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Nov 9th, 2016, 04:59 AM
  #1
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First post - first time to europe

Hi everyone, I am planning for my first trip to europe next year (Sept - Oct) for 30 nights! This will be for me and my wife. After much and much (and much!) consideration, I am choosing to go to France, Italy, and Greece. Our interest is to see a balance of good architecture and good scenery. Eating good food is a must. We are not interested in too many museums visit, 1 or 2 is okay. Drafted this rough itinerary after reading so many articles:

France (10 nights)
1. Sydney fly to Paris - 4 nights
2. Provence (base where?) - 3 nights
3. French Riviera (base in Nice) - 3 nights

Rome (11 nights)
1. Nice fly to Venice - 3 nights
2. Tuscany (base in Florence and 1 other small town where?) - 5 nights
3. Rome - 3 nights

Greece (9 nights)
1. Rome fly to Athens - 3 nights
2. Naxos - 3 nights
3. Santorini - 3 nights
4. Santorini fly to Athens to Sydney

Need your help with a few questions:
1. Do you think the places that I visit provide enough variety? The last thing that I want is to visit city after city that feel the same, it will bore us.
2. Do you think the order of itinerary makes sense, can it be arranged better?
3. Within my allocated time of each country, do you think there is a better combination of city that I should go instead?
4. Which city should I stay in Province?
5. Which city should I stay in Tuscany rural?

Thank you for any input, and I appreciate if you refrain from commenting like: "30 nights are too much for 3 countries, what the heck are you thinking? You should visit 1 or 2 instead!". I know that 10 days in one country is not going to give enough time to experience it fully, but I am satisfied to get the "taste" of the country. Seeing that I don't have many opportunities to go abroad and my dream is to visit as many countries in the world as I can, I don't have the luxury to experience a single country "thoroughly", at least not in the near future.
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Nov 9th, 2016, 05:11 AM
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Sorry typo above, don't think I can edit the post
I meant Italy (11 nights) NOT Rome (11 nights)
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Nov 9th, 2016, 05:31 AM
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How are you going to get around?.
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Nov 9th, 2016, 05:34 AM
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1) I suppose variety is somewhat in the eye of the beholder, but I would say that Paris is different enough to Nice and Provence and Rome and Florence and Athens and so forth, that you have plenty of variety. Paris feels and looks nothing like Rome or Venice, if that's what you're asking. If you mean something else by variety, please explain. You don't have to spend any time in large cities if you don't want to.

I will let others more expert than I comment on your Greece plans.

2) I think the order (France-Italy-Greece) seems okay. It's not like some itineraries where a person posits Munich-Rome-London-Athens-Edinburgh-Barcelona-Vienna-London-Frankfurt-Dublin or some such nonsense.

That's about all I can help with, at this point. I'm sure you will get other responses.

I am sure you know this, but every time you change locations, you spend time and money to do so. It's your trip, so whatever you want to do is fine, but make sure you are comfortable with the cost and the pace of your trip.
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Nov 9th, 2016, 05:55 AM
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I think you have enough variety, but I think you need to do a bit more research - you don't seem to know, for example, that the "French RIviera" is IN Provence, which is a very large area. Within it, you may want to divide your time between the Côte d'Azur and somewhere inland, perhaps in Les Alpilles or the Lubéron.

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This question doesn't make sense to me. Either you are looking for a city, in which case the obvious answer is Firenze, or you are looking for someplace rural, which could be any number of towns in Toscana.
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Nov 9th, 2016, 07:23 AM
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Already TONS of variety. A bit fast paced especially for the main cities -- and most especially for Paris (jet lag will likely kill one day there) and Rome. But not terrible.

Re the Greece leg -- you do NOT want to be on Santorini the same day as your return flight. If there are delays or cancellations you will miss your flight and have to buy a full fare, walk-up ticket home. You should return to Athens the afternoon/evening before your flight.
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Nov 9th, 2016, 07:34 AM
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Where to stay in inland Provence and rural Tuscany depends on whether you have a car or not. A car is best for these areas.

