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

France and Italy make for a perfect first visit to Europe, but there are so many potential places to visit that planning well is extremely important. Of the two, Italy is a bit more straightforward because it has a “Big 3” of tourist cities consisting of Rome, Florence, and Venice. France, on the other hand, has Paris, but beyond the capital it can be hard to know where you should go.

These two countries contain several of what I consider to be the best cities in Europe to visit for anyone, so it’s just a matter of narrowing down where to go and how much time to spend in each place. In the article below you’ll see the best option to string together a tour of these countries in two or three weeks. There will be options and decisions you’ll have to make based on your own tastes, but no matter how you do it this should be an unforgettable trip.

This article was most recently updated in August, 2022.

How many cities to visit?

This 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.

>>>Going just to Italy?Here are the best first-time Italy itineraries for 3 days to two weeks

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

Flying 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)

Obviously 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 jet lag, 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.

It’s true that you can’t just all of France by just visiting Paris on your first trip, but it’s still not a bad idea because this city is the center of almost everything and even the areas surrounding it are filled with great sights, amazing histories, and plenty of things to do. It’s almost impossible to get a bad meal in the city and most of the food is reasonably priced considering the quality. Be prepared for a small hotel room, even if you pay a lot, so it’s more about paying for the location rather than for a luxurious and large place to sleep.

The sights in Paris are almost all worthwhile, but don’t think you have to spend an entire day in the Louvre in order to enjoy it. In fact, I highly recommend taking the 3-hour double-decker sightseeing tour (run by several companies) on your first day in order to see at least the exteriors of all of the famous landmarks. If you want to go inside at least a few of the big attractions you might consider getting a Paris Pass, which also covers the bus tour and a cruise on the Seine.

Spend at least three nights in Paris itself and if you have extra days you might do a day trip (tour buses are a great choice) of the nearby Loire Valley. It’s filled with famous castles and palaces where the rich used to live outside of the city, and many are available for tours.

Paris to Nice by train: About 6 hours

Provence region (optional 2 or 3 nights)

Probably the most efficient first trip to France along with Italy is to spend a few days in Paris and then head to Nice (see below) to explore the French Riviera, but if the beach scene doesn’t interest you, or if you are coming in the cool months (the beach areas are pretty dead from November through March) you might instead stop in the Provence region. This area is famously where Van Gogh was based and got his inspiration, and also home to a Papal Palace where 7 popes lived during the 1300s.

The main city is Arles and that is probably the best base, although Avignon (where the Popes lived) is also very tourist friendly and could be a good choice. In fact, Avignon is the beginning of the famous Côtes du Rhone wine road, which connects a series of hill towns with amazing scenery and of course wine tasting. Something like this might be better for a second or third trip to France unless you’ve got weeks to spend here. Provence is also known for its cuisine, as it stands out even within a country where the food is amazing virtually everywhere you go.

Paris to Avignon by train: About 3.5 hours
Avignon to Nice by train: About 3 hours

Nice, France (minimum 2 nights)

Nice 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 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. Generally speaking, I recommend skipping Milan at least on your first trip.

Milan to Venice by train: About 2.5 hours

Venice (1 night minimum, 2 nights maximum)

Certainly 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)

With 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)

If 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)

If 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)

Again, 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.

Naples 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

To 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

Not 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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All Comments

  1. Lean sing says:

    Hi Roger!
    This is my final plan!
    -1 night Venice
    – 2 night Florence
    – 3 or 4 nights total in Siena and perhaps Tuscan town (any suggestions)
    – 3 nights in Rome
    – 3 nights in Vietri Sul Mare
    – 2-3 nights in salerno or sorrento or another amalfi coast town?
    – 2 nights in Rome
    – Flying home from Rome

    My questions are:
    1.) 4 nights in Tuscany and 5 nights in Amalfi Coast? Or 3 nights in Tuscany and 6 nights on the Amalfi Coast? What questions should I ask my family that will help us decide? We hope to see Chianti, San G, Pienza, Montalcino , Montelpuciao, Orvieto, Val D’Orchia, volterra and perhaps Lucca and Pisa?
    1a) what kind of day tours should I be looking for that can cover the above places in relative ease.
    2.) Is 5 nights in Rome too many days?
    3.) is Vietri Sul Mare a good base to explore Amalfi Coast? Where else should I stay?
    4.) does the flow of itinerary make sense?
    5.) any other suggestions?

