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

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  1. Leicha Keldie says:

    Hi Roger,

    Loving this site! Amazing wealth of info.

    Hubby and I are planning a month trip in June/July 2018: London, France, Italy (first time) want to do as much as possible.

    Sooo many places to see and so much to do, its all a bit overwhelming!

    We are planning on flying into either London or Rome (depending on my mum/school holidays as she will be teaching English in Naples)

    Itinerary WISH LIST includes:

    London 4 nights
    Paris 4 nights
    Nice 2 nights (Monaco as a day trip)
    Milan or Lake Como (possibly 1 night)
    Verona passing through to Venice
    Venice 2 nights
    Florence 2 nights
    Cinque Terre 2 nights
    A 1/2 day trip to Pisa
    Rome 4 nights
    Train from Rome to Naples onto Sorrento for 3 nights as a base to do the Almafi Coast
    Possible night in Capri
    Almafi Coast back to Rome to fly out

    This could be reversed depending on mums work/time off. I.E flying into Rome and out of London

    I’m a bit lost/unsure about how to go about piecing together/aligning/configuring all our ‘must visit places” in a succinct travel route without doubling back on ourselves.

    I’m not sure if it would be better to go from Nice -> Milan -> Como -> Verona -> Venice -> Cinque Terre -> Pisa -> Florence -> Rome -> Almafi Coast

    OR

    Nice -> Cinque Terre -> Milan -> Como -> Verona -> Venice -> Florence -> Pisa -> Rome -> Amalfi Coast

    Or should we skip Milan/Lake Como and go from Nice to Cinque Terra -> Pisa -> Florence up to Verona -> Venice -> then go down the East Coast to Rome or Almafi Coast ending in Rome?

    Again if we fly into Rome this will be different and I am finding it hard to sort out a direct route without doubling back.

    Can we do Rome -> Almafi Coast back up North without having to go back to Rome? Then would onto Venice -> Verona -> Milan -> Lake Como -> Florence -> Pisa -> Cinque Terra -> Nice -> Paris -> London work better?

    Any suggestions/fine tuning would be much appreciated. Thanks

    Leicha Keldie

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Leicha,

      I’m very happy to hear that the site is helpful. I’ll try to answer your questions in order. Your itinerary looks very good as it is, but maybe there are minor changes.

      I think my first recommendation, which will make a lot of the rest of this easier, is to skip the Cinque Terre for this trip. There are a handful of very photogenic areas in the 5 Towns area, but at this point the crowds in peak months (such as June and July) are just so overwhelming that it’s become very hard to enjoy. Interestingly, those 5 villages were mostly forgotten by tourism until around 15 years ago when one or two major travel writers started recommending them as quiet and authentic fishing villages. Since then, they’ve become so popular that they have been “loved to death” as the expression goes, and they are even considering limiting tourist numbers per day. If you are really curious to see them you could do a day-visit while staying in Florence, but even that might be overwhelming.

      If you do skip Cinque Terre for this trip (maybe you’ll go back on an October visit in the future?), the routing is much easier and more obvious.

      Milan and Lake Como are also interesting. Milan isn’t a very touristy city, except the area around the cathedral is really lovely and worth a look, and of course the Last Supper if you reserve far enough ahead. Lake Como is really nice and very photogenic in good weather. You reach Lake Como on a suburban train from Milan that takes about an hour. Once off the train in Varenna, it’s a short walk through town to the ferry stop and from there you can take the frequent and cheap ferries to any of the other nearby towns. Varenna itself is nice and it’s convenient, although Bellagio is larger and has more hotels and shopping. It will also be fairly crowded, but I’d go to Lake Como rather than Cinque Terre.

      To reach Sorrento you take the high-speed train from Rome to Naples in a bit over an hour. Once in Naples you then go downstairs from the main train station into the suburban train station below where you will catch the Circumvesuviana train that ends in Sorrento about 70 minutes later, and runs every 30 minutes. You can also take a ferry from Naples to Sorrento, but from the train station it takes quite a bit longer. With this in mind, you could do Sorrento before or after Rome pretty easily, depending on your flight schedule and all of that.

