to stay in shady hotels. Any suggestions on this? Also we plan to take the train, is there any suggestions or things to note about traveling by train? Also any suggestions on what areas we should stay?

We do not plan on renting a car and looking into those airbnb places to stay.

More importantly, how many days do you think we should stay in each place?

We've never been to Europe so anything you can tell us would be great!! Thanks!
misweet is offline  
Mar 6th, 2014, 02:50 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
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Also we plan to take the train, is there any suggestions or things to note about traveling by train?

I'd suggest landing in Rome, taking train to Florence, then via La Spezia to the Cinque Terre, then via Milan or back thru Florence to Venice

Venice has an overnight train to Paris - at least for the moment as its fate is uncertain but is still running - otherwise it is a long day train -so consider flying Venice to Paris.

If you have a few days to spare you could go via Switzerland and spend a few days there before heading to Paris.

another possible route would be to go via Nice and the Riviera and Provence - if you have lots of time - all easily done by train.

For lots of great info on trains check out these IMO superb sites - www.ricksteves.com; www.seat61.com and www.budgeteuropetravel.com - don't even think about any 2-country or more railpass like the France and Italy Pass unless you are taking day trains via Milan and Turin to Paris - the pass is not valid on the Thello overnight train I mention Venice to Paris (www.thello.com for fares and specials - save on the cost of a hotel and travel time city centre to city center).
check www.trenitalia.com for Italian schedules and fares - can get nice discounts by booking far in advance to nab the limited in number discounted tickets which also are non-changeable (at that special fare) and non-refundable - if wanting full flexibility just buy regular full fare tickets as you go along - rarely any problem getting on trains - and if going full fare then check out the Italy (only) Railpass - and especially so if wanting first class which has singificant benefits over 2nd class, especially for folks carrying perhaps too much luggage - easier to stow and seats bigger, coimplementary snack and beverages, etc. But most find 2nd class perfectly adequate - I prefer strongly first class and advise that for folks on the trip on a lifetime - much more relaxed in many ways.

How many days in each - Rome 3 full days plus landing day - Florence 3 full days - Venice three days - add in more if possible to say do a day trip to one of those proverbial iconic Tuscan hill towns from Florence (Siena is a great one and just a few euro one hour or so bus ride from Florence - en route to Cinque Terre you could stop off in Pisa to see the Leaning Tower as you have to go thru Pisa to get to the 5 Terre.

Paris I would aim at 4 full days.
PalenQ is online now  
Mar 6th, 2014, 04:11 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 243
If you decide to stop in Switzerland, I'd recommend Kandersteg, which is a lovely little town with a beautiful hike to a beautiful lake. We spent three days in Rome, a couple of nights in Tuscany (Volterra), two or three nights in Vernazza, which is one of the places I still go to in my mind when I want to be happy. We had a rental car, but turned it in in Pisa and took the train to Vernazza, then were going to take the train from Vernazza to Venice. But there was a train strike, so we had to get a rental car in Pisa. We drove it to Venice, stopping for a few hours in Florence. Spent three nights in Venice, one in Kandersteg, then on to Paris. By the time we got to Paris, we'd seen SO MUCH BEAUTY in Italy, that by comparison, Paris was rather drab. I know that's probably not very popular to say, but it's the way I felt. I'd definitely spend three days in Rome and three in Venice. Two, maybe, in Cinque Terra (you want to be there one full day so you can take a boat to all the other villages, or at least to some of them, and maybe hike from one to another). I agree that if you are staying in Florence, you can take some side trips to Siena or another hill town (we went to six of them in one day with our rental car, dragged our family into Volterra at midnight, but it was worth it).

Have fun!
CindyW is offline  
Mar 6th, 2014, 04:14 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 11,212
Milan is worth a trip to see the cathedral, Last Supper, and opera house. There's a large shopping galleria.

In Italy you can stay in convents - get the book Bed and Blessings or check Santa Suzanna church (the American Catholic church in Rome) for convent recommendations. Also look at Let's Go guide books, they have never let me down for good budget lodgings.

Apartments are also a good way to save money and have more space to spread out. You don't have to cook but you can get take out foods and keep breakfast items, drinks, and snacks on hand.