As for Greece, conventional wisdom says go directly to one of the islands. There are some cheap flights Rome to Santorini. Then end with the days in Athens. That gives you a cushion to make sure you'll catch your flight home.

Another possibility: you could reverse your itinerary and start your trip in Greece where activity on the islands winds down quickly after the high season. The earlier you go to Greece the more flights and ferries will be running, the more restaurants open.
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Nov 9th, 2016, 07:40 AM
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Mimar makes good suggestions -- Fly directly in to Santorini from Italy and then finish the trip w/ 2 or 3 nights in Athens.

Or reverse the itinerary
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Nov 9th, 2016, 07:52 AM
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Many direct Santorini - Rome flights in September, but only 1-2 weekly in October.
The slow ferry Piraeus (Athens) - Naxos - Santorini runs daily.
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Nov 9th, 2016, 10:02 AM
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A few comments on Southern France.

In the Provence, a good base would be in the Alpilles - it is a chain of small, yet picturesque limestone mountains. In the area you find typical Provence scenery - olive orchards, windmills, 2000-year-old architecture just roadside.

Good places are Les Baux, St. Maussane-Les Alpilles. If you want more of a town, St. Remy and Arles would be options.

For the Côte d'Azur, I would not recommend Nice - it is a large town with lots of traffic and an ugly beach, composed of large gray pebbles. If you want scenery, base yourselves someplace along the incredibly scenic Esterel coast between Cannes and St. Raphael. Agay, Antheor, Theoule-sur-Mer would be proper places. Bizarre red cliffs, green vegatation and the azur-blue sea make dramatic views.

For Tuscany, I have similar advice. Florence is a large city and the only reason to stay IN Florence are short ways to the museums. But I understand that you are not museum people, so better place yourself in a historic fattoria (farm) in the countryside. Any location within the area between Florence, Siena, Volterra and Pisa would make a good base. If you want to stay close to Florence, check Fiesole.

Fattorias usually are ensembles of several buildings which are grouped around a central square and surrounded by olive orchards or vineyards. Most fattorias have a pool on the central square and some 8 to 15 rooms in the surrounding buildings.

For Greece, you have already gotten good advice. But think about Naxos. Sept/Oct is already past season and albeit the sea is still warm, everything will be dead. After 30 August, the Greek islands can be depressing.

For a few days on the beach, I would consider other places - like the beaches south of Athens (some are breathtakingly beautiful) or on the nearby Peloponnese (in fact an island too which is full of wonders).
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Nov 9th, 2016, 10:30 AM
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I think I'd stay in Siena or even go the whole hog and look at St Gim, which when the tourists are gone is pretty good.
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Nov 9th, 2016, 11:15 AM
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The biggest single change is as suggested above - REVERSE the SEQUENCE. Both Italy & France are lively and wonderful to visit throughout the Autumn Months ... but Greece is the land of sun & sea. You DO want to experience the beaches, the blue water, the sunsets, a sail or two, right? Since you have chosen THE most touristic island, Santorini, of course that will be relatively crowded all thru the Fall, but Naxos will be a much-richer experience in September. And as Neckervd notes, if you do Greece first, you have much more choice in direct flights to Italy.
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Nov 9th, 2016, 01:36 PM
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A lot of people don't think of the French Riviera and Provence as the same area, that isn't unusual at all. When people say Provence, they don't mean the coast. The fact that there is officially a large region named "Provence-Alpes-Cote-d'Azur" is irrelevant to vacation planning nor is it necessary to know that and "to do more research" on official French departement and region names. In fact, that name alone shows that these are considered 3 different areas, there really is no official area named "Provence" (because none of the 6 departements with that Region are actually named Provence).
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Nov 9th, 2016, 02:12 PM
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take trains between Paris and Provence - if sans car Avignon or Arles make good bases -TGVs from Paris go to Avignon-TGV station constantly

take TGV Avignon-TGV to Nice

and in Italy take trains Venice to Florence and then to Rome.

