France and Italy: Best 2 to 3 week itinerary for first-time visitors

Rome ColisseumThe only country that might be more magical than France for first-time visitors is Italy, and vice-versa. Even though Europe is filled with amazing tourist destinations these two countries seem to stand above the others, with France being the most visited country in the world and Italy having the most UNESCO World Heritage sites. For my own money, these two countries contain 3 of the 5 great European cities that everyone should see first.

Fortunately, these two countries also share a border so they are extremely popular to visit as a pair. They both also get so many tourists that all the major destinations are easy enough to visit without knowing the language at all, though learning at least a few words and phrases is simple and worthwhile. For these reasons, France and Italy are perhaps the most popular first trip to the European continent. Below we’ll discuss the cities you need to include and the minimum time in each, as well as some other itinerary planning tips.

Updated in 2015: This article was written in 2013 and expanded and updated in 2015.

How many cities to visit?

Paris SquareThis is perhaps the most challenging question when planning an itinerary. Newer travelers always assume that more is better and overly-seasoned travelers always preach that virtually any city anywhere deserves at least a week. As with most things, the best answer probably lies somewhere in between. If you only have two weeks per year it would take a lifetime of trips to explore even half of Europe at the slow pace, so it makes sense for newer travelers to move at a good clip.

There are many reasons why fast travel might be your best option, but only up to a point. With only a few exceptions, 3 nights per city is a good minimum even for those wishing to see as much as possible, or 2 nights in the smaller cities.

If you are going to France and Italy for sure then start with Paris and Rome as the foundation and add cities in between to the degree you’ll have time. France is a deceptively large country so travel will eat up some time unless you are flying or taking the bullet trains.

Flying in and out

Unless you are starting from elsewhere in Europe, you’ll want to carefully choose which airport to fly into. It used to be that Paris was one of the cheapest, and it’s still competitive, but it doesn’t rank high on the list of European cities that are cheapest to fly into.

Two one-way tickets is ideal

It used to be that round-trip tickets were always much cheaper than two one-way tickets, but often that is no longer true. Sometimes the one-way flights are exactly half the round-trip fare, sometimes a bit more than half, and other times they are double. It’s hard to predict so it’s worth comparing them yourself.

The first thing to try is this:

  • (your city) to Paris one-way
  • Rome to (your city) one-way

Compare that to this:

  • (your city) to Paris round-trip
  • (your city) to Rome round-trip

If the two one-way flights are within US$150 or so of either round-trip, then they are your best option. If the round-trips are much cheaper then your best option is to buy one of those as well as a one-way flight between the cities (for around US$100) for just before you fly home. It would cost more on the train and also take 14 hours, so flying that last part is the way to go unless you are planning on using the last leg of a Eurail Pass on an overnight run.

Getting around once in Europe

Gare du Nord ParisFlying around in France and Italy doesn’t make much sense. The flights on low-cost carriers can certainly be cheap, but most major cities are only 2 to 5 hours apart by train, so riding the rails is faster, more pleasant, and far more scenic.

Even on trains, you still have three main options:

  1. Buying a France-Italy regional Eurail Pass
  2. Buying individual train tickets in advance
  3. Buying individual train tickets one at a time when you get there

If you are under 26 you can qualify for the 2nd Class Eurail Pass, which will be ideal for many people. If you are over 25 you have to buy a 1st Class Eurail Pass, and those are probably only best for those with a bit more money to spend.

Best cities in France and Italy for first-time visitors

Paris (minimum 3 nights but even that is rushing it)

Paris Notre DameObviously you’ll want to visit Paris, and it makes sense to either start or end your whole journey here. If it’s your first stop you should add at least one extra day to help deal with jetlag, but you should plan on staying as long as possible because the French capital is one of the world’s great (and most beautiful) cities by any definition.

Paris can seem very expensive at first glance, especially when you see how tiny your hotel room is once you arrive. But those on tighter budgets don’t actually have to spend a fortune to enjoy it thoroughly. If you are the sort who loves all the famous museums then a Paris Pass could be a perfect option, but even if you just drift around town admiring the scenery you are guaranteed to have a good time. Better still, there is a Metro station on every other block, so you can stay in the cheaper areas far from the center and it only adds 10 minutes or so each way.

Paris to Nice by train: About 6 hours

Nice, France (minimum 2 nights)

Nice BeachNice is the largest (and cheapest) city on the Côte d’Azur (AKA French Riviera) so it’s the perfect base to explore this stunning part of the world for a few days. It can still be quite expensive during July and August, when most French are filling their own beaches, but in other months it’s not too bad.

Nice has a famous beach (made of pebbles rather than sand), but it’s also an important cultural capital with great museums and a thriving food scene. You could easily spend 2 or 3 quick days in Nice alone, but you might also consider spending a few hours in Cannes and/or Monaco, which are both only about 30 minutes away by train in either direction. The cheaper hotels in Nice are near the train station anyway, so that’s something to consider if you want to visit all 3 places in one short trip.

Nice to Milan by train: About 5 hours
Nice to Venice by train: About 7.5 hours

Milan (1 night or just skip it)

Milan SquareMilan is famous, though that alone is not enough of a reason to stop there. If you skip it you won’t be missing much, or you might stop for one night just to break up the journey a bit. On the plus side, Milan has one of Europe’s most photogenic gothic domes at its heart, and it’s the home to Da Vinci’s Last Supper (if you make reservations well in advance).

The down side, however, is that Milan is mostly a business/financial city that isn’t as charming as the rest on this list. It’s one of Europe’s fashion capitals as well, but the casual visitor wouldn’t notice. Worst of all, accommodation in Milan can be insanely expensive if there is a trade fair or event in town. If you are coming through in between fairs and events, hotels can actually be unusually cheap, so it’s worth checking rates if you are considering stopping.

Milan to Venice by train: About 2.5 hours

Venice (1 night minimum, 2 nights maximum)

Venice CanalCertainly one of the most beautiful and unusual cities on the planet, Venice is something that everyone should see, though it can be a bit tricky. The thing is, between about 10am and 5pm every day of the year, the main walkways in Venice are a slow-moving parade of more tourists than seem possible or even safe. Many of them stay in hotels nearby on the mainland, while many others just come in for the day on part of a bus tour. The point is, Venice is very frustrating during those hours, so to appreciate the city it’s important to work around them at least a bit.

The trick is to stay at least one night, if not two, on the main island itself. Perhaps surprisingly, Venice shuts down early, with most restaurants and bars closed by around 10pm. But in those evening hours as well as the morning hours on the following day, the place can feel magical and like a fairy tale destination. Venice is also quite compact so seeing the main highlights in 24 hours isn’t difficult. Depending on your budget, spend one or two nights on the main island and you’ll be quite satisfied by the time you leave. You’ll be sick of the crowds by then anyway.

Venice to Florence by train: About 2 hours

Florence (2 nights minimum, plus side trips)

Florence RiverWith fewer than 400,000 residents, Florence feels more like a small town than the others, even though it’s much larger than Venice. As the largest and most central city in Tuscany, Florence is a cultural capital filled with famous museums, cathedrals, and other sights, but it’s also the ideal jumping off point for day or overnight trips into some of the nearby hill towns.

Whether you are coming from Venice or from Rome, this is the point on your trip that you’ll be able to catch your breath a bit. It’s also the cheapest city on this list so lingering here will be more affordable in addition to relaxing. The cuisine here is, of course, world famous, and it can get even better and cheaper if you spend a day or two in one of the many scenic villages in this part of Italy.

From Florence to Rome it’s only around 90 minutes by train, so another easy and pleasant travel day.

Pisa (a few hours on a day trip at most)

PisaFieldofMiraclesIf you are spending several weeks exploring Italy then perhaps you’d want to spend a night or even two in Pisa. But for a quick trip where you are trying to include as much as possible, Pisa is best for a day trip. It’s about an hour by train or bus from Florence, so you can literally do it in half a day there and back. And being honest, the Field of Miracles (which includes the Leaning Tower) is definitely worth a look, but the rest of Pisa doesn’t really stand out.

Regardless of your starting point, you can go to the Pisa Centrale train station and walk about 25 minutes to the Leaning Tower area, or take a train to the Pisa San Rossore train station and 7 minutes to the Field of Miracles. There are also bus tours from Florence that take you all the way there, but those come with the slowness of large-group travel.

Cinque Terre (1 night, optional)

Cinque TerreIf you were to be spending all 2 or 3 weeks in Italy and saving France for another trip, then you’d want to considering spending at least a day and perhaps a night in this stunning little group of 5 towns perched on rocky cliffs overlooking the sea. They are on the west coast a bit north of Florence, so they are a bit out of the way if you are headed to Rome. Of the 5 towns, Vernazza is probably best for a short visit and it’s definitely the most scenic.

When you see a photo of these villages it’s hard not to be drawn in so if you are in that group you could add a day or two in this area either before or after Florence. Note that the scenic footpaths connecting the towns are partly closed down at times due to instability, so a quick tour by train or even by boat might be a better option.

Florence to Rome by train: About 90 minutes

Rome (minimum 3 nights)

Rome ParliamentAgain, it makes the most sense to start and end your visit in Paris and Rome, and if you are starting in Rome you should add an extra day just to get your footing. Similar to Paris, Rome is crammed with amazing sights too numerous to mention, but unlike Paris, Rome can be a frustrating place to visit. No one regrets their first visit to Rome, but many swear that it’ll also be their last. It’s the traffic and general sense of chaos (multiplied by the summer heat) that wear on visitors.

All of that said, Rome is absolutely a must-visit, although you won’t be blamed for hustling through the city quickly and efficiently so you can spend more time in the relative serenity of anywhere else. The Eternal City is also quite expensive, especially by Italian standards, which is another reason to save only a few days there rather than a full week.

Naples/Pompeii/Sorrento/Amalfi Coast (optional up to 4 nights)

The “big 3” in Italy are Rome, Florence, and Venice, and if you have time for only 3 cities those are the obvious ones to choose. But if you want to dig deeper into Italy and you have enough time, your next best choice will be to base yourself in Sorrento and use it to explore Naples, the ruins of Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, and the island of Capri.

NaplesSquareNaples is a large and gritty city that has an unfortunate reputation for pickpockets and other street crime. In reality, any daytime visitor who uses the typical precautions will be fine. Naples is also famously the birthplace of pizza and home to one of the world’s best archaeology museums so it’s worth a day trip for sure. The great news is that Naples is very easy to visit from nearby Sorrento, which is a lovely and friendly place where most people know English.

Stay in Sorrento

SorrentoHarborTo reach Sorrento you’ll take a train to Naples and then change for a one-hour local train (known as the Circumvesuviana) to its final stop. Once you are checked into a hotel there, you can take the same train back to Naples, or an even faster boat. Halfway back on the Circumvesuviana you can jump off in front of the stunning Pompeii Ruins. Those in a hurry can spend half a day in Naples and a couple hours seeing Pompeii and be safely back in Sorrento for an unforgettable dinner.

Amalfi Coast and the Island of Capri

AmalfiPositanoNot only is Sorrento the perfect base for a visit to Naples and Pompeii, but it’s also the gateway to the Amalfi Coast and a short ferry ride from the touristy island of Capri. On a quick visit you can hop on the local bus in Sorrento that takes you through Positano and Amalfi to Salerno. You’ll see all the famous and amazing Amalfi Coast views, and you can return either by bus or boat for an ideal day out.

The other main nearby attraction is the famous tourist island of Capri, which is best known for its Blue Grotto attraction. The ferry from Sorrento only takes 20 minutes each way and leaves hourly most of the day. This is another easy and ideal day trip where you can have breakfast and dinner in Sorrento and a wonderful time in Capri in between.

Filling in the rest of your itinerary

If you have only two weeks total then the above minimums will also pretty much be your maximums, give or take a day. But if you have three weeks you will be adding days to these cities or adding new cities altogether. Honestly, if this is your first trip to these countries, you’ll really get the most bang for your buck by adding extra days in Paris or Florence or both.

Rushing around for two weeks can be exhilarating, but rushing around for three weeks can really start to get exhausting. It’s better to plan to go slower and if you are getting bored you can do a day or overnight trip to something nearby. But you won’t get bored, and if you do you are probably doing it wrong.

Cinque Terre photo by World Walk About on Flickr



188 Responses to “France and Italy: Best 2 to 3 week itinerary for first-time visitors”

Mark says:

Rather good itinerary for those that are time constrained. We recently travelled through most of the suggestions. For those planning a trip and intending to get around by train, seriously consider a rail pass. The fast trains in Italy are sensational and with a rail pass we were paying about 10 euro compulsory reservation for fares that cost up to 150 euro – big savings potentially.
Love the site keep up the good work.

 

    Mark, thank you for the kind words. And I agree about the benefits of a rail pass, at least for those under 26 or those who prefer to travel first class anyway. For older people who don’t mind second class, a rail pass doesn’t really save money in most cases, but it’s wonderful to have one. I didn’t realize reservations were now up to €10 in Italy, so thanks for that bit. Cheers. -Roger

     
      Lesley says:

      Dear Roger – I stumbled across you on this website and very interesting it has proved to be. Here is a challenge for you – we are 2 65 year old ladies who are hoping to visit France/Italy as our bucketlist – before we might get too old to be brave enough! We will be coming from New Zealand, last week of August and first 3 weeks of September = so approx. 4 weeks. We would love to visit especially Paris, and then into Italy I am thinking Tuscany, Sienna, Chianti – in fact we are open to anywhere beautiful and suitable to visit by trains and buses when we are there – hopefully avoiding the need to rent a car, unless just for a couple of days to get somewhere more easily. We are happy to stay in one spot a few nights to really get the feel of a place and also hope to do this on a fairly average budget as we are coming such a distance. Would you think we can get accommodation at a reasonable price – bearing in mind we would want 2 rooms as ONE of us snores. This will obviously make it more expensive per night, so maybe a 2 bedroomed apartment might be better ? What can we expect to pay in Italy for accommodation such as this per night – any hope of getting 2 rooms for around 100 Euros a night>? Any ideas on travel and accommodation would be really helpful for us. Many thanks.

       

        Lesley,

        The last week of August will be busy near any beach areas in those countries, but starting in September the crowds will be smaller. So as long as you start in cities, probably Paris, I think you’ll be okay in general.

        The snoring issue will make this challenging on the finances. Assuming that you’ve already experimented with earplugs and that sort of thing, I think your best bets will be to find Airbnb apartments with two bedrooms or perhaps one bedroom and a sofabed. In other words, that time of the year, any single hotel room for around €50 is going to be dismal if you can find one at all. However, I think finding €100 apartments with separate bed areas will be fairly easy.

        In Paris or Rome or Venice, a €100 apartment that would work for you will be tough, although you should definitely spend at least 3 or 4 nights in Paris, 1 or 2 nights in (or near) Venice, and at least 3 nights in Rome. Outside of those cities, it should be easier, so you might have to budget €120 or €130 per night in the expensive cities and then find cheaper places in the other destinations.

        As you might imagine, it’ll be easier to find such places in the smaller towns. Tuscany is a region with many small towns, many of which are also on train lines. I think you’ll be able to do all of this by train with the occasional bus ride here and there.

        For a trip like what you have in mind, I highly recommend using a guidebook, whether it’s a digital version or a print version. There is an American guidebook writer/company called Rick Steves, and I’ve been using his books for decades. He’s excellent at pointing out the interesting sights and smaller towns, plus affordable accommodations in each place. It will be the best US$30 or so you’ll spend on this trip, and it’ll save you many hundreds of dollars and also give you confidence about what you are planning.

        I think your trip will be wonderful as long as you plan it carefully. And I’ll be happy to help answer other questions if you have them. -Roger

         
Dan says:

Just curious – you list Cinque Terre between Florence and Rome, but does it make sense to do it in that order? Coming from Nice, wouldn’t you want to stop in Cinque Terre prior to Florence? Also, I assume you need to go through La Spezia via train to get to Cinque Terre?

Excuse me – rather, it seems it would make sense to visit Cinque Terre after Nice, following by Venice, followed by Florence, and then on to Rome. My previous comment was assuming exclusion of Venice. Curious to hear your thoughts.

 

    Dan,

    I believe Cinque Terre is most commonly visited as a side-trip from Florence, and yes you do have to change trains in La Spezia in that direction. But you can also go Nice to Genoa for a train change to Cinque Terre, and then carry on to Florence afterward if you are planning on skipping Venice. Honestly, all of these places are no more than 3 hours or so apart by train, so you can jumble the order and do it in the order that makes the most sense for your exact itinerary choices. -Roger

     
      Dan says:

      Thanks, Roger. Just curious – how would you recommend incorporating a few days in Sicily into a trip?

       

        Dan,

        I’ve not been to Sicily but I know many who have and it comes highly recommended. Most people don’t even go as far south as Naples, at least on a first trip, so I didn’t include Sicily here.

        Your choices are to fly from Rome, or to take a train, which takes about 12 hours including a portion on a ferry, of course. The most common itinerary in Sicily is to take a few days driving or taking a train around the main loop on the island, rather than just staying in Palermo. I’ll definitely spend some time in Sicily on my next trip to Italy, and I’ll write more when I do, but for now this is about all I can say. -Roger

         
          Dan says:

          Got it – thanks. Regarding side trips to Monaco/Cannes from Nice as well as Cinque Terre from Florence, do you recommend counting these potential train rides in the Eurail pass (i.e., purchase the appropriate number of rides that would include these trips)? Or is it cheap/easy enough to get the train tickets in Nice and Florence once you’re there?

           

          Dan,

          You wouldn’t want to use a rail pass travel day on any of those. The ones from Nice should be no more than €10 each way (probably less), with trains leaving once or twice an hour. So you can just breeze into the station and buy tickets for the next departure, probably with very little wait. From Florence to Cinque Terre is maybe 2 hours, with a change on the way, but still those trains are fairly cheap. It’s only if you’d be doing a round-trip from Florence to Cinque Terre and back the same day where it might even come close to being worth a travel day. -Roger

           
Dan says:

Thanks, Roger. What if I intend to stay the night in Cinque Terre, and would like to head straight to Rome afterward (through La Spezia I imagine)? I assume that is doable, and would be worth a rail pass travel day, no?

 

    Dan,

    From Cinque Terra to Rome takes between 3.5 and 5 hours by train (through La Spezia) and it will cost between €40 and about €60 depending on the speed of the train. So, it’s quite easy to do, and depending on which rail pass you are considering, it’s probably worth a travel day. But unlike many journeys, this one is kind of borderline for rail pass value, so there’s no easy answer. -Roger

     
PJ Poursha says:

Hi Roger, I’ve read your article and have taken much of your itinerary and built it into the one that I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks now. I was hoping that you would be kind enough to take a look at it and let me know what you think / suggest. Is there any way you would allow me to send it to you privately? I dont want to overwhelm your readers with a 21 day day Itinerary to Italy/France.
my email is [email protected]

thank you ,
PJ

 
TJones says:

What is your thoughts on adding on a trip to Greece? Also what would you recommend as best area to stay, to travel to, how long etc. Would it be better adding it on between Paris & Rome, at the start or the end? My daughter is really interested in Paris, Venice, Rome & Athens.
Thanks

 

    TJones,

    Greece is a wonderful country to visit, even if it is a bit out of the way when visiting France and Italy. It’s probably best to visit as a round-trip from Rome to Athens in the middle of your trip or at the end.

    However, Greece is a bit unusual on a European itinerary because it is popular for two very different things. Athens is obviously home to the Parthenon and several world-famous museums, and to be honest, most people hustle through an Athens visit because it’s a huge and crowded city (even before the austerity-fueled demonstrations and such). So many people fly into Athens for 2 or 3 days and then take a ferry or flight to one of the Greek islands for fun in the sun, which is the other thing Greece is popular for.

    There are dozens of islands to choose from, including a few that are only a short ferry ride away from the port just south of Athens. It’s hard to recommend one without knowing a lot more about you, but the good news is that all the famous ones are nice and most of them are quite cheap as well. -Roger

     
Margaret says:

Hi great suggestions! I am going to Nice for a conference and planning to spend 10 days to see a few cities. Some friends recommend Nice to Rome.

Would it be commercially viable to do 3 days in Paris after Rome?

 

    Margaret,

    Yes, if you can work both Rome and Paris into that trip, I think you’d love it. Both cities are very large and I do recommend 3 nights in each one if possible. From Nice you could take a train to Rome, or take a train to Paris, but from Rome to Paris I think you are better off flying. The flight should be cheaper than the train, and obviously much faster. Buy those train tickets and flights as early as possible for the lowest fares. -Roger

     
Tengkulinie says:

Hi Roger,

Chance upon your website and I could like to compliment how detailed it is. Anyway, I would to ask you for suggestions. I am heading to Europe in Sept this year. London (3 nights) and after that will be heading to Paris (3 nights). I have 1 week left for Italy. Which cities would you recommend. My flight back would be from Venice. I’m not sure if from Paris I should head to Florence or Rome. Which is nearer from Paris? Should I fly by Plane or take the train?

Is there any hotels/B&B that you are able to recommend while I’m in Italy?

Thank you in advance.

 

    Tengkulinie,

    Thank you for the kind words about the website, and I’ll be happy to try to help.

    Hopefully you are planning on buying your Eurostar train ticket from London to Paris well in advance. They get more expensive as the date nears, and they are very pricey on travel day.

    As for where to go in Italy, you can’t go wrong with the Big Three (Rome, Florence, Venice). From Paris you’ll be best off flying to Rome, and the earlier you buy that ticket the cheaper it will be. Spend 3 or 4 days in Rome, and then take a train to Florence for 2 or 3 days. From Florence you’ll take another fairly short and relatively inexpensive train ride to Venice, which you can easily visit in only one day. As mentioned in the article above, Venice is spectacular, but also crowded and expensive, so one day and one night is a great visit for those on longer trips like yours.

    I do have hotels I recommend in each many cities, and all are well located and very good value. Once you have a look at these, you’ll at least have something to compare others to.

    Recommended Rome hotels
    Recommended Venice hotels

    Have a great trip, and feel free to ask other questions if you have them. -Roger

     
Tengkulinie says:

Thank you for your very quick response!

I had booked my train from London to Paris yesterday at a good price. 😉

Will heed your advices and check out the hotels soon.

Just a quick question, I heard Italy can get pretty dangerous at night. I’m travelling with my girl-friend, any advice or places to avoid til late night?

Thank you once again! 🙂

 

    Tengkulinie,

    Italy is generally a very safe country, and the chance of physical harm is almost zero. But there are pickpockets in the big cities, so you have to be careful with your possessions. The men in Italy are also known for sometimes giving unwanted attention to females, but most women agree that it’s basically harmless and nothing to worry about. That said, it might be wise to ask more of an expert on the subject. If you Google something like “woman traveling alone in Italy” you’ll find many blog posts from female writers who can better describe what it’s like and how they deal with it. I know many women who’ve traveled extensively in Italy, and none has ever mentioned that it’s a problem.

