Train or Rental Car???

Old Feb 9th, 2001, 07:10 AM
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Train or Rental Car???

Hi, My family (6 adults & 2 children) will be going to Itaty for 2 weeks. Plan to spend 1 week northern part of Italy (Milan?, Venice, Rome and Florence and second week with family in Taranto (Bari) and Calabria. Should we use train first week and car/van for the second week, or combination of, or stick to one type of transportation for whole trip?
Old Feb 10th, 2001, 11:32 AM
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Let's get it together gang. Are all the helpful Fodorites only on line during the week??
Old Feb 10th, 2001, 12:11 PM
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I'm loath to respond as I've never (YET) been to Italy. But we spent 3 weeks in Scotland and Ireland by BUS. It was brilliant! I encourage you and your family to try at least one or two local busses. You get to see things you won't on a train, and will get to meet people on the bus that you won't on the train or in a car! Have FUN!
Old Feb 10th, 2001, 06:49 PM
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I had a car when I was in Italy. It gives you a lot of freedom when you want to pull over or stop in out of the way places. For the major cities, even though I've driven in several of them, You can't of cource in Venice (unless you have an anphibian), you don't need one in Florance or Rome and really don't want to fuss with one. IMHO.
Old Feb 11th, 2001, 06:53 AM
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Marie, The first thing I will ask you to think about is whether you are being realistic about one week for Rome, Venice and Florence. I am sure you could do two cities in that week but three is not realistic when there is so much to see in all of them.

That said, the train is a fun experience and I use it because it is the least expensive way to go for a solo traveler. But you should check out the cost and compare each. Consider that you do not want a car in any of those cities so you will park and leave it until you are ready to go to the next place. Just add up your train tickets vs. your car rental and gas. Also consider how much you are going to pack. Lugging a bunch of bags to trains is not a fun experience, lots of stairs.
Old Feb 11th, 2001, 12:50 PM
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I don't think that the idea of Venice, Florence, Rome in the first week is necessarily a bad idea.

Your second week in Taranto/Calabria is going to give you a very different taste of Italy than the trip 90% of Americans experience. In fact, I think this is quite a nice mix - - play "tourist" the first week (assuming that's what you want to do) - - then get to be "Americans among Italians" the second week. These will be fairly different experiences.

I think that the biggest challenge the first week will be keeping it affordable. A van will save you some money in two ways: first, it will be simply cheaper than train fares for eight, and equally important, by allowing you to stay OUTSIDE the big cities for 2 or 3 nights of your first seven. Lodging in Venice (and the other two also) will almost always cost you more than comparable quality in "lesser" nearby towns. The best bang for your Venice lodging dollar is to spend two full days there (arrive early, leave late) and only pay for one night in a hotel IN Venice (or three full days with two nights there, etc). Too many people get a poorer value by doing the reverse - - arriving late, spending two nights there, departing early - - and thus, having only one true full day with two expensive hotel nights, coming and going.

If you didn't have the second week, I might recommend going ahead with the van rental, and positioning yourself one cheaper night "pre-Venice", one cheaper night "post-Venice/pre-Florence", and one cheaper night "post-florence/pre-Rome".

But since you are going to get this "alternative" look at Italy the second week, it might be just as well to use the trains and stay in the smack dab middle of all three cities. You could still economize by planning your overnight lodging "close" to Venice your first night (for example, Verona, if you were to fly into Milan), and perhaps, doing something similar the night before arriving in Rome.

I have never been south of Campania, but it seems almost certain that you will want a van (or two sedans) the second week.
Old Feb 11th, 2001, 02:23 PM
Chuck W
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Hello, I will be traveling with my two daughters and spouse for one week in Paris and we are considering going to Amsterdam for a couple of nights. I was wondering how far a drive it is and whether it might be nice to drive one way and take the train the other way. Is there an English version of Mapquest for Europe? I would appreciate anyone's help. Thanks.
Old Feb 11th, 2001, 06:01 PM
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Few people will find your question here. In general, start a new "header" for a new question.

But to answer your question, it's 4-5 hours (I didn't look it up, but that's pretty close; I have done it once or twice before). The answer depends on part on where in Paris you are starting (and how long to get out of the city), and where in Amsterdam you are headed (and how long to get situated there).

Mapquest does do (sort of) driving directions between major countries in Europe, byt is better, and is not bad (best for highly specific address-based mapping within cities, more so than for a "cross-country" map - - a la "Triptik" - - euroshell does those.
Old Feb 11th, 2001, 07:28 PM
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We used the Italian Flex Rail Pass to travel in Italy--8 days Rail Travel within 30 day time period.There are different classes of travel for different prices--our travel agent had all the info. Why drive and waste time lost and aggravated? On the trail you can enjoy the view and relax. We traveled from Milan to Venice and the train station is right on the canel where water taxis await to take you to your hotel. Then you could go on from there via train. Be sure all your luggage has wheels.
Old Feb 11th, 2001, 07:44 PM
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Do the train for your first week, and hit Venice, Florence and Rome (I'm not a fan of Milan). Either take a train to Bari, and pick up your cars, or drive from Rome to Taranto. I would strongly suggest 2 sedans rather than one van. It gives people the option to go different places (Mom, Dad & kids want to go to a zoo, everyone else wants to go to a wine festival) without "we'll pick you up at 5".

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