Now the important factor is that you can get deep discounted train tickets if you book far enough in advance to nab the limited in number discounted tickets-www.voyages-sncf.com for France and www.trenitalia.com for Italy are the official sites of the state railways and easy to book online on your own.

You can always get tickets on the spot but full fare is so so much more pricey than the discounted ducats.

For lots of info on French and Italian trains check www.seat61.com- the guru for discounted ticket info; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

There is now a direct train Nice to Milan with connections there for Venice - www.thello.com.
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Nov 9th, 2016, 09:49 PM
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Wow thanks guys for all of the input, this forum is better than TA Let me answer and comment on your posts:

From country to country, we will be flying. Within the country, mainly will be taking train/ferry. We will also plan to hire a car within Provence rural, Tuscany rural, Naxos island and Santorini island.

Thanks KyraS, yes that is what I meant by variety, which is to have different feeling/looks on each area. Just to give a Japan example, Tokyo and Osaka feel the same to me, while Tokyo and Kyoto have different feelings and that is what I am after. If a lot of my suggested areas have similar feelings, I would like to change them.

Yes, I am aware that French Riviera is part of Provence-Alpes-Cote-d'Azur. I meant to say the old inland Provence region. Sorry, should have asked the question better, I meant to ask which small town should I stay in Tuscany apart from Florence. Planning to hire a car here.

Okay, there is one specific reason why I put Santorini last at the end of my trip. I want to spend my last 3 days of the trip, relaxing in one of the Santorini luxury hotel (planning for Anastasis apartment - OMG looks gorgeous), swimming and just enjoying the view. 11 October is the beginning of their low season and the price is a bit more affordable and that is when I am planning to go. I believe October is still a decent time to visit Greek islands, however there are not too many people and activity, which is kinda like what we are after. I did have a concern about the potential of Santorini-Athens flight get cancelled on last day, which might jeopardise my Athens-Sydney flight schedule. Is this really happening often for me to worry?

Thanks treveller1959 and bilboburgler for all of the town suggestions in France and Italy. I will have a look at them in more details, but yes I would love to stay in smaller towns for a chance.

Thanks travelerjan for the Greece explanation. Is beginning - mid October really bad for Naxos and Santorini? Like I mentioned, I don't mind less activity (especially less people), as the last few days of my holiday I want to mainly relax, leisure sightseeing and not to do too much activity.

PalenQ, thank you for the train info, it is very useful. I know people said not to use raileurope as they are expensive.
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Nov 10th, 2016, 12:04 AM
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raileurope is just a reseller, so you pay for the extra profit and cost that comes with that
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Nov 10th, 2016, 04:10 AM
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I'll just make some comments on the Italian portion of your trip.

You'll be traveling at the absolute height of the tourist season, so you can expect enormous crowds at some of the more popular attractions. You say you don't care much for museums, so I suggest that you skip the more famous ones, and look for some hidden gems. I absolutely advise that you avoid the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and the Vatican Museums in Rome.

Three nights in a big city like Rome are very few indeed, and you probably shouldn't go to any museums, but just take some self-guided walks around the city. If you want to visit the inside of the Colosseum, you should buy your tickets online in advance; they're not for any particular day, so you can decide later on which day to use them. However, given that even with tickets you may have a long wait to get in, I would go very early in the day, maybe even before they open, or late in the afternoon, shortly before they close.

If you'll have a car while you're in Tuscany, you should probably base yourself for the entire time in a smaller town, especially since you're not interested in museums. Pienza is a good choice, with easy access to the main roads that you'd use for making day trips. Some other very beautiful towns, such as Montepulciano and Montalcino, are on the top of hills, which means that you'll have a fair amount of driving on twisty roads to get to them. When we stayed in Montalcino, we got a bit tired of going up and down that hill. Of course, you could stay a bit out of town, but then you have to drive somewhere for dinner each night, unless you stay in a rural lodging that also has a restaurant. That brings me to:

traveler1959: But I understand that you are not museum people, so better place yourself in a historic fattoria (farm) in the countryside.

