Europe in 21 days

Old Mar 12th, 2014, 07:29 PM
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Venice has been 'touristy' for 500+ years - for a reason . . .
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 01:16 AM
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Don't miss Venice, you'd always regret it. Paris to Venice is a flight, not train.
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 02:23 AM
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Unless you have very specific reasons for wanting to be in Florence, I would eliminate it from your trip in favor of being in the countryside, at some elevation, with a pool. It is likely to be very hot at that time of year in Italy and Florence will be totally touristy and crowded. If you very much want to go, then do. But if you are looking for time in the countryside, this might be a frame for getting it.

You could also eliminate Venice. Your concerns about the touristy nature of Venice in July are totally valid. Venice is not the same place it was 500 years ago, 50 years ago, or even 5 years. Cruise shipping and the nature of mass tourism coming from China, South America, India and the former Soviet Repbulics has completely changed what being a tourist attraction has meant when it comes to Venice. Even the Venetians are up in arms about it.

Your family might enjoy staying on Lago di Garda near Verona and simply visiting Venice (although that means your only experience of Venice will be at its most packed moments during the day). If you like music, many people find it an unforgettable experience to attend the opera in the Roman arena in Verona, which takes place in July, when you would be there.

I don't have an opinion about whether you will have a successful trip to Venice. I certainly doubt you will always regret it if you don't go. (Adults usually don't have those kinds of problems and your kinds have plenty of time to visit some day.) But don't let people snorting and hurrumphing their displeasure and derision (and even threats) at you because you have the audacity to look beyond being a tourist and try to shape your trip to be the best for your family. Your concern is totally valid and you are right to raise it and think it over. Millions skip Venice and don't regret it. They have fabulous times elsewhere. Millions are glad they saw Venice despite the tourism and tackiness of many parts of it. Don't go for cookie cutter thinking when it comes to your own trip.
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 02:37 AM
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>>Venice has been 'touristy' for 500+ years - for a reason
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 02:41 AM
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PS. If you've never actually been to Venice yourself and are encouraging others to go, be nice if you explained why. (But mostly I'm curious about what year it was St Cirq, Adrienne, janisj and Rubicund were there.)
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 02:58 AM
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Well, Sandra certainly has the answer to avoiding 2 of the art capitals of the world. Florence is a treasure. Venice is an experience--both of these IMO. And it HAS been a long time since being there.
However I would not take 3 days in Venice. I could never miss Florence and its art. I would add a day to Paris.
I am always sort of bewildered at people who say "we've been to Paris but want____ to see it" as if one visit to Paris (or maybe any city comparable) is quite enough to have seen it all.
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 02:58 AM
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Well, Sandra certainly has the answer to avoiding 2 of the art capitals of the world. Florence is a treasure. Venice is an experience--both of these IMO. And it HAS been a long time since being there.
However I would not take 3 days in Venice. I could never miss Florence and its art. I would add a day to Paris.
I am always sort of bewildered at people who say "we've been to Paris but want____ to see it" as if one visit to Paris (or maybe any city comparable) is quite enough to have seen it all.
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 04:15 AM
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Well, wanting to go to art capitals would be the kind of specific reason with which I began my post, wouldn't it? But please notice the next time your are visiting that treasure that you are surrounded by thousands of people who wish they were in the countryside -- especially if they are traveling with kids -- and never realized, until they got to Florence, that it is mainly about seeing art inside buildings and shopping. And it is extremely crowded and hot in July.

What sort of bewilders me is that why anyone would think their choices are one-size fits all. People here talk as if "everybody" thinks alike. Also, I would point out that not everybody can afford to keep going back over and over again to the same places.

I also wanted to clarify in my original remarks that Venice, ever since landing on the Grand Tour, has always attracted international visitors, as Effie Ruskin noted a very long time ago (longer than the unspecified year that Gretchen went to Venice). So it is not anything new that people from China, South America, eastern Europe or India and Australia visit Venice. It is the sheer numbers in which people now arrive by boat, Ryan Air, long haul flight, etc. The number of people who can afford to travel because they have more money and travel is cheaper has exploded. And it has chiefly exploded on Venice and Florence in the past 10 years, to terrible effect. You can read about it newspapers and see it on TV and even more credible sources, like the vox pop internet.

When an obviously mature and thoughtful human being trying to plan a trip voices a concern about the degradation of Venice as a destination or expresses a thought about seeking out some enjoyment of the countryside or a quieter place with her family, getting slapped around with arch comments about art and top 10 tourist must sees doesn't look smart to me -- and it naturally raises the question of just how many years it has been that the people giving this lordly advice have actually been to these cities.

