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France/Italy - 1 month trip - itinerary advice appreciated

France/Italy - 1 month trip - itinerary advice appreciated

Old Jan 7th, 2023, 06:18 PM
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France/Italy - 1 month trip - itinerary advice appreciated

I've been tearing my hair out trying to make this one month trip work in terms of logistics and so it doesn't require us to be packing and unpacking a million times. Originally, we were going to rent a car for a month to drive in France and Italy (pick up in France and drop off in Italy) so we could stop where we wanted to if it caught our eye. I ended up nixing that for Italy as it seemed like a huge hassle when most of the places didn't need a car to travel between anyway and the ZTLs seem like a pain. I am determined to drive around Tuscany though at the very least.

We need to fly in and out of Paris to bookend this trip as it appears to be the most economical way for us to get to and from Europe. To preface this post, please keep in mind we've both been to Paris, Rome and Venice and done the tourist thing, although admittedly it was 10+ years ago.

The plan so far is as follows:
  • Day 1 to 2: Arrive in Paris in the morning - take the train to Narbonne (2 nights in Narbonne)
  • Day 3: Train to Avignon in the morning - pick up rental car. Planning to stay in Avignon or one of the smaller towns around the whole time we are in Provence, 6 nights (e.g., Saint Remy, l’Isle sur Sorgue or Lagnes). Explore Avignon with whatever time is left in the day.
  • Day 4: Check out Saint Remy Wednesday market, get out to Les Baux and Eygalieres after
  • Day 5: Explore Saint Remy and anything left over from Avignon
  • Day 6: Head to Aix En Provence
  • Day 7: Pont Du Gard, Uzes and Grottes De Thouzon
  • Day 8: L’Isle sur Sorgue (market day), Bonnieux, Roussillon and Gordes (return the car the next morning, or the other option is keeping the car for our Lyon/Annecy leg and returning the car in Lyon. Haven't worked out what I'd prefer to do...)
  • Day 9: Train to Lyon in the morning from Avignon (stay in Lyon for 3 nights). Explore Lyon.
  • Day 10: Day trip via train to Annecy
  • Day 11: Either day trip to Perouges, enjoy Lyon some more or a mix.
  • Day 12 to 14: Fly into Rome in the morning (looks like the easiest place to fly into Italy from Lyon). Spend a few nights in Rome just to enjoy Rome.
  • Day 15 to 16: Train to Florence in the morning. Explore Florence.
This is where I'm a little stumped on what to do. We could find somewhere to store our bags in Florence and then later in the evening, grab a rental car to go to check in to stay in the surrounding area (e.g., San Giovanni, Borgo San Lorenzo, San Gimignano). If we do that, we'd stay there for 5 nights as our base and use the car to get around.

Alternatively, we could stay in Florence for 2 nights and then pick up a car after and stay in the countryside for 3 nights. I'd welcome some feedback on what to do for it to be less of a hassle.

The next few days in Tuscany is sort of flexible. I've noted some towns we could go to to give us an idea.
  • Day 17: Chianti / Siena
  • Day 18: Volterra / San Gimignano
  • Day 19; Val D'Orcia / Bagno Vignoni / Pienza / Montepulciano
The main purpose for these next few days in the Emilia-Romagna region is just to eat well, to be honest, as I understand the region is known for it. Sadly, I detest parmigiano reggiano and balsamic vinegar, so even if we did a tour, it'd be quite the waste for me. It is what it is.
  • Day 20: Drop off car in Florence? Train to Bologna from Florence. Explore Bologna and stay 3 nights in Bologna.
  • Day 21: Day trips to Ferrara and Modena (or perhaps just one; we'll see how we go)
  • Day 22: Day trip to Verona. Figured I was close by train and it looks like a gorgeous place to stroll around.
  • Day 23: Train/Bus (?) from Bologna to Lake Como region. May stay in Bellagio or Varenna. Stay for 3 nights.
  • Day 24 to 25: Lake towns
  • Day 26: Head back to Milan in the morning, spend the day in Milan and fly out to Paris at night. Stay in Paris for 4 nights.
  • Day 27 to Day 29: Paris / maybe a day trip out. Flexible. And then fly out home the next morning (Day 30).
Places I considered instead of Lake Como and/or Emilia-Romagna (and I'd rearrange the direction of our journey so it makes more sense travelling north or south in one direction): Cinque Terre, the Dolomites or Pompeii/Herculaneum/Amalfi Coast. I'd be willing to be convinced about any swaps if you feel particularly passionate about it. I'm not into strenuous hikes with serious inclines/difficult terrain, so I nixed the Dolomites quickly.

