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European Trip Itinerary – Critique Requested

European Trip Itinerary – Critique Requested

Old Aug 11th, 2000, 03:04 AM
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European Trip Itinerary – Critique Requested


For the last 8 months I have been planning a 17-day trip to Europe with my wife (25th anniversary). We’ll be leaving in about 45 days. I’ve bought and studied the guidebooks and the maps, and done a lot of research via the Internet (at Fodors, Rick Steves, Travels with Ed & Julie, Frommers and many more sites).

I must say the insights published in this forum has been INCREDIBLY HELPFUL, and the planning very enjoyable.

And now, I’d like to request from the many experts that visit this site a critique of my itinerary. Please add your comments, analysis and suggestions to the proposed plan. Here goes:

SEP/29 - Arrive LONDON at about 11:00 via Gatwick airport. Take Gatwick Express to Victoria station and underground to hotel. Have reservations at The Vicarage Hotel for 5 nights.

SEP/30 to OCT/3 LONDON: Plan to visit most of the major tourist sights, see 2-3 theatre shows, take one day-trip to either Bath or Cambridge. Travel mostly by underground/train.

OCT/4 – Depart LONDON via Eurostar at 07:23, arrive PARIS Gare du Nord at 11:00. Take metro to. hotel. Have reservations at the Hotel Latour-Mauburg for 2 nights.

OCT/4 P.M. and OCT/5 – PARIS: Plan to visit Versailles and follow recommendations for a short visit made by Elvira to other questions on this site. Good food and wine are one of our top priorities for Paris.

OCT/6 – Depart PARIS via Thalys at 07:55, arrive BRUSSELS Midi at 09:20. Take taxi (scenic drive to view the city along the way) to airport. Depart BRUSSELS via Virgin Express at 12:40, arrive ROME at 14:50. Take train to Termini, and metro to hotel. Have reservations at Hotel Duca d’Alba for 5 nights.

OCT/7 to OCT/10 ROME: Plan to visit most of the major tourist sights, including the Vatican and St. Peter’s. Eating and drinking good wine and just having a good time is our agenda. Travel mostly by metro/bus.

OCT/11 – Depart ROME via Eurostar at 06:30, arrive FLORENCE S.M. Novella at 08:05. Rent a car at Hertz. Drive to Lucca via A11 and S435, then to Pisa via S12, continuing to San Gimigniano via S67, and then on to Siena (S2 ?); we hope to arrive around dusk. Have Reservations in Siena at Hotel Santa Caterina for 2 nights.
Old Aug 11th, 2000, 03:05 AM
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OCT 12 – SIENA/TUSCANY: No definite plans. Just drive around and enjoy the atmosphere. Paulo’s walking tour of Siena (published in the site) is definite a possibility.

OCT 13 – Drive back to FLORENCE, return rental car around mid-morning. Have reservations at Hotel Pendini for 2 nights. Drop off luggage and hit the streets to wander around.

OCT 14 – OCT/15 morning FLORENCE: Of course visit the Uffizzi, view the David and visit as many museums as we can comfortably accommodate. Food and wine still top in our list.

OCT 15 – Depart FLORENCE on Eurostar at 15:13, arrive MILAN at 18:00. Have reservations at Hotel Villa Malpensa for the night. No set plans; just gather the memories of what we hope will be a memorable trip and a quiet dinner.

OCT 16 – Depart MILAN at 12:35 for trip back home.

Additional Info:

1. I am almost obsessive/compulsive about trip planning. My wife is not, she is more easy-going and laid back. We’ve tried to keep a BALANCE in our plan. I do not want to become a “travel nazi” (as someone in this site very appropriately put it).

2. There is still some flexibility in our plan but some of the segments are quite firm. For example, arrival and departure cities to/from Europe and dates are set, as we are travelling with frequent-flyer tickets, and reservations were VERY DIFFICULT to obtain.

3. This is our second trip to Europe. Have not been there in over 20 years. We travel about once a year but mostly in the US/Mexico/Caribbean/Central & South America region.

4. Areas of interest: art, museums, music, people watching and definitely GOOD FOOD AND WINE.

5. Paris was not part of our original itinerary, and was added later on – so please don’t criticize us for assigning only two days (almost) to this city. If we both like it (and I suspect we will) it will be an excuse to return and spend more time there.