Like I said, millions go to Venice and Florence in July and love it! (Some have more fun just because they are so touristy with touristy things to do and they love chatting with other tourists.) But somebody concerned about making sure their family is actually enjoying the trip rather than time-punching the tourist must see list according to travel message forums is on the right track, not the wrong track, and shouldn't be sneered at.
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 05:06 AM
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just will throw a few thoughts out there - we have traveled with kids - although slightly younger and these are what they still talk about:

Italy - loved Venice (although we were there in November... but it was COLD then!). loved walking around and getting lost. yes, it is touristy, but people visit it for a reason - it is unique. I wouldn't skip if you are that close and the family is interested.

- Florence - we were there a short time and the kids were "meh" on it. We did a private tour and saw some art highlights - I will admit my 10yo impresses his teachers with his random knowledge of facts sometimes. They liked climbing the Duomo and the Bell Tower probably the best.

- favorite small town outside Florence - Lucca. Kids LOVED Lucca. We rented an apartment there and did a few day trips - to San Gimignano and to Pietrasanta (spent a day with a marble sculptor). Loved coming back to "our little town" - stopping into the local corner store and picking out what we would make for dinner that night (the freshly made ravioli and tortellini were big hits). Loved renting bikes and riding around the walls. We had so much fun doing it the first time, we went around a second lap!

We are now in the midst of planning our next European vacation and the constant refrain is "I like the little towns". It is a challenge to me to find one that is central to things we want to see and that we can find an apartment in.

good luck. engage the kids in planning - I have given my kids an assignment in the past where they had to pick something they were interested in and learn about it and teach the rest of the family. One of the kids did the Leaning Tower of Pisa - and we were so glad they did. When you climb that, there isn't any backstory or history so we were happy to have had it. (Did you know it stopped construction for 100 years and if it didn't, it would have tipped over? The break allowed the ground to settle.).

anyway, have a great time.
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 06:15 AM
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Staying in Venice is a radically better experience than staying outside Venice and daytripping in. Mornings and evenings the cruise ship crowds are gone and you have Venice to yourself. Nothing like staying in a town with no road traffic, no cars, no buses, no trucks, no vespas. Instead of roads there are canals plied by water buses and water taxis and delivery boats and garbage scows. Your kids will be fascinated.

Florence is also very crowded in the high season, and it's a place I think your children will find less interesting, as surfmom indicates.
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 07:41 AM
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Anyone else think sandralist sounds like zeppole?
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 08:08 AM
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Not sure who "she" sounds like, but I recognize an arrogant "when were you last in Venice" attitude when I hear it. FYI, I've been in Venice three times in the last four years and many times in the last 15 at all times of the year. I speak from recent experience and not from off a high horse.

I do believe that Venice is one of those world cities that you must see. I'm not put off by others who want to see it too, no matter where in the world they come from. Or by those who say that "it's far too crowded for my delicate sensibilities". It's not a choice between country or town you should see them both for yourself if you can and make your own mind up.
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 08:20 AM
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You can get from Paris to Venice & vice versa for €35 by train, if you book early enough, with couchettes. Other more expensive sleeping options are also available. Train takes about 14 hours, but you're asleep so you hardly waste any time. Tickets from http://www.trenitalia.com/ (click Union jack top right for English). brings you right to (or from) the waterfront in Venice. I did it 6 years ago, it was fine (& I'm over 6 foot tall), and have just bought tickets to do again in May the other way, from Venice.
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 08:30 AM
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Uh, ya think, janisj?
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 08:49 AM
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StCirq: Yup
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 09:37 AM
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I really appreciate everybody's advice. Although this is not our first trip to Europe, this is really the first time we are traveling for more than 10 days at the time.
I really liked the idea of having a few days off the big cities and go to the country side in Italy, certainly my kids love art and history but they would love to feel like a local for a few days... so I think we could reduce one night in Venice and instead of staying in Florence, stay in the country side near Florence or somewhere central. surfmom has suggested the town of Lucca, does anybody has other small/safe towns in mind? do you know a website where I can find condos? Is it a good idea to rent a car for those days between Venice and Rome? i.e. rent the car to drive to country side in Italy after visiting Venice and drop it off when we arrive to Rome?
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 09:50 AM
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Well, yes, if you truly want to see the countryside, a car is essential. There are hundreds of lovely towns in Tuscany (and Umbria), all of them perfectly safe. A good guidebook on Tuscany will reveal them to you. Everybody has his/her favorites. I like Pienza and the towns around it, but these days I actually prefer Umbria (it's like Tuscany was 20+ years ago before everyone and his brother "discovered" it. But you're not going to find condos much of anywhere in that area. Villas and apartments, yes. Check out venere.com.
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 10:10 AM
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Www.slowtrav.com is also an excellent resource for agriturismos
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