    But especially late at night, it’s still better to avoid the sketchy neighborhoods. In Rome, the area directly behind the main train station is filled with cheap hotels, and it’s probably best to avoid staying there. In Florence the area around the train station is also not the best, and that’s generally true of most big cities in Europe as well. In Venice, the whole main island is quite expensive, and very safe as well. You’ll really enjoy it, I’m sure. -Roger

     
Joy says:

Roger, thank you for this itinerary. It has been very helpful to me as I start planning a trip with my brothers for this summer. We will only have about 10 days so I am curious as to what we should omit if anything. It will be a first trip for the 3 of us to France & Italy. We want to see as much as we can and plan on going pretty none stop the whole time. Also, thanks to everyone for the additional comments.

 

    Joy,

    In only 10 days my first thought is that you should probably focus on Paris for 3 or 4 days and then fly to Italy for one day in Venice, 2 days in Florence, and 3 days in Rome to finish up. If you were to take the train from Paris to Nice and then take another train from Nice to Venice, it would add two big chunks of travel time that would mean less sightseeing time in the top places. And you’d be in such a hurry that the more time you spent sightseeing in or near Nice, it would mean racing everywhere else just to fit it in.

    From Paris you should be able to get a fairly cheap flight to Venice or nearby Treviso Airport. Or you could fly into Milan and take the train to Venice, or fly into Pisa and take the train to Florence. Ten days in 4 cities is already a rush, but it will be incredibly fun in that part of the world. -Roger

     
tasdst8 says:

Hi. Thanks for the great advise on France and Italy. But could you add Spain? I am traveling to Europe in August. Flying into Frankfurt and visiting family and friends the first half of my trip (about 14 days), where we’ll all travel to Berlin, Prague, Amsterdam and London. Then I’m solo for the next half of my trip. I’d like to visit France, Spain and Italy during that time. I have about 15 days to work with, before meeting up with my family again to get a ride back to Frankfurt to fly out. What’s your idea for the best itinerary? The must see places for me are Paris, Barcelona and Venice….otherwise I’m open. Thanks!!

 

    tasdst8,

    That’s a great idea and overdue, so soon I will write a similar article about Spain and Portugal itinerary suggestions. In the meantime, I think you might be attempting too much in the second half of your trip. If you are going to Italy at all, I really wouldn’t recommend less than a week there. Even 3 nights in Rome, 2 nights in Florence, and 1 night in Venice would be a whirlwind of a trip, and that’s really the minimum to make it worthwhile. If you add at least 3 nights in Paris and possibly 2 nights in Nice or elsewhere in France, you’ve used up most of those 15 days already.

    But since you asked, Spain’s 2 biggest cities are still the main highlights, and they are quite different from one another. I recommend at least 3 nights in Barcelona, and 3 nights in Madrid. Beyond those, Seville and Granada are two interesting choices in the south. I haven’t been to Valencia, but they have been building up their visitor offerings and I’ve heard good things. Should you include Spain on this trip, those would be the highlights and best choices.

    The southern coast also gets massive tourism, but most of that is from other Europeans on sunshine holidays, and they aren’t very interesting from a cultural standpoint. Hopefully this helps, and feel free to write back if you have other questions. -Roger

     
Devaana says:

Hi Roger,

I’m from Malaysia. It’s my first time planning a holiday trip to Europe next year (May) and your website has been an invaluable resource. 3 of us will be travelling between the age group of 27-34. I hope you can guide and suggest me in our planning for 21 days trip to Italy, France & Spain. Our base for now would be Rome(round trip)

The rough idea is:

* Rome – Florence + Pisa – Cinque Terre (Monterosso only) – Venice – Milan (Lake Como) – (Nice & Cannes / Paris) – Barcelona

Need your advice, do you think this is doable? Are there any places that you consider are not worth the visit? Maybe other places you can recommend to fill in the gaps. Regarding transportation, what would you recommend? (I know I would have to decide between trains with pass, trains point to point or airlines). I plan on travelling as cheap as possible, with hostels/apt(b&b) in mind. I hope to add one more city in Spain (if possible).

Hoping to hear from you. Thank you so much!!!!!!

 

    Devaana,

    It’s always great to hear that this information is helpful to people planning trips. I am also quite a fan of Malaysia so I know how different all of this will be for you.

    I think your plan so far looks quite good and would be very doable. Most of your planned stops are great. The only one that is a bit unusual is Milan and Lake Como because Milan itself isn’t really a top tourist city for Italy (it’s more of a business/banking city), but Lake Como is lovely and many people go there as a day trip from Milan or even an overnight stay. Otherwise your plan is all highlights and no filler.

    You should have time to include Madrid after Barcelona at the end, and I’d schedule 3 nights in each one if you can. Madrid and Barcelona are both large, important, and quite different from each other. You should also be able to get a cheap flight back to Rome from Madrid to board your flight home. With the addition of Madrid, I think you’ll have a nearly perfect 3-week trip planned. I wouldn’t add anything else to it, or you’ll start to have to hurry around so much that you won’t enjoy the main places you are flying all that way to see.

    As for getting around, you’ll want to do most of it by train for sure. The trains between Italian cities are fairly inexpensive even if you buy them on travel day, so a rail pass probably wouldn’t be good value. The absolute cheapest way to do this trip would be to buy all of those train tickets online at least two months in advance. Those advanced fares can be very cheap (€19 from Rome to Florence on a high-speed train), and the prices go up as more seats are sold and the travel day approaches. Even the longer rides like Milan to Nice, Nice to Paris, Paris to Barcelona, and Barcelona to Madrid can be fairly cheap if you are able to buy them at least a month or more in advance. Here’s more information on buying advanced train tickets in Europe.

    If you REALLY wanted to just decide on your plan as each new day arises, a rail pass could save you money because those walk-up train fares can be expensive (€150 or more for longer ones). So either you sacrifice spontaneity and save money, or you pay a bit more for a Eurail Pass, which would at least be cheaper than buying as you go.

    Hopefully this helps, and feel free to follow up with more questions if you have them. -Roger

     
ML says:

Hi Roger, my fiancé and I intend to arrange a 20 day to Europe in January. Issue is that the weather may be wet and cold. It seems that the southern Europe (South Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal) may make more sense. Can you suggest an itinerary for us? I am thinking of Rome – Venice – Florence – Barcelona – Madrid – Rome – Greece – Rome (quite confused thoughts). Sincerely appreciate your advise.

 

    ML,

    I think your plan sounds pretty good, although you might get unlucky with rain even in the south. Still, I think Italy and Spain are probably your best bets in January, and they are top-notch destinations any time of the year. But I think I’d save Greece for another trip. Athens is worth 2 or 3 days, though most of the islands are pretty much shut down in winter, and it’s nicer to combine Athens with an island or two to justify going all that way.

    So I’d recommend at least 3 nights in Rome, at least 2 nights in Florence (add another night if you want to do a day-trip to Pisa, and then 1 or 2 nights in Venice. Be aware that Venice is partly flooded during parts of winter, though usually only for a few hours at a time so you can still see the sights and get around. Take trains between the cities in Italy, and then fly from Venice (or nearby Treviso) to Barcelona or Madrid. Those cities in Spain are good for at least 3 nights each, and you can go between them by high-speed train (much cheaper if you book well in advance). You could still have time to add another Spanish city or two, and Seville and Granada could be good choices. Or you could visit Lisbon, which has the best weather in Europe in winter, and perhaps Porto as well. In twenty days I think I’d visit no more than 6 or maybe 7 cities in total. Otherwise, you’ll visit a lot of places but spend nearly half your time on trains or in train stations.

    If you need to fly out of Rome then book a flight back there. There are several low-cost carriers on those routes, and the fares are cheapest the earlier you book. Let me know if you have other questions I might help with. -Roger

     
S.A. says:

Hi Roger,

My husband and I will be going to Europe for the first time this May. I came across your website while researching how to come up with an itinerary and it is been the most helpful resource by far!! It’s refreshing that you acknowledge that while it’s not ideal to jam pack too many destinations in one trip, that some do want to see as much as they can, because they don’t know when they can go back to Europe again (as it is in my case). I am trying to obtain that balance: go to as many destinations as possible, but spending enough time in each place. We are in our mid 30’s, so we can handle a little “craziness”. We have 21 days to travel, do you think this would be a realistic itinerary:

London – Paris – Rome – Florence – Cinque Terre – Venice – Barcelona – Madrid

If not, what would you personally take out? How many days would you recommend in each? Anything you can suggest would be so appreciated!!

 

    S.A.,

    I always enjoy hearing that this information and advice is useful, and I’m also disappointed by so many other writers who chastise trip-planners for wanting to cover a lot.

    Your itinerary would make a very busy 3 weeks, but it could be done and you’d definitely enjoy it a lot. I’ll start with my recommended minimum stays in each city, and you’ll see that you are right at the edge…

    London 3, Paris 3, Rome 3, Florence 2, Cinque Terre 1, Venice 1, Barcelona 3, Madrid 3.

    That adds up to 19 nights, and if you did it you’d be pretty worn out by the end. Also, keep in mind that for most of your journeys you’d spend about 5 hours in the middle of the day for the travel part. The Italian towns are closer together, but the rest would require a train ride or flight that will use most of the sightseeing time for that day. Also, doing it this way you’d definitely want to fly from Paris to Rome and from Venice to Barcelona in order to pull it off at all.

    If I were you I’d consider perhaps skipping the Cinque Terre on this trip, or saving Spain for a future trip altogether. If you did either of these things you’d have time for a trip that brings you to many great places without racing around. And you’d have more time for side-trips or other nearby stops. In my opinion, the Cinque Terre isn’t all that special and would be better appreciated on a future Italy trip where you are digging deeper. Those cities in Spain are both fantastic and worthwhile, so the issue is that they are quite remote from your others and it would be more efficient to substitute in some places that are easier to reach.

    For example if you saved Spain for later you could spend a couple days in Nice, France, to also visit Cannes and Monaco on short day trips. Or you could spend more time in Italy (including Cinque Terre), and perhaps add Sorrento for a few unforgettable days (day-trip to Naples, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Island of Capri).

    So those are some ideas, and I think any of these possibilities, including your original plan, should work well. Have a great trip, and feel free to follow up if you have further questions. -Roger

     
      Tashi says:

      Hi Roger , I went through your itinerary here and trust me this is one of the best I have come across. My husband and me , along with our 2 year old kid are planning to visit Italy and France from 7th March till 20th March . Hope this is a good time to visit ?

      Now this is the way we have planned :

      > We start with Paris : 3 days
      > Nice : 2 days ( with visit to Cannes and Monaco)
      > Venice : 1 day
      > Florence 2 days : visit to Pisa / i more country side
      > Rome : 3 days ,
      > then back to Paris and home .

      Now do you think Buying a euro rail pass Italy -France will be beneficial and how do we travel within each of these cities to visit attractions? . Especially Paris and Rome .

      I also read about Paris pass and Rome Pass ? are they good? worth the money ? or rail pass and individual attraction tickets make more sense ?

      Awaiting your reply .

       

        Tashi,

        It will be quite chilly in March, but otherwise the weather should be pretty good and the crowds will be very low so I think this is a good time in southern Europe.

        I think your itinerary looks quite good, and very similar to what I recommend in this article. On the other hand, you seem to be allowing the minimum amount of time in each place, so you are going to feel pretty rushed during the whole trip. For a 12-day trip I think you’ll enjoy it and won’t regret being ambitious with your itinerary. However, the other option to consider would be to save Nice for another trip, and spend an extra day in Paris and another day in Florence. Nice (and Monaco and Cannes) are more geared for warm-weather visits, so they won’t seem as lively during March. On the other hand, they are totally packed in the main warm months, so your visit might even be more pleasant. Also, Monaco in particular in stunning. Even so, stay in Nice and take the 20-minute train ride to Monaco to see it.

        If you were to cut out Nice you could fly from Paris to Venice (or nearby Treviso) on a cheap airline, and you’d cut out your longer train rides (for better or worse).

        You don’t want a Eurail Pass for an itinerary like this. Those are only good value for longer trips and especially those where you aren’t sure when you want to go from one city to the next. In your case you’ll want to take the trains and buy your tickets online in advance. If you buy them about 3 months ahead of time you’ll find that they are surprisingly cheap. Here’s my article that tells you how to buy European train tickets in advance from the official sites. Most don’t go on sale until about 3 or 4 months out, by the way.

        To get around within these cities you’ll mostly want to take public transport. The Paris Metro is great, and there are stops everywhere. Nice and Venice are both pretty walkable. In Nice you probably want to stay near the train station to make those day trips easier. In Venice you’ll walk pretty much everywhere, although there is the vaporetto, which is sort of a canal bus, and also very easy to use. In Rome the subway isn’t quite as helpful as in Paris because it doesn’t cover much of the city, but it can take you to the Vatican Museum. Most of the rest of the sights are within walking distance for most people if you stay near the center. If not, there are buses.

        Here’s my review of the Paris Pass, which could be ideal for you because it’s best for people on their first visit who want to cover the main sights in two days. The Rome Pass is new and I haven’t reviewed it yet, but I will soon and I think it’ll be similar. In the other two cities the main attractions are cheaper if you just pay as you go. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

         
Jora says:

Hi Roger,

I’ve been to Europe in 2011, I’ve been to Frankfurt, Paris, Belgium and Amsterdam. If lucky enough, I’ll be able to go back this March. As much as possible, I would want to cover the other cities as it is a rare chance to be in Europe (too expensive for a Filipino like me).

I would like to visit the following cities: other German cities like Munich or Berlin, Italy and Switzerland. I’m quite puzzled which cities to prioritize and how to cover each city.

Frankfurt should be the jump-off and end point of the travel (I’ll be attending a fair in Frankfurt). Travel dates are from 12th to 21st March (10 days only).

Can you suggest which cities should I prioritize? Would it be wise to book for a Eurail pass to cover the cities I’m interested in?

Would appreciate your kind reply! Thanks!

 

    Jora,

    Ten days is not a long time to cover 3 countries, but I can give you some ideas. First of all, Frankfurt is kind of a dud of a city for tourists, which you probably know, so the other places you go should be far more interesting.

    In Germany, Berlin is probably the most fascinating place, and it’s relatively cheap as well, but it’s quite a long way from the other places on your list. Munich is much closer, and it’s also worth at least two days if you can spare them. And on the article above you’ll see Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which can be enjoyed in one day and is a major highlight for many tourists.

    In Switzerland, there are two great options for visitors. One is Interlaken, which is a town at the base of the Alps. It’s really better to stay in one of the small villages just above Interlaken, specifically Gimmelwald or Murren. This is where you go to see the most amazing views of the Alps with plenty of great walks and things to do. The other possibility is Lucerne, which is a gorgeous town on a lake. There are many things to see and do in that area, and it’s quite beautiful, but if you want to see the Alps then Interlaken is better.

    In Italy you should consider the “Big 3” which are Venice, Florence, and Rome. You can get a great look at Venice is a stay of only one night. For Florence you’d want at least two nights, and in Rome it would be a shame to spend less than 3 nights. One great thing is that those 3 cities are about 2 hours apart by train, and the trains are cheap if you buy in advance.

    As mentioned up top, it would be tough to see ALL of those in a 10-day trip, but if you moved quickly you could see most of them. Once you do a bit more research you can decide which ones are most appealing to you.

    For transport, and especially since this is a short trip, you should go by rail and buy your tickets online at least a month or more in advance. The tickets will be quite cheap if you buy early, or somewhat expensive if you buy as you go.

     
Beverly Rosas says:

Dear Roger,
I really hope you could help me. My husband and I, with our 3 girls, (21,17 and 13) will be going to London on May 24, arriving at 10 pm., then heading back home from Paris, on June 12. That gives us 18 days to go around. I feel that we could add one more country, and was thinking of Scotland, since the visa to London is quite expensive, so we would like to maximize our visit to UK, and I heard Scotland is a beautiful place to visit! I am overwhelmed planning the itinerary. I would like to spend a weekend in London for their markets, before going to Paris. Is it possible upon arrival in London at 10pm, we take a train to Scotland to spend the first few days there? How many days would you suggest.. and is it best to stay in Edinburgh? In London, kids of course want to see Harry Potter aside from the usual sites. How many days do we stay in London? Then we go to Paris. We plan to do side trips if possible.. like Nice, or Lourdes? I am open to suggestions really. Or do we just spend a whole week in Paris? What kind of train tickets do I get? Is there a multiple pass for this kind of itinerary? I would appreciate your reply as soon as possible so I can look for our place to stay next.

 

    Beverly,

    You’ve got quite a few questions here and I’ll try to answer as many as I can in the order they came up…

    Scotland is definitely a good choice, especially in summer, but it will remind you a lot of England so you won’t be getting too much contrast.

    I don’t believe there are overnight trains between London and Edinburgh, so you’d want to leave for Scotland in the morning.

    I’d say it would be worth at least 4 days in Scotland to make it worthwhile. Edinburgh is gorgeous and interesting so you’ll want a minimum of two nights there. And the second best place would be Inverness, which is the gateway to the Scottish Highlands. Spend at least two nights there, and think about a bus trip during the day taking you to the island of Skye and elsewhere in the Highlands. But my advice is to skip anything having to do with the Loch Ness Monster. The lake itself is a big disappointment, and the Loch Ness museum attractions are terrible.

    In London I’d plan on at least 4 nights. You won’t get bored no matter how long you stay, but London is crowded and expensive so 4 or 5 nights should be plenty. I don’t know much about the Harry Potter sights except for that train platform.

    Paris is similar to London in that it’s huge and fascinating, but after 4 nights it’s probably to go elsewhere to mix things up. Versailles is a popular day trip. For an overnight trip then Nice is great, and Lourdes would be as well. There are dozens of great possibilities so it’s tough to say one is best for you.

    You’ll want to take trains between all of these cities. From London to Paris you’ll have to take the Eurostar train. Within the UK there are many train companies but you can search and book them all in advance from any of the websites, including this one, which is my favorite. Here is an article that talks about buying European train tickets early to save money. In all cases, the earlier you buy the train tickets, the cheaper they will be. There are no good rail passes for what you have in mind, so just buy early. -Roger

     
Kat says:

Hi Roger,

What a blessing to chance upon this website which has very useful insights for those people traveling to Europe.

This will be my first time to travel in Schengen countries. I am from Manila, Philippines. Kindly help to suggest a good itinerary. Will be flying to from Feb23-Mar7 Manila-Paris-Manila.

I will be traveling with my husband and would like to visit Italy too via domestic flight from Paris and vise versa. Can you help us build our itinerary on which places in Italy to visit. Appreciate much if you could also provide website where can we book our airfare ticket as well as train ticket and hotel.

Thank you and looking forward for your reply. Thank you very much.

 

    Kat,

    I appreciate the nice words and I’m happy to try to answer questions that people have about planning a Europe itinerary, but I hesitate to actually start from scratch on the planning part.

    Since you have 12 or 13 days, however, you don’t have too many options to get really creative, so I will provide a basic suggestion.

    Fly into Paris and spend 4 nights there. This is plenty of time to see the main and famous sights, and also spend half a day at the Palace of Versailles.

    Then fly from Paris to Rome (which is still an international flight, by the way).

    Spend 3 or 4 nights in Rome. In 3 days you can see the main sights, and in a 4th day you could even visit Naples and/or Pompeii on a day trip. Then take a train to Florence and spend 3 nights there.

    Florence is in the heart of Tuscany and is one of Europe’s best tourist towns. In three days you even have time for a day trip to nearby Pisa to see the Tower and Cathedral. Then take a train to Venice.

    Spend 2 nights in Venice, which is plenty of time to see everything there. From Venice (or nearby Treviso) you can fly back to Paris for your flight back to Manila.

    That itinerary hits all the best highlights of France and Italy, or at least those that you can see in 13 days. It would even leave an extra day or so to go somewhere else or take more day trips. Without knowing your interests and budget, this is about all I can suggest.

    There are booking tools on this website that will give you the best airfares and prices on hotels. There are even recommended hotels for Paris and Rome if you look in the middle column of those pages, which also provide other useful information.

    For train tickets you’ll want to book in advance with the Italy rail official website. The earlier you book, the cheaper the fares will be.

    This should at least get you started with a plan of your own. Let me know if you have specific questions as you plan. -Roger

     
Shawn says:

Hi Roger! Great great site and very helpful information. I’m so glad I found your site before my trip to Europe. I’m planning a trip with my husband and my in-laws in mid-April to early May. (Total of 14 night and 15 days) THIS WILL BE OUR FIRST TRIP TO EUROPE! We are flying into Paris and out of Rome. Here are my initial itinerary and would love to hear your feedback on this.

1. First go to Paris – 4 nights/ 5days (my flight lands in Paris around 11 AM)
I saw your Paris pass page and modified my detailed trip according to that. I’ll leave my questions on that page. 🙂

2. Switzerland – 3 nights/4 days
3. Venice – 2 nights
4. Florence – 2 nights
5. Rome – 3 nights

My questions:
1. Do you think this is too much for a first timers? Is there anything that we should modify?

2. I’m planning to use my credit card there with SMART Chip embedded,(since i’m gonna use card with no foreign transaction fee) but I read somewhere that using cash (according to this person, just withdraw cash from ATM when needed) is better. Do you agree with that statement?

3. I’m not planning to rent a car at all, but do you think we should? If so, in which city?

Any suggestion is welcome as I have no idea!

Thanks in advance for your help!

Shawn

 

    Shawn,

    Thanks for the kind words, and I’m sorry you had to type the comment twice. This site, like millions of others, holds comments from new users in moderation until I approve them, to keep spam comments from getting published. Anyhoo…

    1. Your plan looks fantastic, and it looks exactly right for a first-time visitor who wants to see as much as possible in two weeks, without going overboard.

    2. If you have a credit card with a chip AND no foreign transaction fee, then I’d use that for pretty much everything. Generally, the farther north you go in Europe, the more ubiquitous credit card use is, and the farther south you go the more likely you’ll find places that don’t accept them. In other words, in Paris and Switzerland, pretty much every business will take credit cards, except of course for street vendors and such. Once you get to Italy you’ll be able to use credit cards at all hotels, but there will be plenty of restaurants and cafes (in Italy, cafes are called “bars”, weirdly enough) that insist on cash.

    In Switzerland they use the Franc, but in France and Italy they use the Euro, and ATMs are everywhere you’ll go, including at airports. So mostly use credit cards, but obviously you’ll want some cash for smaller purchases.

    3. No, definitely don’t rent a car. Europe purposely makes driving expensive and frustrating with high fuel prices and expensive parking. The trains between the places you’ll go are ideal, and reasonably cheap as well.

    From your other comment, yes, I think a 2-day Paris Pass is a great tool for first-time visitors who are planning on seeing the main sights in a short time. And the included bus tour and Seine River cruise are quite nice ways to get oriented on your first day in Paris.

