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thedoveshack Oct 20th, 2014 12:04 PM

NEED ADVICE: 2 Months in Italy, 1 Month through Spain, Greece, and France
I will be staying in Rome for 2 months with a host family (Geovisions - teach English program) and backpacking across Spain, Greece, and France for the last month, although, I haven't fully finished my itinerary on that yet. I was hoping to receive advice on which type of luggage I should bring and the type of travel.

Option 1:
Rolling suitcase + carry-on bag to hold my DSLR + lens + daily items.
Carry-on bag:

Option 2:
Traveling backpack + messenger bag style camera bag for DSLR + lens
Backpack options:
Messenger bag:

These options aren't 100%, just a few that I came up with. What are your thoughts on what I should do?

As I'll be spending 2 months living in Italy, I am planning to explore every city (Milan, Florence, Naples, Bologna, Venice, Le Marche, etc) and would like to know the cheapest option for getting around (besides walking). To get from Italy to Spain/Greece/France, I was looking at taking the EUrail. Would you suggest I get a "Select Pass" or buying the passes, "Point to Point"? Unless it's preferred to take Ryan Air.

I have less than 3 months to complete this plan and appreciate all your help.

RonZ Oct 20th, 2014 02:13 PM

For Italy, train schedules and ticket pre-pays up to 120 days in advance, except for certain regional trains, using italian city names:

Ryanair is just one low cost airline. Find these on

sandralist Oct 20th, 2014 03:41 PM

It is hard to advise people on what kind of luggage might work for them without knowing if they are tall or short or generally have great upper body strength, etc. When I have traveled with my sister, we use entirely different luggage because we just need to do that. If you can get to a great luggage store and try out different things, and read lots of reviews, that is better than my telling you my favorite luggage.

If you have less than 3 months to complete your plans, does that mean you will be in Rome in the wintertime, and planning to visit other cities in Italy during the winter? That could very much affect your ability and desire to take trips out of Rome. If you pre-book tickets, they might be very cheap, but if the day comes you are planning to visit Milan or Florence and there is awful weather there, it might not make sense to take the trip, even if you have a ticket.

Which 2 months will you be in Rome and which month will you be backpacking in other countries? That too could affect the type of luggage you bring.

isabel Oct 20th, 2014 03:45 PM

I wouldn't get any of those bags. They all look very overpriced and heavy. I also didn't see the dimensions of any of them (might be hidden on the website somewhere but wasn't obvious). You want well made, but as light weight as possible, bags. What airline are you flying? Have you checked both the weight and size limitations. Every airline has this information on their site and most are going to be lighter and smaller than you think. Some intra European airlines (such as limit you to ONE carry on bag (not a 'bag' plus a 'personal item' that is allowed for most trans Atlantic carriers) and charge considerably for checked luggage.

For such large distances between Greece, Spain, France and Italy, you will probably find flying much cheaper than trains. As mentioned above, there are many cheap intra-European airlines besides Ryan Air. I find Easyjet has the most routes, and they tend to use airports that are more mainstream (e.g. closer to city centers) than Ryan air.

For shorter distances, such as between Italian cities, trains are best. Discount rates usually available 90 days in advance if you can decide that far in advance. Those types of tickets are non refundable. Same goes for France and Spain.

thedoveshack Oct 20th, 2014 03:52 PM

Thank you for both of your informative replies. I am flying out of LAX on Jan 10. via Air New Zealand with a 3hr layover in London and then from London to Rome via British Airways. This will be my first trip going solo. I'm 24, 5'10", and would say I'm quite athletic, so a backpack would be no problem. I only suggested a suitcase because I'll be living in Rome for 2 months at one place without moving around. Rome will be from Jan-Mar and the last 30 days will be spent traveling through Frace, Spain, and Greece. I will definitely check out Easyjet and other brands for bags.

Could you recommend some bags you have used or know of that is good on weight and price? I chose the Tom Bihn bag as it seemed suitable for 3 months away.

kybourbon Oct 20th, 2014 03:57 PM

Greece has very little train options so you need to plan buses, ferries and flights for traveling around there. From Rome, check Aegean Air to Greece.

There are lots of budget airlines in Europe and one way tickets aren't marked up like in the states. They can often be cheaper than trains, but you need to pay attention to each airlines rules (baggage sizes/weights/fee). Try these two sites for airlines.

I prefer a small rolling suitcase along with a regular backpack (lightweight - no wheels).

I'm not sure you will have the time to seen all those places in one month. Which is your departure airport?

>>>I am planning to explore every city (Milan, Florence, Naples, Bologna, Venice, Le Marche, <<<

This alone is a 2-3 week itinerary and you only have one month .I'm not sure you will have the time to seen all those places in one month. Which is your departure airport?

As for passes in Italy, it's hard to get the value of one unless you are doing a lot of long trips. The faster trains have mandatory seat reservation requirements (10€ each) and they aren't included in passes. You can buy advance tickets on Trenitalia for the faster trains for as little as 9€ (more often 19€) which includes your mandatory seat reservation. Additionally, many smaller towns are only served by buses.

