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Jennifer Aug 21st, 2001 05:18 AM

Please help me choose--Italy or France?
After endless hours here on Fodors and many dollars spent on guide books, I still can't decide which country to visit for our first trip to Europe. Things my husband and I enjoy are varied--a little museums and historic sights, shopping, great food, cafes, and just exploring and taking in great sights and a romantic atmosphere. I think my problem is we can find all of these things in Italy and France as well. We only have 7 nights to spend in Europe in June 2002. If we go to Italy we have narrowed it down to 3 whole days in Rome, 1 day travel to Venice, 2 whole days in Venice. If we go to France I think we would spend the whole time in Paris and do a couple of day trips outside of the city. So--what do you think? Any comments, suggestions, ideas, etc. and more greatly appreciated than you can imagine! Thanks in advance.

elvira Aug 21st, 2001 06:02 AM

My first love is France, and Paris above all else. With seven days, you could easily spend all of them in Paris, or take 2 days outside the city: Giverny or Chartres or could even do a trip to the D-Day beaches, or Brussels, or Lyon, or London. <BR> <BR>My vote goes to Paris...

elaine Aug 21st, 2001 06:06 AM

Jennifer <BR>I love Italy very much, but for this trip I'd also vote for Paris plus a daytrip or two. You won't have to face packing/unpacking/checking in and out, which wastes a lot of time, as does the transportation from one city in Italy to another, not to mention the wear and tear on yourselves. <BR>June is lovely in Paris. Paris has fickle weather, but the odds are good in June, plus you'll have the gardens in bloom, including Giverny if that interests you. <BR>Book a hotel many months in advance; the small popular ones fill up fast. <BR>I have a long file on Paris; if you'd like to see it, email me.

Mr. Go Aug 21st, 2001 06:07 AM

Tough call. Both trips are highly recommended. Since you will be traveling in June, weather should be ideal in both countries. Possibly better in Paris. <BR> <BR>Language is a factor. If you have no French or Italian skills, I think basic Italian is easier to learn. But there are many people who speak English in all 3 major cities. <BR> <BR>I don't see expense as a deciding factor, since both trips would be rather pricey. As far as your stated objectives are concerned...both itineraries offer more history, romance, shopping, great food, etc. than you could possibly enjoy in two weeks, let alone one. <BR> <BR>For a first-timer, I think I'd give the nod to Rome/ a very narrow margin. You might just flip a coin and live with the decision fate provides.

lisa Aug 21st, 2001 06:19 AM

You are correct that you can find all of the things you list in either France or Italy. Both are fantastic! But I would choose Paris (by a narrow margin) for this trip. I personally enjoy Paris a bit more than Rome and Venice (although they're all magical), and I would save Rome and Venice for a trip when you have a bit more time (it's a tad rushed to do both in a week). A week in Paris with a couple of daytrips would be perfect.

Rex Aug 21st, 2001 06:37 AM

I am sometimes considered the oddball on questions like this - - as I think that much of the appeal of a country derives from its "culture" - - which, in turn originates in its LANGUAGE. To go to either country to take in its "museums and historic sights, shopping, great food, cafes, and just exploring and taking in great sights and a romantic atmosphere" doesn't make clear to me how much you hope/plan to interact with the people who LIVE there. Many of them speak (some) English - - but day in, day out, they speak French or Italian; they read books, watch movies, listen to music in those languages. <BR> <BR>Does either of those appeal to you? Have you ever enjoyed a French book (even if only in English translation)? music or films in Italian? This might help answer the question more than comparing the "great treasures" of either country - - because both countries have so much in all of these departments. <BR> <BR>You can see either country (or both) as if it is a "zoo" - - behind plate glass windows, to ooh and aah at - - but half (most?) of the fun of Europe travel (to me) is the immersion in things NOT English-oriented that I don't find here in my own country. <BR> <BR>And it's not out of the question to sample both countries for half a week apiece. If you can, think about visiting OUTside the big cities in one country or the other (or both, if you are prepared to forego a "big city" in one country - - there simply isn't time in ONE week to sample both city AND country in both countries). <BR> <BR>Best wishes, <BR> <BR>Rex <BR>

Chris Aug 21st, 2001 06:54 AM

From Paris you can take a day trip to Bruges (has canals!), a day trip to Nimes (it has a coloseum!), spend a day at the Louvre (art from ALL over!) <BR> <BR>Seriously? I cannot help you. It's too difficult. They are completely different trips. But Paris is a very romantic city (especially at night), and a day trip to the Loire Valley is also not out of the question. But the Forum in Rome (at night) is romantic in a way too... <BR> <BR>Good luck. Although on one hand I wish I was you, on the other I'm glad I'm not you! Talk about your tough decisions! But rest assured, whichever trip you do, you will have a great time and love every minute.

