Paris to Rome by car

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May 18th, 2014, 10:01 PM
  #1
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Paris to Rome by car

My 16 yr old son and I have 12 days to travel from Paris to Rome where we will hook up with mom and daughter. We love to drive and will be renting a very nice car in Paris for the trip to Rome and back (6/17 - 7/10). Any suggestions on the route south? The girls are in charge of the route back to Paris.
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May 19th, 2014, 01:34 AM
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I assume the 16-year-old son won't be sharing the driving, although your post makes it seem so. Most rental car companies won't allow drivers under the age of 21.

If you want to take two different routes, it would be best to let your wife and daughters choose the route back before you decide on the route south. There are two basic routes that I think would be interesting. One heads east from Paris, passing through Reims, and allowing some nice stops in Alsace and central Switzerland. The other heads south, allowing a visit to Nîmes and Provence, then hugging the coast, with the French and Italian Riviera. Both routes converge at Florence.

You shouldn't attempt to drive in Rome or Florence or any other Italian city. These cities have large limited traffic zones (ZTL) where only residents, delivery vehicles, and emergency vehicles are allowed to drive. It's very easy to stray into one of these zones, and the result will be large fines that will follow you home. The rental company will also charge your credit card with a hefty fee to pay for their assistance in helping the police find you at home. If you want to make a quick visit to either city, it would be best to stay outside the central zone, in a hotel that has easy access to transportation into the city.

There may be similar rules in France, but we've never driven there; we've always relied on trains and public transportation, which allowed us to see a great deal.
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May 19th, 2014, 02:21 AM
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There are really three classic routes.

The Via Francigena (google it), which from Paris you pick up at Rheims, was for about a thousand years the standard route from NW Europe to Rome, and avoids Florence, staying much closer to the Italian coast. This is waymarked today, though the waymarked route is mostly impractical for your purposes, and the closest fastish roads are almost all two lane. It would take about four days, without much in the way of stops.

The Provence and Riviera route is motorway, if you want it to be, all the way. It's easy to do in two days, with one overnight stop. It's generally an unrewarding shlep - and in a fast car the bit from Nice to the eastbound turnoff for Florence at about Pisa is mostly very, very challenging driving, with frequent abrupt changes from light to dark, sharp bends, dense traffic and high average speeds. Some find it exhilarating: others a serious and frightening pain for the driver (who obviously can't appreciate the often fabulous scenery). The non-motorway almost parallel roads over this section are just about as challenging, only with narrower roads,sharper bends and (sometimes) slightly slower other drivers.

The fastest - and most straightforward - third option is the A6 to Macon, the A40 to the French suburbs of Geneva, then (staying in France) to the Mont Blanc tunnel through to Italy, then via Alessandria and the Bologna bypass to Florence and Rome. This can - just - be done in a very long day, though that's silly.

Again, all motorway. Turning off to see anywhere will take far longer than most non-Europeans can possibly imagine.

I'd say all these routes are pointless in less than four (and I prefer at least five) days, unless you've got a very specific reason (like lots of luggage, a dog or a fear of flying) for the drive.

Given that you've only got a month, and need to drive the car back, it's essential to allow enough time to see things. Otherwise, you'd get a far better view of the scenery by high speed trains.
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May 19th, 2014, 02:32 AM
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PS

ZTLs are rare in France. In Italy outside Rome, they're a nuisance for overnighting by car in most pretty towns, but merely an issue to be borne in mind (and factored into your timetable) for casual visiting. You simply assume you can't park in the centre, dump your car in the off-centre carparks and allow enough time for finding a place to park (a near-universal issue in Europe) and for then walking (most small towns) or getting a bus into the centre.
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May 19th, 2014, 02:32 AM
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It depends so much on what you want to see and do. We have done this trip by car twice and both times went through Switz - different areas. Perhaps not the shortest, but we enjoyed it.
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May 19th, 2014, 02:34 AM
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Unless you have very specific things to see between Paris and Provence I would take a train to Nice and then pick up the car. The road south from Paris is long and boring; I've done it once and would not do it again. Two of your 12 days will be long driving days.

You could see various places between Nice and Rome and on the way back see some places in France but I definitely would not do the trip twice.
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May 20th, 2014, 05:14 AM
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Thank you all for your insights. BTW, I'll be doing all of the driving . Would anyone know if we would have trouble finding overnight accommodations on the fly? I'd rather not civilize this trip too much by planing out towns and hotels to stay in along the route.
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May 20th, 2014, 05:48 AM
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Have you checked with the rental company that they're happy for their car to leave the country? Some companies don't allow it or charge a hefty insurance fee for the privilege.

