Italy & France

Old Jun 21st, 2010, 07:21 AM
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Italy & France

My wife and I would like to travel for the first time to Europe. We would like to see Paris for a few adys and then travel through Italy. We would like to experience the big boys (Venice, Florence, Rome, etc) for a couple of days at a time. We would then like to travel into Tuscany for a week staying at a single location (farmhouse, castle rooms or inn's etc) and taking day trips to surrounding towns and villages to experience the country side and the Tuscan food, wine and culture.

We have no idea as to what the best way to travel through Europe would be or the cost for that matter. The thinking is that lading in Paris and staying for a couple of days then travelling by train to the major Itailian cities staying in moderate hotels followed by renting a car and moving into Tuscany to enjoy the country side.

We would like to stay for three weeks (give or take) but would really like to have the knowledge and expereinced advise of the best itinerary, locations, hotels, restuarants as well as train vs car rentals travel advise ...etc.

We are experienced travellers through North America, Mexico and the Caribbean Islands but never to Europe. My wife is bit concerned about the travel (trains etc)and the language difference.

Can anyone help us with advise and suggestions...

Regards Pete
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 07:57 AM
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Well your plan sounds basically doable - in the major cities the language will not be a problem. Did you mention an open-jawed ticket - into Paris and maybe out Rome? You can find all kinds of hotel advice on Tripadvisor and train info online as well. I love traveling by train in Europe - usually I buy my tickets after landing altho I will have an idea of the schedule ahead of time. We've never rented a car but many posters here have done so - if you post a tentative itinerary other posters will give more feedback.
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 08:10 AM
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Where will you be flying out of to return? That's going to make a big difference. Since Florence is part of Tuscany, you could easily just stay somewhere in Tuscany and make a few trips up to Florence from where you are staying. You could tackle this from any number of directions - fly from Paris to Venice, Train to Florence Tuscany - stay a week - and then train down to Rome and spend a few days and fly out of Rome.

Since you are going to Rome and Venice, I'd say a car is useless. While in Tuscany you could rent a car, but would advise on not driving into Florence - park outside the city, take the train or bus into town.

Again, your options are limitless, and you would need to identify some of your travel plans or things you want to do. Don't worry about the trains (they are great) or language problems - in Venice, Rome and Florence most people speak enough english. It always helps to learn a few italian phrases though.
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 08:11 AM
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Here are some sample itineraires. Paris is a long way--a flight from Paris into Venice may make more sense. My favorite times are May and early Oct. Good luck !

BOB the NAVIGATOR’S FAVORITE ITALY ITINERARIES

After 24 trips to southern Europe, and having developed more than 220 customized TRIP PLANS for others, I am now older and hopefully wiser. Here is an updated version of my favorite itineraries & my “Bella Italia” photo gallery. I hope you enjoy.
http://www.slowphotos.com/photo/show...y.php?cat=3827

1. BELLA ITALIA: Five destinations in 15 days—car & train travel
* Arrive in Milan[MXP] & depart from Venice[VCE]or vice versa.
* Itinerary to include the Italian Lakes, Ligurian coast, rural
Tuscany, Florence, & Venice. Suggested timing is 3-2-4-2-4.
* Option: Drop the coast & rent a villa in Tuscany[ 3-7-2-3].
* Best time to go: May & June or Sept. & Oct.

2. LA DOLCE VITA: Three destinations in 12 to 14 days-car & train
* Arrival & departure from Rome[ FCO] or arrival in Naples
* Itinerary to include Rome, the Amalfi coast, and Tuscany
* Best time to go: Easter to end of October
* Option: Fly into Naples & stay at 2 locations on the coast

3. CLASSIC ITALIA: Three destinations in 12 to 14 days-car & train
* Arrival & departure from Rome—may start trip in Florence
* Destinations to include Florence, Rome & Tuscany/Umbria
* Best time to go: Anytime, but May & Oct. are my favorites
* Option: Consider a weekly rental in Tuscany/Umbria

