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Italy-Alps-France (2 weeks) IDEAS PLEASE

Hi All,

I've been elected by my family to come up with a plan for a two week "family" (grown people) trip for JUNE 2022. The group includes my sister and her husband who have never traveled to Europe. I have been 3 times myself and the rest our our group (including 80 yr old mother) have been as well. I'm thinking of the following itinerary:

TOTAL DAYS: 14 Days in Europe + 2 Travel Days on either end.

FIRST PART OF TRIP:
• Fly into Rome - 2 nights + half day - Tour the usual sights.
• Experience Tuscany Countryside / hill town? - (Possible car rental)

MIDDLE PART OF TRIP:
• Thinking of leaving Italy (out of Florence?) on an evening night train w/ Couchette sleepers reserved. There's a night train that leaves at 10pm, arrive 9am in Munich. Somehow we need to get to Murren Switzerland and the Bernese Oberland Valley. Need to show them that. Possibility of staying somewhere else in Austria. or Switzerland. This part is very up in the air.

LAST 5 -6 DAYS
• Train to Loire Valley and tour the castle estates. (2 nights)
• Last 3.5 days in Paris. Fly home CDG Airport.

What I'm wanting is to give them a taste of the 3 regions. Roman antiquities & countryside. /. Alpine thrills and mountainous views. / French countryside, food, wine - and finish in Paris.

Open to all ideas and itinerary thoughts. Everyone on the trip knows each day is flexible and can join or opt out if they wish. Obviously Rome and Paris will be the most intense, but we're just looking to hit the highlights and not see everything.

PS. I have been to ROME - SIENA - FLORENCE - MUNICH - MURREN - PARIS. ... which are all on this route roughly. Open to new places also the way. Rome and Paris are pretty set as we'll most likely be flying in and out of.
I know these are very quick visits, but I think it's doable with the right transportation ideas. Probably going to edit quite a bit. Maybe go for the Home Base idea in the Alps too.

Thanks!

Posted by
672 posts

Middle part of trip: there are buses that go from Munich to Zurich in about 5 hours. Cheaper and faster than the train.

https://www.flixbus.com/bus-routes/bus-zurich-munich

Also, you don't say if your group likes to hike. If they do, click on my name where you'll find a link to our dozen fav trails near Murren, with pics and maps.

Posted by
3137 posts

I suggest you look carefully at reviews of that night train. Some people, myself included, find sleep very difficult on them. On my one experience I found the noise and jolting movement made sleep impossible.

Posted by
18894 posts

I'm going to be blunt.

I think you are trying to do way too much. How many people will be traveling together? Exactly how many nights can you spend in Europe, not counting the night on the flight to Rome? Two weeks seems to me to call for 3 destinations, especially since two of them are Rome and Paris. What you've sketched out seems like a bus-tour itinerary. How is it going to play out if you tell your family members, including your mother, that they have to be packed and in the breakfast room at 7:15? I think you're setting yourself up for a lot of traveling, probably considerable waiting around for the family slowpokes, and not much sightseeing.

How many of your group have been to each of the destinations you're considering? In the absence of that information I'll just guess at what might be the most high-impact options for a more streamlined itinerary.

Two nights and a half day is really one full day in Rome; I don't count the sleep-deprived/jetlagged arrival day at all. I also don't count time in the morning on a day when I'm switching hotels. My focus is on getting up, having breakfast, getting packed, getting to the train station, etc. Even if the train departs at 2 PM, I figure I'll do very little sightseeing that day. Some of your folks may still be hampered by jetlag on your only full day in Rome. I think a third night there is the absolute minimum you need, and I wouldn't go for fewer than 4 nights. If some of the group has spent a lot of time in Rome on previous trips, those folks can break loose and take a day-trip to Orvieto.

I don't think Munich is remotely as interesting as your other options, and it requires substantial doubling back to get to Switzerland. I'd axe it without a moment's thought.

Then, if Rome and Paris are musts, I think you need to choose between Tuscany and Switzerland unless you want to work something out (perhaps with a private driver--arranged through MyDayTrip.com?) that allows a blitz past a couple of small hill towns on your way to a city in northern Italy from which you can readily reach the Bernese Oberland the next day. You really, really should allow enough time in Switzerland that your aren't risking a total disaster if you hit bad weather. Which in my experience is quite common in Switzerland in June and not limited to high-mountain areas.

