Car or Train travel in France/Italy ?

Jul 9th, 2007, 04:30 PM
  #1  
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Car or Train travel in France/Italy ?

I come from New Zealand where we drive on the left. I have driven successfully in the USA where the roads are wide and the drivers obedient.

I am travelling with my family - husband and 2 children 13/17 - for 3 weeks in September.

Starting from Bordeaux, I want to spend a week or so in the South of France and a similar time in Italy seeing Florence, Rome and Pompeii.

The big question is: hire a car or travel by train? The car gives flexibility but I am concerned about driving on the "wrong" side of the road if continental drivers are as inconsiderate as rumoured!

Train means 4 people hauling luggage from train stations to accommodation.

Any opinions?
jaybee51 is offline  
Jul 9th, 2007, 04:36 PM
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Continental drivers are not inconsiderate.

They are fast drivers - but by and large much better drivers than Americans - following rules about sticking to the right except when passing. They have a higher level of competance and expect the same from you - which makes driving easier IMHO - rather than more difficult.

(You aren;t running into soccer moms with giant SUVs occupying 2 entire lanes, or elderly driving in the left lane at 55, or dashboard diners wandering all over the road while they eat.)
nytraveler is offline  
Jul 9th, 2007, 04:42 PM
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MaureenB
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We loved train travel in Italy and France, too. It's relaxing (once you haul your luggage on-board), to be able to read or watch scenery, get a snack, use the bathroom, etc.
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Jul 9th, 2007, 04:43 PM
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I suggest that you hire a car for your South of France portion and not for Florence, Rome and Pompeii.

For the former, it'll be fairly easy as you'll be in mostly rural areas. For the latter, you'd not want a car no matter what...

TuckH is offline  
Jul 9th, 2007, 05:19 PM
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What would you recommend for Florence. Is it better to stay outside Florence with a car and visit Pisa, San Gimi etc. Or train to Florence and use day-trip buses?
jaybee51 is offline  
Jul 9th, 2007, 05:26 PM
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What part of the "South of France" are you interested in seeing? Seems a bit weird to start in Bordeaux and, with only a week, want to end up all over Italy.

At any rate, European drivers IME are more skilled than American drivers, so I don't think there's anything to be particularly worried about.

If you rent a car in France and drop it off in Italy, be prepared to be charged a hefty fee for a drop-off in a country different from where you picked it up. You might be better off doing two rentals, with a short train ride between the French drop-off and the Italian pick-up.
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Jul 9th, 2007, 05:31 PM
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nbujic
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some people find it easy driving " on the wrong side" some don't.
You may wish to try both :the train part of the way and driving in smaller towns. We found Italians and French drive fast and , as my husband put it
"right on your ass".
The roads and parking are much different than in US.
 
Jul 9th, 2007, 06:20 PM
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We always drive down from Rome to Southern Italy...but...I'd take the train for the spots you want to see! They are all very easy to get to by train...no reason to bother with a car and add extra stress.
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Jul 10th, 2007, 05:32 AM
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>What would you recommend for Florence. Is it better to stay outside Florence with a car and visit Pisa, San Gimi etc. Or train to Florence and use day-trip buses?<

With only "a week or so" in Italy, I'd refrain from visiting Pisa, San Gimi etc. A day or two in Florence, 4 or 5 in Rome and one in Pompeii should do it...
TuckH is offline  
Jul 10th, 2007, 05:51 AM
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I second the recommendation to have a car in South of France and train travel in Italy. We just spent four weeks in Europe travelling with 3 smaller kids - with one week in SOuth of France and 10 days in Italy. Picked up our car in Avignon - and dropped in Monte Carlo before heading to Italy. This was ideal for us as we definitely needed car to get to areas we wanted to see in Provence, however it was so relaxing in Italy to just use trains without any need to focus on navigating for me or driving for DH.
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Jul 10th, 2007, 06:01 AM
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ira
 
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Hi J,

>I have driven successfully in the USA where the roads are wide and the drivers obedient.<

Well we do have wide roads, but obedient drivers? Where have you driven?