    Thanks for the blog and suggestions!

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Lean,

      1.) I would vote for more time in Tuscany. The Amalfi Coast is really lovely, but it’s little more than a series of villages set in the hillside above little beaches. In other words, the Amalfi Coast is a place to relax, and actually getting between the villages is a bit of a hassle. You typically have to climb up a hill and catch a public bus to the next town, and then walk down the hill into the town from there. And the buses are usually crowded in summer. Tuscany is a large region in Italy that is one of the world’s most historic and famous art hot-spots and food destinations.

      In general I would recommend trying to sample fewer different places. For example, the villages along the Amalfi Coast are all fairly similar, and the towns in Tuscany are mostly quite similar. If you only spend a couple hours in each one and then hop on another train, you’ll be spending half your days in transit.

      2.) Rome is a huge city filled with sights, but it’s also very hectic and many first-time visitors get a bit frustrated at times. I would probably spend no more than 4 nights there, and 3 might even be enough. It’s very crowded as well.

      3.) Vietri Sul Mare is near the eastern edge of the Amalfi Coast. It would be a good base, but Positano and Amalfi are the more popular (and probably expensive) towns there.

      4.) Yes, I think the itinerary is logical. Again, I would probably shorten my stay in Rome, so you might even do those two days in Sorrento because it’s nice and the ideal base to visit Naples and Pompeii and the isle of Capri.

      5.) This looks very well researched and I haven’t been to every one of your planned stops, so I don’t have much else to stay. There are some very nice “hill towns” in Tuscany that are great for day trips or even an overnight stay.

      Have a great trip. -Roger

  2. lean sing says:

    Hi Roger,

    Thank you thank you! If you happen to be in Italy when i am there – would love to toast you! Truly guide-extraordinaire! 🙂

    I feel bad asking so many questions – so i am going to try to figure out on my own before asking u some “real” questions. 🙂 Thank you Roger!

    Lean Sing

  3. lean sing says:

    Roger,

    If i may add. I really appreciate your encouragement and your advice.

    I have posted similar itinerary on other forums and have been constantly told that i am attempting too much or being unrealistic with my itinerary.

    While i understand that there is much to see in each of these major Italian cities – one has only so much time and it is quite disheartening to hear remarks such as “time to get realistic.”

    My question then…is my itinerary really that “unrealistic”?

    Thanks
    Lean Sing

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Lean,

      I know exactly what you mean by so-called “experts” who spend their days in travel forums lecturing new travelers that “You can’t meaningfully visit ANY city in less than two weeks!” and that sort of thing. They are just being snobs and jerks. I’ve been all over the world and spent over 5 of the last 10 years on the road, including visiting just about every place in Europe. I can assure you that 3 nights is an ideal first visit to almost any city, and it’ll give you plenty of time to see the top 7 or 8 things on your list, without rushing around too much. And fortunately, Italy is easier than most places because the main train stations are centrally located and the big tourist cities are all about 90 to 120 minutes apart by train.

      Partly in response to people who lecture other people that we all have to travel as slowly as they do, I wrote an article a few years ago about the benefits of Fast Travel. You might find it interesting. Have a great trip and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

  4. lean sing says:

    Thank you Roger!

  5. lean sing says:

    Thanks once again Roger,

    i have unfortunately overestimated the amount of annual leave i have. Turns out i can only be in italy for 15 days.

    Venice 1 Night
    Florence 3 Nights
    Rome 4 Nights
    Sorrento 3 Nights
    Sicily 4 Nights

    Would u recommend any tweaks? Perhaps less nights in Rome and more nights in either Sorrento or Florence?

    Thanks!
    Lean Sing

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Lean,

      That is a shame, but you will still have plenty of time in each place and your first visit to Italy will be far more thorough than most people.

      Rome for 4 nights and Sorrento for 3 nights looks good, but it might be more enjoyable to switch them, as you suggest. Again, the thing about Rome is that it’s large and filled with top sights, but it’s also kind of chaotic. For example, just crossing the street is stressful because there are no proper crosswalks in some of the busiest tourist areas. Also, the top sights will be packed, and that gets a bit old after a few days. You can see the top sights including the Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and Pantheon in one day, and the Vatican Museum in another day. In both cases you’ll still have late afternoon and evening to stroll through the public squares and have dinner and such.

