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Dec 20th, 2012, 02:43 AM
  #1
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Question trip to Spain, South of France and Italy

Hello all, I am finally fulfilling a life long dream of going to Europe! I am going March of 2013 . I hear the weather still pretty cold but I wanto to make the best of it. My trip will go from NY to Barcelona and leaving from Rome back to NY. I am just nut sure what to do in between.

My trip will be almost 2 weeks long and ideally I will like to go from Barcelona to the South of France (not sure where yet) and then to the North of Italy to end up in Rome.

I need help figuring out what are the best cities to visit and if it is more economic to travel by train or flight. I would also like go go to a winery somewhere along the way.

I would appreciate any suggestions in making my trip memorable! Thank you!!!
rolitta is offline  
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Dec 20th, 2012, 04:12 AM
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If you are going to the south of France and the Italian Riviera for the history or the art museums, it makes sense to put in the long train hours. If you are going for the "Riviera," it can get unpredictably dreary with rain.

Going to Marseilles, Avignon or Nice and their nearby towns can be rewarding any time of year (and can be even more enjoyable for being less crowded in March), but coastal beaches and hikes can literally be a washout. The long train ride ends up taking days, with little reward.

In March in can make sense to fly from Barcelona to Rome or Milan and skip southern France, or go from Barcelona to Avignon or Nice by train, but then fly from Nice to Rome. (There are no good ways to get from southern France to Northern Italy.)

Which are the "best cities to visit" really depends on what your lifelong dream of going to Europe is all about. If it is French art or French wine, then of course you don't want to miss France. If it is the sociability of Europeans and their open cities, stick with Spain and Italy. If it about seeing sights of antiquity, don't miss Avignon and Rome, and stop off in the Costa Brava for Greek ruins.

Probably you want a mix of experiences, but I recommend that you think about what aspect of Europe has made you want to visit, and anchor your trip around the best examples of that, and not try to get an "overview" of 3 countries (especially since Spain and italy are such fragmented places and you aren't going to Paris).

Do you know whether you prefer Spanish or French or Italian wine? Red or white?
goldenautumn is offline  
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Dec 20th, 2012, 09:20 AM
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Overall, three countries in only two weeks is a bit too much. Pick a couple of places to divide your time and maybe you'll get some enjoyment out of the trip.

Since you plan on flying into Barcelona and out of Rome, then I'd split my time between the two, taking a few day trips out of Barcelona (Gerona, the Peñedes and Priorat wine regions, etc.). Rome will keep you busy for several days, but you will be able to do a couple of day trips, or spend the night in Florence.

If you fly home from Milan instead of Rome, then you would visit the Tuscany for a couple of days, ending up in Milan for your flight home.
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Dec 20th, 2012, 10:16 AM
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I agree that 3 countries in 2 weeks is too much - particularly going from Barcelona to Rome and points in between. For example if you want to visit Barcelona and Rome each of these cities really deserve about 5 nights each, enough time to explore the city and take 1-2 daytrips. This only gives you 4 days to play with - not enough for several points in between.

I think you need to make a list of the places that are most interesting to you. Then determine the minimum to max amount of time needed for each place. See if you can do a daytrip versus overnight if the geography fits. Then add up the total days. This will give you an idea of how many places you need to eliminate. When you think you have the list whittled down then take into account the travel time between cities (including time to get to the transportation, packing/unpacking and check in/out at hotels). You may need to eliminate further. It may end up being 3 base cities you visit (Rome, Barcelona + one other).

As an alternative you may consider an organized group tour. Since it is your first trip the benefit will be the trip will all be organized for you and you can cover alot of ground (at a fast pace though). Personally I'm not a fan of group tours (too many reasons to note) but it is a way to see alot and get a taste of several places in a short time.
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Dec 21st, 2012, 07:04 AM
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I think that you might be cramming in a bit to much but if you are looking for methods of travel you can look at low cost carriers once you are here in Europe. If leaving from Barcelona there is Vueling Airlines and you can also look at Easyjet and Ryan Air. If you would like to travel by train from spain look at www.renfe.es from france www.sncf.com and in italy www.trenitalia.com
And just a bit of warning if you do fly with a low cost carrier they are really strict on baggage weight. So if you are traveling with more then 20 kilos then you might have to pay for additional baggage.
maiteland is offline  
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Dec 21st, 2012, 05:51 PM
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Thank you guys so much for all of your advice! It has been very valuable. I think I will take your advice and not try to see so much in such short time. I will go from Barcelona directly to Florence and end up in Rome. This should give me about 3 days to see these cities well.

While in Florence , one of the days, I want to go to the wineries. I hear Florence is beautiful, but that outside of Florence is even more. Any reccomendations of where to go? I like red wines. Is it easier to rent a car or just take a bus/ train. I thought of a tour but they are expensive and you dont have a lot of freedom.

Also, in Italy, are things closed on Sundays or is it like any other day?

Thank you again for your help!
rolitta is offline  
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Dec 21st, 2012, 06:57 PM
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4 days in Barcelona, 4 days in Provence, and 5 in Rome would be a "bit too much"? I disagree, especially if each place is somewhere you have always wanted to go

Traveling straight to Italy being able to see something other than Rome is certainly a decent alternative, but Florence really just becomes a substitute for the south of France with a little easier connections than Provence.

One thing in your favour is that the Barcelona - Rome route is a very cheap flight, most of the time.

If you want art and history, Florence is where you should stay while taking a day trip to a winery/wine town. If you want to soak up some Italian country life, then there are a number of great towns in Chianti and the Val d'Orcia that would make a great base. Public transportation in this region is not always the best some planning is required.

If you want to start researching you could look into Montepulciano, Montalcino and Radda and Greve.
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Dec 22nd, 2012, 02:13 AM
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rolitta,

In Italy, most commercial shops are closed on Sundays. In places like Rome and Florence, shops that service the tourist trade are often open, and of course churches and museums are open.

In Italy, you generally need to make appointments to visit wineries. Renting a car gives you a lot more freedom, but then you can't drink the wine. Something you might consider if you don't want to take a tour is to take the scenic bus ride from Florence to Siena, so you can see some of the countryside, but do your wine tasting in Siena at the Enoteca Italiana

http://www.enoteca-italiana.it/w2d3/...ca/esc_en.html

Since the bus stops at a few small towns along the route, with some extremely careful planning, you might be able to get off the bus for a few hours in a wine town like Panzano in Chianti or Greve in Chianti, take a local taxi to a winery and be shown around. Then go back and catch the bus onward to Siena (take the train back to Florence from there) or catch a return bus to Florence.

But do realize that if you make appointments to visit wineries, the expectation is that you are coming there to buy wine. If you go with an organized tour, the expectation is somewhat less.

Like Aramis, I don't think you are moving around that much less by substituting Florence for the south of France, and I don't have a mental block against 3 destinations in 3 separate countries as opposed to 3 destinations in 2 countries. (Much of the south of France until recently belonged to Italy anyway!) So pick what you truly want to see.

Florence is of course a great destination but be aware that if you are going during Eastertime, in can be painfully crowded and many things shut down over the long Easter holiday (Fri-Mon).
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Dec 27th, 2012, 05:25 PM
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Thank you guys for all your help.
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