    In Switzerland, you have two wonderful options, and you can probably hit both of them, although 3 nights is tough. One of them is Interlaken, or more specifically, the villages just above Interlaken in the Alps, called Gimmelwald and/or Murren. This area is among the most beautiful in the world for mountain views and activities. I get this question a lot so I’m soon going to write a long article that explains exactly where to go and what to do. If you check the homepage of Priceoftravel.com in the coming two weeks or so, you’ll see it and it will make planning MUCH easier. The other place to go is Lucerne, which is on a gorgeous lake and has plenty of worthwhile things to see and do as well.

    I’d recommend a train from Paris to Interlaken for two nights in Gimmelwald (you have to take a lift to get there, but it’s cheap and easy), then take a train to Lucerne for one night, and then onto Venice. Actually, Venice is quite compact and pretty easy to see in one day and one night, so you might even consider two nights in Lucerne and one night in Venice.

    Please let me know if you have any other questions along the way. It looks like you have a really thoughtful itinerary already, so well done. -Roger

     
      shawn says:

      Ah.. thank you Roger for your prompt and detailed response. (ah.. i now understand why my post disappeared.)

      I will def. take our suggestion into consideration and modify my itinerary and I can’t wait for your new post on Switzerland!

      My friend just told me that there are a lot to see in Rome so staying 3 nights seems too short. Is there a MUST see place in Rome in three days?

      I didn’t put my bus tour and the cruise on my first day because my flight gets in around 11 AM and by the time I get to my place, which is located near Montmarte, i’ll lose whole day. So thought it will be better to use it on 2nd and the 3rd day.

      Again, thank you Roger for your help! I’ll probably come here very often!

      Shawn

       

        Shawn,

        Personally, I think 3 days and nights is the perfect amount of time for a first visit to Rome. It’s loaded with world-class attractions, but it’s also chaotic and a bit frustrating at times. The most famous attractions all live up to the hype, so as long as you hit those you’ll have a great visit. Specifically we are talking about the Colosseum, Ancient Rome, the Pantheon, the Vatican Museum (including the Sistine Chapel) and St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Trevi Fountain. Just those are about two days, so you still have a day to wander around and enjoy all the rest.

        Yes, for the Paris Pass and bus tour and cruise, I recommend starting it on your first full day rather than the day you arrive. You’ve got the right idea. -Roger

         
Sumit says:

Hi Roger, my wife & I are planning a 2 week vacation in Italy in May. This will be our first trip to Europe. We are planning to include either Nice & Cannes or Barcelona & Madrid in our itinerary along with Italy. We liked your itinerary and are planning to do something like ; Fly into Rome from Bangalore and fly out depending on whether we should do Spain or Nice area in France. We are interested in seeing the cities and the countryside of Italy. Please do recommend if you think we should combine 2 countries or just do 1 in our first trip. Thanks for your help & the great blog !

 

    Sumit,

    I’m a bit confused by the question, but I’ll try to answer anyway. Two weeks is long enough to enjoy much of Italy and still see something else, and the Nice-Cannes-Monaco area is faster and easier to reach from Italy. My recommendation would be to save Spain for another trip because you’d really need 3 days in Madrid and 3 days in Barcelona in order to appreciate them without rushing. Adding 3 days or so in Nice would be easier and you can easily get there by train.

    By the way, I’m going to update the article above soon, but for now I’ll also recommend Sorrento as another recommended stop in Italy. It’s a wonderful town where most people speak English, and it’s perfect for day trips to Naples, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, and the island of Capri. So from Rome you could pop down to Sorrento for 3 days or so and you’d be able to see a lot in a short time. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Steve says:

Roger, this is a great site. My wife and I are planning a 15 day trip to Italy in mid September. We fly into Milan and out of Rome. I am trying to decide if a trip to the South of France would make sense? We have never been to Italy or France so we are deciding between the South of France at the beginning of the trip or Naples at the end before Rome.

Milan – 2 nights
Venice – 2 nights
Cinque Terre – 2 nights
Florence – 2 nights
Naples – 2 nights
Rome – 4 nights

Milan – 1 night
S of France – 3 nights
Venice – 2 nights
Cinque Terre – 2 nights
Florence – 2 nights
Rome – 4 nights

Any suggestions or modifications you would recommend. We are very open to input and just starting the planning. If the S of France where do you recommend?

Thanks,

Steve

 

    Steve,

    Thanks. If you were to visit the south of France, the obvious choice is to base yourself in Nice, which is described a bit in the article above. For one thing, it has by far the most accommodation choices in the area, and it’s also very close to both Cannes and Monaco, both of which are worthwhile day trips (you can actually visit both in the same day).

    My main thought on this is that if you think you’ll do a proper visit to France on an upcoming trip (within the next few years), then probably save the south of France for that trip. But if you think that this will be your only visit to the area for the foreseeable future, then it’s probably worth going to Nice on this trip. Nice actually used to be part of Italy so the architecture and such will be pretty similar, but otherwise the food and culture are quite different and experiencing France should be eye-opening.

    By the way, I’m going to add this to the article above very soon (maybe by the time you read this reply), but instead of Naples you’ll probably want to stay in Sorrento, which is a bit to the south. Sorrento is about an hour south of Naples by train, and it’s a wonderful town that is safe and friendly. Naples is interesting but it’s also gritty and a bit stressful, so doing it as a day trip from Sorrento is highly recommended. Sorrento is also the gateway to the Amalfi Coast, and it’s close to Pompeii for a day trip. There’s also the island of Capri with its Blue Grotto, not to mention that Sorrento is a really lovely place where most people speak English. One problem with going to Sorrento is that you’ll want to spend 4 nights there just to see all the great things nearby, and you probably won’t have time for that.

    Also, if you do your Italy itinerary, you might want to land in Milan and then take a train straight from the airport to Venice. After that you can come back to Milan for two nights and then take the train to Cinque Terre with less backtracking. Once you’ve seen the main cathedral and the square around it, Milan is the least interesting city on your list, so you might even just do one night there or skip it. If you want to see the Last Supper you’ll have to make reservations in advance, and that can be worthwhile.

    Have a great trip and let me know if you have other questions I can help with. -Roger

     
Neeti says:

Hi, this article is very informative. My husband and I are planning a trip to Europe in the second half of June 2015. We are both first time visitors. We plan to fly into Amsterdam/Belgium and fly out of Italy. Here is a rough plan:

Amsterdam : Two nights

Belgium: Bruges – Two nights

Frace: Paris – four nights (Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, a day trip to Burgundy for the vineyards) and Nice – Two nights

Switzerland – Geneva – One night, Interlaken – Two nights and Lucerne – Two nights

Italy: Venice- Two nights, Florence – Two nights, Rome – Two nights

We plan to travel by train internally and will be flying out from India. We are not totally into history and art but do not mind visiting a few museums. What interests us is scenic beauty and nightlife. Please let me know if this plan sounds do-able. Thanks!

 

    Neeti,

    Your plan looks really good and I only have a couple of small suggestions for you.

    For one thing, Paris and Rome are both huge compared to all of the other cities on your list, and I recommend a minimum of 3 nights in each if possible. With the other cities on your list you can cover most of the top sights on a 2-night visit, but in Paris and Rome you’d have to cut out some things and rush around in two nights. On the other hand, Venice is small enough (and quite expensive) that you can see most everything that you’d want in a visit of around 24 hours. Also, Venice is unbelievably crowded (it might remind you of cities in India) during the middle of every day with people on bus tours coming in for the day, so it’s best to focus some of your time in the morning and evening, when it’s mostly empty.

    In Switzerland I’d highly recommend 2 nights in Interlaken (actually in Gimmelwald or Murren, just above Interlaken) and 2 nights in Lucerne. Geneva has a famous name but it’s actually a dud for tourists with every little to see. If you have something specific to see or do in Geneva, then go, but if you just want to see the best of Switzerland then focus on Interlaken and Lucerne. If you want to see a city in Switzerland then Bern is probably the best choice.

    Aside from those possible changes, I think your plan looks very solid and is doable. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Ramy says:

Hi Rogers! I am currently planning my trip for June-July 2015 My boyfriend and I will be going to Italy for about 30 days (28 nights) We are in our 20s (under 26) ready to explore italy. After reading a lot of articles I am now convinced that adding Nice,Monaco,Cannes into this trip will be more than possible since we will be in Europe for 4 weeks. We will be flying in and out from Rome. We were thinking of going straight to Naples as a base to all the surroundings (Almalfi, Capri etc..) Would you really recommend staying in Sorrento instead? ( I assume you do ) WE would then go south to Sicily more specifically Trapani for another 4 nights( I dont want to skip Sicilly at all) What would be your suggestion to get there from Naples?? if thats even possible I was told it is.
After that, we would have 17 – 18 days remaining. We would definitely need to spend at leaf 3 or 4 nights in Rome but at the end of our trip since we want to already be in Rome for our flight back home. So for the days in between we would want to add Florence, Nices, Monaco, Cannes. Is it only possible to get there from Milano or Venice? What about from Rome? ( I would try to get a flight or train from Sicily to Rome and then round trip Nice Rome? Or Nice Florence? What would be the best suggestion? (ps : Originally Calabria was in our plan but i figured out it would be better to chose between Nice and Calabria, what do you think?

Also, for trains, im a bit confused wether its better to buy tickets one or two months before or to buy them as we go day by day (Ive been told its better to buy them on the spot since they’re not more or less expensive)

Additional information is welcome
Thank you it is really appreciated and By the way your website is amazing!

 

    Ramy,

    Thank you for the kind words. I’ll try to answer your questions in the order they come up.

    Yes, I’d definitely recommend Sorrento as a base to explore everywhere from Naples to the Amalfi Coast. Naples is fascinating, of course, but it’s also somewhat dysfunctional and not terribly pleasant. For example, there are almost no green areas or open areas in the city center, so it really feels like a concrete jungle. And it’s considered to be generally safe for tourists, especially during the day, but EVERYONE warns you to watch out for pickpockets and that sort of thing. When I was there for a day recently I kept one hand on my iPhone and another on my small camera the whole time, which gets a bit exhausting. Tourists really stand out as tourists there. Sorrento, on the other hand, is small, tourist friendly, totally safe, and actually closer to Pompeii, Amalfi, and Capri. You would be fine staying a night or two in Naples while you were exploring Naples, but once you are done with that, I’d go to Sorrento.

    From the Naples area to Sicily most people take the train. The trains in southern Italy run quite slow and it takes some time to load the carriages onto the ferry for that portion, but at least they are fairly cheap. It will take most of a day to get down there though, so factor that in. The cities from Naples to the north are all connected by short high-speed train rides.

    I’ve yet to make it to Calabria or Sicily myself so I can’t really judge, but I can say that Nice is really wonderful for visitors.

    To visit Monaco and Cannes, you’ll definitely want to stay in Nice. Monaco and Cannes are each only about 20 minutes away by train (in opposite directions) so if you stay near the Nice train station, you can easily visit all of these places in the same day. You can take trains to Nice from Milan or Genoa, and trains in Italy tend to be cheaper than flights, although it’s worth checking both. From wherever you are in Italy, you can take a train to Nice, though you will probably have to switch in Milan.

    The long-distance and high-speed trains in Italy are all cheaper the earlier you buy, and they can be really cheap compared to anywhere else in Europe, like €19 from Florence to Rome compared to €49 if you buy on travel day. However, the local trains, such as the ones that stop in the Cinque Terre cities, have fixed (and cheap) prices. In other words, buy your long train tickets as far in advance as possible, but don’t buy the short rides into the suburbs until you get there.

    Hopefully that helps, and feel free to follow up if you have other questions I might answer. -Roger

     
MJ says:

I am so impressed with the wealth of information on this page. My husband and I are traveling to Europe for the first time this October. We have 13 days to site see (with an additional 2 days) of travel time and being around and 30 and active we can travel at a fairly fast pace. Originally, we planned to spend all our time in Italy, a lifelong dream of mine. But, my husband and I compromised and realizing we may never make it back to Europe we are trying to figure out if we can squeeze Paris and Versailles into the mix. Can you give me your opinion on our itinerary?
Leave the U.S. Saturday.
Days 1-3: arrive in Naples on Sunday around noon (day 1), transfer to sorento. Stay 3 nights to allow for day trips along Amalfi coast, Pompeii, and Capri.
Wednesday/day 4- Friday day 6: transfer via train to Rome. Spend 3 nights. Should we have stayed an extra night in Sorrento to allow for jet lag recovery?
Saturday/day 7-Monday day 9: We are choosing to skip Florence and going straight to Venice for 2 nights (I missed an opportunity to study abroad here while in college so I want to give Venice a little extra time).
Either Monday night or Tuesday we fly to Paris for the remainder of our trip. We plan to do a day trip to Versailles.
We fly back to the U.S. on Saturday.
What do you think of this itinerary for our first trip to Europe? I hope I’m allocating enough time to the various cities. We are ok with missing Florence to allow extra time in Venice and Paris. Your expertise and insight is very appreciated!

 

    MJ,

    That’s very nice of you to say and I’ll be happy to try to help you plan.

    Your itinerary looks excellent and very well thought out. As for possible jet lag, it’s a personal thing. I’ve done dozens of flights from the US to Europe, and even though I can barely sleep on a plane, I’m always so excited when I touch down that I find it pretty easy to push through most of that first day. When I wake up on my first real morning there, I tend to be nearly adjusted already. I struggle much more with jet lag after returning home, although not everyone does. I think if you are willing to push yourself a bit and avoid sleeping more than 30 minutes once you check into your hotel, you’ll probably be fine and still able to do a bit of sightseeing on the day you land.

    It sounds like you’ve researched Florence quite a bit before deciding to skip it, and I think your decision makes sense. The “big 3” of Italy are Rome, Venice, and Florence, but Florence is definitely the least dramatic of those three, and Paris is spectacular so I think it’s a good trade. Three nights in Paris is good, but four nights is better, especially if you are doing the Versailles side trip in there.

    Honestly, there is nothing about your plan that I would change, and I am sure you’ll have an excellent time. Bon voyage, and feel free to ask more questions if you have them. -Roger

     
Julia says:

Timely post as, despite having visited almost all of the places mentioned, we will have in-laws coming to stay with us this year who have never been to Europe before. I’m glad to see Amalfi and Sorrento on your “to do” list, as these are two regions I’ve yet to explore and am beginning to tire of the overly-crowded Big Three.

 
jocelyn says:

Hoping you can help me. We are planning on spending 3 weeks travelling in Mid May. The places we would like to cover are – Tuscany, Switzerland, Germany and Paris. Can you suggest on how many days we should stay at each place and any suggested names of towns to stay at.We will have to start our trip from Rome and catch a train to florence and would then like to continue on to tuscany and then from there we are open to suggestions to cover the other places I have mentioned.Thanks

 

    Jocelyn,

    Landing in Rome with 3 weeks to spend, you obviously have many choices. Here’s my article about where to go in Germany in 1 to 3 weeks, which should help. Here’s one way to do it that would be enjoyable and efficient:

    Rome for 3 or 4 nights then take a train to Florence.

    Florence for 3 or 4 nights. Florence is in the heart of Tuscany and you can do day trips to visit some nearby hill towns for a classic Tuscany experience. Pisa and Siena are each about an hour away by train, so if you base yourself in Florence you’ll have many choices for day trips.

    Take a train to Venice and stay 1 or 2 nights. Venice will be crowded but it’s an unforgettable place that will be a highlight of your trip.

    Take a train from Venice to Munich, or you could take a train from Venice to Salzburg and stop there for 2 days on your way to Munich.

    See the article mentioned above to choose a few stops in Germany, with Munich being your launching point. You can easily spend a day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber and also Neuschwanstein Castle. After about 4 or 5 days in Germany, take a train to Lucerne, Switzerland.

    Spend 2 days in Lucerne and then take a short train ride to Interlaken and then another short train and then a cable car up to either the village of Gimmelwald or Murren and spend 2 days there. Interlaken is the place to get the most amazing mountain views in all of Europe.

    After Interlaken, take a train to Paris and stay there at least 3 nights. If you do an itinerary that is something along these lines, you’ll be hitting nearly all the highlights of these areas. Let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

     
      jocelyn says:

      Thank you so much for your help. Is it worthwhile catching the Bernina Express Train from Milan to Zurich as I have heard the scenery is fantastic? Also what if we want to include London at the end of the trip. We have travelled overseas before and have seen a lot of Rome and Florence, Pisa and Venice but as we are meeting up with our daughter who is in florence at the moment we were then hoping to visit Tuscany as on our last trip we didnt get to see a lot due to time limits so would love to see other popular signts in that area, then go from there to visit Switzerland, Germany and Paris as we have never been there before however now my husband has suggested to end in London and then travel home to Australia. What are your thoughts and any suggestions as per the Bernina Express train idea?

       
Susan says:

Hi Roger

Chanced upon your website and the information has been so informative and helpful. Thank you. I have never done this before so I hope I am responding in the right format/way.

My daughter is travelling to Europe for 3 months and we are going to travel Italy together for 20 days, Aug 21 to 10 Sept. Im so excited as a visit to Italy has been on my dream list for a long time and the pleasure of experiencing it with my daughter is priceless.

After reading all the comments/feedback I am beginning to feel overwhelmed as to where to go and not go. This is my plan at this stage.

Flying into and out of Milan (flights are booked) as it works in with my daughter’s plans.

lake como, Turin, Genoa, cinque Terre, Pisa, Florence, Siena, Perugia Rome, Sorrento …….Venice Milan.

I night Venice but not sure where to put that in. We could go from Sorrento across to the east coast and up to Venice and back into Milan.

I read that Milan is worth missing so might head straight to Lake Como on arrival and spend last night in Milan before flying out next day to Melbourne.

Days in each place are not sent in stone as we don’t want to feel pressured to be a certain place on a certain day. Thinking Florence will be 3/4 night and Rome 3 night and Sorrento 3 nights. At that time of year should we be trying to book accomm in advance.

From Sorrento we are not sure where to go and are we trying to do/see too much in 20 days.

If you had 20 days in Italy as a first timer and was not set on seeing every tourist attraction what would your itinerary look like ?

We will be travelling by train/bus (booked in advance as far as is possible when you want a little flexability)

Thank you for your advice and help.

 

    Susan,

    Yes, the format of your question is perfect. I’ll answer the questions in the order they appear…

    Milan is okay to skip on a shorter trip, but I think it’s worth at least one night on yours. But you can probably skip Turin and Genoa and spend a bit more time everywhere else. Those two towns might be the 8th and 9th most interesting in Italy, so they are probably better for a future trip.

    Land in Milan and hop on the train to Lake Como. Stay in Varenna or Bellagio for two or three nights. They are both very small and you can see the interesting parts of the mid-lake area in one day by taking the ferries. Then take the train back to Milan and hop on a train from there to Cinque Terre. Vernazza is the classic town in Cinque Terre, but if you want to spend time on the beach then you could base yourself in one of the others. Stay 2 or 3 nights.

    Take the train from Cinque Terre to Florence. If you pack light you can hop off the train for a couple hours in Pisa on your way to Florence. Otherwise, just base yourself in Florence for 4 or 5 days and see Pisa and Siena as day trips (they are only about an hour away by train). You can also visit one or more of the famous Tuscan hill towns from Florence in part of a day.

    From Florence take the train to Rome and spend 3 nights there. Rome is huge and packed with important sights, but it’s also expensive and kind of frustrating (crossing streets takes daring and concentration, for example). So you can appreciate the main sights in 3 nights or maybe 4, but I wouldn’t stay longer.

    From Rome you will take the train down to Naples and then change to the Circumvesuviana train to Sorrento. As mentioned in the article above, you can spend up to 4 wonderful days in Sorrento and do something very different every day. You’ll want to spend part of a day in Naples, part of a day seeing the Pompeii ruins, at least part of a day doing the bus and/or ferry along the Amalfi Coast, and possibly part of a day on the Isle of Capri just a short ferry ride away. You can spend your evenings in charming Sorrento.

    After 3 to 5 nights, take an early train back to Naples and then the high-speed train to Venice for 1 or maybe 2 nights. Venice is amazing but it’s also small and very crowded so staying about 24 hours is enough.

    From Venice you’ll take the train back to Milan, and stay your last night there. The Milan cathedral and the area around it are really worth at least half a day, but the rest of Milan will feel a bit generic compared to the other places you’ve been. This itinerary gives you some flexibility and plenty of contrasts. In 20 days I think you’ll have enough time to take it slowly so you don’t feel like you are racing around.

    Have a great trip and feel free to follow up if you have other questions I might help with. -Roger

     
      Susan says:

      Thanks so much Roger for the prompt and detailed response.

      We are looking at staying with air bnb in Trastevere Rome. It looks really interesting.What are your thoughts and is it a good base camp location,I think it will only take about 10 mins of walking to get into the Center of town.

      Do you have suggestions of areas in Florence to base ourselves.

      Thanks

      Susan

       

        Susan,

        I don’t believe that I’ve spent any time in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome. On the map it looks a bit remote, and perhaps more than 10 minutes away from the tourist centers on the other side of the river. On the other hand, a hotel within walking distance of Ancient Rome and that area would be small and very expensive. You usually get what you pay for, and in your case you’d probably be getting a nice apartment that isn’t close to any main attractions, at a good price. If you prefer an apartment to a hotel, then it’s probably a good deal.

        As for Florence, all of the main sights are within a fairly short walk of the main cathedral, which is basically the center of the city. As long as you are a decent walking distance from the cathedral, you’ll be in a convenient area. I don’t think I’d want to stay out in a residential suburb that I had to take a bus to get into town. Have a great trip. -Roger

         
Ash says:

Hi Roger,

My husband and I are looking for a cheap and cheerful trip to Italy over easter – we have 10-12 nights to spare, flying from London. Current thought is Rome, 4 nights ; Florence – 2 nights including pisa and then to sicily.. any other places / things to see you would put on the must do list? want to end it in a relaxed beach ideally. Also best modes of transport and starting points?
Thanks
Ash

 

    Ash,

    I’ve yet to visit Sicily and it gets mixed reviews. I think if you’ve visited the other main destinations in Italy then exploring Sicily would probably be fulfilling, but I don’t think I’d recommend it for someone who is fairly new to Italy. Also, in early April it really won’t be sunbathing weather anywhere in Italy, although you’ll obviously have your best chance at that way down south. If being as warm as possible is important, then Sicily is probably wise, or considering somewhere else like the Canaries.

    Assuming you have locked in on Italy, then the two main “beach” options that are fairly easy for non-Italian speakers are the Cinque Terre and the Sorrento/Amalfi Coast area. My understanding is that there are other beach areas where it’s almost all Italian people, although again, no sunbathing weather in early April.

