I am planning to spend 2 weeks with my 21 year old son after he finishes a semester abroad and would like to explore southern France and some of Italy . Any suggestions of route? Not sure if I should just stay in France or also visit around Cinque Terre which looks gorgeous but may be too busy. .
After staying in Nice we rented a car at the airport and drove to Alba in the Piemonte, beautiful wine producing area. Charming villages and less crowded than Tuscany.
Then we drove to Lake Garda for one night en route to Ortisei in the Dolomites with it's breathtaking mountain scenery. Finally we drove south to Bologna for several days. We enjoyed all of our stays, rural and urban. Car was returned to Nice, flew to Paris and home.We planned this trip to include places we had missed in Northern Italy. We had been in the Cinque Terre previously as well as Santa Margherita Ligure, Verona, Milan and all three major Italian Lakes. All of these destinations are wonderful places to visit.
Here is rough draft what I recommend (include short day trips from base cities):
Start in Nimes or Avignon or Arles stay 4 days
Train to Nice stay 3 days
Train to Monteroso al mare (the biggest town along the Cinque Terre) via Genoa stay 3 days
Train to Florence stay 3 days
Fly back starting from Florence or Pisa airports
Where is your son studying?
There's plenty in southern France to fill two weeks. I think "gorgeous but busy" might be an appropriate motto for the Cinque Terre.
I hope, and for the purpose of this reply assume, that the semester ends in May or June rather than December.
Southern France includes the southwest, where there is plenty to see and do, so you would not be impoverished if you chose to keep this a single-country road trip. If you want to spend time in both countries, I'd emphasize Provence over the Cote d'Azure, and would think carefully about the logistics involved. In particular,
- There are stiff drop-off fees if you return a rental car to a country that is different from the one you started in
- The mountains on the border make the transit between France and Italy slow going.
That said, in your position I would be tempted to spend some of the time in Italy. But, think it through carefully! It may not be as straightforward as you suppose.