4. SICILIAN CHARMS: Five destinations in 15 days—car travel
* Connections to Catania & Palermo via Rome or gateway city.
* Itinerary to include Taormina, Siracusa, Palermo & more.
* Best time to go: March to November—May is best for flowers
* See: http://www.slowtrav.com/tr/tripreport.asp?tripid=634

5. THE VILLAGE SAMPLER: My favorite venues for those who enjoy natural beauty and quaint, small villages. Arranged north to south.
* Arrive Milan & depart Rome—car travel-- 3 nites per location
* Itinerary to include Lago Orta, Castelrotto/ Ortisei[Dolomites],
Portovenere[Liguria], Montalcino[Tuscany], & Spello[Umbria].
* Best time to go: May to October for the lakes and Dolomites
* Option: Pick 3 out of 5 and stay longer in Tuscany/Umbria.

NOTE: These are only intended to be SAMPLE ITINERAIRES
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 08:17 AM
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You have many options, but here is what I recommend-

I suggest you skip Paris. Save it for another trip when you can spend at least a week. A few days is not enough.

Fly into Venice, spend 4 nights. This will give you time to recover from jetlag and enjoy an introduction to the city.

Train to Florence and stay 3 nights.

Rent a car in Florence when ready to head to Tuscany. I like renting at the Florence airport (Peretola Airport) for the ease of getting onto the route to Tuscany.

Spend a week in Tuscany. I like the southern Tuscany area near Pienza/Montepulciano.

Return the car in Chiusi or Orvieto and train to Rome for the last week. Fly home from Rome.

kayak.com is a good site to search for flights. Use the multi-city tool for searching flights into Venice and out of Rome.

Purchase your train tickets at the train stations. There are ticket windows and ticket machines (with English language option).

Here are some tips for getting around in Italy, food and language-

http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/instructions/index.htm

Car rentals-

autoeurope.com
kemwel.com
novacarhire.com



I recommend staying in an apartments to give you more space and the option of eating meals at 'home" when you don't fell like going out. It may also save you money.
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 08:19 AM
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I forgot to ask- when are you going?
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 08:20 AM
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You seem to have already figured out that train travel between cities is the best way to go. The trains are excellent and mostly run on time. Just make sure you don't carry too much luggage, because there are no porters to help you get it on and off the train.

The car in Tuscany is of course also a good idea. There's lots of into on the internet about driving in Italy -- like the website I recommend below.

If you are looking for moderately-priced accommodations, another place to look for recommendations is slowtrav.com, which has a big message board on Italy and pages of reviews of hotels and apartments. The people on that site are mostly all experienced travelers.

By all means, try to avoid going in high summer -- late June through August. It will be jammed with tourists and hot, hot, hot. Florence, especially. I dearly love Florence, but one trip there in late June made me very unhappy with the crowds and heat.
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 08:27 AM
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Someone on another thread just posted the link for Slow Travel's page on driving in Italy: www.slowtrav.com/italy/driving/index.htm
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 08:35 AM
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I agree with zoecat's plan. Giving those Paris days to Italy makes for a more leisurely pace and opportunities for day trips or even a 5th hotel base somewhere in northern Italy. A couple of days in each place would barely provide time for a quick dash through the main sights.

Since this is your first trip to Europe, I don't recommend staying in apartments. IMO apartments are a great idea if you already know a bit about the way things work in Europe, but a newbie inevitably needs help with public trans, logistics, reservations, translations, etc.

If you would like hotel recommendations, please give us your budget. It would also be helpful to know what time of year you plan to go.
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 09:37 AM
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Up to you if you want to drop Paris, but I'd leave it in. It sounds like a much more exciting trip to me with Paris and Italy.

I also think you definitely should stay in apartments at least some of the time-- in Paris and in the Italian countryside.

Were it me, I would do Paris and Italy this way:

First week -- Paris rental apartment 6 days

Fly or overnight train to Venice

3 days Venice

rent car, drive to rural Tuscany for 4 days, stay in farmhouse apartment with restaurant onsite

Return car to Florence -- 3 nights in Florence

Train to Rome 5 nights -- fly home.