Sharon P Aug 21st, 2001 07:11 AM

Although we absolutely love Rome and the Amalfi Coast, I believe with only 1 week you might consider traveling to the magical city of Paris. Buy a museum pass to avoid long lines and bring a French phrase book. We did not have any problems communicating while in France and the metro was not difficult to use. Outside Paris, travel to Monaco and the French Riviera (don't miss St. Paul de Vence). If you choose Italy, you might wish to go to only Rome, and try to book a day trip to Pompeii-fascinating! Reading roman history will help to appreciate what you will see in Rome. Tough choice, we love both countries.

Jennifer Aug 21st, 2001 08:06 AM

Thank you so much, everybody, for your replies. You're giving me a lot of help and much to think about. It seems maybe Paris would be the best bet--especially considering our time constraints. It is so hard to decide between two countries that offer so much of what we want to see and do, but like many of you say--both are wonderful and we really can't go wrong. <BR>In response to Rex's language background will not do me a whole lot of good in either country. I speak quite a bit of Spanish, no French at all and little Italian. My husband is nearly fluent in Italian--his parents lived in Italy until their teens, speak Italian often at home and he has many relatives, including grandparents who speak no English at all. He, in fact, still has uncles and cousins who live in Italy. So as for "interacting with the locals", I do feel like every family gathering is quite a bit like that. Wherever we go, I will certainly learn enough of the language to understand and be understood when I need to communicate. I am certainly not a traveler who would be irritated that French people speak French. As for finding a local and discussing life over a cup of coffee--that's not a priority or even a possibility for this trip, especially in France. So, I guess for the first trip we will be looking to do the tourist things, see the main sights that I have heard about and seen in books and on our next trip we'll perhaps skip the main attractions and get off the beaten path a bit more.

Rex Aug 21st, 2001 08:21 AM

Jennifer, <BR> <BR>Thanks for a well-written follow-up. And the appeal of language-based "cultural sampling" is a spectrum from one extreme to another. <BR> <BR>To be able to discuss world issues over a cup of coffee in another language might be one extreme - - and I didn't mean to suggest that ought to be the goal for you, nor anyone - - certain not on your first (or first dozen) trip(s). <BR> <BR>I'm glad to hear that you don't envision yourself at the opposite extreme either - - I have a niece who just returned from six weeks in Europe, based in Maastricht (the Netherlands). I said "Goed avond" (good evening) to her, and she told me she didn't learn a single word of Dutch except for Dank U (at least she learned that!) <BR> <BR>I'm guessing that you might not actually reach your stated aim of "I will certainly learn enough of the language to understand and be understood when I need to communicate" - - but I'm glad for your positivie attitude. and even seeing the "touristy stuff" alone can lead you to encounters (maybe they're only with the PRINTED language - - can be much easier than listening comprehension) with French or Italian. You want to buy a postage stamp or a bus ticket - - you step into a little &lt;&lt;tabacchi&gt;&gt; shop - - and thee are magazines, and knicknacks of every sort - - and maybe they will fascinate you, mayeb they will not. If you try to see the world only in the English translations here and there, you can miss a lot of fun - - again - - just my opinion. <BR> <BR>Given your huisband's Italian background, I would recommend three days in ONE Italian city, two days outside it, and two days in Paris (or ONE other French city). <BR> <BR>Best wishes, <BR> <BR>Rex <BR>

Sheila Aug 21st, 2001 09:27 AM

before I read the other answers I was going to say Italy; and I'll say it anyway for the following reasons, but it's less clear cut when I see the input from others. <BR> <BR>If you based a chunk of time in Tuscany, you would have a plethora of beautiful little towns and villages, in the midst of great museums which you could pick and choose from; in the most historic places, with great food (I guess I just like Italian food more than French), cafes everywhere, and places to walk and a slower pace of life. I like Rome too (but I guess I'm not a city person, so I'd do somwhere near Siena, with major one day trips to Rome and Florence for 5 days then 2 in Venice (and I'd consider Rome optional-worth a trip on its own) And the shopping, my dear, is to die for!

andib Aug 21st, 2001 11:08 AM

I don't think anyone else can decide for you where to go, so here's an idea. Go the library and take out some books (especially ones with lots of pictures) of Paris and Rome/Venice. Also, rent some videos that take place in both countries. Then figure out which excites you more and go there.

dan woodlief Aug 21st, 2001 11:20 AM

I have been to France a couple of times but am only about to go to Italy for the first time. After going, however, I bet I would come back and say France. I believe you can really maximize your time by staying in Paris and taking daytrips. You don't have to deal with multiple hotels, trains, etc. Plus, seven days in Paris, even with a couple of daytrips, will allow you to see a lot. In comparison, seven days in multiple parts of Italy would be more hectic and allow for a more superficial visit. Still, you could do as some others have suggested. Go to either Florence, Rome, or Siena, and take daytrips from there. Florence or Siena would allow for trips to Pisa, San Gimignano, and others. Rome would allow for trips to Ostia Antica, Pompei, Orvieto, etc. It's a tough choice. I thought about this when planning my own trip to Italy. I will be there for 12 days but had a very hard time deciding what to see and do. France is much easier to plan for a first visit because Paris is the major attraction. Italy has three world famous cities, and that is just the beginning. It made my head spin with 12 days, so I can only imagine the smoke coming from yours.