I think traveller is thinking of an agriturismo, which is a sort of rural farmstay establishment; or maybe of a "country house", which is a similar category that doesn't have to be on a working farm. The country house is often a bit more upscale, and is more likely to have a swimming pool. Maybe in Tuscany, where there is such competition for the tourist trade, upscale is the norm. Both types of lodging may or may not have an on-site restaurant.

A fattoria is just a farm, plain and simple, with no particular configuration. Most of them don't take lodgers.

StCirq: Either you are looking for a city, in which case the obvious answer is Firenze, or you are looking for someplace rural, which could be any number of towns in Toscana.

There are lots of cities in Tuscany. Some that are more known to tourists, apart from Florence, are Siena, Pisa, Lucca, and Arezzo. Given that it's the busiest time of the year, Arezzo would be the least likely of these to be crowded. Arezzo has an outdoor antiques market on the first Sunday of each month, and the day before.

Then there are many other cities that don't have much tourism, maybe unjustly, such as Livorno and Prato. I've heard that Prato has a charming historic center, but I've never been there.
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Nov 10th, 2016, 06:01 AM
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Don't be afraid of three countries in 30 days. Last October, we did 16 countries (a bit inflated) in 30 days. You can read our blog at 16countriesin30days.wordpress.com; depending on the person, you can do and see a lot in 30 days. Of course, that's not for everyone.

Our latest trip report for this October (see our post on Puglia) kept our travels in 3 weeks to Trieste, Verona, Puglia, Ischia, Sorrento and Rome (from where we took a transatlantic cruise return to Miami). All over the place in Italy, where we have been many times. It won't work for everyone, but again it was perfect for us.

Nice is a perfect base for French Riviera (numerous trains go east and west, so you can see a lot from there). You might want a car to see Provence.

Tuscany is fairly big; we have based ourselves in Montepulciano and Volterra and loved them both. In last year's trip, we picked a sleepy little town of Cetona, where we felt like a local and, with a car, could go to anywhere.

We have had excellent luck with airbnb, finding hosts who can give you great local hospitality, concierge assistance, and you can get a full apartment for less than a hotel. Good luck.
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Nov 10th, 2016, 07:38 AM
  #19
 
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I like Nice. It has its own lazy, sensual, Franco-Italian vibe, enhanced by the curvy, Belle Époque architecture. Plus Nice makes a good center for public transportation to towns up and down the Côte d'Azur and inland. (For the latter check out the cute little Train des Pignes: www.beyond.fr/travel/railpignes.html.)

As for bases for driving, we liked St. Remy de Provence as a base in Provence. Good bases in south Tuscany are Pienza and San Quirico d'Orcia. Both of these are easy to drive in and out of.

I prefer staying on the edge of a small town, walkable to restaurants. Returning to an agriturismo deep in the countryside can be a challenge after dark. And if you walk, everybody can have wine with dinner. (Italy has very strict drunk driving laws.)
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Nov 10th, 2016, 08:27 AM
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What I meant with "fattoria" are places like this one:

http://www.voltrona.com/en/

BTW, the location is excellent for your needs.

Since you can afford luxury hotels, check this one on the Côte d'Azur:

http://miramar-beachspa.tiara-hotels.com/en/

And another word about Naxos. Naxos is an island, and on the islands the opportunities are limited. Especially after 30 August, many things close down: beach facilities, shops, restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations. Many towns on the islands become ghost towns when the seasons ends.

This is the reason why I suggested going to one of the beautiful beaches south of Athens or on the Peloponnese instead of Naxos. Santorini will be okay.

This is the hotel on Peloponnese where we stayed last September:

http://www.maredei.gr/en/resort/

It was extremely beautiful, I cannot recommend it enough.
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