Well folks that’s it. Once again thanks for the information and advice.
Old Aug 11th, 2000, 03:10 AM
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I don't understand why it appears that you are going from Paris to Rome via Brussels if you are not stopping en route (sorry, but a drive from the railway station to the airport at Brussels doesn't really count). The countryside is not particularly outstanding that way. Why not take one of the TGV routes towards the South of France and go down through North Italy to Rome?
Old Aug 11th, 2000, 03:25 AM
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Guido has done his homework. This (Paris to Rome on Virgin Express, via Brussels) cuts the trip time and the cost almost in half.

For someone who has not been to Europe in 20 years, and only once then, you have learned well, Guido.
Old Aug 11th, 2000, 05:44 AM
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Sounds great. Just two minor points:

The scenic taxi drive around Brussels won't be very scenic, in my opinion.

I don't know whether your driving plan after the arrival at Florence might be a little bit hectical. But nothing worse can happen than arriving late at Sienna. I would make sure to get a street map of Sienna in Florence to avoid the problem of finding your hotel.
Old Aug 11th, 2000, 06:11 AM
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Suggest you re-check your rail schedule from Brussels to Rome. Your original posting shows you making this trip in 2 hours and 10 minutes.
Old Aug 11th, 2000, 06:26 AM
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One comment, Oct 11: Florence - Lucca - Pisa - San G - Siena. Just driving this route would take most of the day. The roads connecting you to the highway from San G are very scenic and windy. Parking your car can also take quite a bit of time also.
Old Aug 11th, 2000, 06:43 AM
Brian in Atlanta
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Just 2 points:

With so little time in Paris, I'd skip Versailles unless you have a special reason for seeing it. It's over-touristed and wasn't as impressive as we expected. Plus, the train will take over an hour of your time each way (counting time waiting for the train).

And if the above has convinced you not to take a taxi in Brussels, the train connection to the airport is fast and easy.

Have fun.
Old Aug 11th, 2000, 06:44 AM
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Guido, When you train to Florence why not just stay there then. Get your car as you leave Florence, see San Gim. and
Volterra enroute to Siena . Then, as you
leave Siena keep the car and drive via Lucca to the coast---staying at either
Portovenere or Santa Margherita enroute
to Malpensa. How do you plan to get to
Villa Malpensa from Milan?
Old Aug 11th, 2000, 09:31 AM
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Thank you all for your interest and feedback.

Julian: as mentioned by xxx, the reason I’m going Paris to Rome via Brussels is time and cost.

Hans: the scenic taxi drive is an idea that came up when reading responses on this site to a question on what to do with a 4 hour layover in the Brussels airport. The responses suggested drop the bags in a locker, then taking a taxi with an English-speaking driver and viewing the Grand Platz. As we’ll have about 3 hours to get from the train station to the airport, I thought I would give this a try. Any other suggestions are welcome.

Al: the Brussels to Rome segment is on Virgin Express (airplane NOT train).

amg: your comment on Florence – Lucca – Pisa – San G – Siena are well taken. I’m tempted to cut Pisa out of the plan.

Brian: the trip to Versaille is NOT a must for us. Your input is appreciated.

Bob: I had not thought of that. Our thinking was, to keep it simple pick-up and drop-off the car at the same location. We’ll consider this alternative if we can arrange the reservations. Had planned to take the shuttle bus from Milan Centrale station to Malpensa airport, then either the hotel shuttle bus or a taxi to the hotel.

TO ALL: this is what I love about the Forum. Your expertise will be sure to help me and other travelers have a more enjoyable experience. One more time, thanks.

Old Aug 11th, 2000, 12:08 PM
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In case you end up maintaining your plan for Florence and Siena, I can't see any good reason for staying in a hotel near Malpensa (taking the shuttle to the airport, taxi to the hotel and back, and being locked in the middle of nowhere). If you want to keep it simple, pick a hotel near Milano's train station, enjoy your last night in Italy dining out and get it over with directly to the airport with the shuttle bus.

Old Aug 11th, 2000, 12:28 PM
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Guido, what a great trip you will have, and how fun to have a go at your itinerary.
I had the same thought as Brian--skip Versailles if you have only two days in Paris. I was underwhelmed by Versailles myself as well and there is so much else you can see while IN Paris itself. You will barely scratch the surface. Also, in Paris I would plan to just sit around and soak up the atmosphere while you savor the surroundings and the great food and wine AND your 25th anniversary. Don't rush around too much, in other words.
Congratulations and don't forget to post a trip report on your return. Somehow, with the thoroughness of your research and planning, I think you WILL remember! Bon voyage....soon. kk
Old Aug 11th, 2000, 03:55 PM
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Two more minor adjustments.