    The Cinque Terre and Sorrento/Amalfi area are both lovely and relaxed, especially outside of the sunbathing season. There’s WAY more to do in Sorrento, with Naples, Pompeii, Capri, and the Amalfi Coast itself all short day trips away. The Cinque Terre feels more like a time capsule of how Italy was 50 years ago, but there isn’t much to do there aside from hiking town to town. All of this is covered in a bit more depth in the article above.

    You’ll definitely want to get around by train. Italy heavily subsidizes train fares, so they are quite cheap, even as travel day approaches. They are very cheap if you book more than a month in advance, but if you want some flexibility that savings might not be worth it.

    By the way, one of the challenges with Sicily is that the trains south of Naples are very slow, so it takes most of a day to get down to Sicily, including the train carriages going onto the ferry. Flying is obviously faster, but more expensive, and its own kind of hassle.

    Hopefully this helps at least a bit. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Erica says:

Hi Roger ,

My husband and i are going for our honeymoon this coming june , thanks you for your itinerary , it really helps me a lot on my planning… just wonder does it smooth enough ? We have total of 18 nights… we will reach the rome airport then transfer to the santorini and when we back we starts from the rome.

Santorini – 4nights
Rome -3nights
Pisa & Florence – 2nights
Venice – 1night
Milan – 1night
Switzerland – 4nights
France – 3 nights

if i would like to take away milan from my list which city are recommended?

Thanks
Erica

 

    Erica,

    I think your plan looks pretty much perfect. The only tricky part, as you mentioned, would be doing back-to-back 1-night visits to Venice and Milan. Changing hotels and cities every day can start to make it feel like a job, so I think I would recommend saving Milan for a future trip.

    The two best places to add in that extra day would be in Florence or Paris. When visiting Tuscany you’ll want to stay in Florence and you can visit the Leaning Tower in Pisa on a day trip in only a few hours. If you stay fairly close to the train station in Florence, it will be easier, and you can take a train directly to the stop closer to the Field of Miracles (where the tower and cathedral are located), which will also save you time. Having 3 nights in Florence will mean that you’ll have enough time to see the major sights there AND half a day for Pisa.

    As mentioned, the other good option would be to add another day in Paris. It’s an amazing city with endless things to see and do, and unlike Rome, it’s actually pleasant for a longer stay. In Rome, by the way, 3 nights is perfect because it’s a pretty intense place and it can wear on visitors after a day or two. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
      Erica says:

      Thank you so much for the detailed response… If i would like to add one more day on paris which part of paris is a must in my list ? Or is it possible to add on germany to my trip ? as i discover there’s train from geramny to switzerland and i cant find any from milan to switzerland…

      For ur suggestion is it the best to get a eurail pass or buy the train pass individually ? Which train is more recommended ?

      Thank you for your help Roger.

       
Moh says:

Hi Roger
My wife and I want to visit France, Italy and Switzerland over about 12 days in late September. This will be our first such trip. Would you advise us to take an organized trip with a travel company (which I am guessing would involve lot of bus travel) or would it be better to organise our own itenary which could include a mixture of train, bus and air travel. The main places we like to visit are Paris, Rome, Florence, Venice. Nice and Lucerne are optional.
Thank you
Moh

 

    Moh,

    I will highly recommend doing this trip independently rather than with a tour. Not only is it generally cheaper to plan it and do it yourself, but you’ll also obviously be able to do everything on your own schedule. Those bus trips are good for some people, but they also mean spending the entire trip with 45 other people and always moving as slowly as the slowest person who is always late getting back to the bus.

    In 12 days I’d recommend visiting 4 or 5 cities at the most, and taking trains between them all. If you can fly into one city (like Paris) and back out of another city (like Rome), it would be best. But it might be cheaper to fly in and out of the same city and then book a cheap flight from your last stop back to the departure airport.

    Not only are all of the cities on your list very tourist friendly, they are also filled with tourism employees who speak fine English. It never hurts to learn how to say hello and thank you in the language of the country you are visiting, but really it’s easy to do it only speaking English the whole time, even in Paris. All of the transportation signs and most menus that you encounter will also have English translations included, so it should all be quite easy.

    One way to do it would be to fly into Paris and spend 3 or 4 nights, then take the train to Nice for 2 nights. Then take a train to Venice for 1 night (you’d want to leave early and get to Venice as early as possible). Then to Florence for 2 nights and finally Rome for 3 nights. That would be a fast trip, which might be too fast for some people. If you want to slow down a bit you could spend 4 nights in Paris and then fly to Venice (or nearby Treviso), and then to Florence and Rome.

    Let me know if you have more questions and I’ll be happy to try to help. -Roger

     
      Moh says:

      Dear Roger

      Thank you very much for your reply. As you have suggested we will do this trip independently. Based on your comments am thinking of the following:

      Eurostar or fly to Paris from London
      3 nights in Paris,
      Fly to Venice, 2 nights
      Train to Florence, 2 nights
      Train to Rome , 3 nights
      Fly back to Paris or London.

      Since I have a couple of more spare days where should I spend that time? Sorrento?

      I am guessing that with this schedule I wouldn’t get to see much of the country side.

      Your suggestions are very much appreciated.

      Thank you

      Moh

       

        Moh,

        You’ll be seeing quite a bit of the Italian countryside on the trains from Venice to Florence and to Rome. But if you spent 2 or 3 days in Sorrento you’d also be able to see a bit of the Amalfi Coast as well as Pompeii and Naples. Another option between Florence and Rome would be to go to Cinque Terre for a couple days. Those 5 towns are all small and very scenic, so it would show you a different side of Italy. Either one of those would be great choices, and I can help you sort out the details when you’ve made a decision. -Roger

         
Amardeep says:

As all the other comments have indicated-thank you! The information provided above has been helpful in planning my upcoming trip.

Would love to get your feedback on the below please:

– 25-28 June (4 days) in Rome
– 29-1 July (3 days) Amalfi Coast
– 2-4 July (3 days) Florence including day trip to Sienna)
– 5-6 July (2 days) Cinue Terra
– 7 July head to Venice
– 8-9 July (2 days) Venice
– 10-14 (5 days) Paris

This is my first trip to Europe and the above also includes travel time in the allocated days in each city. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated 🙂

 

    Amardeep,

    It’s always nice to hear that this advice is helpful, so thanks for taking the time to mention it.

    Your itinerary looks fantastic and I don’t think I’d change anything. I do have a few comments though.

    To visit the Amalfi Coast you could go directly to Positano or Amalfi, but I highly recommend staying in nearby Sorrento instead. From there you can jump on the public bus, which plies that scenic route every hour or less, and hop off in each of those towns as you go. Sorrento is also a bit more affordable and there are far more things to see and do there, including visiting nearby Pompeii or Naples or Capri.

    Florence has plenty to see itself, and Pisa is another worthwhile short day trip in addition to Siena. The only blockbuster sight in Siena is the dramatic town square, and the Leaning Tower might actually be more memorable. Otherwise, Siena is nicer than Pisa, so either one will be good.

    Venice to Paris is about 11 hours by train, and even though it’s quite scenic, that is a LONG time to spend on trains. You might find that flying from Venice (or nearby Treviso) to Paris is a good option since it might even be cheaper and it’ll obviously be much faster.

    Aside from those little points, I think this trip will work wonderfully just as you’ve planned it. Bon voyage and feel free to follow up if you have other questions. -Roger

     
      Amardeep says:

      Thanks Roger

      Not yet decided whether Amalfi Coast will be visited via hire car or public transport. I definitely want to visit Pompeii so will keep in mind your Sorrento tip.(plan to get the train from Naples to Florence)

      Yes, plan to fly to Paris from Venice. May spend the first night in the region in Verona so I can watch an opera at the amphitheatre there (not too interested in spending more than an evening in Verona) and then head to Venice first thing the next morning to spend 2 whole days and 2 nights there.

      Just two other quick questions please- wondering if I am rushing Florence and Amalfi Coast and whether I would be better off cutting a day in Paris and adding it to either of those cities instead? I am sure this will definitely not be my only trip to France!

      Also, what route would you recommend traveling from cinque Terra to Venice/Verona? I understand it will be a 6-7 hr journey and the optios are to go via Milan or Bologna. I am leaning towards Bologna so I can stop and wander around for an hour or so on the way and maybe have lunch there.

      Many, many thanks! Appreciate your time and effort greatly 🙂

       
Anne says:

My husband and I are planning a trip to Italy and France for our 50th anniversary in 2016 probably May. We plan to spend a month, use trains between larger cities and car to drive locally. We’ve been to Tuscany and Rome but want to go to Venice Florence again and then down to Amalfi coast. In france (which I’ve never been to) we want to see Paris and area and then spend at least a week in Provence. Will renting a home or apartment for a week and then traveling around be feasible. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

 

    Anne,

    If the question is, is renting a home or apartment in Provence for a week or so, and driving a rented car around to see the sights a good idea, I think it definitely is. I don’t personally have experience with this sort of visit, but most travel pros seem to think this is the ideal way to see more rural parts of France as well as Italy.

    Generally speaking, I don’t recommend renting cars to go between European cities because parking is almost always a big issue. But for basing yourself in a spread-out area like Provence, I think it’s ideal. And there are loads of international websites that offer these sorts of rentals, including homeaway.com and airbnb.com, but some say that you can often get a better deal in person just by going there and asking around once you arrive. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
      Anne says:

      Thanks Roger for your help. We’ve driven ourselves in other countries but have never rented a home there before. In Italy we’ve stayed in agritourismos and we may do that in Italy again. I’m finding your site really good. It offers a lot of good information.

       
Jawad Khalil says:

Hi Roger

Need a bit of advice, me and missus are flying into paris and out of Malaga for our 13 day trip. Our initial plan is to spend 2 days in paris, fly out to Rome and stay there for 2 days, 1 day in Venice, 3 days in Sorento and the amalfi, we will then be flying out to Barcelona and will spend 2 days there, at then we will spend 2 days in seville and on the final day fly out from Malaga.

Big question! Do you think we are cramming too much in our trip and will end up with just a blur of a holiday or you reckon we can work it out by tweaking our existing itnerary?

Will really appreciate your advice.

Cheerios

 

    Jawad,

    Yes, I do think you are trying to cram too much into 13 days, but I don’t think it’s impossible to do. The main issue here is, and sorry if you’ve read this before because I type it often into these comments, that a “transit day” only counts as maybe 25% of a sightseeing day. In other words, on every day that you are going from one city to another, you’ll be lucky to spend even a few hours and see one good sight on that day. Even if a train ride is only 2 or 3 hours (as is the case between the major Italian cities), you’ll still be spending another couple hours packing up and checking out of one hotel and then finding and checking into the hotel in your next city.

    It looks like you have about 6 transit days in your 13 total days, so that means you’d be spending almost half your holiday going between places, and the other half actually enjoying the places you are visiting. On a 13-day trip, I’d recommend no more than 5 total cities, or maybe 6 including a small city like Venice that is close to other cities.

    Also, I am often asked about “minimum number of nights” in each city to at least see the main highlights, and a few of your stops fall short of my minimum recommendations. For example, Paris, Rome, and Barcelona are all very large cities that are absolutely packed with famous highlights. I recommend a minimum number of 3 nights in each of those, partly because that really only translates into two full sightseeing days. If you cut it down to 2 nights, and one full sightseeing day, you’ll need to skip things like the Louvre, Vatican Museum, and the Picasso Museum because you’ll be leaving after only seeing a few things.

    So I’ll recommend 3 nights in Paris and then 3 nights in Rome. If you are going to Sorrento/Naples/Amalfi you’d want to do it after Rome because Venice is in the opposite direction. I’d actually recommend saving Sorrento for another visit, and going straight to Venice for 1 night. Then you can fly to Barcelona from Venice (or nearby Treviso Airport) for 2 or 3 nights. You might still have time for a day or two in Seville, and it’s small enough that one full day could be worthwhile.

    Hopefully this is the sort of advice you were looking for. You could change things around in other ways, but I think this is most efficient. Feel free to follow up with other questions if you have them. -Roger

     
      Jawad Khalil says:

      Hi Roger
      Thank you very much for your advice, we sat down last night and decided that we will do 2 full days in paris, 3 in Rome, 2 in Barcelona and the rest in Andalucia. So we have decided to leave the amalfi coast for another trip, our next holiday, we will dedicate 1 week between rome, Venice and pisa, an a week for the amalfi coast.
      Once again thanks a lot for your advice, it’s really helped us a lot, will update you on how it went on our return
      Jawad

      (I’m happy to help, and please do let me know how it went when you get back. -Roger)

       
Jawad Khalil says:

mistakenly hit the the submit button there, anyway, so we have decided to leave the amalfi coast for another trip, our next holiday, we will dedicate 1 week between rome, Venice and pisa, an a week for the amalfi coast.
Once again thanks a lot for your advice, it’s really helped us a lot, will update you on how it went on our return
Jawad

 
charly mi says:

hallo Roger,
i very happy to find your article. i am planing to have a tour in Europe in October for 18 days, with my family and relatives. we are all 8 adults, all visit Europe for the first time.
we are planing to visit this places: Rome, Assisi, Florence, Venice,Milan, Lourdes, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam.
do you any suggestion how to arrange the trip..??
then, i have read from your recommendation above, that renting car is a bit expensive than trains. but considering our number, 8-10 persons, do you recommend to take car, at least from city to cities in Italy? and in Paris alone?
thank you very much for your kind assistance.

 

    charly mi,

    For that list of cities I think you’d be best off starting in the north and going south, which will also help with the weather since it will get nicer as you go south rather than getting worse as you go north. The most logical route is Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Lourdes, Milan, Venice, Florence, Assisi, and Rome. Or you could fly into Berlin and then go to Amsterdam next, and on the same route.

    Berlin and Lourdes are both quite out of the way, and if you removed one or both of them your total distance traveled would be quite a bit less, but both have a lot to offer so you might just keep them both in.

    I normally recommend against renting cars in Europe to go between the big cities, but in your case it might actually be your best bet. My guess is that two small cars that hold 4 or 5 people each would be cheaper than one large van that held all 10 people, but it’s worth checking both. The fuel you’d need to buy would be about the same either way, since their small cars tend to be very efficient while the vans really aren’t.

    You wouldn’t want to use a car to drive around and see the sights in most of the cities in your list because parking is very expensive and hard to find. But for your drives to/from Berlin and Lourdes and even Assisi, having your own vehicles could be very efficient. You’ll just have to check rental rates and factor in that fuel will cost about €2 per liter, and see how the numbers add up. There will also be toll roads in France and Italy, but the tolls aren’t too high.

    The other major factor to consider is overnight parking within cities. If you want to stay at hotels in the city centers, which is highly recommended in most cases, you might pay about €30 per night for parking. But if you are okay staying a bit outside the city center, you can probably find good hotels with free parking. The challenge then is that it might be a 30-minute tram ride into the city center for your sightseeing, so you’ll probably only want to do that once per day, which can take some of the fun out of visiting an amazing city like the ones on your list. In other words, if you are staying in the tourist center you can do a walking tour right after breakfast and then rest in your room for a bit, and then go to a nearby museum or other sight after a memorable lunch, and then relax a bit more in your hotel before going out for dinner and another walk around town. But if you stay on the edge of town, you’ll have breakfast and then go into town for sightseeing. You’ll see several things and start getting a bit tired so you head back to your hotel. At that point it probably feels like too much trouble to go all the way back into town for dinner, so you have food at or near your hotel and then stay in for the night. For these reasons, people who stay in the city center usually end up seeing and doing much more than someone staying on the edge of town in the same number of days.

    So driving from one city to the next might be cheaper than taking the train for 4 or 5 people, but once you get there you’ll either have to pay a lot for parking or really push yourself to maximize sightseeing, or save money by staying on the edge of town and see fewer things.

    Also, driving in the middle of the cities on your list would be stressful, so you’d really want to do as little of that as possible. Driving in and out might be okay, but driving from your hotel to a central museum or cathedral would be traumatic. I hope this helps, and let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

     
Tifny says:

Hello,

We are planning a two week backpackers trip. How much pocket money do you think is enough?

Please help

 

    Tifny,

    I’ll be happy to try to help, but I’m not sure what you mean by “pocket money.” If you mean how much do you need each day after you’ve paid for accommodation, food, and transportation, then it tends to be a personal thing. But if you are wondering how much you’ll need each day for accommodation and food and everything else, then in France and Italy you’ll need about €60 per person per day if you want to enjoy yourself, or less if you are willing to eat street food and pizza for most meals.

    If you have a more specific question, let me know and I’ll take a shot at it. -Roger

     
Sheree says:

Hi Roger
I have enjoyed reading all the information on the above messages and found it very helpful. I’m going to Europe with a friend (2 ladies) for a dream we have had to go to Tuscany. Our itinerary is as follows:
5 nights in Majorca for a wedding
3 nights in Barcelona
3 nights in Rome
8 nights in Florence
1 night in Venice
We plan on basing ourselves in Florence to do a few day trips to Sienna and other hillside towns. I’m very keen on arranging a minivan guided tour to Cinque Terre. Do you think it is ok to do a day trip there and go back to Florence or perhaps stay our last night there and take the train to Venice for our night there. I’m trying to work out how best to fit the Cinque Terre in. Also, do you have any view on accommodation? We are looking at renting an apartment through Air BNB. I was wondering if this is safe or is it best to stay in hotels. We thought an apartment would be a better experience for us to do our own thing. Thanks

 

    Sheree,

    Florence is a fairly compact city so I think 8 days is quite a long time there, even if you are going to spend several days doing side trips. You can see the main sights in Florence in 3 days or so, and then a day trip to Siena and one or two hill towns would work well. You might also work Pisa into the trip, which can be seen in only a few hours.

    As for the Cinque Terre, I think since you have enough time I’d spend 1 or 2 nights there, probably in the most scenic town, which is Vernazza. The main things to do there are to hike between the towns (although the path is not always easily passable, and it is steep in places), or to sit on a beach in a couple of the towns (even though the beaches aren’t really great by international standards). Aside from those things, the main draw is that towns like Vernazza are like going back in time to a simple and authentic era. For that, I think you really need to stay overnight to appreciate it. On a van trip in one day you’d be rushing around and you’d mostly be seeing other tourists all day, while in the morning and evenings, things are quiet and serene.

    Airbnb should be a good option in the cities you are visiting, especially for a longer stay in Florence. For a 1 or 2-night stay a hotel might be better because they tend to be more central and you can come and go as you please, while in an airbnb you have to arrange a time to arrive and get the keys from the owner and all of that.

    You’ll probably want to fly from Barcelona to Rome and then take trains within Italy. If you do fly, buy your ticket as far in advance as possible for the best fares. The train rides within Italy will all be fairly short and inexpensive, so buying them once you are there might be best. Those cities are all so close that they are no more than 2 hours or so apart. I’m not sure I answered all of your questions, so please feel free to follow up and I’ll be happy to try again. -Roger

     
Vini Batheja says:

Excellent itinerary suggestions ! Thanks for posting !

 
Olivia says:

Hi Roger,

I will be traveling to France and Italy for the first time in the summer and will be staying for a total of 17 days. I plan to visit Paris, Nice, Rome, Florence and Venice. The thing is, I will be flying in and out of Paris.

I have made a rough itinerary but would like some feedback:

3 nights Paris
Fly to Rome
4 nights Rome
3 nights Florence
1 night Venice
3 nights Nice
3 nights Paris

Do you think it is too crammed? I understand the train rides between Venice and Nice and Nice and Paris will be quite time consuming.

Alternatively, I was thinking of changing the order of the cities. I am also considering flying from Paris to Venice, train to Florence, train to Rome, fly from Rome to Nice and then train from Nice back to Paris. What do you think?

Thanks!

 

    Olivia,

    I think your original plan looks excellent, and I don’t think it’s at all too crammed. It looks like you’ve allowed enough time for sightseeing AND the longer train rides, which are also pretty entertaining in that part of Europe.

    Your alternate plan could also work pretty well, but I think you’ll enjoy the longer train rides much more than you’d enjoy the extra flight. If you were only allowing 2 days in some cities then the flight might be a good way of speeding the travel part up. But since you have 3 or 4 nights (except for Venice) and 6 nights in Paris, I think doing most of it on the ground will be the best strategy.

    To be honest, six days in Paris is longer than most first-time visitors spend, so you could add an extra day or two somewhere else on the route, and still see everything in Paris in 4 or 5 nights. You are going to have a fantastic time, and it looks like you’ve planned really well so far. Feel free to follow up if you have more questions. -Roger

     
Edna says:

Hi Roger,
You have done wonderfully well in all your analysis; very informative as well. My husband, daughter and I are planning to travel to Europe for the first and which to travel to Spain (7 night) France (7 night) and Italy (12 night). We leave from Nigeria to Spain and return home through Italy – Venice or Florence. Our base will be Barcelona in Spain, Paris & Nice in France and Florence in Italy. We love shopping a lot especially for clothes and shoes. I want to know the best places to get them for reasonable prices. I also want to add places where we can do day trips and return to base.

 

    Edna,

    I’m not really a shopping expert so I won’t be of much help with that. I do know that all of those cities have the big chain stores (H & M, Zara, etc), and prices should be similar from city to city.

    The best cities for day trips in Italy (since you’ll be pretty busy just seeing the cities in Spain and France with only one week in each) are Florence to visit Pisa, Siena, and the Cinque Terre, not to mention the Tuscan hill towns nearby. The other place to base yourself is Sorrento, which is just south of Naples, and MUCH more pleasant. It’s ideal for day trips to Naples itself, the Pompeii ruins, the Amalfi Coast, and the island of Capri.

    By the way, if you are flying in or out of Venice you should also check fares into nearby Treviso Airport, which is usually cheaper. And the closest cheap airport to fly into near Florence is the Pisa Airport. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Darren says:

Hi Roger, great site here mate. Love all the feedback. I am looking at a 3-4 week trip starting in mid July. First time to mainland Europe. Looking to fly into Paris or Rome and out again from one of these two cities.
I noticed you mentioned that about 60 euros a day is about right for France when it comes to accommodation and food, what would you suggest it would be for Spain and Italy? Looking at cheap-mid range hostels and the occasional evening out, not dirt cheap but certainly still on a budget? Is 60 euros per day manageable for France, Spain & Italy?

I was also wondering is it safe to wait until arriving in Paris, stay a few days and then figure out train passes over there to move across the region or is it best to pre-purchase?

Thanks for your help.

 

    Darren,

    Thanks. This site is actually based on the budget information for each of these cities and countries, so I invite you to have a closer look at any of the City pages like this one for Barcelona or this one for Rome. I’m not sure which €60/day reference for France you are referring to, but that would definitely be for a hostel bunk and “budget” meal choices for the most part. More specific information can be found on the Europe Backpacker Index, which tallies up the typical costs for backpacker visits to 56 different European cities. That total also includes transportation, attractions, and some entertainment into a daily budget, and it’s all broken down by city.