Rome - 5 days
Florence - 3/4 days
Venice - 3 days
Cinque Terre - 2 days
Paris - 5 days

You can play around with the amount of time in each location but remember that you'll also need time to get from one place to another.

Since this is your first trip you might want to take a night train from Venice or Milan to Paris. It's part of the European experience. I see one direct train from Venice leaving at 19:20, the train from Milan leaving at 22:55, both arriving in Paris at 9:30. Pack some food, wine, and don't forget the water to brush your teeth!
adrienne is offline  
Mar 6th, 2014, 06:31 PM
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Wow thanks everyone! I will definitely look into all those websites. The train info is very helpful.

I was on the fence with Milan but I think I will try to fit that in. Vernazza was not on my radar so I will look into it but it seems like it might be a bit far. Now I want to go to all the places!

I didn't know about the convent rooming, I will definitely look into that. We were probably going to take a plane to Paris. But the overnight train sounds like it might be fun. I've never taken a train like that before, I get motion sickness easily, do you think that would be an issue? I will get some meds for nausea regardless before I go.

So here is a potential itinerary:

Rome (4-5 nights) - naples?
Train to Florence
Florence (3 nights) Siena/Pisa?
Train to Cinque Terre?
Cinque Terre (4 nights)
Train to Venice
Milan (2 nights)
Venice (3 nights)
Plane/Train to Paris
Paris (6 nights)

I think that correlates with some of the suggestions you all made. I think I might need to knock off a day in CT to add to Florence?

Some other questions.

1. What did you find was the easiest way to exchange currency? We have credit cards that don't charge international fees, but for times we need cash.

2. Maps? I was thinking of getting maps for certain cities, should I? I was looking into downloading maps onto my phone or ipad? Did you guys have a map you found helpful? I'd rather be able to have a physical map since I obviously won't have internet/wifi etc.

3. I'm sure everything about us will scream tourist, but my husband has one of those big SLR cameras. Do you think that's a bit much to bring? I'm sure he will regardless. Any tips regarding carrying one of those? I just don't want to be targeted.

Thanks you all!!!
misweet is offline  
Mar 7th, 2014, 06:53 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 77,001
ATMs are ubiquitous for getting cash out and do not charge any fees - only what your local bank charges for foreign ATM use - often a $5 plus a small % but call them and ask to be sure - if there is a flat fee you want to take out the max each time - if there is a $5 fee you would not want to take out say $20 leaving yourself with $15 total.
PalenQ is online now  
Mar 7th, 2014, 07:30 AM
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 2,672
Your itinerary looks pretty good for 3 weeks. By and large, you have a reasonable amount of time in each place. The exception is Cinque Terre. Unless you are avid hikers and going very early in the fall, 4 days is too long. There isn't much else to do but hike and eat.

As for your questions:

Don't exchange currency. Use ATMs - they are everywhere and the most economical way of getting money for items you can't charge on a credit card.

We love the Streetwise maps - especially for Rome and Paris. Otherwise, we have been downloading maps. Suggest you do it soon as it is nice to spend some time looking at maps to familiarize yourselves with the cities beforehand.

Few of us can hide the fact that we are tourists so don't worry. If your husband wants to take his big camera, good.

Sounds like a nice trip - enjoy!
mamcalice is offline  
Mar 7th, 2014, 09:26 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 5,736
I think you have too much on your list. You have to remember that you lose about 1/2 day each time you move (repack/checking out/trans to train station/train/trans to hotel/check in). Too much.

It would be important for us to know what time of year you are going. This will help determine what places you might want to skip/how long in each place. (For instance, if you are going in October, the CT might not be a place you want to spend a lot of time.)

You should set your dates in country. Then set your cities. Then buy your airline tickets, then your train tickets. This is based on the fact that you said you would like to save money where you can. Once you get your cities and dates set, buying train tickets in advance can save you considerable money. Hotels/apartment accommodations would be last to book.

I think a more reasonable itinerary might be:

Fly into Rome
Spend nights 1-5 in Rome
Day 6, train to Florence
Spend nights 6-10 in Florence
(One Florence day, bus to/from Siena for a lovely day trip)
Train to Venice
Spend nights 11-13 in Venice
Fly to Paris
Spend nights 14-20 in Paris
Fly Home from Paris

(I would skip the CT on this trip. And there is so much to see in Rome, I don't think you should include Naples either. However, if you really have to, you can do Pompeii on a day trip from Rome. It will be a long day, but many people do it. But, again, this is going to add more expense to your trip. The fewer cities, the cheaper it will be.)

