Provence and Amalfi Small Town bases

May 17th, 2016, 01:26 PM
  #1  
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Provence and Amalfi Small Town bases

This will be our third trip to Europe. We are hooked! The past two times, we've stayed more or less for four nights in each of five places, total of 3 weeks travel. This year (late September/early Oct) same idea, we fly into Paris and out of Rome. We've visited Paris once before and are eager to go back. In between the two cities, we want to make this a water themed vacation. We found that we enjoy vacation rentals in small villages - last two times we visited and loved Amboise, Florence, Montepulciano, Colmar, Murren Switzerland, Bruges, Riquewihr, France and Cochem, Germany. Thanks to many other Fodorites we made lots of informed good choices.

We like the smaller of these the best, and with it the ability to travel to at least one other village. We rented bikes in Cochem and visited Bielstein and hiked/trained to Burg Eltz, for example. While in Riquewihr we pedaled to nearby villages on two of the three days.

We have narrowed down our three stops to: Provence, Cinque Terre, and the Amalfi Coast.

Judging by our "slow" travel preferences, (we don't intend to rent a car because seeing lots of sights isn't the goal, living and market shopping and boat/bike rides/walks/café sits are what we want, what pairs of towns in Provence and Amalfi could you suggest? I read a post of someone who stayed in Arles and went to "nearby Collia, rented a canoe, and viewed Pont du Gard from riverside for the first time". That is what floats our boat! There's lots of info on CT, but I'm getting confused, especially about Provence (or should we concentrate on Cote D'Azur instead? not big city lovers and don't care about seeing rich people but the seaside would be wonderful, although I know there's no sandy beaches, that's ok. Saw a rental in Villefranche-sur-mer...). Provence sounds beautiful and very varied. Arles sounds lovely like Riquewihr. On Amalfi, we want to be close to the water, not up high in one of the hill towns. Is there a small village that would work?

Is casual biking possible in Provence? Sounds like it's too windy and hilly for us flat-landers (we live in Florida and bike and swim and kayak often but don't do well on hills!).

Thanks for any and all suggestions! Sorry for the ramble, I wanted to explain as precisely as I could.
joan is offline  
May 17th, 2016, 01:50 PM
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An Amalfi Coast town that would suit is Atrani. It is linked to Amalfi by a pedestrian pathway but is away from the cruise crowds and day trippers.

http://www.positano.com/en/s/amalfi-and-atrani-2

I wouldn't recommend any of the other coastal small villages such as Praiano or Furore as you will be limited to the bus service which is always crowded - even in late September which is very much still high season. With Atrani you have the benefits of a small village but walking access to Amalfi for some great restaurants, markets and access to the ferry if you want to take a trip to Positano.
Blueeyedcod is offline  
May 17th, 2016, 03:13 PM
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Perfect! that's just what I'm looking for. I'll check out accommodations. Thanks very much blue eyed cod!
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May 18th, 2016, 08:03 AM
  #4  
ekc
 
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Yes, Atrani is a good option. Another option is Vietri Sul Mare, which is linked to Salerno via train or bus.
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May 18th, 2016, 12:06 PM
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Is casual biking possible in Provence? Sounds like it's too windy and hilly for us flat-landers (we live in Florida and bike and swim and kayak often but don't do well on hills!).>

I have biked all over Provence and you are right plus it is so hot in the summer - consider renting a moped!

Going by public transit - for lots of info on trains in France and Italy check www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.seat61.com. There is a France-Italy Railpass if traveling enough on longer train trips.

(or should we concentrate on Cote D'Azur instead? not big city lovers and don't care about seeing rich people but the seaside would be wonderful, although I know there's no sandy beaches, that's ok.>

Cote d'Azur has plenty of sandy beaches - not in Nice but at Cannes of course and east of Antibes are wide sandy beaches - can take a train to the Biot train station for superb beaches.
PalenQ is offline  
May 18th, 2016, 09:15 PM
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Staying in Provence without a car would not be easy IMO. Moving from one hill top village to another would not be easy by bus, sounds like you might be better near the coast.
Helsie is offline  
May 18th, 2016, 10:30 PM
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How long is your trip? Water based... here is what I'd do. Again depending on duration. Let's say two weeks. Fly into Paris...train to Nice...,..explore....,train to cinque terra.,,explore....train to sperlonga...train to Naples with private driver to almafi....explore... Private driver back to Naples..,,train to Venice....go to the lido. Then fly out of Venice.
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May 18th, 2016, 11:40 PM
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Well, it won't be hot in late September in Provence or Amalfi Coast, so no problem in either place.

We have never had a car on the AC, could go anywhere by boat or bus. It would be a good fit for you. Very dramatic with many, many places to see and explore. It is so popular you already know those. It is one of the most beautiful, dramatic landscapes I have ever seen, including some Greek Islands.

Venice would also be a good fit, with beautiful island villages like Burano, and plenty of water. You would have ample opportunity to walk and bike and even learn to row a gondola. There are a great nearby places to visit with short 20-30 minute train trips. Padua, Vicenza, etc.