Some of the best places we've stayed have been when winging it. we drove from Reims to Positano(took 3 nights) without a reservation anywhere and loved it. The same on the way back to the UK, another 5 nights and our trip was in late August/early September.
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May 20th, 2014, 09:20 AM
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ZTLs aren't called that in France, but I don't think they are rare in some of those historic villages in Provence. I"ve never seen one in a large city, except a lot of them do indeed have pedestrian-only areas where only taxis or official cars are allowed to go (eg, Strasbourg). In France, they just have signs that some street that might be the logical entry to a village is barred to traffic "sauf riverains" which means except for local residents.
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May 20th, 2014, 10:38 AM
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You shouldn't have a problem finding hotels along the way as long as you're not looking in really popular towns. You're avoiding all the French and Italian holidays.

If you go through Switzerland you'll need a vignette to drive on the highways.

Are you arriving from an overseas flight and starting the drive immediately? If so, you'll want a short first day. Beaune is a nice resting place for a night.
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May 20th, 2014, 10:53 AM
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It's quite a long drive, but I would love to do it. Personally, I would drive down through the Massif Central area, using the A75 part of the way (it is free!) and stopping at the Puy de Dôme and the Vulcania volcano park. I would drive back up through the Alps, either through the Mont Blanc tunnel or perhaps over the Simplon, Grand Saint Bernard or Gotthard passes because all of those mountain routes are totally stunning. Of course you would almost certainly have to buy the Swiss autoroute vignette, but on such a long trip, that would only be a detail.
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May 21st, 2014, 05:29 AM
  #12
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Thanks for all of you replies. It is has been very helpful! My son wants to stop by the French Riviera on the way to Italy. Is it worth the effort at this time of year? Which beach would be best and where should we stay for a day or so? Thanks!
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May 21st, 2014, 05:33 AM
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I would rent a GPS to avoid driving in circles in big cities. I actually own one because I go often enough that it was a worthwhile investment for me. If you do want to buy one, you can get one in any FNAC store. FNAC is a French electronics chain store. If you forget adapters or computer cords, FNAC is where you head for that stuff in France. I got sick of getting lost trying to get home to my home exchange homes and purchased a GPS. It solved a lot of problems. I do leave my GPS for North America in my car for my home exchangers so they don't get lost either.
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May 21st, 2014, 11:09 AM
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Thanks, Lauren. Do you need a special GPS for Europe? I see that they're sold at Costco. What that do?
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May 21st, 2014, 11:32 AM
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For several years now, I've been using my Android phone as my GPS unit. It's more up-to-date than my husband's Garmin, and just as accurate (or inaccurate). I've also used it more than once to find a city address. There are cheap Android phones that cost less than a GPS unit would, and you can also use them to make phone calls.
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May 21st, 2014, 04:11 PM
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I have a Garmin but look at bvlenci's suggestion. That might be a better option if you are bringing a phone. I usually do not bring a a phone, so that is why I got the Garmin. It has 45 countries on it. If you rent a car, it generally costs about 15 euros a day to rent a GPS for Europe.

The reason I do not bring a phone is that my cell is the only phone I have and I do have to leave one for the exchangers. It is also cheaper to just use whatever they provide. I don't make very many calls abroad anyway as it is just as easy to use the internet.
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May 22nd, 2014, 03:04 AM
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You don't need a special GPS or SatNav for Europe, you just need an SD card with European maps on it. You can usually buy them anywhere the GPS is sold, or certainly online from the manufacturer of your machine.
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May 22nd, 2014, 04:04 AM
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You guys are great. I've settled most of my problems here so that I won't fall apart when I get to Paris and nothing seems to be going right. Just two more items that I can use your help on. 1- do i need to buy bottled drinking water or bring my elec kettle to boil water so that we can brush our teeth and not get Delhi belly (I travel a lot on the sub continent)or is water from the tap safe? 2- what do i do about the travel and car insurance dilemma? Priceline has insurance for $11 per day on the car that seems to be alright but where should I go for travel insurance? Any ideas? Thanks!
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May 22nd, 2014, 08:42 AM
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Western Europe is the first world, do you seriously think they don't have safe drinking water? That is incredible, you think they have bacteria and cholera in French tap water? Of course it is safe. I wouldn't drink out of taps in public bathrooms or public fountains, though.

YOu can buy insurance at www.insuremytrip.com Some policies include auto coverage for an add-on and it can be cheaper then that when you buy it from the car rental company. I've done that a couple times.
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May 22nd, 2014, 11:03 AM
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You'll need an International Drivers Permit to drive in Italy. (Well, you don't nee-e-d an IDP, the car will still start, but Italian law requires it.) An IDP is a translation of your license, which you carry along with your license. Even if you're not a member, you can get an IDP at your local AAA/CAA office for about $25 including photo - quickly and easily.

Your rental car may well come with a built-in GPS.
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