I also think that you should shop for accommodation. AirBNB is not the only place you can look. Also try SleepInItaly.com and RentalInRome.com. Even VRBO.com. Having an apartment can be cost-efficient if you are fixing most of your own meals. (Gotta love having a box of cereal and milk in the frig for late-night snacking. haha) Depending on the time of year, though, there may be restrictions on minimum stays.

One other thing, in Italy at least, is to stay in that convent or monastery. Some serve continental breakfast, some don't. Most have private rooms/baths. Some have A/C and some don't- if you're going in summer, remember to get a room with A/C. You won't get a tv, phone or wifi- but they do provide clean rooms. http://www.monasterystays.com/

Have a lovely trip! I know you'll love Italy!

PS If you save in other places and want a small splurge- I suggest getting a driver/guide for one day into Tuscany to do site-seeing, wine tastings, etc. Many fine recommendations can be found here. Do a search. I can recommend Luca Garrapa of hillsandroads.com. He was awesome. He picked us up in Siena, but can pick you up at your hotel in Florence. (Or you could bus to Siena for like E7 and meet him there.) Anyway, others posting here may also have suggestions for guides in that area. They are plentiful.

PPS When booking trains between cities in Italy, you'll want to depart Roma Termini(Rome) to Firenze S.M.Novella(Florence), to Venezia S.Lucia (Venice). If you are going to CT, you cannot book that online, it is a regional train and you can buy those when you get to Italy.
sarge56 is offline  
Mar 7th, 2014, 10:07 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 11,212
<< I get motion sickness easily, do you think that would be an issue? >>

Do you get motion sick in a car or on a bus? If not then a train won't be a problem.

I agree with Streetwise maps; I love them. When not using them as maps I use them for sitting on stone walls, damp benches, etc. as they're laminated - multi purpose!

I would not add Naples and if you're planning on seeing Siena and Pisa you'll need to add more time to Florence as Siena and Pisa are in two different directions from Florence and they're both an hour away from Florence.

If you visit Cinque Terre then don't travel from Venice to Milan to Venice. You're wasting time going back and forth and wasting money on duplicate train tickets.
adrienne is offline  
Mar 7th, 2014, 04:55 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,358
I'd scrap Milano in favor of other places. Good fast flights Venice to Paris.
RonZ is offline  
Mar 7th, 2014, 07:00 PM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 5,736
If you have a big box bookstore near you- go and browse the Italian and Parisian guidebooks. Find ones you like. (I love DK Eyewitness Guides because I'm a visual person. Many people love the Fodor guides [I have several] and Rick Steves. But you really need to browse and find one that works for you.)

If very budget conscious, try your library. And Rick Steves has many free walking tours, etc via download. Look for Rick Steves Europe. Very good free 'tours' and you can also download maps to go with them.
sarge56 is offline  
Mar 8th, 2014, 07:21 AM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 243
I get motion sick, too (cars, planes, buses, merry go rounds, you name it), and did fine on the train from Venice to Paris. I wore those elastic pressure point bracelets that you can get at the drugstore. They really helped. I rode ferries, gondolas, all kinds of transportation that would normally make me sick, and only felt sick once (ferry in to the Outer Hebrides). But having said that, I'd definitely have some Dramamine with me--I find that it works pretty fast.

As much as I LOVE Vernazza, I agree that four days in Cinque Terra is too much given all the rest that there is to see.
CindyW is offline  
Mar 8th, 2014, 01:38 PM
Original Poster
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Posts: 7
We booked our flight already and here is are working itinerary.

We arrive on September 19.

Rome - 4 Nights
Florence - 5 Nights
Day trip to Sienna
Wine Tour
Cinque Terra - 3 nights
Milan - 2 nights
Venice - 3 Nights
Paris - 6 nights

Leave Oct. 12

What would be the weather like in Cinque Terra end of September? Rainy?
misweet is offline  
Mar 9th, 2014, 09:33 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 77,001
Weather in Sep in 5 Lands should be perfect - I was there one October, early, and it was in the upper 70s the whole time but as a sea climate can very of course.
PalenQ is online now  

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