      I’ve only ever changed trains in Verona, but it looks like the main town center is very nice and worth a stop. I hope this helps. If you are determined to do Cinque Terre I would do it from Florence or Pisa, rather than down from Genoa when you first get into Italy. As always, let me know if you have any other questions and I’ll be happy to try to help. -Roger

  2. Bill says:

    Hi Roger. Just back from spending 2 weeks driving from Avignon, France to Genoa, Italy and based on your recommendations, has to be the best vacation every traveled. The people, food and Images/ scenery along the French Riviera is something that can’t be put in words other then fantastic. Even thought we had been in Nice before, that trip even though spectacular, your suggestion to visit the small fishing villages/towns was even more impressive. Now for next year. We plan to stay in Sicily for two weeks around Catania, Do you have any suggestion for day trips? Thanks again for your recommendations and I hope others follow what your suggestion are, tey can’t go wrong!

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Bill,

      Thank you so much for letting me know that things went so well. It really makes trying to help people worthwhile when I get feedback like that.

      I wish I could help with Sicily but I haven’t made it there myself yet. I spent a few weeks on Malta early last year and I was going to take a ferry to Sicily, but something came up and I ended up having to skip it and going to Barcelona by plane instead. I hear good things about Sicily, although two weeks sounds longer than most people stay. Sorry I can’t offer any good suggestions, and hopefully you can find answers on lonelyplanet.com or wikitravel.org. Best of luck. -Roger

  3. trina says:

    Thanks Roger for your advice. I was definitely considering Avignon before. Is 6 days in Paris too much? Should I do 4 Paris and 2 Avignon? I’m flying into Paris so 1 day for jet lag. Also maybe Crete or Rhodes in Greece would be a good idea or is there not enough historical stuff to see? I was thinking if I stayed in Larissa I could do easy day trips to Delphi and Mycenae. If I did Turkey could you recommend some places? I’d love to see Troy’s old site, but other than that I’m open. I thought traveling to Turkey too would be too much when I was looking at it, but maybe I’m wrong? Should I cut a day or two off Athens and Thessaloniki? I figured to do day trips from Thessaloniki I’d need to do about 4 days to not make it too rushed.

    Paris 1-4
    Avignon 4-7
    Venice 7-9
    Florence 9-12
    Rome 12-16
    Athens 16-20
    Larissa 20-22
    Thessaloniki 22-25
    Turkey 25-30? and where would you recommend flying out of to the US? I was thinking of flying out of Thessaloniki before, but I found it’s not a good idea since they do more domestic flights.

  4. trina says:

    I have 30 days in September next year. I’m already scheduled for a tour company in Italy so Florence can’t have added days but Venice and Rome can. I’m free for suggestions in France and Greece on what cities to stay. I’m very interested in historical places, including castles, churches, famous battle sites, etc. I could care less about beaches, seaside little towns like Cinque Terre, and I don’t party or drink so nightlife stuff doesn’t interest me. My tentative schedule is below, feedback is welcome.

    Paris 1-7 (possible day trips or Nice, not sure yet)
    Venice 7-9
    Florence 9-12
    Rome 12-15
    Athens 15-20
    20-25 (Not sure where to stay between these two, I’d like to see Delphi and Mycenae and maybe Epidaurus but I’m open to ideas)
    Thessaloniki 25-29 (I’m going to do Pella and Vergina as day trips if possible)

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Trina,

      There are many great historic towns in France that you might choose, and I think Avignon might be a good one for you with its history and architecture. Two days in Venice is a good length because it’s so small that you can see the highlights in that amount of time, and it’s so crowded that you’ll be ready to leave after two days. Three days in Rome is also good, although if you like history you might add another day. Rome is packed with excellent sights, and you need almost a whole day in the Vatican alone. But Rome is also fairly chaotic so most people don’t like to linger after they’ve seen the main sights.

      Five days in Athens sounds like a lot to me. The main sights are amazing, but you can see them in 2 or 3 days. I don’t think I’d stay more than 4 days. My remaining experience in Greece is on a few islands so I can’t help much more than that. Some islands do have impressive ruins and such, but most people go to the islands just to sit on the beach in the day and drink at night, so it’s probably better that you stay on the mainland.

