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From London to Italy - where to go?


Oct 8th, 2015, 09:47 PM
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From London to Italy - where to go?

Hi everyone,

I'm planning a trip to Europe in October next year and am having a fair bit of trouble figuring out where exactly I would like to go. I'm coming from Australia so would like to make the most of this trip as it'll be a while before I get back! But I'm also conscious of packing my trip with too many places.
I have a month and would be traveling by train. I'm a fan of compact cities that are easy to explore by foot. I love being somewhere with beautiful scenery. I love places with lots of history and good food! Cheaper is also better. I am a solo female traveler and this will be my first time in Europe.

I'm after some suggestions for a travel route that will take me from London to Switzerland and eventually Italy (with a couple of stops along the way).
If everything was close together my ideal places to see would be: Salzburg, Lucerne, Prague, Ljubljana and a few places in Italy - but I'm aware that I won't get to see all these places without spending a lot of time on long trains (anywhere >6hrs is a bit much for me).

I'll be starting in London for a few nights with family before making my way over to Europe.
I'm thinking I'll start either at Amsterdam or Brussels. Amsterdam appeals to me because of the beautiful canals, but I feel it might be a bit busy.... I'm also drawn to Bruges as it is much smaller and seems just as beautiful (hence I might start in Brussels and do a day trip to Bruges).

I'd then like to go to Switzerland - Lucerne is a must for me. But I want to spend a few nights somewhere along the way to break up the travel time. I was thinking perhaps Strasbourg? Frankfurt seems a convenient stop but I'm not sure it really appeals to me... Are there any other suggestions for nice places between Amsterdam/Belgium and Switzerland?

Then after Switzerland I'll be heading to Italy (Pompeii is a must).

Alternatively I would love to do Amsterdam - Berlin - Prague - Salzburg - Lucerne - and a bit of Italy. And if I was over this way I'd also be tempted to squeeze in a bit of Slovenia to see Lake Bled and the beautiful caves... But the travels times seems much longer on this route...

So many beautiful places to see! It's quite overwhelming.

Any suggestions/comments from a seasoned traveler would be great thanks!
claire_1993 is offline  
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Oct 9th, 2015, 12:20 AM
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I'd take Eurostar London to Paris in 2h20 from £41

Then TGV Paris to Zurich from €25

You can book both trains at www.loco2.com with print at home tickets and no fees.

Then take the fabulous Bernina Express route Zurich-Chur-Tirano-Milan as here - http://www.seat61.com/BerninaExpress.htm - it's the best Alpine train ride across Switzerland there is.

You coulod stop at Chur or Poschiavo to break up the trip.

From Milan, trains run to Venice, Florence from €19 or Rome or Naples from €29 www.trenitalia.com - or indeed Loco2 can book those too.

As to your other long way round suggestion, try London-Amsterdam overnight by train & ferry - www.dutchflyer.co.uk - with a night in a private en suite cabin, with satellite TV and free wifi (I was on that ship myself two days ago!).

Amsterdam-Berlin by InterCity train from €39 www.bahn.de/en

Berlin-Prague by EuroCity train from €29 www.bahn.de/en or www.cd.cz/eshop

Prague-Salzburg by train www.cd.cz/eshop

Salzburg-Lucerne from €39 www.oebb.at (these trains take the scenic route through the Arlberg Pass)
Man_in_seat_61 is offline  
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Oct 9th, 2015, 01:05 AM
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Bruges is very much "tourist city" if you've seen the film you've just about seen it though the waffles and lace museum were excluded.

Strasbourg, a pretty good idea, nice little canal area, medievel city, you might also look at Reims depending on how your train map pans outs.

Lucerne another good idea, watch the money in Switzerland (sort of double what you pay in the rest of Europe, not quiet fair but it makes you think) do take a boat on the lake.

I like Amsterdam and the city centre is pretty compact with multiple defensive canal rings. I wouldn't turn it down straight away.