    You’ll notice that the typical costs for Paris are quite high, yet the rest of France is a bit cheaper. The same is true in Rome, with the rest of Italy (except Venice) being more affordable. Barcelona and Madrid are pretty similar. I think those other pages will answer all of your questions, but feel free to follow up if you have more.

    The train tickets issue is another large and complicated one. I have long articles about whether a Eurail Pass makes sense for you, and how and when to buy train tickets online in advance. Long story short, you can’t buy a rail pass once you arrive in Europe, and buying individual tickets bought on travel day are usually very expensive. You might want to buy a Eurail Pass, or at least buy a few train tickets online in advance. I’m happy to help you sort that out if you still have questions. Best of luck. -Roger

     
Timmy says:

Hello,
We are planning a trip to southern France and northern Italy this upcoming October and would like your advice. We are planning a 14 day trip, and will probably fly into Nice/Marseille and fly out from Milan or Rome. How many cities can we visit ( we really do like to explore and enjoy the cities rather than just ‘visit’ them). We were thinking of basing ourselves in Cannes and then maybe Genoa and Florence. We would really love to see Provence, Nice, Monaco, Cinque Terre, Florence, etc… Also, what do you suggest is best/most practical means to travel between these cities (train vs. car rental).
Any help would be much appreciated. Love you articles.

 

    Timmy,

    In my opinion, you can experience the main highlights of most cities in 3 nights, or perhaps 4 nights for large cities like Paris or London, or Rome even. So if I were you I’d shoot for 4 or 5 cities if you have 14 days to work with. For smaller cities like Venice or even Florence, you can really get a feel for the main highlights in 1 or 2 nights, as long as you have most of the day for sightseeing.

    So first off, I’d recommend basing yourself in Nice, probably at one of the hotels near the train station. Nice is a large beach town with great museums and an abundance of hotels, while Cannes is much smaller and hotels tend to be far more expensive. Also, Cannes has a nice shopping district and a sandy beach (unlike the pebble beach in Nice), but otherwise there isn’t much to see or do there. From Nice you can also visit Monaco in only about 20 minutes, and it actually has far more to see and do compared to Cannes (although hotels are even more expensive). You can have a good visit to all 3 cities in only 3 nights because Cannes and Monaco are only about 20 minutes from Nice by train and each is small enough to appreciate in half a day.

    If you want to spend time exploring Provence then it would mean extra days, and unfortunately I have little experience there myself so you’ll be best off getting advice on that elsewhere.

    Once in Italy, you might want to stay for a day or two in Genoa, although it’s not really known as a top tourist town. From there you could head into the Cinque Terre for maybe two nights or just visit by train during the day. The Cinque Terre towns are scenic and a pleasant look into simple Italian village life, but the main things to do there are hike between the towns on a hillside trail, or sit on the beach, and in October I don’t think it’ll be beach weather there. The town of Vernazza is the most photogenic and you can do a nice visit in only a day or two.

    After that I think you’d be best of basing yourself in Florence. Not only is Florence a major tourist city on its own, but it’s close enough to Pisa and Siena for efficient day trips, not to mention the various Tuscan hill towns nearby.

    For this type if trip you’ll definitely want to focus on trains, and the individual tickets within Italy are reasonably priced (and even cheaper if you buy online in advance). However, if you want to explore Provence or other more rural regions in the area you might want to rent a car for that part at least. Generally speaking, if you are going city to city then trains are the best choice because parking is difficult and expensive anywhere near the cities. But if you want to visit wineries or small towns and this sort of thing, a car can be great because parking is almost never an issue and you can go a lot of places that the trains don’t go.

    Let me know if this helps and I’ll be happy to try to offer more specific advice as your planning is coming together. -Roger

     
hsharma2015 says:

Hi Roger,
What a great site here. Loved the way you have penned down everything. I would really appreciate if you could help me with my itinerary. In total we have 12 days. We are planning to go to Paris-Nice-Pisa-Florence. Now can you suggest on the following:
1. how many nights should we spend at each place?
2. What day trips to nearby places we can make?
3. Do you suggest adding some more places like venice/marseille etc etc.
4. How best we can make it most economical(any tips)?

Waiting for your response.

Thanks
Hs

 

    Hs,

    Thank you for the kind words. I’ll be happy to try to help.

    1. In 12 days I’d spend 4 nights in Paris, 3 nights in Nice, 1 night in Venice, and the remaining 4 nights in Florence. Pisa is actually an easy day-trip from Florence and it takes about an hour each way. You can take a bus tour that takes you directly to the Field of Miracles (where the Leaning Tower is located), or you can take a train to the main Pisa train station or even the Pisa S. Rossore train station which is much closer to the Tower. It will be easy to choose and book that once you are in Florence. The rest of Pisa isn’t too interesting or tourist-friendly, so it’s better as a day trip.

    2. In Paris there are obviously many good day trips, but the most popular one is to the Versailles Palace, which is about 45 minutes outside of town, and easy to reach by RER commuter train.

    The best thing about Nice is that, in addition to being an interesting destination on its own, it’s only about 20 minutes by train from Cannes (to the west) and Monaco (to the east). If you stay near the train station (which is where many budget hotels are located) it will be easy to do both trips, even on the same day if you like. Of the two, Monaco is far more dramatic and interesting, and you can see most of it in only a few hours. Cannes is also nice and quite posh, but there aren’t any checklist sights there so it’s mostly about strolling through an upscale and traditional French beach-resort town.

    3. Marseille is a big city without many notable attractions so most visitors skip it. Venice is amazing and absolutely worth a short stay, although it’s a bit out of the way. The train from Nice to Venice takes a bit over 7 hours (including a change of trains in Milan), so you’ll want to get an early start. Venice is also insanely crowded during the middle of the day so the trick is to do most of your sightseeing after about 5pm when the day-trippers get back on their tour buses, and the following morning before the new ones have arrived again. Venice is very quiet at night and in the morning, and it can feel magical. During the day it’s frustrating, so a one-night stop works well as long as you get there by 5pm or so. It’s also small enough that you can see most of it in only a few hours as well.

    Other popular day trips from Florence are to Siena, which is about an hour away by train, or to various Tuscan hill towns in the greater Florence area.

    By the way, the “Big 3” in Italy are Rome, Venice, and Florence, and Rome is definitely one of the world’s top cities for sightseeing and culture. If you were to add another stop I’d suggest 2 nights in Rome, unless you’ve been there already or plan on seeing it another time.

    4. How to travel in Europe on a budget is a huge subject and I’d be happy to help you with any specific parts of it. But my first tip for you is to travel between cities by train, and buy all of your long-distance tickets online as early as possible (3 months if you can) for the lowest fares. That article explains how to do it with links to the official rail websites of each country.

    If you have any other questions about any of this, feel free to follow up below. The other big spending categories are obviously hotels, food, and attractions, and advice on those things tends to be personal because we all have different budgets and preferences. Bon voyage. -Roger

     
      Hs says:

      Hey Roger,
      Thankyou so much for your quick response.
      I really liked your suggestions.
      Could you please tell me how should we travel from nice to italy. I mean from nice do we first go to florence or venice. We are arriving to and departing from Paris. So it should be Paris-Nice-Venice-Florence-Paris or Paris-Nice-Florence-venice-Paris. Also what is the best and most economical way to travel between Nice and Venice/Florence.

      Thanks,
      Hs

       

        Hs,

        You’ll want to do almost all of your travel by train, except the last bit of getting back to Paris. So take a train from Paris to Nice to Venice to Florence and then fly back from Florence (or nearby Pisa, which usually has lower fares) to Paris. It would take about 10 or 11 hours by train from Florence or Venice to Paris and it would all be backtracking. The train would also almost certainly be more expensive than flying. You could actually go from Nice to Florence and then to Venice before flying back to Paris either from the Venice Airport or nearby Treviso, which usually has lower fares. In either case you’d go from Nice to Milan and then change trains to Florence or Venice, and that whole trip will take a bit over 7 hours whichever way you go. Most of that train ride is pretty scenic as well.

        The trains between Venice and Florence take only about 2 hours and are fairly cheap. Again, the sooner you buy the train rides and the flight, the cheaper they will be. Check the info and links in the article I linked to before for details. Let me know if you have more questions and have a great trip. -Roger

         
Ron Mark says:

Hay Roger,

I’m planning two week in Italy and the information you have shared has really helped and set me on the right corse. My question is will visiting Italy the first two weeks of November be a not so good experience? I have read mixed reviews about the cold weather and the rain. What’s your suggestions? Thanks

 

    Mark,

    Always happy to hear that this information is helpful. As for November in Italy, I actually spent most of last November touring around the country and the weather was very pleasant. Actually, I spent two days in Lake Como and it rained for about one and a half of those days, but I think I only had one or two rainy days in the following 3 weeks. So even though November is one of the rainier months in Italy, it’s still fairly dry by most standards.

    One reason I went last November was that the temperatures are still reasonably warm and there are very few other tourists. So as long as I was willing to buy a cheap umbrella and/or keep an eye on the weather forecast, it was close to perfect. January and February do get quite chilly in Italy so I prefer not to visit places like that in “deep winter.” I hope this helps and have a great trip. -Roger

     
Sarah says:

Hi Roger,

Thanks so much for all the information posted on you website!

I’m hoping you can help me plan a very last minute trip to France and Italy. We’ll be arriving and departing from Paris. Total trip length is 14 nights and we’ll be travelling in August. It’s our first time in France but we’ve previously travelled to Italy, seeing Rome and Florence. We’d like to explore Paris for at least a few nights but would also like to
travel south to Nice and explore nearby St. Tropez, Cannes, Antibes and Monaco. We’d
like to somehow incorporate some parts in Italy, but would like to minimize the travel time and make it worthwhile and not too expensive given we only have a couple of weeks. Can we include Venice into the itinerary without having to spend too much time on the train? We’ve considered Milan but as you’ve said on your website, it’s not much of a tourist spot. We’ve also considered Genoa but I doubt we’ll find somewhere nice to stay at this time of year. Should we limit to France and make it a sightseeing vacation but also somewhat relaxing? Or should we somehow incorporate Venice, and would it be worth it? Any suggestions?

Thanks,
Sarah

 

    Sarah,

    I’m sure your trip will be great, but some of is going to be challenging during the month of August. The thing is, half the people in France have all of August off work, and huge numbers of them try to spend most of the month on a beach. It’s like going to Hawaii or the Caribbean over Christmas week. Every hotel will be full and room rates are close to double what they are in May or September.

    So if I were you I’d check hotel prices and availability in the places you might be going to. It might be just fine and obviously it’s the best weather of the year in that area, but you might also discover that mediocre hotels are charging more than you think is worth it, so perhaps there are other places to consider.

    Again, it’s mostly the beach towns that attract the local holiday crowd, so most of your non-beach sightseeing should be just fine. And both France and Italy are packed with non-beach destinations that are excellent, so you might want to mix more of those in.

    For the French Riviera you’ll almost certainly want to just base yourself in Nice, which has by far the best tourist infrastructure in that area. It has hundreds of hotels in all price levels, including some good value places near the train station. From the Nice station it’s about 22 minutes to Cannes, 12 minutes to Antibes, and 20 minutes the other direction to Monaco. St. Tropez is maybe an hour away, and aside from the famous name I don’t know if it’s worth a visit. You’ll get an excellent look at the posh French resort life in those other closer towns.

    Everyone loves Venice and you will too when you make it there. From Nice it takes about 7.5 hours to Venice by train, the first 5 hours of that is getting to Milan for a train change. Needless to say, it’s up to you whether that much time on the train is worth it. Venice is always crowded and in August it can be ridiculous. I don’t think Genoa would be a great choice that time of year. I’ve only passed through it and parts of it are a bit rough. I’ve heard that it can be interesting, although I’d say there are probably 10 to 15 places in Italy that are higher on that list.

    So you’ll obviously want to spend time in Paris, I’d recommend 4 nights if you can spare them. And a few days in Nice will also be wonderful, even if it’s more crowded and expensive than other times of the year. Aside from those you might concentrate more on non-beach France. I haven’t explored enough of it since a childhood visit to confidently give advice, but I do know that France is packed with excellent vacation options including wine country to historic towns like Avignon to Mont Saint-Michel and much more. If you visited some of the wine regions and smaller towns you might be better off renting a car for that part of your trip (although not for Paris or Nice).

    Hopefully this is helpful. I’ve been all over Europe yet my experience within France has been a bit limited so it’s on my list for next year. Until then, you’ll be able to find better information at Rick Steves site or wikitravel or elsewhere. Best of luck and bon voyage. -Roger

     
Barbara says:

Thank you for the very informational article. My husband and I are going to travel around France and Italy. We are deciding between the spring and fall. We don’t want it to be too cold or rainy but also not too hot. I would like to be able to avoid the crowded months as much as possible too. What would you suggestion be for the best month to visit?
Thank you

 

    Barbara,

    For the France and Italy part of Europe, my favorite months to visit are May, June, September, and October. Before May it can be chilly, although mid April is usually okay. July and August are the hottest months and the most crowded by far in the beach areas, not to mention the most expensive months to visit. But starting again in September it cools off and the crowds thin out quickly. I even spent much of last November in Italy and it was still warm enough with only a few days of rain. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
GIna G says:

Hi Roger,

Glad that my husband found this site of yours which is very helpful for us first timers to travel in Europe.
My husband and I will be travelling to Paris on the 14th Sept from Doha. Will arrive in Paris on the 15th. Return flight on the 24th. 9 days to be exact. We wanted to stay in Paris for 4 days then to Interlaken, Venice and Rome. Could you please give us a good itinerary for our trip. Your uggestions is pretty needed for this trip. Many Thanks in advance for your help.

 

    Gina G,

    Nine days is pretty tight for what you have in mind, especially if you are only allowing 5 days for Interlaken, Venice, and Rome. I generally recommend a minimum stay of 3 nights in Rome because it’s a huge city that is packed with worthwhile sights (much like Paris). That said, you could pull it off if you don’t mind moving quickly for most of your trip. Here’s how you’d do it:

    Arrive in Paris on 14 September for 4 nights

    Depart Paris in the morning of 18 September for the 5-hour train ride to Interlaken.

    Spend 2 nights in Interlaken. I highly recommend staying in Gimmelwald, which is explained with your other choices in this article about where to go in Switzerland.

    Depart Interlaken early in the morning of 20 September for the 6.5-hour train ride to Venice. This is one of the most beautiful train rides in Europe, by the way.

    Spend about 22 hours in Venice, departing midday on 21 September. Venice is compact enough that you can see most of it in one day, and as I explain in the article above, the best times to explore are the evenings and early mornings before it gets really crowded again.

    Take a train on 21 September from Venice to Rome (3 hours 23 minutes) and stay there until 24 September. That will be long enough for you to see the main sights, but you’ll have to fly back to Paris for your flight back to Doha, unless you can book a flight from Rome directly to Doha instead.

    Buy all of your train tickets as soon as possible for the best fares. For Interlaken you’ll want to go into the Interlaken Ost train station, unless you are content to just stay in Interlaken itself.

    This should help you get things figured out. Let me know if you have any questions. -Roger

     
GIna G says:

Hi Roger,

Thanks for all your suggestions. We cannot adjust our holiday leave that’s why we are on a tight schedule. Just wondering, if you are on a 9 days holiday, starting point in Paris – what would be the other placed that you will visit on a tight budget.
Many Thanks.

Gina

 
Katherine says:

Hi Roger,

I love your article! I am planning my honeymoon with my fiancé and we based our itinerary on your suggestions. I love Paris, so I booked a couple of extra days there. My fiancé has never been there and I want to show him all of my favourite places.

I think I am getting to the end of ironing out the schedule so that we can start booking some hotels, but I am stuck with one little quandary. Let me start by laying out what I’ve got:

Paris (5 nights) – must get in all the sights and spend one full day at Versailles. The first day will be a half day only due to travel.
Venice (2 nights) – going to take a plane in from Paris to save some time, as you mentioned, you can see everything in 24 hours.
Florence (4 nights) – train from Venice. I heard we’ll want to do a couple day trips to some hill towns? Any suggestions here? How should we fill our days?
Sorrento (3 nights) – We want to go to Pompeii, spend a little time in Naples, head to the Amalfi coast. But we know we could also trek to Mount Vesuvius and go to Capri if we have more time. Where should we prioritize?
Rome (4 nights, and one morning before leaving) – I know this city will keep us busy.

So my question is about Florence, Sorrento and Rome. I think Rome deserves 4 days, the first will be taken up by travelling in from Sorrento, and the last (5th) day will be taken in part with leaving for back home.
Between Florence and Sorrento, we are splitting 7 days. Which deserves a bit more time? It seems that Sorrento has more to offer in its immediate surrounding, but I may be ignorant as to what Florence has to offer. Which should get 4 days versus 3? Florence, or Sorrento? Do you have some suggestions for activities in Florence and surrounding area?

I am excited to hear your advice!

Cheers,

Katherine

 

    Katherine,

    Thank you. I’ll try to answer your questions in the order they came up.

    Florence itself is loaded with interesting sights and museums, so 3 days there will be easy to fill with just the stuff you want to see. Beyond that you can take half a day for a trip to Pisa and back. It’s about an hour away by bus or train, and really only the Field of Miracles (where the Leaning Tower is) is worth focusing on. You could go see it yourself or book a bus tour from Florence. And you could even spend a day going to the Cinque Terre if you liked, and still easily be back in Florence for dinner. The city of Siena is also only about an hour away. It’s a really interesting place, but it’s a long walk from the train station to the center of town, so it’s hard to see in a hurry.

    I’ve not visited any of those Tuscan hill towns myself, but I’ve seen them on travel shows and read about many of them. For something like this I really trust Rick Steves’ advice. Google his name and ‘Tuscany hill towns’ and you’ll find a really good article telling you about the best options.

    It’s tough to prioritize in Sorrento because there are 4 solid days worth of nearby day trips (including the ones you mentioned) and the town of Sorrento itself is really pleasant, not to mention very visitor friendly. For sure see Pompeii and spend half a day in Naples. You can take the public bus (leaves in front of the train station) to Positano in a bit over an hour, and walking around there for a couple hours will give you a good look at the Amalfi Coast, so that can also be half a day. You’ll just have to choose the things that sound most interesting to you.

    I think if you did 3 nights in Florence you’d be able to see the main sights and also do a quick trip to Pisa if you wanted. And if that would give you 4 nights in Sorrento, you’d still have to rush around a bit to see the things on your list in that area. So I vote for the extra day in Sorrento, especially if you want to do Vesuvius.

    It looks like you’ve done a lot of research and I think your itinerary looks well balanced and not rushed. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Katherine says:

      Thanks so much Roger! I found an awesome place in Sorrento on airbnb that is right by the water, only a couple steps from the ferry. I am definitely going to follow your advice and do the fourth day in Sorrento. It sounds like it might be a bit like a relaxing tropical vacation in the middle of an otherwise “city-centric” holiday.

      I read from one vacationer review that she got off the train in Naples form her previous destination, and instead of taking the train to Sorrento, she took a quick cab to the ferry in Naples to Sorrento. Apparently it was more relaxing than the train ride. Which method would you suggest a first time visitor to do? I heard the train wasn’t the safest, considering pickpockets.

      I definitely have been researching a lot, and we’re only a couple weeks into the planning. It’s a blast! I really appreciate your input and advise.

      Thank you again!

      Cheers,

      Katherine

       

        Katherine,

        Yes, you’ll find Sorrento to be wonderfully low key compared to all of your other stops, and it’s also a bit easier because most people you’ll meet speak some English.

        When I was in Sorrento I took the Circumvesuvia train back and forth over and over and it looked generally safe to me, but I had also heard about possible pickpockets so I was always on guard, which can be a bit exhausting. And when I was there the ferries were on the off-season schedule so the train was much faster for me. Also, the ferry port in Naples isn’t all that close to the train station, so it isn’t a super cheap taxi ride. All of that said, at least the first time you get there with all of your luggage and such, I think the ferry is a wise idea and it should be very scenic.

        When you go to Pompeii and Vesuvius you’ll be taking that Circumvesuvia train, and you’ll obviously leave most of your stuff in your room so it will be easier to keep safe. In general I think the warnings about Naples are a bit overstated and you really won’t feel unsafe while you are there. Still, I only spent time in Naples during the day, so maybe it’s a bit more frightening at night. Have a great trip and let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

         
Miri says:

Hi Roger,

All the information on this site is amazing, thank you!!! My husband and I are planning our first trip to Europe in May/June 16.
We are planning on visiting Germany, Italy and France.
We are trying to plan a trip that is not too rushed and we would like to try and limit the travelling time between each city (if that makes sense).
We have 3 to 4 weeks to play with so we are thinking:

Berlin 3 nights
Munich 4 nights (inc Rothenburg ob der Tauber/Roma tic Rd & visiting Neuschwanstein in Fussen)
Paris 4 nights
Nice 3 nights (inc 1 day to Monaco & Cannes)
Milan 1 night
Verona 1 night
Venice 3 nights (inc 1 day to visit Murano-Burano)
Florence 4 nights (inc 1 day trip to Pisa & Tuscany Countryside/Chanti)
Rome 4 nights

Do you think the amount of evenings in each city is enough?

Also we are not sure where we should go first and what would be the best way to travel between these cities?

Should we change anything?

We we also thinking of stopping off in Prague and Innsbruck to begin with but we are not sure if this would work?

Would love to hear your thoughts!!

Thanking you in advance! 🙂

Kind Regards,
Miri

 

    Miri,

    I’m always glad to hear that this stuff helps. I think your itinerary looks nearly perfect. Three nights in Venice is a pretty long stay for such a small and crowded place, but it’s a magical city, especially in the early mornings and evenings, so you won’t get bored.

    I think the number of nights you have allocated is ideal all the way through. You could enjoy Florence and/or Rome in 3 nights, so giving them each 4 nights will allow you to do side trips and go at a leisurely pace. Consider a side trip from Rome to Naples and Pompeii if those interest you.

    You are definitely want to do all of these journeys by train. There are no Eurail Passes that would be good value for you on this trip, so you are going to want to buy the tickets online as far in advance (up to 3 months) as you can for the best fares. If you book that early you’ll be surprised at how cheap those tickets will be, but if you were to buy the tickets as you went you’d be shocked at how expensive they are. Once you get to Italy the fares are cheaper and buying way in advance isn’t as critical. Tickets for day trips to Pisa and such will also be cheap, even if you buy them on travel day.

    If you have time to wedge Prague in between Berlin and Munich, I’d do it. Prague is a gorgeous and interesting city that is very different from all the others on your list.

    Innsbruck is mainly a skiing and snowboarding town and there isn’t much to see for a summer tourist. However, Salzburg is wonderful and highly recommended if you can squeeze two nights in there.

    I’m sure this is going to be a great trip and I can see that you’ve planned well. Let me know if you have any other questions as your trip approaches. -Roger

     
      Miri says:

      Hi Roger,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to my queries and for your suggestions, really appreciate it! 🙂

      Thanks again!!