For rural Tuscany, I suggest you stay near the town of Montalcino for "food, wine and culture". I've never stayed here, Il Piombaia, but to me it has always looked ideal and you can check out reviews on Tripadvisor. It has apartments, but it also has a restaurant. And it is smack dab in the middle of everything cultural that rural Tuscany has to offer, plus in its most photographed and beloved landscape, in the heart of red wine country.

http://www.piombaia.com/Programma/ge...&Pagina=23.htm
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 10:10 AM
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This information is outstanding guys thank you so much. We are hoping for September/October of this year. Is it realistic to think at this time of the year, that you can arrange moderate to upscale accomadations in the major cities for $200-$300.00 per night ?
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 10:27 AM
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You will need to be dogged in your research, and let's hope the exchange rate stays favorable, but you can do it, and renting apartments can help. If by "upscale" you mean clean and a bit stylsih, yes, But if you mean luxury, plump and fluffy and spacious -- probably not except in Florence. You picked some pricey cities -- Paris, Rome and Venice.

Venere.com, for Italy especially, can be a good website for tracking down accommodations in your budget with favorable user ratings. Booking.com can also help, as well as TripAdvisor.
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 12:24 PM
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I was actually thinking of keeping Paris in and spending four days there and flying to Venice. From Venice taking the train to Rome to see the country by rail. Spend four days in Rome. From Rome, take the train to Florence for a few more days. Rent a car when leaving Florence and head into Tuscany. Spend maybe a week there and fly back to Canada/ US from Florence...

Does that make since to you ? Or, would you suggest doing it a different way ?
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 01:08 PM
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I admit I'm a city girl, so I'd probably spend a little less time in Tuscany and add a day or two to Rome. For me, less than four days in each of these cities isn't enough time. I say "less than four days" because you're going to lose at least half a day every time you change cities/hotels.
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 01:09 PM
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Is that $200-300 Canadian or U.S. dollars?
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 01:10 PM
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Never mind. I see they're running nearly even.
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 01:20 PM
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You need to identify and book your lodging ASAP for the peak period of Sept./Oct. We've stayed at these hotels multiple times at rates of less than US$300/night, although Venice runs higher:

Venice: Pensione La Calcina
http://www.lacalcina.com/HTML/en/calcina_menu_en.html

Rome: Hotel Fontanella Borghese
http://www.fontanellaborghese.com/home_ing.html

Florence: Tourist House Ghiberti [only 5 rooms]
http://www.touristhouseghiberti.com/
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 01:39 PM
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peterh,

If you are flying out of Florence, it seems to me you should pick up your car after seeing Rome. Take the train from Rome to Orvieto, see the cathedral, pick up a rental car the same day after lunch, then drive to Montalcino. When you are through touring the wine country, drop of the car in Florence, tour Florence, fly home.

How you allocate your time really depends on what you enjoy. I would want more day in Paris because I wouldn't want to face another airport so soon. I would spend less time In rural Tuscany because I don't find Tuscan scenery as interesting as other people do (I prefer seascapes and mountains.) I'd rather putter around Rome than hilltowns.

But plenty of people breeze through Rome or Paris on their way to a countryside vacation and they're happier with that.
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 01:43 PM
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PS: Just remember to "breeze" through Rome and Paris and DO NOT RUSH through Rome and Paris. If you think you are going to be rushing from one sight to another to cram in everything you truly want to see, then face up to adding another day there. But if you are content to see only as much as you can and move on, that's your style.
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Old Jun 21st, 2010, 02:10 PM
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peterh,

Mrs. K and I did essentially the same route in 2007 (my second time, her first). We did Paris-Venice-Florence-Rome 7-3-8-3 (days). Now the 8 days in Florence might be a bit much for you but I'm something of a Firenzephile so forgive me. If this is your first trip there, I'd suggest you apportion any time you take from my Florence stop-over to Venice and Rome in a one-third/two-thirds split. Take the train between cities and don't whatever you do spread yourself too thin on the ground just because you think you should. This is a vacation after all.

HTH
K
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