My other idea was to drive from Tuscany to Varenna and making stops along the way in Bologna, Verona, Bergamo and Lecco across 6 nights, but planning that out and working out where to sleep seemed like a lot of work.

Another alternative, which I'm seriously considering to make it feel less chaotic, is cutting out Lake Como/day trip to Milan altogether and basing ourselves in Bologna for 6 nights. Then we'd do day trips to some places like Modena, Parma, Ferrara, Verona, Ravenna, Padua, Mantua or Lake Garda, for example. I doubt we'd be able to fit them all of course, but something to think about. I know the answer to this thought is "your mileage my vary" / "how long is a piece of string", but I am just not sure if that's worth our time or worse, be very samey, to do this while cutting out Lake Como. I've spoken to a couple of people I know who went to Bologna, and while nice, they didn't think it was worth spending more than a day or two. Hence why I thought we could do a bunch of day trips, with Bologna as our base. I mainly wanted to go to Lake Como for the vibes, food and looking at nice scenery on foot or on boat. Seems dreamy and something different to the rest of what we're seeing and doing.

Main purpose of this trip is to EAT WELL (I can't stress this enough), do a spot of sightseeing and generally just enjoying the vibe of the town that we are in. I'm not planning on packing the day with seeing every sight in every town we're in. A bit of planning in Florence and Milan will need to be done to make sure we book ahead. I suspect Florence will be the one time we'll be hustling to see stuff.

I'd welcome any feedback on this plan. I've done my best to keep moving around accommodations to a minimum so we don't feel like we're constantly on the move. Day tripping by car or train seems perfectly okay in my book.

If anyone has recommendations on nice places to stay in Provence and Tuscany, that would be so appreciated. I'm thinking both stops will need to have access to a washer in the place, or somewhere in the hotel / a laundry service as that will be where we will need to do a load in the morning before we head out or in the evening when we return. Or a recommendation for Emilia-Romagna with similar requirements if we plan to spend 6 nights in the region as our base.
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Old Jan 7th, 2023, 08:02 PM
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Suggest that you reconsider the round trip flights. You need to add the cost of transport back to Paris to the cost of the flights, not to mention an extra day of travel and change of hotel. Look for a multi-city fare rather than two one ways, probably finishing the trip in Rome.

There is very scenic train connecting Lyon with Turin and Milan.
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Old Jan 7th, 2023, 08:28 PM
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Originally Posted by thursdaysd
Suggest that you reconsider the round trip flights. You need to add the cost of transport back to Paris to the cost of the flights, not to mention an extra day of travel and change of hotel. Look for a multi-city fare rather than two one ways, probably finishing the trip in Rome.

There is very scenic train connecting Lyon with Turin and Milan.
I did consider a multi-city ticket, but it'll cost us a tonne more that way weirdly enough. A one way flight to Paris and then a one way flight home from Rome would perhaps cost a few hundred dollars more. Kinda seems like a wash?