      Kind Regards,
      Miri 🙂

       
Jennifer says:

Hi Roger, what a wealth of information you are! Planning a trip from Barcelona to french riviera (Nice etc) along to Genoa and down to Amalfi Coast (Sorrento as you recommend as our base). We would like to do this trip in around 2 to 3 weeks but not sure the best way to do it. Would a cruise be any good along here? Or do you think eurorail or hiring a car. Want to stop at Nice, Monte Carlo, Genoa, La Spezia and down to Amalfi Coast. We are hoping do go around June/July 2016. Regards, Jennifer

 

    Jennifer,

    I’m always happy to hear that this information helps. A cruise through this area would certainly be nice, but if the region really interests you then I’d do it by land for sure. As you probably know, a cruise only allows you about 8 to 10 hours in each stop, which is about enough time for a quick tour and lunch at a restaurant large enough to handle groups. In other words, it’s far better than NOT visiting, but not a good substitute for a land visit.

    As for trains versus a rental car, the trains will provide a much better experience and will probably be cheaper unless you are going with 4 or 5 people. Even then, driving from city to city in Europe is stressful and challenging. Parking is expensive and difficult, so most drivers end up staying in hotels with parking lots at the edges of cities.

    If you take trains you go from city center to city center and there is virtually no stress. The train stations are mostly near the main city squares, so you’ll have a great choice of hotels within a reasonable walk of all the train stations. It’s really a wonderful feeling to walk off a train and then 10 minutes later be checked into a room at a nice hotel in the center of town, ready for sightseeing.

    Fortunately, the train fares in Italy are quite cheap, and even cheaper if you buy online in advance from the official site. The fares in Spain and France are a bit more expensive, although still pretty cheap if you buy at least a couple weeks in advance. I hope this helps, and feel free to ask more questions if you have them. -Roger

     
Janet says:

Hi Roger!

Thank you so much for your detailed guide, this is by far the most helpful site we’ve come across as we plan our elopement and honeymoon in Europe this spring (Apr 23 – May 10). We will be traveling from the US to Italy for 12 nights – getting married in Ravello – and then ending our trip in Paris for 4 nights. We are thinking about bringing our dog with us as we very much want him to be a part of our wedding. He is a well-trained 2 y/o 18lb, westie.

This is our preliminary itinerary:
Fly into Naples…
Sorrento – 1 night
Ravello/day trips to Positano, Amalfi Coast – 5 nights
Rome – 3 nights
Florence/day trip to Siena – 3 nights
Paris – 4 nights

What do you think of this itinerary for our first trip to Europe? What are your thoughts on traveling with our dog? Is it quite easy to travel with a dog via train/plane in Europe? He travels with us from NY to LA domestically all the time. Are restaurants and public tourist spots pet-friendly?

Any advice or feedback would be greatly appreciated! We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Thanks very much!
Janet+Gary

 

    Janet & Gary,

    I’m very happy to hear that this information has been useful. I think your itinerary looks very good, and starting in Sorrento will make your first day somewhat stress-free because so many people speak English there. I wouldn’t recommend spending so much time on the Amalfi Coast to a normal visitor, but if that’s where the wedding house and main group will be then I’m sure it will be a wonderful 5 days.

    Three nights in Rome is ideal because it’s long enough to see the main things and short enough that you won’t get too frustrated by then. Three nights in Florence is also ideal, especially with a day trip. The city of Siena is much nicer and more interesting than Pisa (the other easy day trip from Florence), but the Leaning Tower is still the more spectacular sight. Speaking of Pisa, you may want to fly from Florence to Paris because the train trip is quite long and fairly expensive. The airport in Pisa has the lowest fares in that area. And of course 4 nights in Paris is perfect for a first visit, and amazing for a honeymoon couple.

    It’s hard for me to comment on the dog situation because I’ve never traveled with one myself. If I were you I’d google things like ‘traveling with dogs in Europe’ or Italy, and see what people are saying. My guess is that you should be fine, although you might have to choose hotels and some restaurants carefully because I don’t think they all allow them. In general I’ve noticed that Europe is quite pet friendly, but you don’t see too many dogs on the streets of the larger cities. For example, when I visit small towns I sometimes see that half of the people in the pub have their dog at their feet, but I don’t see many dogs in bars or restaurants in big cities. I’m sure there are pet owning travelers who have written extensively about this. Best of luck with all of it, and congrats in advance. -Roger

     
Tashi says:

Hi

do you have any itinerary for Paris london scotland ?

 

    Tashi,

    So far I haven’t written a similar article with itinerary suggestions including London and Scotland, but I actually have traveled in that area extensively so maybe I can help out. I obviously don’t know your schedule or goals, so I’ll keep it basic to start.

    Spend at least 3 nights in Paris and then take the Eurostar train to London. Spend at least 3 nights in London. If you want to visit other places in England before you get to Scotland the best choices for most people are Bath/Bristol, Oxford/Cambridge, and York. Those are all really lovely places with plenty to see. Unless you are a big Beatles fan I’d save Liverpool for another trip.

    If you stop in York you’ll be well on your way to Scotland already. The main thing you want to see in Scotland is the wonderful city of Edinburgh, which really does live up to the hype. Spend at least 2 or 3 nights there. You might also pop over to Glasgow, which has a really nice city center, but otherwise it has few famous attractions.

    If you still have more time for Scotland you’ll want to head up to Inverness, which is a really nice town and also the gateway to the Scottish Highlands. From there you can take tours that include the Isle of Skye, with really dramatic scenery all around. Inverness is also very close to Loch Ness, which is really nothing more than a disappointing tourist trap, so I’d skip it.

    Now that you mention it, I probably will write a full article about these suggestions and more, but that probably won’t be for a couple months. In the meantime, if you have other questions, please feel free to follow up. -Roger

     
      Tashi says:

      Hi sorry the reply botton wasnt working up , so putting a separate comment :

      Roger will the above mentioned itenary work if I have my tickets already booked in and out of Paris from 7th March to 19th March from India

       
Bill From Pennyslvania says:

Good Day Roger.

What a fantastic site to find, only if I had found it about a year ago. My wife and I just came back from visiting Paris, the Champagne Region, Avignon and Nice and thank goodness you could use the TV Euro train since we fit the trip into 12 days. We now wish to travel from Nice to Venice for 14 days late spring and thought about renting a car, wanting to see the beauty along the Mediterranean and see some of the little towns along the way in hopes of ending in Rome for 3 days with possible a side trip to Venice to visit the Glass Factory’s. What are your thoughts in driving knowing it’s for no more than 14 days?

 

    Bill,

    I’m always happy to hear that people find this information useful. 🙂

    I think renting a car to see small towns and views in France and Italy is a fine idea. The important thing to know is that renting a car to get between and visit large cities in Europe is usually unwise because parking is very expensive and having a car while visiting a large city does much more harm than good. However, for going between and staying in small towns, having a car is pretty much the only good way to do it.

    One other thing to be aware of, unfortunately, is that most “small towns” on the Mediterranean were built as fishing villages and parking is still likely to be problematic. You might be able to park in a public lot near the town square for maybe €10 for an hour or two while you walk around and have lunch, but even that might be challenging in some of them because they are crowded and just weren’t built for auto tourism.

    In other words, I’d make sure you do some research and hopefully have a good guidebook so you know where you are going and hopefully where you can leave the car for a bit. You’ll find really nice roads with vista turnouts here and there, so I think it will work out well. But it will be quite different from, say, visiting the small towns in the wine regions where free parking is easy to find.

    And needless to say, you’ll have to park outside of Venice, probably near the train station on the mainland, and then take the train or a boat to get into the city. So long story short, it won’t be nearly as relaxing as it would have been driving around wine country, but as long as you go in late spring rather than in July or August, it should probably be really enjoyable if a bit stressful. Best of luck with it. -Roger

     
Bill says:

Roger

Thank you for the pointers. Having driving around Nice, I do agree, it is very expensive to pay for parking and that’s if you can find a place to park. I do have another question regarding trains. I understand the trains from Nice to Genoa is classified as a local and has no amenities and stops a great deal of time causing an extended time in travel? Maybe that’s not a bad thing in place of renting a car for quick off and on to see town’s etc. but is there a different train that can be taken with out local stops? Truly appreciate your views.

 

    Bill,

    I’ve not heard that about Nice to Genoa trains, and the one I took quite a few years ago was a normal international train. The fastest one takes a bit over 3 hours these days and it requires a seat reservation for rail pass holders. One thing I can tell you is that the trains between Barcelona and Italy are quite slow and do make many local stops. I don’t believe there are any intercity express trains, partly because there are so many cities of about the same size. -Roger

     
Samir says:

We are a family of 4 ( 2 adults and 2 kids ages 14 and 9) , and are considering taking a 2 week trip to Europe with France and Italy as the main countries to visit. Do you have any thoughts on package tours like Trafalgar’s European Wonderland that is marketed as a “Family” tour.

Would like to add that we are looking at last 2 weeks on June for the trip. Thanks so much for this site, this page especially simplifies the “planning” for a first timer significantly.

 

    Samir,

    I’m not familiar with Trafalgar (or most other package tour companies) because I always focus on independent self-guided travel. Looking at their itinerary right now, it looks like it moves really fast, if we are talking about the one that starts in Rome and ends in London. In other words, I’m no expert on package travel and I generally recommend people do it on their own.

    On one hand, a package like that will be way easier and less stressful than planning on your own. I know many people are happy with those sort of packages and continue to do them. I think it’s mostly a matter of personality and preferences. So if you like what you see and you feel you’d be more comfortable that way, then it’s probably your best choice.

    On the other hand, you can certainly do it cheaper on your own and you obviously have the freedom to see exactly the things that interest you, and avoid the things that don’t. Again, I’m not familiar with Trafalgar, but the lower-price package tours everywhere in the world are famous for including frequent shopping stops. For example, the day begins at a famous attraction, and your next stop is an overpriced souvenir shop for almost an hour because the tour guide gets 10% or 20% of everything you spend there.

    Another weakness of package tours is that the provided meals are always in these huge restaurants that do most of their business with tour bus groups. These restaurants have to be able to serve 46 people within an hour, so they tend to be buffets where everything is waiting for you. If you really like to try local cuisine then you’ll get very little of it on a bus tour like that, or at least you’ll get very little that isn’t mass produced a few hours before you get there.

    Lastly, it looks like they are visiting 10 cities in 13 days. Several of them are obviously just a few hours as you are going from one city to another, but that’s still WAY faster than most people prefer. It’ll almost be like watching the cities on TV as they pass before your eyes as your bus just keeps moving. Some people like that sort of thing, and if you think you’d be happy seeing 10 cities in your home country within 13 days, then this might be a good choice for you.

    I’m just happy that anyone is traveling anywhere like this, so I think you’ll have a good time on this tour or if you plan on your own. If you do decide to book your own trip I’ll be happy to help you sort out some details. Bon voyage. -Roger

     
      Samir says:

      Roger,

      Thanks so much for your response. Really appreciate you taking the time to provide such a detailed reply.

      Yes, I agree with your comments about package tours and the number of cities covered in such a short time. I have not done any such tours before, all our past tours were self planned and have worked well(these have been in my home country though). Since this is my first time going to Europe with family, I was looking at the tour option. But, based on your response and reading similar comments elsewhere, I am now encouraged to plan it on my own and can certainly take your help.

      This is my draft plan :

      1> Paris – 3 to 4 nights ,
      2> Swiss Alps (Interlaken?) – 2 nights
      3> Venice – 1 night (may be 2)
      4> Florence – 2 nights
      5> Rome – 2 to 3 nights

      I understand that there is not much time between now and end of June and as such I may be already late with the planning process but I am going to try to make it happen.

      I am looking for a good resource to help me with accommodations and transportation. Any recommendations would be helpful.

      Thanks again!
      Samir

       

        Samir,

        I’m happy to hear that you are going to plan the trip on your own. Since you are already an experienced independent traveler I think you’ll do well at this, and probably would have been a bit unhappy on the fast-moving bus tour because those always go at the pace of the slowest person.

        And actually, once you have your flights booked you can plan a trip like this starting only a few weeks before you leave. I do recommend booking hotels at least a week or two out, or longer if you can, and it’s probably best to book your train tickets at least a month out in order to get the best prices on them.

        Your itinerary draft looks pretty much perfect, which of course I would say because it looks like you are following most of my advice in the above article. Still, I’m sure you’ll be happy with it. And yes, if you want to see the Swiss Alps then Interlaken is definitely the place to go. This article on where to go in Switzerland explains it all in great detail.

        And again, you’ll want to do this trip by train once you get to Paris. Here is my article on how and when to buy the cheapest train tickets for Europe. If you buy two or more months in advance you’ll be very pleased with how inexpensive the fares are. The ride from Interlaken to Venice is one of the most beautiful in the world, but it will take about 7 or 8 hours. You’ll want to do it during the daytime, so spending 2 nights in Venice might be wise.

        As for hotels, I can help at least a bit. I’ve written articles with recommended hotels in all of the cities you’ll be visiting except Interlaken. You can find links to each article on the City pages on this site. For example, here’s the City page for Rome. You’ll notice in the center column there is a link to another article with recommended hotels. The thing about hotels, though, is that the better ones tend to get booked up early and then raise their rates a bit, so it’s hard to say what is the best value at any given time. In those articles I recommend different central neighborhoods and explain why they are convenient for visitors. So even if the particular hotel I mention doesn’t seem to have a great rate for your dates, you can hopefully at least find another one nearby that looks appealing.

        The main thing to take away from those articles is that it’s usually a better idea (at least on quick trips like yours) to pay a bit more for a central location and smaller rooms rather than trying to save money or get larger rooms by booking places out by the airport or in distant suburbs. You can waste a lot of time each day going back and forth, and you end up with very few good choices for dinner in the evening if you are staying out of the center.

        For Interlaken I recommend staying in the wonderful little village of Gimmelwald, or the larger town of Murren just above it. It’s all explained in the article. If you stay in Gimmelwald then I highly recommend booking at a place called Esther’s Guesthouse, which is directly above the cable car stop there. In general, you’ll get the best deals on Booking.com in Europe, and they are quite easy to use. They also offer free cancellation, so there isn’t much risk.

        As always, let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

         
          Samir says:

          Roger,

          Many thanks!

          Truly, this is very helpful. Please let us know how visitors to your site (like me) can return the favor.

          Samir

           

          Samir,

          It’s always great to hear that this advice is helpful. Actually, if you book any hotels using the links to booking.com from my pages, I get a small percentage and you still get the best prices. That’s one of the ways I make this a full-time job. But please just find the best hotels at the best rates you can, and I’m sure I’ll be fine. -Roger

           
Samir says:

Sounds good!

Thanks,
Samir

 
Samir says:

Hello again,

This is how my itinerary is shaping up ( considering I only have 12 nights ) .

Paris : 4 nights
Swiss alps : 2 nights
Venice : 2 nights
Florence: 2 nights
Rome : 2 nights
(return flight from Rome)

I wanted to take your opinion on the last 2 cities ( Florence and Rome), 2 days is such a short time , plus moving from one place to another will take time. So, I wanted to consider staying last 4 nights in Rome (instead of 2 nights in Florence and 2 nights in Rome) and then take a day trip to Florence considering its only 90 mins of train ride from Rome… or even take a road trip that way we can visit the country side in tuscany. Would you agree?

Thanks,
Samir

 

    Samir,

    You might consider knocking Venice down to 1 night because it’s quite compact and pretty easy to see in a day. As I always say, Venice is insanely crowded from about 10am until 5pm with day-trippers on bus tours so the key is to do some sightseeing in the early evening when it’s somewhat empty and also in the early morning to see a lot in a short time. During the middle of the day it’s so crowded that it’s very tiring. Also, the restaurants all close by around 10pm, so it’s not a late-night town.

    As for Florence and Rome, as you say, they are 90 minutes apart by train, so you can check out of a Florence hotel (especially if you stay near the train station, which is quite central anyway) at 9am, and be at your Rome hotel by 11:30am with most of the day still ahead of you. So even if you want to keep Venice to 2 nights, I’d still recommend 2 days in Florence and 2 days in Rome. On one hand, the major sights in Rome are bigger and more spectacular, but Florence is more pleasant and also wonderful.

    Your idea of taking a day trip to Florence from Rome could work as well, especially if you buy those train tickets well in advance so they are cheaper. The main sights in Florence are all within a fairly easy walk of the main train station, and you can see them in 8 hours or so. Hotels in Rome are more expensive and it’s also more exhausting because it’s more crowded.

    In other words, I think your plan could work, and however you do it you’ll have a great time. Bon voyage and let me know if I can help further. -Roger

     
Tony says:

Roger,

Having gone through dozens of sites in the attempt of gathering information for our honeymoon, we feel your site and replies have been the most helpful.

My fiance and I are from Los Angeles and plan on traveling in October. We would like to know if our wishlist is logistically doable or recommended.

We have 21 days and wish to visit Paris, Rome, and Santorini. What would you recommend and how should we plan our transportation? Do you recommend additional stops with the 21 days allocated? Thanks in advance!

Tony

 

    Tony,

    I’m always happy to hear that people find this useful. Los Angeles is my home town as well, although I’m typing this from the Maldives.

    If you have 21 days to spend in Europe, I think the ideal itinerary will contain 5 to 7 stops. Now, on a honeymoon I understand that you’d want to spend more time relaxing and going slow through romantic destinations, but still I’d think about adding at least another stop or two to this.

    First off, Paris is gorgeous and amazing, and it’s a really nice place to just wander around in. You could spend a week there and not get bored, although you can see all of the worthwhile sights in about 4 relaxed days.

    Rome, on the other hand, is loaded with major sights, but it’s fairly chaotic. For example, traffic is famously crazy and just crossing the street is often times stressful. So it’s very worthwhile to visit Rome and stay maybe 3 or 4 nights, but it’s not very relaxing and not at all peaceful.

    I haven’t yet been to Santorini, but I’ve been to other Greek islands and most people visit them to relax in the sun during the day and enjoy food and drink at night. In other words, it could be a great part of a honeymoon trip, although 7 days is pretty long to be that relaxed for some people.

    So your wishlist would be very easy to do, just fly to France then fly to Rome then fly to Santorini then fly back to Paris (or London or Rome) for a flight home. But I think in 21 days you can see a few more wonderful things and still not feel at all rushed. I’ll throw out a few more possibilities and you can see what you think and I can help you with more info later if you like.

    If you haven’t been to London then it’s another incredible place to consider. You can get between Paris and London in about two hours on the Eurostar train, so you can go for just a couple days if you like, and it’s quite easy.

    After Paris you might also consider the south of France on your way to Rome. Nice is the best base, with still very nice weather in October. It’s a very interesting city itself, but it’s also about 20 minutes by train from Cannes in one direction and Monaco in the other. If you went to Nice then you could take a train from there to Rome and enjoy the countryside in between.

    In Italy, the “Big 3” (as mentioned in the article above) are Rome, Florence, and Venice. Most people want to see all three of them, and on a honeymoon I’d think that one or two nights in Venice would be high on your list. It’s an unforgettable place in case you both haven’t been yet.

    But my favorite base in Italy is Sorrento, which is just south of Naples. It’s a relaxed and tourist-friendly town where most locals speak English (which isn’t true in most of Italy), and from there you are very close to Naples (excellent day trip), Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, and the island of Capri. I’d think about spending maybe 3 or 4 days in Rome and then 5 or 6 days based in Sorrento.

    If you want to set aside a week or so where you won’t feel pressured to go sightseeing all the time, then Santorini could be an ideal spot for that. Many people also stop in Athens on the way to see the famous sights for a day or two, but there will be time to do that later.

    So think about that and let me know if you have other questions. I’ll be happy to help you plan this to make it the ideal honeymoon for what you have in mind. -Roger

     
Victoria says:

Hi Roger,

Boy am i glad to find your page! Read through almost all the comments since 2013 and this is what i want to ask (thank you in advance for your patience):

1) I have been to Venice and Pisa and Rome as a kid on a tour about 18 years ago so i was thinking of skipping them. This time round i am intending to go to Italy as a food trip to eat and hopefully pick up some skills to bring back to Singapore for my new F&B business venture than a museum/historical/archeological trip although i do appreciate natural and man-made beauty. Would like your input on the traveling, places to visit and if 21 days would suffice or should i be extending the trip? Is May a good time?

2) I did consider crossing over to some other parts since Italy is so near some of the countries and i saw alot of comments on Nice. Should i?

3) My friend suggested Como Lake area but i thought to skip it. Contemplating Sicily and Isle of Elba. What are your thoughts?

4) I noticed your recommendations are usually from the North to the South and not the other way round. I was thinking of doing the inverse as i foresee my luggage getting heavier in the North, buying whatever amazing produce ie wine/ cheese/ cured meats i come across.

5) I was amazed that no one mentioned Greve in Chianti given that i understand Chianti wines are famous? My friend suggested me to go Liguria and Bologna but i did not see much info on the web about what to do there. Any input on this?

6) I noticed alot of recommendations mostly are from lonely planet and the food costs easily 30euros per meal! Any suggestions how else i can go about it without skimping on my food objective?

7) I am 26 during my trip in May as my birthday is in July so i wonder is there a point in the Euro Trail pass or something like that?

8) I read some parts of Italy find that sleeveless/ non covered shoes/ shorts to the knee are not acceptable attire?

9) These are the places i had in mind. My concern i suppose is more of how do i not just skimp through but have sufficient time to embrace Italy properly and visit the places yet not in an overly staying fashion. These are where i intend to go, your input would be much appreciated on the timeline and what should i do. i have found some places i thought of to visit based on the web info. Also any food recommendation is welcomed!!! In what order should i go?

-Sicily?
-Naples and Amalfi Coast: Ischia, Positano, Sorrento, Naples, Pompeii (I understand Sorrento would be a good “base camp”, how do i travel around? train/ bus/ taxi?). What does Amalfi coast mean? because i am trying to picture what does visiting the Amalfi coast mean.
-Tuscany: San Gimigano, Florence, Greve in Chianti (Greve seems like farms so is spread out any advice on this?)
-Bologna the capital of Emilia-Romagna region? Any idea about this? not much web info…
-Liguria and Piedmont and Clique Terre: abit torn about these places. Not sure what to do.
-Milan, Como Lake and Venice to skip?

I will be going solo.

Greatly Thankful,
Victoria

 

    Victoria,

    I’m glad you found this page as well. It’s a long list and there are some I won’t be much help with, but I’ll try to answer your questions in order…

    1. Yes, I think May is a perfect month because it’s before the summer crowds and the weather is actually nicer. And I think skipping Venice, Pisa, and Rome is wise if you’ve already seen them. They haven’t changed much over the years.

    2. If you have time to pop over to Nice for at least a couple days, I think it would be worth it. If there is one country with a more famous food culture than Italy it’s France, and Nice is one of its main hubs so it would be worth having a look.