Considered boring by many, we enjoyed the Camargue area of Provence, a bit south of Arles and Nimes. It is flat, so great for biking and walking, again, lots of water for boating. The salt flat, Cowboys and animals were not dramatic, but I thought the area quite beautiful. It feels secluded, somewhat apart from the rest of the area. The sea and grasses might remind you a little too much of Florida though. We stayed in Aigues Mortes and it was wonderful at night, so quiet you wanted to tip toe and not disturb with your footsteps. Beautiful square for eating outside at night. It was about an hour from Arles by bus, but we splurged and took a taxi one way. You could consider a night or two in Arles. Lots of people biking there.
It was a short bus ride from there to Les Baux.
Sassafrass is offline  
May 19th, 2016, 10:12 AM
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Thanks for all the ideas, posters!

To clarify, we have air booked (into Paris and out of Rome) and first four nights lodging in Paris. We visited Venice on our first trip, so we definitely want to see Amalfi and end with Rome this time. Need to fill in the two legs in between, so this is our itinerary so far. A personal rule for us is minimum 4 nights in each place:

Nights 1-4 Paris (not changeable)

Nights 5-8 Provence

Nights 9-12 Cinque Terre

Nights 13-16 Amalfi

Nights 17-20 Rome (not changeable)

Just discovered that train travel between Provence and CT will be longer than we thought (9-12 hours), also between CT and Amalfi (found some great rentals in Atrani). Now considering overnight train for Nights 8 and 12...

Can anyone comment on Arles as a base? As Sassafrass thought, we would rather experience the wine and village aspect of Provence, with the possibility of hiking or busing or (I suppose not) biking to one more interesting village. Arles to Les Baux for example..?
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May 19th, 2016, 11:02 AM
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ekc
 
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I would be very surprised if there is an overnight train between CT and Naples/Salerno. If you do a search, you will find many very negatives threads on overnight trains.

Frankly I would choose CT or AC. Given its proximity to Rome, I would choose the AC for this trip. Atrani is a great spot, because you can easily walk to Amalfi where you can catch the ferry.

And, yes, it can be hot on the AC in late September.
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May 19th, 2016, 03:31 PM
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Ah..ekc. That would make the second time we've give up CT if we do that. (Gave it up for Florence and Montepulciano and Venice previously) I don't know, but I surely see your point. Will have to ponder! That would also mean doing directly from Provence to Amalfi...gotta check that aspect. I'm not crazy about an overnight train either, but neither do I like the idea of spending twelve hours of a precious vacation day on a train.
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May 19th, 2016, 11:38 PM
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Overnight trains are not possible on all routes so you will need to check into that.
jamikins is offline  
May 20th, 2016, 12:41 AM
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Here is some information about getting from Nice to Genoa via train

http://www.seat61.com/international-...#Nice_to_Italy
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May 20th, 2016, 01:04 AM
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One of the cities I prefer in Provence is Aix en Provence, or Avignon (and a daytrip to Orange for the spectacular coliseum).
As for towns, or villages, Vaison la Romaine, Gordes, Tourtour, Villedieu les poëles, or any of the villages that they recommend on the tourist info site hereunder.
But definitely if you go in vilalges, do have a car.

http://www.provence.guideweb.com/villes/
Whathello is offline  
May 20th, 2016, 02:22 AM
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We stayed 4 nights in Manarola in CT in an apartment directly overlooking the sea and absolutely loved it. (We also love seeing our place in every picture of Manarola!) You can walk, train or take the ferry between the towns and also explore outside the 5 towns without a car. Don't go there if you don't like hiking on hills unless you intend to stick to boats or trains.

I would avoid Corniglia because it lacks good access to the water and Vernazza was very crowded each time we were there. We preferred our little place on a narrow residential street away from the crowds.
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May 20th, 2016, 04:24 AM
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Thanks again.
Kwren, can you post a link to the apartment in Manarola? How does that compare to staying in Monterosso?

After reading some googled posts and the Seat61 info, it looks like the best thing to do would be rent a car from Arles or whichever town we settle on, drive to Nice and turn the car in, then the next day train from Nice to Genoa to CT. That would break up the travel although we'd be breaking our rule of 4 night minimums...
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May 20th, 2016, 03:07 PM
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hello,
we just booked a lovely hotel in Bandol on the Renecros Bay, Cote D'Azur which looks like a nice sandy/calm bay for relaxing on the beach.

The town of Bandol looks like it has quite a bit to offer for strolling/dining/boating and inland is famous for it's wines. There is a train station to take you to other coastal towns. We are staying here as our last stop on a 3 week Europe trip in September.
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May 24th, 2016, 09:28 AM
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http://www.arpaiu.com/english.html

Go to the apartments page and at the right there is a black and white page with just the building which houses the apartment in color.

Look at the Home page and there is a second building associated with the apartment...it's the yellow one two to the left with the top level pushed back (It's where the single rooms are located - check the Rooms page to see it in yellow). You can go up there to that deck for watching the sunset or just relaxing. That's where we would have food and wine and it was not once crowded when we were there. The street is pedestrian only and hardly has any tourist traffic.

Here is a trip report I did on just CT:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ves-worked.cfm

Wow! It was nice to read it again and brought back all those good feelings! I loved the CT.

I also have a trip report on Nice from this past February.
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May 24th, 2016, 09:33 AM
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The reason we didn't even consider Monterossa as I recall is that the trails at the northern end are much steeper and more difficult. We also wanted to be closer to the middle instead of up at the end. For us, it was the perfect choice and I would go back to the same place.
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Jun 5th, 2016, 11:14 PM
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Topping in case you're still looking for an apartment
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