Barbara Aug 21st, 2001 01:14 PM

Wow, Andi, how helpful are you? If you can't give any better suggestion than "go to the library", why do you bother to post? If you read the original post, the girl did say she has done a lot of research. I also didn't read where she said, "I'm going to go wherever you tell me to go, even if it's not where I want to go." This is supposed to be a tool to help people make travel decisions. If the answer to every question is "go find a book", then what are we all doing here at this site anyway?!

Cheryl Z. Aug 21st, 2001 02:52 PM

<BR>Jennifer, I was torn at first to offer advice for which destination (both wonderful and unique) but then leaned towards Paris, til I read your message about your husband. Go to Italy!! :) I'm married to an Italian (from NY) and I think your husband (and you) would really love being there and appreciate it so much. However, if there are relatives to visit (and that in itself can be overwhelming), there might not be much time for doing other things. Also, a week isn't that much for even just Rome and Venice. Another thought too - would the relatives be upset if you were in Europe but didn't come to Italy??

grasshopper Aug 21st, 2001 02:57 PM

Barbara, That was really unfair! I think Andi's suggestion was a good one. The decision to go to Italy or Paris is so subjective and depends entirely on a person's preferences. While the initial poster may be wishing to weigh all the suggestions made I think Andi's advice is sound. Jennifer's choice should be made based on what feels the best in her "gut". (other than the very good point that one week really isn't enough to even begin to see Italy)

Capo Aug 21st, 2001 03:14 PM

Hi Jennifer. Your first trip to Europe, eh? No matter which country you choose, I'm sure you'll have a wonderful trip and I'm excited for you and your husband. <BR> <BR>I've been to Paris numerous times and Rome just once, recently. Rome is very romantic -- especially with all the fountains -- but Paris, in my opinion, is even more so, so that's the city I'd recommend. To me, there is nothing comparable to standing on a bridge over the Seine, especially the pedestrian Pont des Arts, and soaking in the beauty of the City of Light. <BR> <BR>That being said, the one advantage I could see to visiting Italy would be that you could easily see a large city, Rome, and also visit a spectacular and romantic piece of the Mediterranean coast, the Sorrento peninsula, which is much closer to Rome than the French Mediterranean coast is to Paris. However, if you're not interested in visiting that part of Italy (the Sorrento peninsula), then I'd say go with Paris. <BR> <BR>One other consideration: if you wilt in the heat (like I do) I suspect that Paris would be a bit cooler than Rome, and Venice, in June.

Jennifer Aug 21st, 2001 03:32 PM

Hi, Cheryl--Thanks for your ideas! If this decision were only up to my husband, it would be simple... our Italian trip would be booked tomorrow! I said in my original post this was "our" first trip to Europe--I have never been there but my husband has been there twice, the last time was over 15 years ago when he was about 14 yrs. old. I thought maybe he would like to see a new country but he would most like to go to Italy and experience it with me. I can tell your married in an Italian family--always worried what the relatives will think--and how true! That would pose a problem. My husband would ideally like to meet up with the relatives at a restaurant in Rome and share an evening together. That I would enjoy. But, neither my husband nor I want to spend our week hanging out in a small town outside of Naples with relatives he barely knows. And his family sure does know how to lay on the guilt and this could really stir up some family trouble. So--the Italian background is both a positive and a negative. So many things to consider it makes my head spin. We thought about planning this trip last year, it got way too confusing, and we just booked another trip to the Caribbean. This time I'm determined to see Europe--just not sure where yet!

Cheryl Z. Aug 21st, 2001 04:04 PM

<BR>Hi again - Had to tell you I laughed when you caught on to my comment about the family :)) <BR>So now, my suggestion is Paris!

Janine Aug 22nd, 2001 05:55 AM

Having studied French at school, I was really looking forward to visiting France on my first trip to Europe some years ago. But I have to say, that on that same trip, I actually preferred Italy, and (given the opportunity), that is probably where I would return to. It is hard to say why, but personally, I found Venice to be more romantic than Paris, and Rome more alive. While the French were very cultured, I found the Italians more vibrant. But of course, it's a purely personal perspective. <BR>I think the person who suggested looking at library books etc, was perhaps really suggesting you try and tap into your gut instincts. Are there any highlights you would particularly love to see? I dare not suggest you toss a coin, although this is sometimes a way of discovering that you do actually hold preferences you were not aware of. <BR>As you mention, you will certainly find all of the things you are looking for in both countries. It comes down to a question of which culture resonates with you more, which is hard to know until you get there. It may even differ for yourself and your husband, but I don't think you can go wrong with whichever you decide upon.

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