    3. Personally, I think Lake Como is a bit overrated for most visitors. It’s a nice-looking lake with a bunch of pleasant small towns scattered around its edges, connected by frequent ferry service. But there are nice-looking lakes in almost every European country. I think it’s mostly popular because it’s a nice weekend getaway from Milan and other large cities, and more recently it became more famous when George Clooney bought a home there. I’ve yet to make it to Elba, and my first trip to Sicily will be later this month (March, 2016) so I can say more then. However, most people agree that Sicily is interesting and nice, but it’s also remote and not worth the trouble unless you are spending a month in Italy or you’ve been to all of the other main places. The food does have a good reputation though, especially for simple seafood dishes, so that might be interesting for you.

    4. I think it’s most common to start in the north and head south in Italy because so many people are coming from France or Austria or Switzerland. As you probably know, the north of Italy is more organized and European, while the south is more chaotic and Mediterranean. You should go in whatever direction you prefer.

    5. For some reason, it seems that most people who want to tour wine regions do it in France rather than Italy. I think French wines have a better reputation, whether it’s deserved or not. I haven’t done any winery tours in Italy so I don’t have any more input on this. It sounds like you have enough time so I think it would be a good way to spend at least a couple of days.

    6. Sit-down meal prices in Italy are somewhat confusing because the traditional Italian way is to order at least 3 different courses. A starter or anti-pasti at most traditional (not fancy) restaurants will be around €5 to €7, with a pasta course about the same price, and a main course being more in the €8 to €12 range. So if you do order that way it will cost you close to US$30 for each meal, not even including wine (house wine is usually around €3 per glass). But even though I have a fairly large appetite, I never order more than two courses, and it’s always enough food, especially as you always get free bread. During lunch you can often get a 2-course special for around €9 or so if you look around, or you can get a pizza for around the same price, which is meal size. So I think the US$30 meals are for when you want to really do it big and spend two hours dining with friends. In other words, you will have many cheaper options wherever you go, including many excellent meals.

    7. The train tickets within Italy are fairly cheap, especially for shorter distances, so you don’t want to get a Eurail Pass or even an Italian rail pass. The key will be to make your onward train reservation as early as you can. If you can buy your onward tickets at least a few days before you want to leave, and you are flexible with travel times (going at 2pm instead of 9am), then you can probably average around €20 between the large cities.

    8. As far as I know, the places where you’ll want to have your shoulders and maybe knees covered are when visiting the cathedrals and other religious places. If you go to some nicer restaurants at night, or even some small villages, you might feel self conscious in a skimpy top, but generally Italy isn’t known for prudishness. You might want to check with a female travel blog just to be sure though.

    9. I’ll have more to say about Sicily in a couple weeks. Definitely plan on staying for at least 4 or 5 days in Sorrento as a base camp. The Amalfi Coast may be a bit overrated, but it’s still nice. It’s the dramatic steep coastline that faces south, just southeast of Sorrento and Naples. Positano and Amalfi are the largest of the towns, and they are very popular for their more traditional look and local feel. You get to Sorrento by a special train from Naples, and from there you’ll take the public buses that stop in each town along the Amalfi Coast. You can also go by ferry, so many people go down in a bus and come back in a ferry, to see it from different angles.

    I’ve spent most of my Tuscany time in Florence and Siena, but the hill towns are popular and obviously it’s a famous food region. I think you can get better advice from someone else on this.

    Bologna is another big food destination, though I haven’t been there since a childhood trip.

    Of those three, I’ve only been to Cinque Terre, and it’s probably worth going there on this trip. The five towns get extremely crowded in the warm months, and the food scene is quite touristy as a result. If you can stay a day in Vernazza it would be fun, but don’t worry if you skip it on this trip.

    Milan is the main transport hub in northern Italy, so you’ll almost certainly be going through it at least once. If you do you might want to stop there for a day or two just to get the feel of it. It’s a big and rich city with a good food culture, although it’s not very Italian because it was part of Austria only 100 or so years ago. Lake Como and Venice will be filled with tourists eating overpriced meals. Since you’ve seen Venice, I’d skip them both this time around.

    I hope this helps and let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

     
      Victoria says:

      Hi Roger,

      Apologies for the late reply, the website did not send me a notification!

      Thank you for your input, i will remove Lake Como, Clique Terre, Milan, Venice, Sicily out of my list. Your reply has been extremely helpful i feel less stress to cover everything and now i feel i have more than enough time on my hands! Some questions i have lingering:

      Any thoughts on Piedmont?

      Is there any recommendations for Nice? What to do/ see? Will take your advice on the French wines also because i will be going to a market in Tuscany that already has chianti wines and all to explore. Any idea if there is a train from Italy to Nice?

      Where can i buy the online train tickets in advance that you mentioned? Do i need to print out the tickets?

      Thank you for the information on attire, food pricing (enlightening about the lunch set!)

      Anything you’d recommend for Florence and Siena?

      The public buses you mentioned, is the fare paid by cash…..?

      Would you recommend for the following and some additional input:
      To base camp one week at Sorrento: To see Ischia, Positano, Sorrento, Naples, Pompeii, maybe Amalfi Coast
      To base camp one week at Florence?: To see Tuscany: Isola of Elba (TBC)- San Gimignano- Greve in Chianti- San Minato – Florence (Should I go Siena?)
      To go Bologna? Piedmont?
      To go Nice from Florence? Where to go?

      Also, i think there would be a train from Sorrento to Florence?

      Sorry but could you also share where did you stay in Sorrento? Because i cant find much Sorrento in airbnb

      Greatly Thankful,
      Victoria

       

        Victoria,

        Sorry that you didn’t get a notification, but there is no problem with the timing of the reply. I’m always here (actually, in Dubai as of now). I’ll try to answer the questions in order…

        I haven’t spent much time in Piedmont and there aren’t many obvious tourist spots there, but there are obviously some important cities and wonderful sights. I’d say it’s an area best suited to people who have covered the more famous sights already, which could be you by the end of your trip.

        There are trains from big cities in Italy to Nice. Nice is one of France’s biggest tourist cities with great food and many excellent outdoor food markets. There are many museums and a (rocky) beach as well, so you’ll find plenty to keep you busy. And I always recommend people hop on a train for 20 minutes in either direction and visit Monaco and Cannes for at least a few hours each as well.

        Here’s the main website for Italian rail. You can buy tickets online and (I’m almost sure) you can store them on your smart phone so you don’t have to print them out.

        Florence is always packed with tourists and I’m sure you’ll find more than enough to do. The main Dom (cathedral) is not far from the train station, and it’s a big draw.

        Siena is an interesting city with fewer tourists, and many who visit do so on day trips from Florence by bus. The main attraction is the huge main square, which has bizarre horse races a couple times a year. It’s very scenic, although if you saved it for a future trip you might be just as well off.

        The Sita (public bus) that runs from the Sorrento train station along the Amalfi Coast can be paid in cash on board. I don’t think you can get advanced tickets.

        I think your plan to use those bases sounds pretty much ideal. For Florence, since hotels can be a bit expensive, you might want to stay in the city for part of your Tuscany time and then maybe in a hill town or smaller place for part of your time. But you can reach the popular hill towns in about an hour from Florence, so it might be better to just do day trips unless you really long for some quiet time (because you’ll be surrounded by tourists most of the time).

        Bologna is a big food city in Italy, but I haven’t spent time there so it’s hard for me to say.

        The only easy way to get to Sorrento is to take a train to Naples and then take the local train (the Circumvesuviana), which leaves downstairs on different tracks, or walk or take a taxi to the port and take a ferry. Naples has a reputation as the pick-pocketing capital of Europe, which can freak some people out. But if you are careful and keep your eyes open you’ll be fine. Just read up on it a bit and take the usual precautions. The pizza there is amazing.

        In Sorrento I stayed at a small hotel called the Palazzo Tasso, which is on a small alley just a short walk from the main town square. I’m not a big airbnb fan in European cities because the central places tend to be more expensive than hotels, and the cheaper places always seem to be in remote locations. When I visit European cities I really love to stay near the center of town so I can see everything and make frequent trips back to my room for breaks. If you can find an airbnb in that general area, I’m sure you’ll love it. You’ll want to be within walking distance of the Sorrento train station for sure. Keep in touch and best of luck with this. I’m happy to help. -Roger

         
Victoria says:

Hi Roger, i couldnt find so i had to book somewhere because everything was getting filled up! I managed to book a place in Naples: Via Giovanni Pascoli, Frattamaggiore, Campania. So i think maybe the Sita wont work in my favor?

After much thinking i decided totally drop Piedmont.
Naples and Amalfi Area: 7 nights
Tuscany/ Florence Area: 7 nights
Bolognia and Emilia Romagna Area: 5 days, 4nights
Nice, France Area: 4days, 3 nights

Wow so much to research! OK! i will go and read into Cannes and Monaco as well, but is it possible for 4days 3 nights? Still trying to see what is there in Nice to do, so far i found some nice food spots and walk up to Castle Hill for a beautiful view of the city, the Bay of Angels and of course, the bright blue water that gave the Cote d’Azur its name.
The Alpes Maritimes is unique, nowhere else will you find snow capped mountains and an Azur blue sea along with such a wealth of culture.

With this i think i will skip Siena. Unless i have enough time in Florence/Tuscany to do so.

Thanks!
Victoria

 
Victoria says:

Hi Roger,

I checked i think i will be skipping Cannes and Monaco and Eze Village. I am venturing Bologna or somewhere to go. Meaning Florence to Bologna to ??? to Nice.

Thanks!
Victoria

 

    Victoria,

    It sounds like your itinerary is really coming together now, and I’m sure it’ll be an amazing trip. You’ll like Nice and its food for sure. Cannes is close by (as is Antibes) and they are mainly just examples of posh towns on the French Riviera, and of course many people like to see Cannes because of the film festival, even though there are no cinemas that tourists will walk by. But, Monaco is also nearby and it’s one of the most beautiful cities in Europe so I think it’s worth at least a few hours. It’s only about 22 minutes away by train from Nice, and the view looking out over the harbor is worth the trip alone.

    By the way, if you will be doing any side trips from Nice you probably want to stay close to the train station. That’s where many of the cheaper hotels (and airbnbs) are located anyway, and it’s a good area for budget travelers. Bon voyage. -Roger

     
Victoria says:

I think i will try to go 2hrs out of Nice to check out some winery wineyards

 
Vivek Miranda says:

Roger,

I find the wealth of information very useful for planning travel to Europe. I am planning an Western Europe travel from India, to France, Italy, Spain with my wife and two sons. We intend to do it in 12 days commencing end May. Could you please advise on an itinerary. Our places of interest are historical, catholic churches and sports (soccer) in the order of priority. I was tempted to add Portugal by adding 2 more days but dropped it as I felt it would be too cramped. what would be the port of entry and exit and train as the mode of travel between cities.

Many thanks,
Vivek

 

    Vivek,

    Your idea of dropping Portugal is probably wise because of those two extra days you’d spend one of them in transit because it requires a night train and/or flights.

    But actually, 12 days is going to be very rushed if you want to visit the three countries left on your list. I’ll actually recommend saving Spain or Italy for a future trip for reasons I’ll outline below. Assuming that this is your first visit to this part of Europe, then really the classic France and Italy itinerary described in the article above will be the most enjoyable and easiest. Not only is Spain quite large and somewhat remote for this trip, but English is not widely spoken there so it can be trickier than the others.

    I highly recommend spending 3 nights in most cities in Europe, partly because your transit day will not be much of a sightseeing day. You can get a good look at Florence in 2 nights and Venice even in 1 night, as mentioned above, but part of that is because they are close together and the train only takes about two hours between them. If you go from Venice to Paris, it’s either an 11-hour train ride, or a 2-hour flight with all of the extra waiting and airport transport mixed in, so that takes nearly the whole day as well.

    For history and Catholic churches, not to mention many other reasons, you’ll definitely want to spend at least 3 nights in Rome and at least 3 nights in Paris. If you are locked into the 12 nights then here’s probably the best and easiest way to do it:

    Fly into Rome and spend 3 nights there
    Take a train to Florence for 2 or 3 nights
    Take a train to Venice for 1 night
    Take a train (7.5 hours) or flight to Nice for 2 or 3 nights
    Take a train to Paris for 3 or 4 nights

    Because those Italian cities are pretty close together and the train rides are only 2 hours or so, you can still see a lot in 6 days in those 3 cities. That would give you 6 more days in Nice and Paris.

    Or you might actually be better off doing those 3 Italian cities in 7 or 8 days, and then flying directly to Paris for the remainder. If you aren’t too interested in Nice, Cannes, and Monaco, then skip them for this trip.

    Including soccer sights on this trip could also be a bit tricky. As you know, the leagues will all be done for the summer by late May, so the best you could do is one of those stadium tours. I’d think that they’d have those in Rome and/or Paris, although I’d imagine that Camp Nou in Barcelona would be better, or even San Siro in Milan. I wouldn’t go to Barcelona unless I had 3 days to spend there, but you could conceivably spend one night in Milan after Venice and visit San Siro.

    By the way, if you would prefer to keep Spain and get rid of Italy or France, you’ll want to allow 3 nights in Barcelona AND 3 nights in Madrid. Both are large cities with many great sights, and they aren’t much alike at all.

    I’ll be happy to help you sort this out in future comments if you write back with your preferences. But for now, I’d recommend flying into Rome and flying out of Paris. Or if a return flight from India to one of those is much cheaper, you could fly into Paris and then immediately take a low-cost flight to Rome to start the trip, or the other way around.

    Again, I’m happy to help more if I can. I’m sure it’ll be a great trip. -Roger

     
Laurence henley says:

Heloo, i love your website! So glad to have foundit! We are going to italy for the first time in september, we are spending a few days in dublin first(easier fly schedule ) and going to rome , i booked one of the hotels you recommended , thank you , my question is wether to go to brescia from there and do side trips but staying based in brescia ? We want to recreate a little of the 1000 miles race and go to the ducati factory , we leave at the end of september from dublin , staying there maybe 3days before flying out . Thanks for any help you can give us !

 

    Laurence,

    Thank you. This is a tough one because I’ve never been to Brescia and it’s known more as an industrial city than a tourist destination. So with that in mind, it sounds like you have a specific reason for visiting, which is great. One of the challenges in staying in a city that doesn’t have much of a tourist infrastructure is that far fewer people will speak English, and it’s often tough to find a restaurant where you feel comfortable or even welcome.

    If you speak Italian or even Spanish then it might not be so tough, but if not, you might be better off staying in Milan or Verona and visiting Brescia during the day when you want to see something there. Milan is more international and English is pretty widely spoken, although it’s also a convention city so half the time the hotels are extremely expensive and the other half they are weirdly cheap. If room rates there look reasonable, it might be a great choice. You can reach Lake Como in an hour from Milan, among many other places.

    That’s all the advice I can offer on this, and again, I haven’t been there and I’m unsure what you have in mind. I hope it helps and feel free to follow up. -Roger

     
Justine says:

Hi Roger, I’m a female in my mid-twenties currently planning a trip to Europe on my own for around 20 days. I initially looked into doing a tour, but have decided I’d much rather explore on my own. I’ve decided that Paris, Italy, and Greece are my top 3 places to go in Europe and I want to spend as much time in each as possible, particularly Italy. So I am thinking 4-5 days in Paris, around 10 days in Italy, and maybe 3-4 days in Greece. In italy, I’d like to see Florence, Venice, Rome for sure, Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast if at all possible. I’m not certain if I want to go to Nice/Monaco and am not too interested in Milan. I was thinking of going from Paris straight to Venice, then exploring Florence, Cinque Terre, Pisa etc., then to Rome and down to the Amalfi Coast before taking a boat/flight to Greece (Mykonos and Santorini). Is this practical at all?

I have a general idea of what I want to do/see in each place, but am clueless about planning hotel/hostel and AirBnB stays in Europe. I don’t know if I should try to book it all at once, or the best places to stay in each place. I was thinking definitely AirBnB for Paris, as I want to stay in the main part of town for a few days, and then a mix of accommodations in Italy and Greece depending on where I go. One of my main concerns is, I don’t think I want to take my luggage with me absolutely everywhere- I would like to leave it at the apartment/hotel/hostel where I am staying, but I don’t know if I can do that everywhere. If I must I can take my pack everywhere with me, but was hoping to take a smaller pack/bag for day trips. Any advice you have on these matters would be much appreciated! Thank you.

 

    Justine,

    This sounds like a great trip, and 20 days should be long enough to see almost everything on your list. I’ll try to answer the questions in the order they came up…

    Four days should be long enough to see everything you want in Paris. If Greece is a priority, then skip Nice and Monaco. The best way would be to fly from Paris to Venice or nearby Treviso on a cheap airline, as it would be far cheaper and obviously way faster than a train.

    Venice is great for 1 or 2 nights, as mentioned in the article above. Florence and Rome are good for 3 days or so each, although Rome is WAY larger, though Florence has more interesting day trips nearby and it’s less expensive and less stressful than Rome. On a fast-paced trip like this, I’d recommend Cinque Terre over Amalfi Coast. You can actually do Cinque Terre as a day trip or quick overnight from Florence, while seeing the Amalfi Coast requires getting at least to Sorrento and then another day or two from there. Both choices are a bit underwhelming on a fast trip, and you might actually appreciate days trip to Pisa, Siena, or one of the Tuscan hill towns a bit more. Those coastal areas are so packed with tourists during the day that it’s hard to appreciate the magic of them, which is easier to notice if you stay 2 or 3 days on a future trip to Italy.

    The only ferries from Italy to Greece are slow ones leaving from the east coast, so flying is a far better option. Fly from Rome to Santorini and it should be fairly cheap and fast.

    As for your luggage, obviously you can leave whatever you want in a hotel or apartment while you are renting the place. As for a hostel, if you do the dorm bed thing then they usually come with a locker where you use your own lock for smaller things (computers etc), and there is a secure luggage room for larger items. Reports of thefts from these places are amazingly rare, so as long as you follow the procedures and keep your phone and wallet on you at all times, you’ll be fine.

    For hotels and hostels you can also store a bag in the secure luggage room before you check in or after you check out. So if you have a 4pm train you can check out at 10am and come back to get your bag several hours later after doing your last sightseeing. For apartments such as airbnbs, there is usually no storage facility available before you check in or after you check out. However, every train station in Europe’s larger cities has storage lockers where you can stash a backpack for maybe €5 for half a day.

    Hopefully this helps. Let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

     
Gordon says:

Hi Roger,
Thanks a lot for your information and it is really useful for me! Especially this will be the first time I visit Europe (I am from Hong Kong)

I have bought an open-jaw air ticket and I will arrive at CDG on 30/7, and leaving from FCO on 13/8. I come up with the following general plan for my trip. If you have time for some advice, I will be very thankful or your help!

I will start by staying 3 days in Paris, and then on the 4th day, I will take a flight to Toulouse (stay at Toulouse + Carcasonne for 2 days). Then, on the 6th, take a flight from Toulouse to Nice, and stay at Nice for 3 nights. On the 9th day, from Nice to Florence, for 3 days. Then Florence to Rome for 3 other days.

Is this itinerary doable? Could you give me some advice? I will go with my university friends so energy probably is not a problem. Thank you very much!

Gordon

 

    Gordon,

    I think your plan looks really good and well paced. I don’t know the Toulouse area but I know the others and they are obviously filled with highlights. I suppose my only suggestion would be to consider taking trains in France rather than flying. From Paris to Toulouse there is a train that goes direct in 5 hours and 20 minutes. From Toulouse to Nice the fastest train is 6 hours 20 minutes, although most options are a bit over 7 hours. The scenery is quite nice on both rides, particularly when you get near the Med.

    If you buy those tickets soon on sncf.com (official France rail site) they will be fairly cheap, and possibly cheaper than the flights. But really the main thing is that the experience is about a million times more pleasant on the train compared to hustling to the airport and all of that. And of course, with a one-hour flight, it really takes about 5 hours to get from city center to city center, so the schedule isn’t much different. Personally, if the train was €80 and a flight was €40, I’d still take the train on these routes.

    By the way, Nice to Florence can be complicated by train and you might have to change trains twice. It takes 6.5 to 7 hours, and the earlier you buy that ticket the lower the prices will be and the more options you’ll have of fast trains. You should probably buy the Florence to Rome ticket soon while you are at it, although that won’t be too expensive either way.

    Have a great trip and let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

     
Parul says:

Hi,
I spent the evening reading different comments on this post … We are planning a trip to Europe for the first time aand I basically want to include France Italy and Switzerland and on the way back go to London.
Basic Itinerary :
Paris – 4 days
Italy – 5 days
Switzerland – 4 days.
This is the Itinerary which I planned but am not too sure .. I am travelling with my parents so comfort would be my first preference… Please suggest how we should travel and plan .. Any suggestion would be really helpful.

 

    Parul,

    Your itinerary looks quite good to start with. As far as how to get around with comfort in mind, you’ll want to do most of it by train, as trains in Europe are far more comfortable and less stressful than flying.

    If you are starting in Paris then it would be most efficient to head to Switzerland after that, and then take a train to Italy. Here’s specifically what I’d suggest:

    Paris for 4 nights then a train to Interlaken for 2 nights
    Take a train from Interlaken to Lucerne for 2 nights
    Take a train from Lucerne to Venice, which will take about 7 hours with a change of trains in Milan, but the part from Luzerne to Milan is one of the most beautiful train rides in the world.

    Now, I normally recommend 6 nights for the quickest good Italy visit, so it would be ideal if you could add at least one more night. If not, you’ll have to figure out where to cut. You can have a great Venice visit in about 24 hours, as mentioned in the article above. Then you can take the 2-hour train ride to Florence for 2 nights, and then the 90-minute train ride to Rome for 3 nights. After that I’d recommend flying to London.

    Here is information on exactly where to go in Switzerland.

    As for Italy, you could skip one of the cities, but it would be hard to pick which one to skip. And I wouldn’t recommend cutting a night in Florence or Rome because there is just too much to see to do it in fewer days.

    I’m happy to help you figure out more of the details on this, so feel free to comment back with more questions if you have them. -Roger

     
      Parul says:

      Hi Roger,

      Thank you soo much for the suggestions. I would include them for sure.

      Just wanted to know if soo much travel is involving trains, then is it advisable for me to buy a europass or should I just buy tickets as and when needed ?

       

        Parul,

        For a tightly scheduled trip like this, you will be best off buying your train tickets online, as far in advance as possible for the cheapest prices. The Paris to Interlaken and Lucerne to Venice tickets would be quite expensive if you waited until the last minute to buy, but they will be reasonable if you buy at least a month or so in advance.

