France/Italy Drive vs Train

Old Jan 4th, 2015, 05:37 PM
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France/Italy Drive vs Train

In Sept. my husband & I will be coming from the U.S. and either starting in Paris & ending in Rome (preferred) or vice versa. We only have 3 weeks. We are most interested in seeing scenic landscape and visiting small towns & walking around them to sample local food, markets, shopping, etc. more so than historic sites or museums. We will do a little of that, but not our main focus on this trip. This is more of an overview & will return to favorites. We have never been to France. We would like to go from Paris down through the wine/champagne region to the cote d' azur. We know the train would be quickest, but are thinking we should drive to be able to see the small towns & stop where like & move on if not overly impressed with an area. From France the big question is either drive or take a train and see a little of northern Italy, such as Milan or Lake Como, or just take train or plane to Rome to reach the Amalfi coast,. ( We have been to Venice & Florence & Tuscany. Love it, but not wanting to spend too much time repeating when we want to see sights we have not seen.) We have been to Rome so that is just a departure (or arrival) city. We previously only spent one day on the Amalfi Coast and want to spend a few days there to better see it and also go over to Capri and spend a night there. I know a car could be a hassle for parking in the towns along the coast, but have heard the bus is also a hassle to get to the stops & follow a schedule so maybe best to keep the car. Appreciate thoughts on (1) keeping the car the whole time or use a train in France, as well as(2) should we take time for northern Italy or save that for another trip & just take quickest way to Amalfi & Capri? Thank you!
asolare is offline  
Old Jan 4th, 2015, 06:57 PM
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I think you want a road trip. I would fly into Paris and spend at least 4 nights, then rent a car and do wine country down to Provence and Cote d'azur. Then decide where you want to go in Italy, and take the train (or a flight) into that area (maybe to Milan so you can either go to Lake Como or maybe do a train trip that gets you to Bologna, Parma, Cremona, etc. Try to fly back from Milan if you can. Easier than dealing with Roma.
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Old Jan 4th, 2015, 07:05 PM
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If you pick up a car in France and want to drop off in Italy, there will be a big drop charge.

I would look for a flight Nice/Naples and if you want a car for Amalfi, pick one up at the Naples airport.
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Old Jan 4th, 2015, 07:08 PM
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When is the trip? Some advice might vary depending on when you're going.

Traveling without lodging reservations usually works better if you aren't very picky about property or location and have a flexible budget. I've never been good at it.

Parking isn't the only hassle. Most cities and towns in Italy have restricted traffic zones. You'd need to study up on ZTLs (zona traffico limitato) everywhere you plan to go or risk incurring fines for driving into them.

Picking up a rental car in one country and dropping it in another usually involves a drop fee, sometimes a large drop fee. You could rent a car for France and rent a second car in Italy.

Only you can decide whether you should take time for northern Italy or go directly to southern Italy. Time of year might influence whether your time is better spent north or south. I suggest you start developing an outline of an itinerary. Decide on the amount of time you want to spend in an area, calculate travel times between points, etc.
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Old Jan 4th, 2015, 07:10 PM
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Oh, shoot. I just now see it's September.

The resort areas (French Riviera, Italian Riviera, Italian lakes, Amalfi Coast) will be crowded. Arriving without lodging reservations might not work well.
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Old Jan 5th, 2015, 07:01 AM
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FWIW, our first trip to France was two weeks long: 3 days Paris, drove to Normandy (2 hour drive) 3 days, drove south to the Loire Valley (2 hours) 2 days, drove south (4 hours) to the Dordogne 3 days, drove east (4 hours) to Provence 3 days, drove north to Burgundy 3 days, then to CDG. Saw virtually all what I would call Tier 1 attractions.

In 2012, after 3 days in Paris, we trained (TGV) to Avignon and rented a car to tour Provence, Lot and the Dordogne, and 3 weeks later TGV'd from Bordeaux to Paris.

Unless you've never see a mountain, I'd skip Switzerland. Plus, it sounds like you have seen a lot of Italy, and would like to sample France. I'd caution you to stick to France, and see it well, and not be so rushed with squeezing in Italy and Switzerland (Austria? Croatia?) that you see lots and experience little.
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