      Then when you get to Sorrento it’s just much more pleasant and there are also top sights nearby including Pompeii, Naples, Amalfi Coast, and Capri. You could go either way, depending on which place sounds like it would suit you better. Have a wonderful trip. -Roger

  6. lean sing says:

    Thank you Roger for such a detailed reply!

    My tentative plan is:
    Day 1 – Arrive Venice
    Day 2- Leave for Florence
    Day 3,4,5 – Florence
    Day 6 – Leave for Rome
    Day 7,8,9 – Rome
    Day 10 – Leave for Sorrento
    Day 11,12,13 – Sorrento
    Day 14 – Fly to Siciliy
    Day 15,16,17 – Sicily
    Day 18 – Fly back to Singapoer

    My questions are:
    1.) Would it be too rush in venice?
    2.) Any places i should cut down?
    3.) Any out of the beaten track i should visit? Perhaps Lake Como – i would really love to explore “quintessential” italy rather than just the typical touristy spots. 🙂

    Thanks once again!

    1. Roger Wade says:

      lean,

      You can see all of the main sights in Venice in 24 hours or even less. So it really depends on when your flight lands. I notice on your itinerary that you have a full day dedicated to leaving for each city. One nice thing about Italy is that these cities are all fairly close to each other and connected by high speed trains. In other words, you can leave Venice at noon and arrive in Florence at 2pm. With that in mind, I recommend 3 nights in each city, giving you two full sightseeing days in the middle. With that in mind you could actually move a bit faster, even if you stayed two nights in Venice.

      I don’t think you need to cut out any of this, and I do think you have time for Lake Como if you wanted. In my opinion, Lake Como may be a bit overrated. It’s a nice looking lake surrounded by mountains, and there are several traditional Italian towns near its center, but I don’t find it too special. It’s mostly a weekend getaway for wealthy people from the Milan area. I’m glad I visited it, but I find the places around Sorrento to be more interesting.

      Speaking of that, there is so much to do in the Sorrento area that you could stay there 5 days and still wish you had more. Naples is a great day trip, and Pompeii is a good half-day trip. There is also the Amalfi Coast and the island of Capri nearby. Sorrento itself is really nice, and it’s not overly touristy like Venice or parts of Florence or Rome. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

  7. lean sing says:

    Dear Roger,

    I must say not only is your website a great treasure trove of information but i am mighty impress with you answering every single question posted! The suggestions you have made are tailored to every request and i am not sure how you do it but you are amazing! I know you have received many thanks for the website and for your feedback but let me thank you once again for this amazing website and for you too. I actually feel bad that i am going to ask you questions which you must have answered a gazillion times throughout the various questions and answers found on this thread – but i hope i do not come across shameless by asking questions too!

    I am planning to my first ever trip to europe..and i have 2-2.5 weeks for it. Initially i was contemplating doing london/France/Italy…then i narrowed it down to France/Italy…then i think i am settled on Italy itself.

    There are four main things i am keen to explore/try in italy:
    1.) Historical Sites
    2.) Amazing Culture
    3.) The amazing food
    4.) Hopefully Juventus or AC Milan Football Stadium

    I would love to do the Big 3 (Rome/Florence/Venice) and do Naples/Amalfi coast/Pompeii/Sorrento and Siciliy

    Based on what i am keen to explore…
    1.) My first question is how many days would u recommend in each place for a 2-2.5 Week tour.

    2.)And if there is one place you would choose for the most amazing food…which place would it be?

    3.)Oh…we (my parents and i) are thinking of going in late august and Early September. Would that be a good time to go? Or should i wait till mid september?

    4.) What would be the order of places i should visit? Aka..what should i visit first and what i should i visit last? I am flying from Singapore so that would help me plan my arrival and departure.

    Once again thank you for your enthusiastic and helpful comments.

    Blessings,
    Lean Sing

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Lean Sing,

      Thank you for the kind words. I have been to nearly every major place in Europe and I enjoy helping people plan trips. Also, this is my full-time job and these questions help me figure out what people want to know, so I write content to reach even more people. In other words, it’s sort of like market research.

      If you are going to Italy for 14 to 18 days, I’d do 3 days in Rome (it’s a big city but it’s also a bit crazy and gets old pretty quickly), 3 days in Florence, and 1 or 2 days in Venice. I’ve yet to make it to Sicily and I’m not sure I’d recommend it for a first trip. If you did go I think you’d need at least 3 days. It takes quite a bit of time to get there, even from Naples, because the trains are slower the farther south you go.