I also considered a train from Lyon to Milan, but that's like 6-8 hours on a train isn't it? Feels a bit like a waste of a day even though the outlook might be lovely. I figured I'd only waste half that time if we went via plane.
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Old Jan 7th, 2023, 11:26 PM
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Replan the train trip sequence to cut out the internal flight

"parmigiano reggiano and balsamic vinegar" if you also don't like Parma ham and Valpolicello I'd cut this whole visit ;-)

The region is full of lovely ancient cities all reachable, city centre to city centre, by train including the amazing Ravenna. Please get hold of the Rough Guide (mini book or full Italy book) for ER and have a look at the amazing art, pottery, frescos and replan it completely. You really don't need a car in this part of Italy as the train lines are very dense and taxis are cheap
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Old Jan 8th, 2023, 12:22 AM
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Originally Posted by bilboburgler
Replan the train trip sequence to cut out the internal flight

"parmigiano reggiano and balsamic vinegar" if you also don't like Parma ham and Valpolicello I'd cut this whole visit ;-)

The region is full of lovely ancient cities all reachable, city centre to city centre, by train including the amazing Ravenna. Please get hold of the Rough Guide (mini book or full Italy book) for ER and have a look at the amazing art, pottery, frescos and replan it completely. You really don't need a car in this part of Italy as the train lines are very dense and taxis are cheap
Luckily, I love all sorts of ham/salami, wine and other cheeses

I'll look into the Rough Guide for ER, thanks! You reckon I should extend my time there instead?
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Old Jan 8th, 2023, 04:28 AM
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I love that end of the Po valley, the food (actually I find the poor people's food like bean stews even better than the meat based stuff, but that is another thing) is wonderful. The tomato has been embraced in Italy like nowhere else but other dishes are fantastic. I tend to eat at lunch in the worker's cafes where you get 2 or 3 dishes with wine (no choice) for a small amount of money and then look for delicate things for supper in posher places, but that is just me.

You are trying to fit a lot into a short period of time. I've been to most of your sites but over multiple visits and over 40 years
If you start in Paris try and finish at another airport, backtracking is such a waste of time. None of your sites are bad but if I had to drop anywhere it would be Milan and the lakes (I've spent a week in Milan and love the canals, the centre, the cemetry etc but it is too big and too busy to really enjoy on such a fast trip and if you drop Milan then drop the lakes).

Your days 20 21 are just a waste of time, where is Chioggia, Padova etc etc etc, or even the little walled cities in the area.

The more I look at your trip I'd just cut to either France or Italy. 28 days to half see the stuff just looks disappointing
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Old Jan 8th, 2023, 05:03 AM
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Originally Posted by greenlouis
I did consider a multi-city ticket, but it'll cost us a tonne more that way weirdly enough. A one way flight to Paris and then a one way flight home from Rome would perhaps cost a few hundred dollars more. Kinda seems like a wash?

I also considered a train from Lyon to Milan, but that's like 6-8 hours on a train isn't it? Feels a bit like a waste of a day even though the outlook might be lovely. I figured I'd only waste half that time if we went via plane.
I'm surprised you save money going back to Paris, where are you flying from? You also have to consider the lost time and additional aggravation, I would fly home from Rome even if it cost a little more.

If you catch the morning train from Lyon you can be in Milan shortly after 2:00 pm, having eaten lunch on the train (take a picnic or use the cafe car). You'd be in Turin, which I think is also worth visiting, a bit after 1:00 pm. While the flight itself may only take an hour and a half, you have to add the time to get to and from the airports, and waiting time in the airport. Depending on the day you are flying, you may find the times inconvenient.
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Old Jan 8th, 2023, 05:03 AM
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What do you plan to do in Languedoc-Roussillon?
I would begin the trip at Avignon and keep the car for the Italian leg too, may be like this:
Avignon etc. - Aix-en-Provence - motorway - nice - San Remo - Genoa - 5 Terre - Tuscany etc. - Bologna etc. - Piacenza - Asti - Turin - Albertville - Annecy - Lyon.
Train from Lyon to Paris.
If you don't want to drive so much, you can proceed as planned until day 11, leave Lyon by train at 17.20, arrive at Milan at 22.07, sleep in Hotel Michelangelo just in front of the raiwlay station and begin your Italian program in the North - South way the day after. At the end, fly from either Rome, Pisa or Florence to Paris.
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Old Jan 8th, 2023, 11:51 AM
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Welcome, greenlouis. I agree about just going directly to Paris from Amsterdam (btw, there's an arm of the Hermitage there). Years ago, my DH and I took two guided day trips from Paris: one Loire Valley Chateaux; one to Bruges. Do Google Paris tours as the company name has changed.