From London I think you would enjoy a day trip to Bath, more than Cambridge, unless you are particularly interested in the University buildings at Cambridge.
The train ride to Bath is much more scenic, as is Bath itself when you get there.
On arrival Rome Termini, DONT use the metro to your hotel - it is horrible, and with luggage would be a nightmare.
Splurge on a taxi, otherwise your first impressions of Rome won't be good.
At Rome termini also, ignore all the touts offering bad help and go to the official taxi rank.
Old Aug 12th, 2000, 08:14 AM
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Guido, it sounds pretty good to me. No two people would plan exactly the same trip, but here are a couple of my thoughts as opposed to some of the other comments. After visiting Versailles, you will always compare every other castle or palace you ever visit to it, so I say, "go for it!" I personally liked Pisa, but only because we spent the night there and really wandered this true Italian city -- non-touristy once away from the tower, which is not worth the day trip in my opinion. I agree about taking a taxi to the hotel in Rome, and I would do the same in Paris. By the time you buy two tickets on the train from the airport to Rome, then take a taxi or metro the rest of the way, you might as well just take a taxi, and you won't be faced with hauling the luggage from point A to B. Traveling with luggage on the Paris Metro is no treat either. Splurge for the taxis. Whatever you decide to do for the final plan, you will have great fun. I think you have planned appropriate amounts of time so that you won't be ready to move on before schedule, or feel that you didn't get enough feel of a place. Yes, you will want to go back to most of these places anyway.
Old Aug 12th, 2000, 08:28 AM
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Your trip sounds wonderful, but I can't help but wonder why when you're only going to be 2 1/2 hours by train from the most magnificent/romantic city in the world why you wouldn't make a stop over in Venice. It will be worthwhile! (Recommendation: Pensione Calcina for lodging).
Old Aug 12th, 2000, 08:29 AM
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One more suggestion, even better than getting the map for Sienna before you leave Florence. I have now gotten in the habit of emailing (or faxing, if necessary) each hotel we are arriving at by car, telling them where we are coming from, and asking for directions to the hotel. So far it has been 100% successful. It works so much better than a map, because the hotel will advise you of one way streets, or other problems you can't detect from the average map.
Old Aug 16th, 2000, 03:37 PM
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UPDATE ON ITINERARY: After thinking about Bob the Navigator's suggestion, and discussing it over the map with my wife, we have made the following changes.

OCT 11 & 12: Florence

OCT 13 &14 Pick up rental car, drive to San G, Siena & surroundings.

OCT 15: Drive from Siena to Lucca continuing to Santa Margherita. Sleep there and proceed the next day to Malpensa, return rental and go home.

This will give us the opportunity to catch a glimpse of another part of Italy that was not on our agenda. Another excuse to return.

To Paulo: If we had stuck with the original plan, you recommendation is very valid. Thanks!

To kk: thanks for the tip so slow down. I plan on posting a trip report when we’re back.

To Tony: OK, then Bath wins. Taxi to the hotel: why not?

To the other Guido: We are planning a trip to Venice/Vienna/Munich for 2001, as we have some friends in Vienna and Munich we want to visit. Thanks.

Patrick: thanks for the tip on driving directions to the hotel in Siena , I’ll try it out (also to the hotel in Santa Margherita). Sounds logical.
Old Aug 17th, 2000, 08:32 AM
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Guido Your wife is lucky to have someone so willing to attend to the details. Three Florence notes: DO contact the Uffizi to pre-book tickets, line-ups are frustrating and unnecessary,DO visit Fiesole by city bus (available at Saint Maria Novello train/bus terminal) and go to see Etruscan ruins and charming museum and Do visit Trattoria Antellesi at Via Faenza 9 (very central) and enjoy a reasonable (50-80,000lira per person) meal which , although it does do the tourist thing also serves some excellent and authentic Florence dishes. Try the ragu with boar, any pasta, pear and peccorinno salad; and excellent wine list and say hi to Joe (no,really not Guiseppe,he's from Montreal) and his wife are a colourful couple. And tell us all about it whn you get back, so often I wonder how folks enjoyed the trips they talk about on Fodors!!
Old Aug 17th, 2000, 11:42 AM
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Good job Guido, You will have a great
trip. It is always nice to see someone
really pay attention to the details--it
can make all the difference. Let us know
your feedback upon your return.
Old Aug 18th, 2000, 09:05 AM
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Lee: I've taken note of your recommendations on Uffizi, Fiesole and Trattoria Antellesi. Thanks!

As I mentioned before, I plan on posting a trip report when we return.

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