        A Eurail Pass is best for longer trips where you want to make plans as you go. They aren’t cheap, but they are usually cheaper than buying last-minute tickets. On the other hand, advance train tickets in Europe can be surprisingly cheap if you buy them online at least a month or more in advance. Buy from the official rail sites of the countries involved. Have a great trip. -Roger

         
Hari says:

Dear Roger:Few days ago, not knowing what I was getting into, I went ahead and booked tickets to Europe (from US) – Flying into Paris and flying out of Rome. I(46) will be travelling with my spouse(44) and my son(14). As a first timer to Europe, I am certainly overwhelmed at the task of planning an itinerary. I am glad I found your website! While there is a lot more research to do, I was hoping you would review my current plan and make suggestions for changes. I would like to finalize my train tickets ASAP and work on accommodations after. Here is the current plan:

August 2nd (ar in Paris 7AM) to August 17th (dep Rome 10:50AM):
1. Paris (4 nights) – To include a half day trip to palace of Versailles
Leave at ~7AM to reach Lecerne ~noon
2. Lucerne (1 night)
3. Interlaken (2 nights) – To stay in Gimmelwald or Murren
Leave from Interlaken to Speiz-Milan-Genoa
4. Santa Margherita Ligure (1 night)
5. Cinque Terre (1 night)
6. Florence (2 nights)
7. Rome (4 nights) – To include a day trip Pompei

a. Does this look ambitious?
b. What steps can I take minimize the train tickets cost?
c. Do you have any suggestions what I can add or remove from the above?
d. From Paris, is it better to go to Interlaken first then to Lucerne or the opposite (Note: need to minimize the time to Italy post Switzerland) ?

Many thanks for your effort and great information. I eagerly look forward to your guidance.

 

    Hari,

    I’m happy to hear that this has helped, and I’m sure your trip will be excellent.

    I’d not heard of Santa Margherita Ligure, but it looks quite nice and is obviously on your way, so it should be a good stop. I don’t think your plan looks too ambitious. You’ll be moving pretty quickly between Paris and Rome, but I do think it’s worth doing that because those places are mostly compact enough to appreciate in a day or two. You might consider consolidating your first two nights in Italy by staying in one place and seeing the other during the day. Santa Margherita Ligure is only 54 minutes from Vernazza (the most famous Cinque Terre town) by train, and really the train ride through that area is a big part of the appeal of going there.

    If you leave Interlaken early enough, you could even stop for a couple hours in Santa Margherita Ligure and then head into the Cinque Terre for the evening, staying two nights. Or you could just stay two nights in Santa Margherita Ligure and see the Cinque Terre by day. That would be nicer so you don’t have to keep packing and checking into and out of hotels.

    For the cheapest train tickets, buy them online as soon as possible. Here’s my article on how to buy cheap European train tickets online. The ticket from Lucerne to Interlaken will be the same price no matter when you buy it, and it’s the same with the tickets for the trains through the Cinque Terre. But for all of your long distance trains, the fares start out low and the price goes up as more seats are sold. If you buy soon, you’ll be surprised at how cheap some of them are, especially in Italy.

    I’ve already answered “c” above.

    You can get from Interlaken to Genoa in 5 hours and 11 minutes if you leave a bit after 7am, and it takes a bit over 6 hours from Lucerne to Genoa. So it doesn’t matter too much, and the ride through the Alps has excellent scenery. The departures from Interlaken are only fast at certain times of the day, while from Lucerne you can leave almost any time. Check out the options and fares on sbb.ch, which is the Swiss rail site.

    As always, let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Sanjeev says:

Hi Roger,

I saw this site and was amazed how you actually took the time to reply to people’s queries. I am trying to plan a trip to Europe for my daughter’s 15 years. Her birthday is in July but since her brother is only a month old right now, we decided to plan the trip during the December holidays rather than in July, so that the baby would be about 7 months old. My daughter wants to do Paris, Italy, Croatia and Greece (more specifically Santorini). My wife and I would like to put about 3 days in Munich as well. We have about 22- 24 days max for the trip.

Here is what I was thinking:

Paris – 3 nights
Venice – 1 night
Florence – 2 nights
Sorrento – 2 nights (day trip to Pompeii and Capri)
Rome – 3 nights
Santorini – 2 nights
Athens – 2 nights
Munich -3 nights
Prague – 1 night
Paris -2 nights

I don’t think we could fit Croatia in the itinerary. It already seems too much. Would appreciate if you could let me know what you think of the itinerary. And also if we should take places off the list or add some. What would be the best way to travel to Greece? And at what part of the trip would it be better?
I am a little apprehensive because we will be traveling with a 7 month old baby. Do you foresee any problems with that?

I gratefully look forward for your comments and guidance.

 

    Sanjeev,

    For some strange reason, I really love trying to help people with itineraries and such, so I’m happy to give it a go.

    Your plan looks quite solid as it is, although it is fairly rushed. The main issue I’m seeing is that some of these places are very seasonal, and December is not ideal for those. The good news is that Europe’s cities are obviously designed to work at 100% all year round, especially with subways and other public transport that goes in any weather. Most attractions in Europe’s larger cities are indoors, and the weather even in December is usually mild enough that walking around for a few hours a day is enjoyable, as long as you have warm clothes with you.

    The bad news is that Greece and Croatia are very seasonal, so it’s good that you’ve already set Croatia aside. Athens itself is obviously a large city, so 2 days there would be okay, although climbing the Acropolis and walking the Agora would be less enjoyable if it’s cold and a bit wet. The bigger problem is that the islands practically shut down from November until April. Santorini and the other larger ones will still have some hotels and restaurants open, but there will be maybe 10% of the people there as you’d see in summer. Most of the smaller islands literally do close down for the cold months, with only a few locals remaining and no ferry service.

    In other words, I’d save Greece for a future trip, and Croatia as well. That would give you 4 more nights for the other places on your list, and I’d add at least 1 or 2 to Prague. You could add a day or two in Italy, although you could enjoy what you have planned there now. You could also do 2 days in Vienna or Salzburg on your way from Prague to Paris at the end. Both of those cities are wonderful, and would still be good in December.

    I think traveling with a 7-month old will be just fine in Europe’s cities. More than any other place I can think of, Europe is very advanced when it comes to strollers and changing rooms and ease of use on public transportation for infants. Also, Italy in particular has a reputation for loving young children, so you’ll probably get some extra attention while you are there.

    Let me know if you have any other questions, and I’ll be happy to help you sort out the best itinerary if you are okay with saving Greece for the future. -Roger

     
      Sanjeev says:

      Thank you so much Roger! Your inputs have be tremendously helpful. I will take your suggestions and leave out Greece for another trip in the future and will add Lucerne and Interlaken in Switzerland instead. Also will add an additional night in Prague. Thanks for your time. I am sure you will be paid many times over for your wonderful service to fellow travelers in terms of a positive karmic energy surplus. Cheers!

       
AK says:

Hi Roger – wow! what a following you have!
I am originally from Germany but live in Boston now. I am planning to take my then 13 and 11 year old daughters next summer on an extensive Europe road trip (we go every summer but mostly to Germany and/or just one specific place). I was thinking to fly into Madrid, drive to Barcelona, then up the coast to Marseille and Nice – but then I am not sure whether to go through Provence or rather continue along the coast to Italy? Any thoughts you have would be really helpful as well as some specific small idyllic towns you know of along the way. We really have as much time as we need for the trip but I am not sure – looking simply at the map – what towns to go to…… again any comments are appreciated – thank you so much!! AK

 

    AK,

    This sounds like a wonderful trip you are planning, and unfortunately I won’t be of much help. I’ve traveled extensively in much of Europe, but in France I’ve mainly spent time in Paris and the other popular places for foreign tourists. As a result, I won’t be confident in giving you specific advice on where you might try, although I do envy you. In fact, I’ll be in Normandy for the first time in about a month, and I plan to explore other areas of France shortly after that (I’m an American, based in London at the moment).

    If you haven’t lived in the US long you might not be familiar with travel writer Rick Steves. I would highly recommend getting his current France guidebook (paper or digital) and scanning the appropriate chapters for advice. One of the things he does best is that he goes pretty much everywhere and then only writes about the most worthwhile places, including small towns that aren’t on many other lists. If you use a guide such as Lonely Planet (and I’m a fan of theirs as well), they tend to have a small section on nearly every notable town, so it’s much harder to know which are really the stand-out ones.

    Since you are from Germany (where my family is from as well), at least you know that most of the small coastal towns in France are not well set up for car visitors. But as far as I’m aware, the wine regions and other inland destinations are quite car friendly. Have a great trip and I wish I could have been more help. -Roger

     
Biri says:

Dear Roger,

Let me compliment you for an excellent and a very ‘user-friendly’ article, especially for first time visitors like me. I have following queries :-

1 Roger! I,my wife and my three year old son are planning for 16 days (including travel time) trip to France -Italy and Switzerland (My wife is keen)/ Spain (I am Keen), so could you advice what is the best option in your opinion??

2.Is it possible also to include one of the most recommend destination spot for Switzerland.(To avoid clash of opinions between self and wife)

3. I am planning trip from 25 Sep to 10 Oct. is it a good time to visit t all these places?.

4. Could you advice which is the better place to start from (Paris or Rome) keeping the above mentioned dates in mind??

5. My budget is modest. So your advice is even more critical in our planning.

Please advice us and resolve the conflict:)

Biri

 

    Biri,

    I’m happy to try to help, and thank you for the kind words. This is a tricky situation though. On one hand, Switzerland has the most dramatic and beautiful scenery in Europe, and you can have a really nice visit there in as few as 3 days. The downside is that Switzerland is also very expensive on a per-day basis, even compared to France and Italy. So those 3 days in Switzerland would be amazing, if a bit expensive.

    Spain is obviously very different. The most basic trip to Spain that I’d recommend for a cultural traveler would be 3 nights in Barcelona and 3 nights in Madrid. They are both large cities filled with great sights, and they are very different from each other. They are both about the same price as France and Italy, so they are not exactly cheap. So if you already want to visit France and Italy, you really won’t have 6 days to also visit Spain. If you tried to do all 3 countries in 2 weeks, you’d be racing around and only seeing maybe 50% of what you flew all that way to see.

    In other words, Switzerland would be much easier to work into your itinerary, and still have enough time to see Paris, Venice, Florence, and Rome. As mentioned in the article above, I recommend 3 or 4 nights for Paris, 1 or 2 nights for Venice, 2 or 3 nights for Florence, and 3 nights for Rome. Spain is a wonderful country and even those two cities are just scratching the surface, so I vote for saving Spain for another trip when you have more time. The rest of Spain also is more reasonably priced, so it’ll be a pretty cheap trip when you get there.

    The best short visit to Switzerland is to head to the Interlaken area. I explain it in fine detail in my article about where to go in Switzerland.

    Late September and early October is a perfect time to visit all of these places, and hotel prices will be down a bit from their summer peaks as well. Let me know if you have any other questions and I’ll be happy to help. Sorry to side with the wife on this one. 🙂 -Roger

     
Biri says:

Thanx Roger! Thanx for resolving the conflict. Will surely keep Spain for next trip with more duration in Spain:)

Continue with your good work!!

Best Rgds, Biri

 
Carolyn says:

Hi Roger – Headed to Europe for 10 days at end of August and returning Labor Day. We fly in to London and we have the end of the trip set for Dublin for 3 nights. The in-between is what I would like your thoughts on. I’m thinking Italy – Rome, Venice or actually somewhere in Italy out of way of the millions of tourists. Been to Paris, been to Barcelona, been to Florence – but not Rome or anywhere along Mediterranean. Thinking we would fly from London to Rome or SouthernItaly and then return fly to Dublin for our last 3 nights. I’m wide open for suggestions –

 

    Carolyn,

    This sounds like a great trip. Nearly all of my experience in Italy is in the popular tourist cities, so I’m not a great source for smaller non-tourist towns. I’ve heard that the Puglia area in the south is nice and doesn’t get much tourism, but I haven’t been there myself.

    Of the places I have been I’ll highly recommend Sorrento and the area around it. You definitely have to spend about 3 days in Rome, but it’s quite chaotic so I wouldn’t stay longer than that. After that you can take the high-speed train down to Naples and then the Circumvesuviana to Sorrento. It’s explained in the article above, but the highlights are that Sorrento is an ideal base for day trips to Naples and Pompeii, as well as the isle of Capri, and the Amalfi Coast. Sorrento will be busy in August, but nothing like Florence or Venice. You could even stay a bit out of town and take the bus in, or the same train 1 or 2 stops into the center. Sorrento is probably my favorite city in Italy to relax in rather than sight-see. You can then fly from Naples to Dublin for a reasonable fare. I hope this helps. -Roger

     
Ireene says:

Hi! I am so grateful to have come across your site as i find it very informative especially for me who plans to have a first time 2-week visit to Europe. I hope you would find time to answer my queries.
First of all, we come from the Philippines. My husband is a SG citizen and I am a Filipina – so what are our visa requirements? When would be the best time of the year for us to travel? could you help us out with the itinerary? WHat about accomodations and means of transportation from one city to the other? How much, roughly, would we spend for the two-week tour?
Thank you very much in advance as this would surely help us decide whether or not to push trough with the trip.

 

    Ireena,

    I’m happy to hear that this site has been helpful. Unfortunately I can’t help you with visa requirements, as I’m an American myself (currently living in London) and it’s different for every nationality. You should be able to find out by Googling it though, or on wikitravel.org for any country you want to visit.

    In my opinion, the best months to travel to France or Italy are April, May, September, and October. In those months you get pleasant weather that isn’t scorching, and smaller crowds and lower hotel rates. In June through August it’s crowded, more expensive, and often hot. And in the winter months the weather isn’t very pleasant, although I still travel around Europe in the winter all the time. It’s just not ideal.

    As for your itinerary, the article above is specifically meant to help people figure out where they want to go and how long to spend in each place. It is literally all my best advice on this topic in one place. Once you have your basic plan down I can help with some of the details if needed.

    The train is the most pleasant (by far) way of getting from one city to another, though in some cases such as Paris to Rome, flying is better and cheaper. Once you have your general itinerary together, it should be easy to see where you’ll want to do the train. As for accommodation, if you click on the individual cities listed in the article above, you’ll find a link to “recommended hotels” in almost all of them. It’s hard for me to make specific recommendations without knowing your budget and tastes. So with the general recommendations, at least you can see the better neighborhoods and know how much the good places cost.

    In France and Italy you can count on spending at least US$200 per night for two people. You can get okay hotels starting at around US$100 a night in most cities, though better ones are more expensive. Usually breakfast is included. For lunch and dinner you can count on US$10 per person per meal as a low average. You can get some cheaper lunches, but you’ll probably want to do some nicer and more expensive dinners. And of course, things like hop-on, hop-off bus tours can cost US$20 to US$30 each, so attractions and activities can add up as well. You can get a good idea how much each city will cost by looking at the page for the city on this site. That is why I created them, such as this one for Paris and this for Rome. Have a great trip and let me know if you have more questions as your plan is coming together. -Roger

     
Bill W says:

Hey Roger,

My wife and I are landing in Paris on Oct 8 at 9 am.. Here’s the itinerary I came up with.. Let me know if you think this is too aggressive.

Oct 8- Land in Paris 9:40 am —
Oct 9 – Paris
Oct 10 – Paris
Oct 11 – Leave Paris – Arrive Interlaken Switzerland afternoon
Oct 12 – Switzerland – Interlaken
Oct 13 – Switzerland morning then train to Venice.. Arrive Venice at 2pm..
Oct 14 – Venice
Oct 15 – Venice – leave AM.. arrive – Florence
Oct 16 – Florence to Rome
Oct 17 – Rome TO Amalfi
Oct 18 – Amalfi area
Oct 19 – Amalfi area
Oct 20 – Amalfi area
Oct 21 – Amalfi area
Oct 22 – Amalfi area
Oct 23 – Fly home – Naples

We are still considering skipping either Florence or Rome, but not sure which to skip, if at all…

Thanks!!
Bill

 

    Bill,

    I think your itinerary looks quite good and not too aggressive, although it depends on your reasons for blasting through Florence and Rome so quickly. Rome in particular, and Florence to only a slightly smaller degree, are among the top tourist cities in the entire world. If you’ve already been there or you plan on going back there soon, then I think your plan looks great. However, if you haven’t visited them and might be doing the fastest possible visit because you are worried that they are too crowded or touristy, I’m not sure that is wise. But I’ll leave that up to you.

    The Amalfi Coast is primarily a string of summer beach resort towns in a gorgeous setting, so by the time late October arrives the season is winding down and it will probably be too chilly to sunbathe most days. Still, all of the restaurants and hotels will be open, and there will be plenty of people there, just not so many sunbathing or swimming.

    Either way, I’ll highly recommend Sorrento as your Amalfi base, for the reasons listed in the article above. It’s a wonderful town where most people speak English, and it’s the prime transit hub for the whole area. I really love it there.

    If you were thinking of skipping Florence or Rome and adding the remaining day to the other, definitely save Florence for the future and do 2 days in Rome. Sights like the Vatican, Ancient Rome, the Colosseum, and the Trevi Fountain are eye-popping and like no other place on earth. I’ll admit the Rome is crowded and hectic, but it’s also easily one of the world’s greatest cities to actually appreciate in person at least once. It’s also beautiful. As always, let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Bill says:

      Thank you so much for all the advice! You make some great points about rushing through Rome / Florence. I think we will cut a day from Amalfi and add it to Rome. Do you think a day trip in Florence would be a total waste of time?
      The chances of my wife and I getting back to Italy in the near future are slim..
      Thanks again!

       

        Bill,

        If you are talking about doing Florence as a day trip from Rome, it would not be a waste at all and it would be easy to do. On one hand, Rome is so packed with top sights that you might not want to go to Florence. But if you do want to do it, the train journey is only 76 minutes each way, and tickets are quite cheap if you buy them well in advance.

        Better still, all of Florence’s main attractions are within a fairly short walk of the train station. The famous cathedral is about a 10-minute walk or even less. You could plan on spending maybe 5 or 6 hours in Florence and you’d have time to see the main things, wander around town a bit, and even have a Tuscan lunch. Rome really takes 3 nights (2 full days) to see even the main highlights. If you have more than that, then a day in Florence would be great. -Roger

         
DB says:

Hi Roger, thanks for such helpful guides! I’m planning a trip to Europe in October this year with my partner and two five-year old twin girls. We’re flying from Australia to Dublin, travelling EU a bit, then exiting Dublin for Australia again (20 nights in total).

I’d love to see so much but we don’t want to cram too commuting in for the kids sake. I’ve always wanted to travel to Berlin, so that’s high on the list. The hard decision is tossing up where to go next. Considering: Rome vs Paris vs Venice (vs some other amazing sounding destinations friends have recommended including Bari, Polignano di Mare, Matera, Sintra).

I’m wondering what the weather will be like in France vs Italy in October and how that should inform our decision – we’d like to spend more time outdoors, walking around/picnicking in scenic places/parks/playgrounds etc. So if it’s likely to be cold/wet in Paris in October, perhaps Rome is the better option?

I’ll list my potential itinerary below, if you have any advice/feedback that would be much appreciated. We’re looking at AirBnBs for accommodation.

Arrive in Dublin 3 October

Dublin: 3-6 October
Berlin: 6-13 October
Venice: 13-15 October
Paris: 15-20 October
Dublin: 20-23 October
Depart Dublin for Melbourne 23 October

 

    DB,

    First off, it looks like you are spending 6 total nights in Dublin, which is a lot. To be honest, Dublin is a nice town that you can see in two days or so, but the rest of Ireland is amazing and gorgeous. Most others agree that the magic of Ireland is in the small towns and countryside and natural sights, and that Dublin is not a place to linger in.

    Berlin is a large city, but I don’t think I’d stay a week there. In 4 days you will be able to see everything that interests you, and if you stay longer you’d be visiting sights that are low on your list.

    The weather in October in both Italy and France will be great so you could choose either and really enjoy it. It’s only from December through March when it gets quite chilly and sometimes unpleasant. Italy is a bit warmer most of the year, but both will be very nice for sightseeing and outdoor things.

    You have enough time to visit Rome for 3 days and Florence for 2 days if you spend less time in Berlin and Dublin. And still have 4 nights or so in Paris. I was just in Paris again yesterday morning, and you can see all the highlights in 4 days or even 3. Let me know if you have any other questions, and I’ll be happy to help. -Roger

     
DB says:

Hi Roger, I posted earlier today but have re-thought our itinerary, as deciding between Paris OR Rome seemed too hard. Here’s my new plan:

Dublin
2 nights: Mon 03 Oct – Wed 05 Oct

Berlin
5 nights: Wed 05 Oct – Mon 10 Oct

Venice
2 nights: Mon 10 Oct – Wed 12 Oct

Rome
4 nights: Wed 12 Oct – Sun 16 Oct

Paris
5 nights: Sun 16 Oct – Fri 21 Oct

Dublin
2 nights: Fri 21 Oct – Sun 23 Oct

As I said before, we’ll be travelling with two five-year-old girls so don’t want to be in transit too much. I would love to do some train travel, which could double as down-days for the kids (to sit and watch movies all day). I think though, with this schedule, perhaps the only reasonable distance to travel by train would be between Venice and Rome? Any thoughts on the route/schedule would be much appreciated.

Thanks again!

 

    DB,

    Ah, I just saw this one. This looks much better. Honestly, you could do 4 nights in Paris, 3 nights in Rome, and 2 nights in Florence, and you’d see everything. The train rides in Italy are all fast and short, so you can still do plenty of sightseeing on travel days. If you want to skip Florence, that would be fine too, but it’s one of the “Big 3” in Italy for a reason. Also, Rome is an amazing place filled with amazing sights, but it’s also crowded and fairly stressful. My recommendation is 3 nights there, which is enough to see the highlights, without staying so long that it gets overwhelming. Feel free to write back if you have more questions. I’m sure this trip will be great. -Roger

     
Vilma Ochoa says:

Hi Roger,

Thank you for all these wonderful tips. My mom and I are planning to go to Paris and Italy this coming November. I am trying to do my itinerary but we are going only for 11 days. I was planning to fly to Paris, spend 2 nights then fly to Italy but I am not sure if this is going to be expensive or should I take a train? Which one? I would like to go to Florence, Venice, Milan and Rome. Then from Rome fly back to US. What are your thoughts? I would like to visit Nice but I think the weather is not going to be good to visit Nice maybe next time. Thanks.

 

    Vilma,

    First off, I’d recommend at least 3 nights in Paris. It’s very large, beautiful, and packed with excellent sights. If you book early you can get cheap flights from there to Italy (save Nice for a future trip when it’s warmer). As you can see in the article above, Milan is sort of an optional stop, and many people skip it. So you could do 3 nights in Paris, then fly to Venice for 1 or 2 nights and then take a train to Florence for 3 nights and then 3 nights in Rome before you fly home. That would be a fantastic and well paced trip. You could include one night in Milan, and the historic center is interesting, but most of it is kind of a generic “big city” and far less charming than the others on your list. Let me know if you have any other questions and I’ll be happy to try to help. -Roger

     

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