      For the balance of the trip, which could be 3 to 6 days or so, I’d base myself in Sorrento to see all of the things around there. It’s kind of a low-key place, but it’s very nice and fairly easy to visit because so many people speak English there.

      The food in Italy tends to be different for each region. As you probably know, Naples claims to be the birthplace of pizza. There are two very old pizza places near each other there, and I was blown away by how good the pizza was at the less-busy place on the day I went. I expected it to be good, but not that good. Many people say that Tuscany, including Florence, has the most notable cuisine. There are better people to comment on this topic, I’m sure.

      It will be very hot in late August, and air-conditioning isn’t quite as common there as it is in some other places such as Singapore. Also, about half of Italian office workers take all of August off and head to the nearest beach. So beach areas are insanely crowded in August, while big cities feel strangely empty. I’d say the weather would be nicer in September, and crowds will be smaller as well. I’d go in September if it were me. But August in Rome is still probably cooler than August in Singapore.

      I’d start in Venice and then Florence, Rome, and down to Sorrento. If you want to do Sicily you can take a train from Naples or possibly even fly. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

  8. Camille says:

    Hi Roger, I’ve been readind your blog for the past hour, thank you so much for all the tips and personal advices.
    My boyfriend (from israel) is doing a last minute two months trip in europe because he got his visa refused for his original trip in the US. I’m trying to help him to plan 🙂
    His trip :
    – from mid october to the end of december
    – very flexible with timing
    – no car
    – very interested in nature, hike, views and big cities, not very in historical sites or museums
    – least rain possible and not very cold weather (not a lot warm clothes after his two months in california)

    The plan so far is : fly from the US to Paris to visit me for a few days, then spending two weeks in France. I’m french and i’m having a hard time planning him a nice itinary in France, with no car and no rain/very cold weather. Any tips would be valuable (Lyon? then head south? But I read provence is not worth it without a car… then nice?)

    Then he is heading to Italy for 3 weeks (or a bit more), the plan is :
    2 days in Milan (or 1)
    2 days in cinque terra
    2 days in Florence
    1 day in Pisa (or less, just a day trip from florence)
    3 days in the nature in the area of Florence called Toscana
    4 days in Rome
    1 day in Vatican
    4 days in Naples and its surroundings : sorrento, almafi coast
    4 days in Puglia and its surroundings
    2 days in Bologne
    2 days in Venice
    + maybe a few days in sicilia

    And then he is heading for Spain for 3 weeks, we still need to plan this, then joining me in my city in Bordeaux for Christmas.

    However, I think three countries in 2 months might not be enough. Do you have any advice on a country not too far from these (I mean accessible with train or cheap flights), for 1 or 2 weeks, without a car, and expecting almost no rain or very cold weather? It would be before Italy so the beginning of November or after Italy so at the end of November…

    I hope this was not too confusing, I really want to help him build a great trip after his big disappointment from the US visa.
    Thank you a lot,
    Camille

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Camille,

      I’ll try to answer the questions in order…

      Since you are French I’d assume you’d have a much better idea of where to take him than I would. Nice and that area should definitely be on your list, as it’s still reasonably pleasant there in late October. Lyon and Marseille are not really tourist cities for most visitors, but with a French person there I’d imagine you could unlock a lot of the local culture for the both of you. You might also consider Avignon as an interesting stop.

      Cinque Terre will be quite dead in early November, but at least you’ll mostly have it to yourself. I’m not sure I’d go there that time of year. And I’d do Pisa as a day trip from Florence, as it takes only about an hour each way.

      As for where else you might go, Spain is obviously huge and the weather in the south will still be pretty good that time of year. Portugal actually has slightly warmer weather on average, and there is a lot to see there as well. Those two countries are quite different from one another, mostly because Spain was shut off from most of the world for those decades.

      Croatia is another one to consider, although November is the start of the rainy season there, so maybe not. You could go to Athens or other places on the Greek mainland, which are still fairly warm and dry in November. You could get a cheap flight out of one of the larger cities you are already visiting. The Greek Islands are mostly shut down by November, so I wouldn’t recommend going to one of them.

      Of course if you want warm and pleasant weather in the autumn or winter you could always fly to the Canary Islands. Tenerife is the largest and the easiest for English speakers, and it’s got some good nature and hiking and even a volcano. You can get very cheap flights around Europe, especially that time of year. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

  9. Thuy says:

    Dear Roger,

    We are planning a 2 week trip to France – Italy this July for a family of 4 (my kids are 14 and 12). We found your valuable blog while searching for itinerary 😉 This is our first trip in these 2 countries so we would like to do Paris (4 nights), Nice (2 nights), Venice (2 nights, Florence (3 nights), Rome (3 nights) and maybe Milan 1 nights.