Here's my 2016 Paris trip report for ideas:
April in Paris...with a Side of Bordeaux

Please share how it all goes!
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Old Jan 8th, 2023, 12:00 PM
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Why Narbonne?

Since you like to drive, why not keep the car until you get to Lyon at the end of your Provençal and Alpes itinerary, including Pérouges. From Lyon take the most convenient public transportation to take you to Italy. Maybe a bus through the Mont-blanc tunnel to Turin, if that exists?

https://flic.kr/p/8pzv1y https://flic.kr/p/8pzFt1
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Old Jan 16th, 2023, 04:16 AM
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Originally Posted by bilboburgler
I love that end of the Po valley, the food (actually I find the poor people's food like bean stews even better than the meat based stuff, but that is another thing) is wonderful. The tomato has been embraced in Italy like nowhere else but other dishes are fantastic. I tend to eat at lunch in the worker's cafes where you get 2 or 3 dishes with wine (no choice) for a small amount of money and then look for delicate things for supper in posher places, but that is just me.

You are trying to fit a lot into a short period of time. I've been to most of your sites but over multiple visits and over 40 years
If you start in Paris try and finish at another airport, backtracking is such a waste of time. None of your sites are bad but if I had to drop anywhere it would be Milan and the lakes (I've spent a week in Milan and love the canals, the centre, the cemetry etc but it is too big and too busy to really enjoy on such a fast trip and if you drop Milan then drop the lakes).

Your days 20 21 are just a waste of time, where is Chioggia, Padova etc etc etc, or even the little walled cities in the area.

The more I look at your trip I'd just cut to either France or Italy. 28 days to half see the stuff just looks disappointing
I have since streamlined the trip up a bit, adjusting timing and will actually be flying to and from home from different cities as I managed to find a decent deal. So no backtracking anymore. My main stops are several nights in Provence and Tuscany and there's a few 3-4 night stays elsewhere scattered around to give us a change of pace. It was important to us to have some time in France and Italy.

Your food preferences sound well aligned with me to be honest. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
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Old Jan 16th, 2023, 04:24 AM
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Originally Posted by thursdaysd
I'm surprised you save money going back to Paris, where are you flying from? You also have to consider the lost time and additional aggravation, I would fly home from Rome even if it cost a little more.

If you catch the morning train from Lyon you can be in Milan shortly after 2:00 pm, having eaten lunch on the train (take a picnic or use the cafe car). You'd be in Turin, which I think is also worth visiting, a bit after 1:00 pm. While the flight itself may only take an hour and a half, you have to add the time to get to and from the airports, and waiting time in the airport. Depending on the day you are flying, you may find the times inconvenient.
This isn't an issue for us anymore as I've changed the pathway of stops and where we are starting and ending the trip, but I managed to actually find a good deal finally for a multi-city ticket. Lyon's unfortunately had to be axed. We are still going to Annecy, but wasn't a fan of checking in and out of two places in such a short period of time, so we just extended our time in Annecy. Means we will take a train to Paris actually after we are leaving Annecy.
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Old Jan 16th, 2023, 04:30 AM
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Originally Posted by neckervd
What do you plan to do in Languedoc-Roussillon?
I would begin the trip at Avignon and keep the car for the Italian leg too, may be like this:
Avignon etc. - Aix-en-Provence - motorway - nice - San Remo - Genoa - 5 Terre - Tuscany etc. - Bologna etc. - Piacenza - Asti - Turin - Albertville - Annecy - Lyon.
Train from Lyon to Paris.
If you don't want to drive so much, you can proceed as planned until day 11, leave Lyon by train at 17.20, arrive at Milan at 22.07, sleep in Hotel Michelangelo just in front of the raiwlay station and begin your Italian program in the North - South way the day after. At the end, fly from either Rome, Pisa or Florence to Paris.
This is such a wonderful suggestion, thank you. I hope this helps other people who might stumble upon this thread one day in their research. I did consider driving through the whole way, but there were a few things we wanted to do specifically that wouldn't accommodate a smooth stopping journey like this.