You need to narrow down your itinerary and post it so you can get feedback on what's feasible. For example, getting from Rome to Nice France would take about 8-9 hours and a couple of train changes.

thedoveshack Oct 20th, 2014 04:01 PM

I have 2 months in Rome, so I felt like I can definitely check out all of Italy. I will work on the itinerary and post here when that's completed for all to review.

kybourbon Oct 20th, 2014 04:12 PM

If you are working, how do you figure you have time to see places 4 hours away by train?

thedoveshack Oct 20th, 2014 04:21 PM

I teach 2 hours in the noon and 1 in the evening, 5 days a week. Weekends are free to roam. Housing + 2 meals a day included for the duration of my stay.

nytraveler Oct 20th, 2014 04:23 PM

I'm sorry but it can be very expensive to take ALL of your luggage on the one month trek - since size and weight limits for budget airlines are MUCH smaller/lighter than transatlantic flights and even when paid for in advance the p rice for checked luggage can be high.

Unfortunately since you are coming in the winter you will need some warmer clothing - which I suggest you wear on the flight rather than in checked luggage.

It sound like you plan on doing a weekend trip - leaving Friday night and returning Sunday night - to see many of these towns. Do realize that this can be expensive taking the fast trains (which you have to buy in advance for discounts) versus the much slower cheap trains (which often wouldn;t give you time to see much).

After you leave Rome I would fly to each of the other countries and then train within them - but do realize that a week to explore each country is minimal and you will be able to see only a couple of places in each - not the whole country - so check out flights to wherever you want to go. Perhaps you might want to consider removing Greece - since you are going too early for the islands - most will be closed andit definitely won;t be beach weather.

RonZ Oct 20th, 2014 05:55 PM

There is a direct flight from LAX to FCO.

Also, the longer the trip, the lighter you pack.

Furthest train ride from Rome would probably be Venice, 3:45 hours.

sandralist Oct 20th, 2014 06:35 PM

You can find lots of reviews of backpacks online. Some issues I've read with those you mention are straps that cut into the shoulders because they are too narrow near the neck. I alternate between using a backpack and a spinner wheel carry-on size, depending on what trip I am taking.

For your weekend trips out of Rome, you can buy a small backpack or bag in Italy for 15e or so. I would buy whatever you think works best for budget airlines and your "not-Italy" traveling at the end of your European stay, and buy something cheap in Italy for the rest. You can also ship things home before you do your last month.

Rather than spend a lot on luggage, better to invest (I think) in some very lightweight Winter Silks or thermal clothes that will allow you to pack very light for your end-of-trip backpacking. While you are in Italy, you can frequently do laundry. Harder for your one-month backpacking. Focus on having the winter warmth you need for that, but which will still fit into carry on luggage/backpack.

For your weekend excursions in Italy, some are easier than others by train, and some are OK in any weather, others not so much. Bologna, Florence, Naples and Milan are probably cities you can book in advance to get cheap tickets and hotel rooms, without being too concerned about weather. Venice can be quite difficult if the weather is against you; Le Marche is very hard to visit without a car. If you can afford a cheap flight to Palermo, it's a wonderful place to visit, and very often has pleasant weather in winter.

Don't shortchange easy trips out of Rome that aren't big cities. Orvieto, Chiusi, Cortona and Arezzo can all be seen on weekend from Rome if you base in Orvieto or Chiusi. You can stay in Perugia and visit Assisi (nice weather helps for that trip). If you see a weather forecast for Salerno that predicts brilliantly sunny weather, hop on a train and take in Pompei, Salerno, Paestum and a bus back to Sorrento to see fantastic sights and beautiful scenery.

dreamon Oct 21st, 2014 02:51 AM

One month to see much in three countries as large and diverse as Greece, Spain and France is a tall order and I think you would risk feeling like you were rushing around. If it were me - and I know it's not - I would choose one or two (max) of the three and if two then probably the two adjacent countries for a more relaxed and rewarding holiday. Of course, it depends on which of the three has the strongest draw for you.

thedoveshack Oct 21st, 2014 10:10 AM

Thank you for all of your information and advice. I will definitely reconsider my itinerary / look into cheaper bags (Osprey Porter) / and winter silks or lightweight winter wear. Lots to plan, little time left, and I work 40+ hours a week, so I thank you all for your time.

travelerjan Oct 21st, 2014 10:41 AM

Since Greece is last, I'm guessing that will be the first week in April?? Do remember that Easter there is April 12 in 2015 ... and Easter impacts EVERYTHING. Half of Athens leaves, to go to their family small towns ... the rest of the pop. is taken up with Holy week etc. Plan accordingly.

You will be short on time... and it's too early for the islands. I suggest staying in ATHENS 3 days (Hotel Phaedra is great budget hotel right by acropolis; room w/external pvt bath is best deal). Then for 2-3 final days, take an intercity (KTEL) bus 2 hrs to Nafplio -- on a peninsula, gorgeous, historic, Greeks call it the most beautiful Old Town in Greece ... and if you like ancient stuff, it's all around. Here's the wonderful noncommercial website that tells all You would definitely need to book ahead ... because Athenians love Nafplio too as a getaway. The cheapest student place is Pension Bekas. Next is Pension Akronafplia ... they have 2-3 bldgs.

I totally agree with the Sandralist strategy on luggage, including buying cheap daypack for those quickie Italian trips.

thedoveshack Oct 23rd, 2014 12:07 PM

I just came across this site last night,

Has anybody here used it? A friend of mine suggested checking in a suitcase + bring a travel backpack carry-on and after my 2 months in Italy, I just ship back my suitcase.

I still am going to consider all advice given here though, so many thanks for that!

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