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Help (!) with 9 days in French and Italian Riviera

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Mar 7th, 2016, 06:52 AM
  #1
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Help (!) with 9 days in French and Italian Riviera

I like to do as much as possible in a short time, and I like to move and see everything!

I have a rough plan to do:

1 night and day in Montpellier
2 nights in Provence/Marseille
2 nights in Nice Cannes St Tropez
3 nights in Genoa, Liguria region- Cinque Terre, La Spezia

Are these good hubs for apartment renting- meaning- Montpellier, Marseille, Nice and Liguria? We'll be driving throughout, walking around the towns, going to the beaches, pools, people watching, just soaking up the energy.

Any feedback is welcome. Thanks.
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Mar 7th, 2016, 08:07 AM
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I like fast trips too. One way to make it really graphic, and see what's doable, is to get an (old-fashioned) piece of paper and make a long horizontal grid with nine boxes to represent each day of your trip.

At the bottom of each box put the town where you will sleep. In the middle of each box sketch in your travel time. If it will take more than half the day to get from place to place, make sure that hogs up half the box. Once you have your nights, and your time travelling in, you can see how much "white space" is left to actually see anything.

The trickiest bit is probably St. Tropez - - it will take a whole day from anywhere, and if it is summer, be sure to take the ferry across and not the road, since it can be one massive traffic jam both directions, and consume most of the day.

Otherwise, Cannes is super easy from Nice (but you are probably better off just hopping on a train); Provence is wonderful and just pick a nice route that lets you stop some great places - - maybe from Montpellier hit the coast, then Aigue Morte, through the Camargue, Arles, Les Baux/St. Remy, Aix - - you will have to make a couple compromises but hard to go wrong anywhere; I personally would skip St. Tropez; La Spezia is not worth a visit - - you may be better off staying north of Cinque Terre and then popping in by train.
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Mar 7th, 2016, 08:15 AM
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St Tropez is a charming village.

I love to visit it in early january (I once saw 2 restaurants open, the rest closed) at least you visit it like it was a century ago, and in summertime, jsut to see the folks you meet there.

Old men with a big cigar getting out of a Ferrari, young women on 12 cm heels. Interesting.
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Mar 7th, 2016, 08:32 AM
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I would not stay in Montpellier - it is at the edge of the interesting region and makes not a good hub. The optimal base for a hub would be Arles or St-Remy-de-Provence.

Arles is a charming little town with a spectacular Roman arena, a Greek theatre, more archeology and a fine cathedral. From there, you easily reach Nîmes (more Roman history), Pont du Gard (spectacular aquaeduct), Avignon (medieval Palace of the Popes), Aigues-Mortes (completely walled medieval town), Camargue (flamingoes), Les Antiques (Roman monuments), Les Baux (ruined village). But this base would require two nights, at least.

For the upper Provence (Luberon), you may move a little eastwards. Good bases would be Lourmarin or Bonnieux, maybe Aix-en-Provence, but certainly not Marseille.
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Mar 7th, 2016, 08:39 AM
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>> Once you have your nights, and your time travelling in, you can see how much "white space" is left to actually see anything.<<

And consider the days of the week also. Shops will be closed in Montpellier on Sunday, & Monday morning too. Many in Nice also - but not St Tropez. Shops will be closed for at least a 2 hr lunch. Also, museums close for 1 day a week. Checking in & out of apts will consume more time than hotels. You might find trouble finding an apt you can rent for only 1 or 2 nights. Nice/sit-down lunches outside of noon to 3PM will be difficult to find, as will be dinners at nice (non-Denny's) restaurants before 7:30pm.

This looks like our first trip to Europe in 1977 - when my mother & sister "bailed out" half-way through the trip - too fast-paced.

Stu Dudley
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Mar 7th, 2016, 09:51 AM
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What time of year and what day (weekend? weekday?) are you planning to drive from France to le Cinque Terre?
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Mar 7th, 2016, 09:58 AM
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I should think it will be very difficult to get anyone to rent you an apartment for 1 or 2 nights, unless it's the middle of winter.
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Mar 7th, 2016, 11:16 AM
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Sandralist, Summmer. Saturday to the next week Sunday. yes, we are planning on driving all along. Does that change your comment?
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Mar 7th, 2016, 11:35 AM
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Pay attention to state of the roads. during week-ends in summer you can have horrible traffic jams. So plan your trip accordingly. (and avoid driving from 10 am 12 am and from 4 pm to 6 pm on the small beach roads of the Riviera).
On top of that some week-end see the migration of tourists, going to the south (roads clogged from 5 pm) or going north (clogged in the morning up north).

bison-fute.gouv.fr/ will give you some info on traffic.

Mvg.
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Mar 7th, 2016, 12:02 PM
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If you plan to return your rental car in La Spezia - the rental offices close after 12:30 on Saturday, and don't open again until Monday morning. I would do that entire Italy section by train.

What do you mean by "Provence/Marseille"? Do you plan to visit the Provence countryside (Luberon, Cote du Rhone, etc) or just stay in Marseille for two nights? If the latter - you don't need a car for any of the trip, IMO. You would have to skip St Tropez, however - which I would do anyway on such a short trip in "summer" (July & Aug?).

Think about my comment above regarding Sunday closings. If you plan to visit Montpellier on a Sunday - shops will be closed and many of the storefronts will be covered by steel bars or aluminum shutters. We were in Montpellier during lunch once, and the aluminum shutters were covered in graffiti. Montpellier is one of my favorite cities (we were there last year) but it looked quite ugly & un-inviting when shops were closed.

Stu Dudley
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Mar 7th, 2016, 12:26 PM
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During summertime (June 21-Sept22), traffic on the narrow highway between France and le Cinque Terre can back up for miles at certain chokepoints, in particular if you are driving on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, and for most every day in the month of August. Parking in le Cinque Terre in summertime -- every day -- is at a premium, so you would need to book lodgings with guaranteed parking.

There is almost nowhere you can go along that part of the Italian coast in a car and find parking as a tourist during summer. If you go to le Cinque Terre with a car, about the only thing you can do with it is park it at the hotel, and use the trains and boats (or hike) if you want to go sightseeing. If you have a big interest to go inland, into the remote villages without sea views, a car is an asset -- but the most interesting inland villages on the Italian Riviera are between France and Genova (not around le Cinque Terre).
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Mar 7th, 2016, 01:07 PM
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Be sure to check the surcharges to rent a car in France and drop it in Italy / likely to be several hundred dollars.
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Mar 7th, 2016, 03:01 PM
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And also check the CDW insurance. Your credit card issuer may cover it if you rent in France, but the CC coverage may not apply while in Italy. Check with your CC provider.

Stu Dudley
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Mar 8th, 2016, 03:34 AM
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And ... you need a translation of your foreign driver's license when driving in Italy (I think the fine is about 300 Euro if they stop you and you don't have a translation - - AAA in the U.S. can do them).
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Mar 8th, 2016, 09:12 AM
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I think Montpellier is an interesting city and if you want to stay one day there, seems fine to me. I am not so intimidated about lack of shopping and really don't care that some shops are closed on Sundays, this is true everywhere. I hate shopping anyway, though, but there is certainly plenty to do when traveling other than shopping.

I seriously doubt you can rent apartments for such short time frames (ie, 1-2 days), and it definitely wouldn't even make sense to try to do so for one night. 3 days, more will be available, so look into that. It sounds like there are no children involved, so I don't see the need for an apt.
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Mar 8th, 2016, 03:35 PM
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A wonderful B & B near Avignon is Chateau Talaud - but you definitely need a car.
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