      I’ve watched several travel shows and read a lot about Peloponnese and it seems to be the best region for history and sights outside of Athens, but again, I can’t say I’m an expert on it. I’ve spent far more time in Turkey and you might also consider popping over there for at least part of your stay. Istanbul is obviously one of the world’s most historic cities, but there is much more to see, of course. Sorry I wasn’t of more help. Feel free to ask other questions if you have them. -Roger

  5. Helen says:

    Hello Roger

    Thank you for your comments on July 16 2017 they are very much appreciated.

    I am wanting to ask you, whether you could recommend any places in the tuscany region to stay.

    And also where else in France besides Paris would be great to stay and visit. I do love very friendly, cost effective and interesting places. Can you recommend any?

    Once again, thank you for reading and replying to my questions.

    Kind Regards
    Helen

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Helen,

      In the Tuscany region you’ll obviously want to stay in Florence. Pisa is a popular day trip from Florence, as you can reach it in about an hour and see the Leaning Tower and the cathedral next door in a short time. The rest of Pisa isn’t very interesting. The next larger city to consider is Siena, but aside from having far fewer tourists than Florence, I don’t think it’s all that interesting. You might instead consider visiting one or two of the nearby hill towns for something very different. Volterra and San Gimignano are probably the best ones to consider for a first visit to Italy.

      France is huge and it’s hard to recommend just a few places. The Loire Valley near Paris is a wonderful area with great scenery and a variety of amazing palaces you can visit. Nice is probably the second best place in France to visit because it’s a very interesting city on the Mediterranean and it’s also a 20-minute train ride from Cannes in one direction and Monaco in the other. Those towns are all packed and very expensive in July and August, but the rest of the year they aren’t too bad. I mention a few other places on my article about best first-time Europe itinerary ideas. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

  6. Judith says:

    Thanks so much—We will overnight in Cinque Terre (Vernazza) and add a night onto the Barcelona stay
    Thanks I will let you know how it goes
    Judith:)

  7. Judith says:

    Great site and such a wealth of information—-I have spent along evening reading and feel I have already travelled

    My husband and I have 10 days travel We are from NZ and this is our first Italy trip so we want to balance getting a taster to return. We leave London on 29 Aug flying out of Barcelona on 9 September

    I have been researching and have come up with this train trip
    1.fly into Florence 29 Aug (3 nights)
    2.Cinque Terre (2 nights) We enjoy walking though I do read your comments about overcrowding SHOULD I LEAVE THIS OUT
    3.Genoa (1 night)-this seemed to be a midpoint
    4.Nice (2 nights)–side trips to Monaco
    5.Carcasonne (1 night)the pictures looked spectacular
    6.Barcelona (2 nights leave on 9 Sept)

    Have I missed any places out?
    I have read your many comments about Sorrento but I do not think I can add this into a 10 day itinerary??

    I w0uld appreciate your comments

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Judith,

      I’m so glad to hear that you find this useful. I would say that 2 nights in Cinque Terre might be a bit much, even at the beginning of September. Those towns just seem to be so overcrowded in the summer months that many people no longer find them charming at all. On one hand you could just visit as a day trip from Florence, but so many other people are doing that that you’d only see them at their most crowded. If you stayed overnight you could at least enjoy the towns in the mornings and evenings when they are less crowded. It’s tough to say which is better.

      And I agree that you don’t really have time for Sorrento on this trip. I haven’t been to Carcassonne, but that could be a good side trip and a way to break up the journey from Nice to Barcelona. So I think your itinerary should work well, although I think it’s a shame that you don’t have 3 nights for Barcelona because it’s a large and amazing city. Also, I’m not terribly fond of one-night stops such as in Genoa, because you don’t get to see much in one evening and you maximize your time checking into and out of hotels. Still, Genoa is an interesting city so it’s not crazy to do that.

      I think this will work well or if you change a thing or two it could work even better. It looks like you have planned very well so far. -Roger

  8. Helen says:

    Hi Roger

    My husband & I are travelling to Europe next year in particular Amsterdam to visit relatives and Mainz in Germany to visit my God Child but mostly Crotia, Italy and France we are looking at mid April for 6-8 weeks. We live in Australia and it has been 20 odd years since we were in Europe last.