I'm not 100% sure what we'll do when we're in the region. Perhaps a stopover in Carcassonne? I'd be happy to take any suggestions!
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Old Jan 16th, 2023, 04:33 AM
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Originally Posted by TDudette
Welcome, greenlouis. I agree about just going directly to Paris from Amsterdam (btw, there's an arm of the Hermitage there). Years ago, my DH and I took two guided day trips from Paris: one Loire Valley Chateaux; one to Bruges. Do Google Paris tours as the company name has changed.

Here's my 2016 Paris trip report for ideas:

Please share how it all goes!
Oh thank you for sharing your trip report! I shall enjoy reading it.
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Old Jan 16th, 2023, 04:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Michael
Why Narbonne?

Since you like to drive, why not keep the car until you get to Lyon at the end of your Provençal and Alpes itinerary, including Pérouges. From Lyon take the most convenient public transportation to take you to Italy. Maybe a bus through the Mont-blanc tunnel to Turin, if that exists?
It'll be a while till we get back to France again after this trip, so we decided to try Les Grands Buffet for the novelty factor. Plus, it's a part of the trip where we're just going to be a bit spontaneous and explore whatever catches our eye.

We may keep the car on the way to Annecy from where we are staying further south (have removed Lyon as a stop) and we'll be taking a train to Paris from there. But thanks for the good suggestions!
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Old Jan 16th, 2023, 04:59 AM
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Originally Posted by TDudette
Welcome, greenlouis. I agree about just going directly to Paris from Amsterdam (btw, there's an arm of the Hermitage there). Years ago, my DH and I took two guided day trips from Paris: one Loire Valley Chateaux; one to Bruges. Do Google Paris tours as the company name has changed.

Here's my 2016 Paris trip report for ideas:
April in Paris...with a Side of Bordeaux

Please share how it all goes!
Hermitage Amsterdam is no longer linked to Russia, and hasn't been since the Ukraine invasion, so don't go there expecting to see stuff from St. Petersburg.
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Old Jan 16th, 2023, 07:14 AM
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[QUOTE=neckervd;17427494]What do you plan to do in Languedoc-Roussillon?

Avignon etc. - Aix-en-Provence - motorway - nice - San Remo - Genoa - 5 Terre - Tuscany etc. - Bologna etc. - Piacenza - Asti - Turin - Albertville - Annecy - Lyon.

Insurance requirements are or used to be different in France and Italy. Check that you can take a rental to Italy under French rates.
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Old Jan 18th, 2023, 07:50 AM
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I did a lot of this trip last summer but in a slower fashion. We did Lake Garda instead of Lake Como (seems like it had better scenery, more to do, less of a scene) for 4 nights which was way too long. We are going back to Europe this summer and skipping the lakes but YMMV. If you want to eat well def spend time in Bologna. If you like to go at a slower pace (doesn't seem like it!) then you could spend a few days there and do day trips, definitely agree. We spent 2 nights in Parma which is smaller and less busy. I'd plan more time in Tuscany if you want to eat well, if you do your research and make reservations, the food there is excellent.

We also went to Provence - based in Avignon area (had a BNB outside of town that had a washer and it's own garden / lavender field), I think that's a great place to base yourself. We did a day trip to Cassis which is really lovely - the Calanques! You can stop at Aix on the way to Cassis but I think Aix is gorgeous and worth a day on it's own, along with a day or two to see the Luberon - we liked Rousillon. Annecy is a great day trip too, check. Not sure if you're into mountain scenery but Chamonix was our favorite place in France.
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Old Jan 18th, 2023, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by tansmets
I did a lot of this trip last summer but in a slower fashion. We did Lake Garda instead of Lake Como (seems like it had better scenery, more to do, less of a scene) for 4 nights which was way too long. We are going back to Europe this summer and skipping the lakes but YMMV. If you want to eat well def spend time in Bologna. If you like to go at a slower pace (doesn't seem like it!) then you could spend a few days there and do day trips, definitely agree. We spent 2 nights in Parma which is smaller and less busy. I'd plan more time in Tuscany if you want to eat well, if you do your research and make reservations, the food there is excellent.