A couchette is not a sleeping compartment. It is a seating compartment that is converted to sleeping space for 4 or 6 people with narrow padded ledges. I have never slept really well on a train, though it wasn't awful when I was in my 20s. My last attempt was so bad (in a couchette traveling south from Rome in 2015) that I hope never to have to take a night train again. I am now 69. Please don't subject your 80-year-old mother to a night train.

Posted by
6508 posts

Two nights and a half day is really one full day in Rome;

This occurred to me immediately as well.

And indeed I wondered how many people are in the party, because the more people, the more slowpokes there are going to be, it’s a rule of thumb.

Posted by
46 posts

All great points and thank you for your replies. I do agree MUNICH is way off track, and the night train is not for everyone. I be take three night trains on couchette sleeper cars “bunks” and loved it every time. Not the best sleep, but invigorating. I crunched numbers and it would be quite expensive, plus going to Munich doesn’t really make sense.
I tend to disagree with the idea that 2 nights and half a day in Rome counts as one day? How about this scenario. Overnight flight arriving in Rome in the AM. Train to accommodations. Staying awake, do Ricks “heart of Rome” walk. Next day full day, following day morning activities into early afternoon. Then take a late afternoon train to Tuscany destination. That really 48 hrs of time in Rome. It depends on how close to train station we are of course.
I know this is an ambitious agenda, but I’m researching the transportation options carefully and want to make it work. This is a highlights tour, not see everything in town.

Posted by
2287 posts

I would definitely axe the Loire valley. You have to change stations and trains in Paris to get there, so it is basically a full day of travel there, half a day back, just to see a pair of chateaux on your only day there. Much better IMO to add one of the nights to Paris, and one to Rome.

Posted by
25750 posts

Fly into Rome - 2 nights + half day - Tour the usual sights.

When you say that do you mean to drive past, or do you mean to visit each?

Of the main attractions which do you count as the usual sights?

I would expect you to be choosing between:

Borghese Gallery

Pantheon

Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel

Aqueduct Park

Campo de' Fiori

St Peter's

Colosseum (any extra tours like third level or under floor?)

Forum

Jewish quarter

Trastavere

Piazza Navona

Trevi Fountain

Farnese Chapel/Palazzo

Spanish Steps

without any churches except St Peters. Which did you have in mind?

The other question is about your 80 year old mother - how fit is she? Can she do lots of walking and stairs?

How will you get around Rome - walk?

Posted by
25750 posts

I was just thinking of something else - you said you were elected to run this.

That means that whenever anybody in the group is unhappy with anything you will be to blame.

Have you thought of giving plenty of buy-in to everyone so that they each feel part of the ownership of the planning and the trip? If they feel that they participated and chose the things to do, you are much less likely to be at the wrong end of the blame.

How many total in the group? Any kids or grandkids?

By the way - with so many newcomers asking questions recently it is great to be answering a question from a real veteran of the Graffiti Wall / Helpline / Forums

Posted by
221 posts

Seeing Murren and BO is worth the effort in my book. But why not take the train from Florence to Milan then on to Murren. It is 7 hours with 5 changes, but it is the fastest route. And Murren is special!!!!

Posted by
25750 posts

the 5 changes aren't so bad either. The train to Interlaken Ost, the train to Lauterbrunnen, the gondola up to Grütschalp, and the little train along the clifftops to Mürren will all need to be used no matter how you travel...

the rest is only train Florence to Milan, then Milan to Spiez, then as above... all easy stuff

Posted by
8232 posts

Everyone has made some really good points.

When I plan, I factor in nights, not days. If you arrive in Rome from the U.S. and spend 2 nights, that is indeed one full day in the city. I find it’s easier and more accurate to plan that way. Rome in June is likely to be hot. You will have a partial arrival day with people who are probably going to be jet lagged. Your departure day will probably not produce much if any sightseeing. If you have already had to check out of your hotel, where is your luggage? With you? Stashed at the train station? People are right when they say a group travels at the pace of the slowest person. Every time you change locations you will lose time.

I agree with those that say you are trying to do too much in the time you have. It will be a blur of faint memories afterwards. How many nights will you be in Europe? Don’t factor in your departure day as one that you will see anything.

If you have 14 nights in Europe I suggest something like this:

Arrive in Rome - spend 3-4 nights. If 4 nights do a day trip to Orvieto for a hill town experience.

Tuscany - you haven’t said how many people will be traveling with you. Hill towns generally require a car. Can you fit in one? Will you need two? Would you consider just spending 1-2 nights in a small town so they can get a small taste of the experience?* An alternative to Tuscany could be Lake Como, which would be a new experience for you as well. If you train to Varenna and spend 2 nights you can explore the area by ferry.

*Disregard if you go to Orvieto.

Skip Munich. It’s an outlier.

Switzerland - spend 3-4 nights. Weather can be iffy and you want to have more opportunities for clear days. Train from Lake Como. It will be a longer trip coming from Tuscany.

Paris - train from BO. A long day but what is the alternative? Spend the remainder of your nights there. Hopefully you will have at least 4 nights. You can arrange a one day tour to the Loire to see some Château one day. That would still allow 2 days in Paris.

Planning for a group is a challenge. Whoever said that you will be blamed if something isn’t to an individual’s liking is probably right. Good luck with your planning and enjoy your trip.

Posted by
916 posts

I have a crazy suggestion for you. Book your group on the Rick Steves Best of Europe tour. You'll see all the places you're interested in without having to plan any of it. You could even do the My Way version if you want to keep the days open, but have transportation and hotel taken care of. This absolves you of the responsibility of planning for a group.

Posted by
835 posts

Wow I'm in the camp of "way too much" for your time period. I like the suggestion of doing a RS tour and leaving the logistics up to RS. I think for large groups its easier to tour or cruise. Less chance of being the "bad guy" and more opportunity to please more people in the group.

Posted by
3533 posts

Nigel and acraven give excellent advice. Let me add a bit about travelling in a group like this. Not everybody will like all your suggestions; that's a sure bet. What my friends have found useful is to agree, in advance, that individuals and small groups can go their separate ways during the day, then share their adventures over the evening meal. It shifts some of the planning responsibilities, so less blame (if any) for you. But it also will take more time, as the individuals will set different paces. Cutting the number of destinations will allow for a more thorough experience (plus save travel time and money.)

Posted by
46 posts

Europe Trip Plan II

Details: 8 People traveling - All fit (18-57) - Mother is fit at 80 (she says she'll stay in the hotel and read if she doesn't want to join us for certain activities) Flying from Portland, SFO, and Palm Springs. Whomever in the group "Slowpoke" gets left behind. And we're not gathering in the hotel lobby at 7:15 at any point in this trip.

Here's a more revised version of my Trip plan. A few remarks prior. This is basically a EUROPE ROAD TRIP. I like comparing this itinerary to a good old fashioned American road trip. Pile the family into the car, hit the road and go see some great sights. Granted, much of the traveling will be by train, which is for staring out the window, having a beverage, playing cards, etc. Also, two of our family members have never been to Europe. Like my first trip, I never planned on seeing EVERYTHING. Just the highlights. More if I had enough energy. Less if I was pooped. At the end of this trip, I don't expect everyone to "be relaxed" but to fly back to the states with a ton of good memories. Here's the rough plan:

----- FLY TO ROME ------

DAY 01 - Flight to ROME arrives 9am. Get to Airbnb - Explore, Evening Walk and dinner on Rick's Heart of Rome walk. Staying in centralized Airbnb - SLEEP IN ROME

DAY 02 - Colosseum, Forum, Palatine Hill - Lunch, Rest - Late Afternoon / Evening exploration if desired. - SLEEP IN ROME

DAY 03 - Early Entrance (private tour) to Sistine Chapel, Museum, St Peter's, Vatican grounds. Lunch, Rest. More Exploration later that day evening if needed (Borgese Gallery?) - SLEEP IN ROME

----- ON TO FLORENCE ------

DAY 04 - Breakfast (Espresso / Pastry) Get to Rome Train Station - 1.5 hour train to Florence - Arrive approx. 12:30pm. Airbnb, Central Florence location. Stroll though city center, See Duomo, Possible Uffizi Gallery (Highlights). Dinner and Gelato - SLEEP IN FLORENCE

DAY 05 - See David at Acadamia, Ponte Veccio, Explore some churches, Marketplace, Dinner. - SLEEP IN FLORENCE

DAY 06 - Tuscany Day Trip? - Back by evening, dinner near train station. Board ODD NightJet by 10pm - 10:31 departure - Reserved Sleeper compartments for 8 people. SLEEP ON TRAIN

----- NIGHTJET TO MUNICH ------

DAY 07 - Train arrives at Munich station at 9:30am (Light breakfast and coffee included) - De-board and group walks to MarienPlatz from station to explore, photos, possible coffee and danish. Group piles into Mercedes Mini-Van (seats 9) for 1.5 hour drive to Fussen, Germany.