    The problem is we already have a return ticket to/from Paris CDG Airport so we have to go back to Paris for flying home.

    We are thinking of flying to Paris, then do a connecting flight or take train to Rome, then Florence, Venice (Milan), Nice and Paris by trains. From Paris to Rome, is there a direct overnight train or we must change in Nice and Venice/Milan? what do you think is the better option (cost/time)?

    Thank you very much.

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Thuy,

      There is an overnight train from Rome to Paris, which takes a bit over 14 hours and changes in Milano and Dijon. However, I’m sure it’s very expensive. I’m not a big fan of night trains, especially in the age of cheap flights like this. If I were you I’d book a flight from Paris to Rome or the other way around if you prefer.

      The only tricky thing is that Paris and Rome each have two major airports, and the cheaper flights often use the smaller ones. So the cheaper flight from Rome to Paris might be into Orly Airport. If that’s the case you’ll either have to allow a few hours to get from there to CDG for your flight home, or pay a bit more for a flight into CDG. Both airports are on the commuter train lines, so getting between them isn’t difficult, but it may not be worth the hassle. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

  10. Chett says:

    Roger,

    First, I want to sincerely thank you for the time you have taken to answer each question that has been asked of you. My high school sweetheart wife and I have been planning our first trip to Europe for over a year now and this website, with the various questions and responses you have provided has been more than any other resource I’ve found (yes, even more than Rick Steves). I’ve pretty much laid out our rough itinerary and wanted to get your feedback to see if it seems reasonable . The outline is pretty much a hybrid of the advice I’ve seen here as well as some sights that Steves provides as well. As you’ll notice, our objective is to see some of the big sites and cities, but spend the bulk of our time out of the busy cities, enjoying the Tuscan countryside, but close enough we can use them as a “hub” as we would if we were staying in Florence.

    Tuesday 6-Jun Arrive Paris & overnight stay in Paris. Sightseeing possible (stay in Montmartre neighborhood or Le Marais)

    Wednesday 7-Jun Paris Sightseeing & overnight

    Thursday 8-Jun Paris Sightseeing with overnight train to Rome

    Friday 9-Jun Arrive Rome in morning, sightseeing with overnight

    Saturday 10-Jun Rome sightseeing & overnight

    Sunday 11-Jun Rome sightseeing & overnight (Depart Rome morning of 12th and ride the train to Siena to rent a car to drive as we visit Tuscany region).

    Monday 12-Jun Montepulcino overnight (use as a hub for southern Tuscany)

    Tuesday 13-Jun Montepulcino overnight

    Wednesday 14-Jun Montecatini Terme overnight (use as a hub for northern Tuscany. Include day trips to Cinque Terre, Pisa, and trip(s) to Florence)

    Thursday 15-Jun Montecatini Terme overnight

    Friday 16-Jun Montecatini Terme overnight

    Saturday 17-Jun Montecatini Terme overnight (or drive to Florence to turn in car and take train to Venice late afternoon for overnight in Venice (3.5 hour train ride from Florence to Venice)

    Sunday 18-Jun Train to Venice & Sightseeing- Overnight in Venice

    Monday 19-Jun Venice & flight to Paris/overnight (flight is at 9:00 so most of the day can be spent sight seeing Venice)
    Tuesday 20-Jun Fly home

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Chett,

      Thank you for the kind words. I’m a huge fan of Rick Steves and I have used his guidebooks and advice to plan many of my own Europe trips. As a result, much of the advice that I give ends up being similar to his advice.

      I think your plan looks fantastic. Speaking of Paris, I love the Montmartre neighborhood, but I also agree with Rick Steves that the Rue Cler neighborhood (near the Eiffel Tower) can be even better for a short visit because it’s so central AND it’s so charming and French.

      And personally, I’m not a big fan of overnight trains. They are rarely cheap, you miss all the scenery, and I never sleep well on them. But they can be an unforgettable experience so it may be worth a try.

      I’m also not familiar with some of your Tuscan stops, but it’s clear that you’ve researched this well. And if you are following Rick Steves advice on where to go, I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time. I’m happy to have helped, and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger