Paris, Italy, Greece - 3 weeks in Sept

I'm planning out a three week trip for my sister and I in September and was hoping to get some advice. Below is the itinerary I'm considering. I had a few questions and included some more details at the bottom. In general, we have three weeks and have prioritized Paris, Italy, and Greece as the three places we want to visit. We're trying to do this as cheaply as possible, so plan to look for hostels each night and would appreciate any advice to that end.

  • Sept 2 - 8am flight from Seattle to Paris
  • Sept 3 - 9:30am arrive in Paris. Versaille? I hear they have a fountain show on Weds and figured being outside would help with jetlag. Eiffel tower at sunset? Sleep at a hostel in Paris.
  • Sept 4 - Orsay in am, Seine river tour at sunset. Paris hostel.
  • Sept 5 - picnic at Luxembourg Gardens, Louvre in the evening (open til 9:45pm on Fri). Paris hostel.
  • Sept 6 - any other museums, churches, relaxing. Flight to Florence, arrive 8:30pm. Florence hostel.
  • Sept 7 - Uffizi. Florence hostel
  • Sept 8 - Accademia Gallery. Florence hostel.
  • Sept 9 - train to Rome midday? Rome hostel.
  • Sept 10 - Colosseum, Pantheon. Rome hostel.
  • Sept 11 - Trevi Fountain, St. Peter's Basilica. Rome hostel.
  • Sept 12 - general Rome. Rome hostel.
  • Sept 13 - 2:30pm flight to Santorini ($54!). Santorini hostel.
  • Sept 14 - Santorini
  • Sept 15 - Santorini
  • Sept 16 - ferry to Athens (or Naxos? see question #1 below)
  • Sept 17 - Acropolis, Parthenon. Athens hostel.
  • Sept 18 - general Athens. Athens hostel.
  • Sept 19 - 2:30pm flight to Naples, train to Sorrento. Sorrento hostel.
  • Sept 20 - Amalfi coast. Sorrento hostel.
  • Sept 21 - Pompeii, Herculaneum. Naples hostel.
  • Sept 22 - general Naples. Naples hostel.
  • Sept 23 - 6:40am flight from Naples to Seattle.
  1. I'm really looking forward to the Greek islands and am wondering if it would be better to skip the Amalfi coast and spend a couple days on Naxos or another Greek Island instead. Looking at cheap flights, we could fly from Athens to Naples on Sunday (9/21) rather than Friday (9/19), but wouldn't get in until 5:30pm, so would only have one full day - which would be spent going to Pompeii before flying out early the next morning.

  2. If we do choose another Greek Island rather than going to the Amalfi Coast, which should we choose? Keep in mind we'd prefer a hostel or hostel-prices. Would a Greek Island or the Amalfi Coast be more expensive to stay/eat/etc?

  3. What is the ferry trip through the Greek Islands like? Living in Seattle, we're no strangers to ferries and I'm not sure if it's better to spend the time on one of the islands and fly to/from or if the 6+hrs for the ferry would be well spent to see the other islands.

  4. I've heard it's best to buy the cheap short-hop plane tickets ASAP as the prices go up as seats fill. Is it important to get train tickets from Florence to Rome ahead of time? It would be kind of nice to have the option to flex a day forward or back depending on how we feel.

Lots of questions! I'm really looking forward to this trip and want to make the most of it. I feel pretty good about our itinerary, but have those few nagging questions where input is appreciated! Thanks for any advice!

Posted by Paul
Cedar, IA, USA
2658 posts

Overall, your itinerary is doable, certainly covering alot of ground, but I am assuming you are younger? You will need some energy. Some comments:

Flying: Budget flights do make an irinerary like this possible and the attraction of cheap tickets even more so. Do work through a booking and assess all fees and taxes, an advertised "$54" flight may be closer to $100 after all booking. Also evaluate your baggage needs. If you are planning only carryon, be aware that many budgets mean one carry-on is one item, not a suitcase and a bookbag or purse, and that one item typically needs to be less than 22 lbs (10 Kilo seems to be standard) For myself, I usually plan on just checking a bag, which could cost up to another $50, but even at $100 or $150, the flight is still cheap. Once you get your dates locked and international flight booked, get your other flights.