Prague you might find a bit like Amsterdam as the place can get pretty crowded, but the nice to visit area is pretty small. IMHO is is more of a second grade visit for Europe, but others differ. Certainly I would visit Amsterdam before Prague and I live in Europe.
bilboburgler is offline  
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Oct 9th, 2015, 01:46 AM
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A few suggestions:
# Everybody loves Amsterdam and for good reasons. The problem is that it is becoming too touristy. Consider staying in nearby Haarlem, a wonderful historical city in itself, and only 15 train minutes from Amsterdam.
# As for Belgium, almost all overseas tourists limit themselves to Brussel and Brugge. Brussel is an anonymus place and Brugge is very touristy. Gent is nicely in between and excellent as a base.
# I don't know much about the north-east corner of France. (A good reminder to go there one day.)
# Consider a smaller city in the southern part of Germany as a stop on the route to Prague. Personally I'm very charmed by Würzburg and Regensburg, with Nürnberg in between. Bamberg, although also touristy, is also a good place. Würzburg is one hour after Frankfurt, and Regensburg another two hours.
# Prague is almost unmissable. You'll have to cope with all the others who want to see it.
# Personally I found Salzburg somewhat overrated, but it is very well possible it was because of the Japanese Sound of Music girls.
# Just over the border, again in Germany, you're right in the mountains. Germany is a lot more affordable than Switzerland, which at the moment is very, very expensive.
Last year I stayed a few days around Oberammergau. Very relaxing and a good mix of nature and culture. The monastery in Ettal and the pilgrimage church Wieskirche won't disappoint you. Public transport here is excellent (and comes probably free with your lodging). From here you can take the train to München to fly back home.
tonfromleiden is offline  
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Oct 9th, 2015, 02:04 AM
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I overlooked you wanted to end up in Italy. Of course. Nothing beats Italy.
A five-hour train journey brings you from Innsbruck - right on the German/Austrian border - to Venice. A few years ago I choose Padua (Padova) as a base. Half an hour from Venice and about the same time from Vicenza.
This year I discovered Bologna as one of the best cities I know in Italy. Pleasant, vibrant, not overcrowded with tourists, and whatever you want.
From here you can be both in Florence and Rome in a couple of hours.
For planning, I advise you to use viamichelin.com, which has excellent maps, and bahn.de, the pan-European railway timetable (presently only timetables up to 12 December, but it gives you a good idea about rail connections and times).
tonfromleiden is offline  
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Oct 9th, 2015, 05:30 AM
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Well most cities in europe have compact centers where most of the major sights are - and centers are walkable. (This is not true of London which is huge compared to other cities and has sights spread out all over the city).

In a month I would limit yourself to 7 places or so - that is really giving you limited time in each place. If you want to do many day trips I would make it 6 places.

Only you can decide which are most important to you - but IMHE the places with the most tourists are the one with the most to see/do. So if you have specific things you want to see/do other places - but ignoring cities like Amsterdam means missing many major sights.

Also you don;t have a lot of scenic beauty except near Lucerne unless you also spend some time in the Italian Lakes or Tuscany.

As for Bruges, it is head and shoulders above Brussels and we much preferred it to Ghent, which was pleasant. There is no need to go to Frankfurt except to fly out of the airport but Strasbourg is charming and a unique mixture of French and German, also easy access to the wine road and Colmar, a small gem of a town.
nytraveler is offline  
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Oct 9th, 2015, 04:42 PM
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Wow thanks so much for your tips and ideas everyone!
I'm starting to think it may be a better idea to save Amsterdam/Belgium for another trip and fly straight from London to Prague..this would cut down a lot of travel and allow me to see a bit of Austria and Slovenia before making my way down to Italy. I love the look of Innsbruck and/or Oberammergau as a potential stop along the way!

Also thinking I might skip Switzerland and save that for when I have a bit more money
claire_1993 is offline  
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Oct 9th, 2015, 05:24 PM
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I think you're heading in the right direction in your planning. Figure our YOUR ideal itinerary and we can help with the details.
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