    I am planning to spend about 4 nights in Holland, 3 nights in Mainz and the rest in Crotia, Italy & France (we would like to travel to Spain, Portugal & Scotland but am thinking of leaving these for another trip)

    In Italy I am interested in Lake Como – staying in Varenna or Bellagio) for 3 nights, Cinque Terre for 3 nights, Florence (visiting Pisa & Siena) for 4 nights, Rome for 3 nights, Sorrento (Amalfi & Capri) for 3 nights, Venice for 2 nights and would also like to spend some time in Tuscany.

    In Crotia, I would like to visit Dubronik and Split for 3/4 nights each.

    In France I would like to visit Paris for 4 nights but am undecided after this. Although we love to see the BIG sights, I do love smaller villages to visit as well.

    We both are very active people and do enjoy a more slower travel and the fast paced organised group tours but feel a bit overwhelmed with organising this myself.

    I would really appreciate your thoughts on this.

    With Warm Regards
    Helen

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Helen,

      I think your plan looks fantastic, and it’s sort of rare that I say that the number of days you are planning for each stop looks just about perfect already. I try to discourage many people from going to Cinque Terre in summer because it’s just too crowded to enjoy, but in April it should be pretty nice (and fairly chilly, of course). I wouldn’t recommend Cinque Terre or Lake Como for a shorter trip, but since you are going to be there for as long as you are, I think those are both fine ideas. Varenna has a train station so it’s the easiest to reach, but it’s a short walk to the ferry stop and then a short ferry ride to Bellagio, which is larger and has more hotels, so either one will work well.

      If you haven’t been to Paris in a long time I do think it would be enjoyable this time. As cliche as it might seem, Paris really is a magical place and there is so much to enjoy there that it would be a shame to skip it. Mid April to the end of May is also pretty much the perfect time for a trip like this because it’ll be warm enough to enjoy, but obviously before the summer season and the big crowds. I don’t have much more to say, but I’m happy to answer questions if you have them. -Roger

  9. Joanne says:

    Hi Roger

    so glad I discovered your site. So impressed that you reply to all these questions! Hopefully you have time to answer this one.
    We are planning a month in Europe next summer with our 3 kids (boys between 10 and 14).
    We don’t want to focus on the big cities and would prefer more local experiences rather than traditional tourist sight seeing. We are planning on travelling around by train and on our list is Italy – the types of locations appealing to us are Venice, Cinque Terre, Puglia, Sorrento, Capri. We would also like to visit Austria, Germany, and possibly Croatia. (I did have Switzerland in mind but read your article and think it might drop off the wish list). Does this sound like a feasible itinerary and any destinations in these countries you would recommend?
    Many thanks

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Joanne,

      I’m glad you found this site as well. I think it’s more helpful to start planning a trip like this in terms of the cities or places you want to visit rather than countries. If you have 30 days I highly recommend shooting for around 10 total stops, so 3 nights in most places. If you move around more quickly then you’ll be spending half your time on trains and in train stations, and if you move around more slowly you won’t see as much. Also, you can see the highlights of almost any city in Europe in 3 nights, which allows for 2 full sightseeing days.

      Venice is an exception because it’s small and so crowded that really 1 or 2 days is plenty. It’s also hard to recommend Cinque Terre these days because the towns are all so small and insanely packed that you just won’t enjoy it. Ironically, people only started going there as tourists in the 1990s or so, mostly because they were charming and unknown. Now everyone goes there and they are like a theme park without much to do.

      I’m a big fan of Sorrento as a base for 4 or 5 days to see all of the interesting things around there. You might plan on 15 days or so in Italy and the other 15 days in the other countries. You might be interested in my article about where to go in Germany. As for Austria, you’ll love Salzburg but I wouldn’t recommend Vienna if you aren’t fond of big cities. Salzburg is a short train ride from Munich, and you’ll also enjoy the small village of Hallstatt. That whole area is really lovely and it’s of course much cheaper than Switzerland.

      It might be best to save Croatia for a future trip. The coastal towns will be packed with northern Europeans in July and August. Split is easier to reach than Dubrovnik and much cheaper as well, even though it’s just as impressive. And then there is the excellent Plitvice Falls National Park, which is one of Europe’s most beautiful natural sights.

      Hopefully that gives you some ideas to narrow your plan down a bit more. I’m happy to help if you have other questions along the way. -Roger

  10. Ding Lean Sing says:

    Thank You Roger once again for your patience and guidance!