Fussen, check into hotel, explore town, walks, waterfall, something in the evening? Dinner.

DAY 08 - Castle Nuschwanstein Day (either morning or later in the day) Drive to Ludwig Hunting castle, Weiskirche? Dinner, relax.

----- LONG DRIVE TO LAUNTERBRUNEN - MURREN ------

DAY 09 - After breakfast in Fussen, group boards Mercedes mini van to drive to Interlaken (5 hours roughly) May include a lunch stop in Lucerne. Drop car near Interlaken Ost. Train, bus, cable car to Murren. This is a long travel day, but the group is seeing stuff along the way. SLEEP IN MURREN

DAY 10 - Shilthorn, Hiking, Relaxation, whomeve wants to join. Dinner, views, etc.

DAY 11 - Still in Murren. More relaxation. Vacation inside a vacation.

----- TRAVEL TO PARIS ------

DAY 12 - After Breakfast make our way down to Interlaken, onto Basel, and TGV to Paris. - Get to Accomodations. Evening stroll? Evening Museum, Dinner, etc

DAY 13 - Paris sights - not sure yet

DAY 14 - Paris sights - not sure yet (Possible day trip?)

DAY 15 - Paris sights - not sure yet

DAY 16 - CDG Fly Home

  • We're all meeting in October to review the plan. So far, from the sneak preview I've given, many are excited about the trip. People are free to "do their own thing" at anytime and I expect them to. My brother enjoys cycling. He may forgo Castle Nuschwanstein and go for a 60 mile ride at the base of the alps.
Posted by
1036 posts

Day 2 - you plan on seeing the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palantine Hill. Does this mean you’re not going inside the Colosseum? That’s fine but the reason I’m asking is because you cannot explore the interior of the Colosseum plus walk around the Forum or Palantine Hill in a single morning, all this takes a full day and the Roman Forum is best with a guide. If you plan on seeing the exterior of the Colosseum only, see it at night when it’s fully illuminated. It’s a sight that you’ll never forget.
Day 4 – you want to visit the Uffizi Gallery first thing in the morning and reserve your tickets two months in advance; this museum sells out early. You need to be fully rested to appreciate a good museum. The Uffizi is art appreciation at its best. Afterwards, go to Accademia.

Posted by
920 posts

Hi. I have never considered a Night Jet to Munich. I prefer to see the alpine scenery along the way. I was unclear from the start how important Munich is to the overall plans. It really does seem out of the way. Füssen does kinda also. I am a fan of Munich, just wondering if it fits??

Posted by
46 posts

@MaryPat: First off, for the most part, I will be making advance entry reservations on all available sights that offer them. We will be seeing the Colosseum interior for sure (not sure about the lower and very upper level special tour). I'm also thinking about signing up with a guided tour (not necessarily our own private guide though) for the Forum. (Palatine Hill was kind of an add-on - may or may not see - I'll survey the group on this.) - Agreed on making reservations for Florence galleries and getting to them in the morning. Our strategy on museums is as follows: Armed with the guidebook, or museum map, we're targeting the "Highlights" first and foremost. I visited Uffizi in 2001 - you can only see so many marble busts of emperors, and giant paintings before getting Art Overload. I feel like we need to set a time limit on being in the museum...2 hours? 3 hours? How much is enough. (Do they still have that nice lunch spot with the patio overlooking the square? Nice spot for a break.

@ Debbie: The whole idea with the Munich brief stop is to get into southern Germany, get the rental car and drive to Fussen (and stretch our legs in MarienPlatz while I get the mini-van). Along the way to Fussen, we may stop at WeisKirche, and then approach Fussen / Neuschwanstein along that beautiful lake & meadow. We're also driving to Interlaken via Lichtnesterin and Lucerne a couple days later. I really tried to figure out a way to incorporate one of those "scenic" train line runs on the way to something, but it doesn't really pan out. We should be seeing plenty of amazing alpine vistas in Bayern and Bernese-Oberland valley.

Posted by
51 posts

I would rather catch the evening flight FLR-MUC on Lufthansa. To be honest, I would skip Munich and stay in the Innsbruck area.