Anyway,

1: In France and Italy the roads are not as wide, but neither are the cars.

2: In France, the roads are well maintained and well marked.

3: In France, the police have cracked down on DUI and the drivers are now more alert.

4: If you rent a car in France and drop it off in Italy you will pay a large drop-off fee.

For visiting the South of France, a car would be better than trains.

For visiting Florence, Rome and Pompeii, I think the trains would be better.

>...continental drivers are as inconsiderate as rumoured!

I'd much rather drive in France than in Georgia, USA.

ira is offline  
Jul 10th, 2007, 06:24 AM
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Don't get worried about driving on the wrong side of the road. Millions of us do it every year. Still can't understand why they do it, but then they have all sort of weird habits, and that's just one of them.

Which said, I'm not sure lugging bags from a railway station is that much tougher than finding most hotels. Make sure you've got really good street plans of everywhere you're going: the red Michelins for France and Italy never leave our car for that very reason.

You've got no chance of seeing smallish-town Tuscany in the same week as Florence and Rome. Choose one strategy.

If it's small town Tuscany, keep the car then drive it back to France. If Florence and Rome, leave the car in France.
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Jul 10th, 2007, 08:40 AM
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Agree with the car in France, train in Italy suggestions. As for day trips from Florence, Pisa is an easy train ride. Siena is better visited by bus; it stops in the center of the city whereas the train station is outside the walls. (The bus station is Florence is across the street from the main train station.)

Just one caution. The trains in Italy are subject to strikes. Put some ease into your schedule.
Mimar is offline  
Jul 10th, 2007, 03:19 PM
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The only driving I've done in USA was in Detroit: wide roads - follow the car in front of you. We have terrific head-on-smashes here in NZ with drivers from overseas. When a driving emergency arises, the instincts are to revert to the 'wrong' side of the road.

I'm reconsidering this trip. My daughter is doing an exchange in Bordeaux. We want to spend 3-4 days there visiting her French family.
Then I have 2 weeks to travel.
I have never been to the south of France or Italy. New Zealand is so far away and our money isn't worth much. I think this could be the only trip I make - and that puts the pressure on to 'get it right' !!

Bordeaux,unfortunately, is not the most convenient starting point for seeing Italy.

I thought we could drive from Bordeaux to the border - seeing Carcasonne, Aix-en-Provence, and eating.
Then take appartments and spend 3-4 nights each in Florence, Rome and Pompeii. We can fly home from Nice or Rome.

I could skip South of France and spend that time in small-town Tuscany.

I love food and art and culture.
jaybee51 is offline  
Jul 10th, 2007, 03:51 PM
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>I could skip South of France and spend that time in small-town Tuscany.<

I think that's a very good idea!

I suggest that you fly from Bordeaux to Pisa, hire a car there and visit Florence from outside the city, staying in a rural lodging. Spend a week in Tuscany visiting the hilltowns before turning the car in at Orvieto, then taking the train to Rome. Maybe go to Ostia Antica instead of the more distant Pompeii.
TuckH is offline  
Jul 10th, 2007, 04:08 PM
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Does one drive to the outskirts of Florence and bus to the centre? or is there eaasy parking some where?
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Jul 10th, 2007, 04:21 PM
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Only flight from Bordeaux to Pisa goes through Gatwick ($117)- or Paris and Rome for $1000 !!!!
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Jul 10th, 2007, 04:35 PM
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>Does one drive to the outskirts of Florence and bus to the centre?<

Yes, or better yet, stay in a town with bus or rail service to Florence. Lokk for something to the south of Florence.

>Only flight from Bordeaux to Pisa goes through Gatwick ($117)- or Paris and Rome for $1000 !!!!<

Try flying to Florence.
TuckH is offline  
Jul 10th, 2007, 04:35 PM
  #19  
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Just found Myair - 60 euro to Bologna.
Have never heard of this airline. Is it likely to go bust before September?
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Jul 11th, 2007, 02:53 AM
  #20  
ira
 
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HI J,

myair has been in business for some time.

Have you checked flights at www.whichbudget.com?

ira is offline  

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