We also went to Provence - based in Avignon area (had a BNB outside of town that had a washer and it's own garden / lavender field), I think that's a great place to base yourself. We did a day trip to Cassis which is really lovely - the Calanques! You can stop at Aix on the way to Cassis but I think Aix is gorgeous and worth a day on it's own, along with a day or two to see the Luberon - we liked Rousillon. Annecy is a great day trip too, check. Not sure if you're into mountain scenery but Chamonix was our favorite place in France.
I actually originally had Cassis and the Calanques on my list of interesting places to see. I don't want to pack our days to the brim so they were cut for being a bit out of the way, but I'll keep it in mind! They both look so incredible, I'm very tempted.

I'm actually staying in the Luberon, so we'll be well in the thick of the area. I'm so looking forward to it. We could have stayed in a place in Saint Remy or Maubec, which may have been a better location to base ourselves, but we wanted to truly be in the countryside. Heart vs brain. Heart won out. Do you have a link to that bnb you stayed at though? Would love to see it.

We're spending 3 nights now and like 2.5 days in Annecy as we need to travel in from Avignon, which takes half a day (sorry Lyon, you'll have to be seen on another trip). Nice slow end to the whole holiday. Even with the extended time there, I feel like a day trip out to Chamonix would knock out that whole second day and I'm not sure we should short-change Annecy like that? We are into mountain scenery, but might need to save it for next time! Plus, Annecy is our only lake time as we are not going to Lake Como or Lake Garda. But nice to get different perspective on Como vs Garda.

I actually did end up extending our time in Tuscany, so we'll be there 5 nights now. I'm ferociously researching, don't worry. It's a bit of a shame now that so many things need reservations 2-3 months in advance: restaurants, experiences/tours, some of the sites. Kinda sets you in stone with what you have to do on any given day, but hey ho, I am a bit of a planner so it's not the worst thing in the world. But times have sure changed. If you have any particular recommendations for Tuscany, I'd greatly appreciate it.

Bologna and Rome has unfortunately had to be sacrificed at the alter. There's time to do a day trip, or an overnight stay in Bologna if we want to cut one night off our 3 nights in Florence. We are flying into Milan as our first stop of this trip, so we've got a few nights there as I figured nice city and I've never been there, and we need be somewhere a few nights to start with so it's a good easy start to the holiday. Also popped in a couple of nights in Verona to see the opera on one of the nights. Verona looks lovely, so I'm a bit excited to stroll around there.
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Old Jan 18th, 2023, 06:25 PM
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Not sure I can post a link to a specific airbnb here? send me a PM. It was a 2 bedroom that was a guest house on a much larger property in Chateaurenard which was maybe 13km (15 min drive) from Avignon. Extremely peaceful and reasonable, no pool though. Was a 3 minute drive from a supermarket.

We really liked Cassis and they also had great shops once you got away from the water's edge. We did the boat tour of 7 calanques, you only need to do 3 since the first or second is the best one.

Fave restaurant in Tuscany: Ristorante La Castellana | Montefioralle - Greve in Chianti - note I travel with kids so not going to michelin restaurants or doing that level of research but this year I'm definitely going to book more meals in advance. Our fave vineyard was Castello de Verrazzano- for the views- (we stayed in Greve so it was close).

Annecy is really lovely but a totally different experience than Garda or Como for sure as it's a smaller lake, you can go out on a paddle boat, vs Lake Garda which is HUGE. Takes like 3 hours on a ferry to get from north to south. I personally thought Annecy was cute to walk around, not too much to do, where as Chamonix I could spend weeks because we like to hike. However, if it's a clear day, the gondola up to Augille Midi and then the Mont Blanc Panorama which goes OVER Mt Blanc and brings you to the Italian side - is amazing. We also went to the Lauterbrunnen area for a week and in 5 weeks, the Panorama was our favorite thing. But if you don't handle heights or high altitude well it's a pass!
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