Posted by
1036 posts

I feel like we need to set a time limit on being in the museum...2 hours? 3 hours? How much is enough? (Do they still have that nice lunch spot with the patio overlooking the square? Nice spot for a break.

Hi Bart, it takes two hours to walk through the Uffizi Gallery. I believe there is a café at the end of the tour that would make a great meeting place afterwards. This way everyone can walk through the museum at their own pace.

Posted by
18894 posts

Have you checked on the drop charge for picking up the minivan in Germany and dropping it in Switzerland?

I'm not sure how practical it is to plan a lunch stop in Lucerne on the way from Fussen to Interlaken. I wonder how easy it will be to find a place to park a minivan near a place you'll want to eat. I'm guessing (not ever having driven in Europe much less in Switzerland) it would be easier to stop in a smaller town/village rather than in Lucerne.

We normally warn drivers to leave nothing visible in a parked vehicle (which might not be possible with a minivan), but I imagine theft from parked vehicles isn't much of an issue in Switzerland.

Posted by
2287 posts

I would skip Munich and head straight to Switzerland from Florence, adding the Germany days to Switzerland (either 2 nights in Luzern, which would be my choice, or even more time in Mürren). The night train is a love it or hate it affair, half of your party will not sleep. And you are adding a lot of travel time just for a brief visit of Munich (a beautiful city, but certainly not in my Europe top 20) and the castles near Füssen (very striking, but very busy, and a bit of a "postcard" type of place).
Also, the cost of hiring 2 cars (one van will be too tight with 8 people's luggage...) from Germany to Switzerland will be very high.

Posted by
5668 posts

80-year-old mother -- is she up for all the long van days? At 77 I got tired just reading your itinerary! Good rest days in Switzerland, where she can sit looking at the amazing mountains. You might want to check on wheelchair availability in museums, which beats having to look for benches to rest. (Also wheelchair in airports -- I resisted this, but it makes the trip through the airport much faster especially after a looong flight.)

Posted by
920 posts

I would consider stopping in or travelling via Innsbruck and then taking the Arlberg train line to Zurich. This would get you that scenic train ride and be less hectic than Munich/Neuschwanstein. You may be able to avoid the van altogether - unless that is a must-do for you. The extra days could give you extra time in Tuscany if you wanted it. Alternative to sleeping in Innsbruck might be sleeping in Bolzano and then continuing the next day via Arlberg to Zurich. It cuts out that northern blip and gives some wiggle room as you head to Switzerland. Another possible sleepover (depending on how you slice the time) could be Verona. Again, it is on that same pathway heading towards Innsbruck then west towards Switzerland. My goodness, you could even choose a stop in Venice - and while I love Munich, I would choose Venice for the wow-factor over Bavaria.

Wish I were going! Next spring maybe....

Posted by
10 posts

For your Airbnbs make sure you can check in when you arrive, especially for the first night.
We arrived in Rome Tuesday and had to wait until 2:15 to check in our hotel even though I had let them know our flight arrival time. They were full the night before. Left our bags with hotel, walked around, had lunch. Got checked in and was at Borghese at 3:10 for our 3:00 entry.
Prepandemic, I used to travel globally for work so I was ok with this. DH not so much.
Wouldn’t want to be the group leader having to deal with something like this on your trip

Posted by
6607 posts

It is very easy to rent a car in Italy, Rome, Tuscany etc and then drive in and out of Switzerland, returning car in Milan. We drove from Milan to Grindelwald, then to Pontresina, back to Italy visiting Lake Como before ending this part of trip at Milan MXP or LIN . Two weeks in two different countries and cultures. Less stress on everyone especially your mother. Next fly MXP or LIN to Paris CDG or Orly for grand finale.

Posted by
490 posts

I’m planning our third road trip with a group of five, which is challenging enough. Previous trips have been with 4 people. A few things that catch my eye:

You have 8 people in a van that seats 9. The cargo area is about 50” deep by 60” wide. That really limits the luggage you can bring. If everybody brings a full size suitcase, you’ll have people with suitcases on their laps for five hours. Plus 8 personal bags.

The one way drop off fee for rentals can be REALLY high.

A full size van will seriously limit where you can park. Do not plan on driving into any cities, where parking is in garages. Don’t plan on leaving any luggage in the van while in restaurants or sightseeing.

Finding Airbnb’s that sleep 8 will be a challenge. Many places consider a living room with a sofa bed a “bedroom”. I don’t consider sleeping in a sofa bed enjoyable.