September is a great time to travel, weather is still nice, prices will be relaxed from the high season, availability of rooms will be good.

Skipping the Amalfi Coast would make itinerary sense, and the islands would be cheaper, plus you save travel cost and time. From Santorini, you could hit a small island like Folegandros or Paros, a bigger island like Naxos, or party on Mykonos. You could hit no more than two other islands.

Hostels are the default cheap lodging, but do not overlook just getting a double room in a small hotel, probably just as cheap, quieter, private. In the islands, you can certainly just find a room on arrival, usually cheap, at the docks, just have an idea of where it is geographically on the island.

Ferries like you have experienced, are working vessels, thay can range from nice to a bit shabby, some have very limited open deck, but you can see some of the islands, mainly going into and out of port. Keep in mind they are transportation, not a cruise. Best in short hops (4 hrs or less) over 6, I fly.

Train ticket from Florence to Rome can be done at any time, even though you may not see it as an option, you can also take slower regional trains to Rome (or even bus) at a much cheaper, but slower pace. By booking early you can get a cheaper ticket on the fast trains, but the ability to flex may be worth it.

Have a good trip, if I think of something else, I'll add in.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
1406 posts

What do you plan to do on the Amalfi Coast? Take the bus to and back from Salerno? The bus is cheap and the ride exciting. You would have to check the schedule about stopping in one of the little towns for a meal.

For Greek ferry schedules try ferries.gr or gtp.gr. Some options will show routes. Check out the Greece forum for more info. You can Google for info on the Greek islands and get some "best" or "top 10" kinds of results. Matt Barrett's greektravel.com is also a good source of info for Greece. Depending on the island, it could be cheaper, more expensive or the same compared to Sorrento.

I did notice that you plan to spend about 1/2 your time in Italy, split by the trip to Greece. I'm sure you have your reasons for that, but it might be more time efficient to fly home from Athens.

I also noted that you are seeing Pompeii and Herculaneum on the way to Naples. You take the Circumvesuviana to do that and I don't remember a place to leave luggage at Pompeii. You will want to check on that.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5661 posts

I've never been to Greece so I won't address your time there. It's nice to see you have allotted a reasonable amount of time to Paris and Italy. Is there some reason you are going from Italy to Greece, then back to Italy? That doesn't make sense to me. If you want to see the Amalfi coast I would do that between Florence and Rome, then go to Greece from Rome as planned. Fly home from Greece.

Regarding Paris -
You might want to check, but I believe the fountain shows at Versailles are in the summer only. I don't know that I would choose to go to Versailles on my arrival day. You could go to Luxembourg Gardens that day, still spend time outside, and not have to travel so far to do it. Do you plan to just go to the gardens at Versailles?

It sounds like a wonderful trip!

Posted by gone
2081 posts

heather_87d,

my only comment is in Paris.

jet lag will affect people differently. you will probably have to play it by ear. for me, if im tired and put me in a dark room in a chair or in a dentist chair and its lights out for me. Being active/outside helps for me but i do need some carbs/sugar/caffeine to keep me going or a short nap. If its chilli outside that helps me too, but again, everyone is different. You will probably run on adrenalin for a while but dont count on it for the whole day.

you have 2~3 things planned each day you are there. im not sure if you have other things to do/see while in Paris since there is soooo much there. in my opinion/experience you will have alot of down time since the time you have alloted for the museums is more or less 8 hours? Im not complaining, i just wish i had that much time to spend in those places.

happy trails.

Posted by heather_87d
Seattle, WA
2 posts

Thanks for the response so far! Yes, we are young and active. I wasn't sure if all of the Greek Islands would be super expensive vacation destinations so it's reassuring to hear they may be cheaper than the Amalfi Coast. We were just planning to take the bus to and back from Salerno as I've heard is beautiful there. But I think I'd rather enjoy a more relaxed time on an island.

The jump to Athens and back to Naples was to capitalize on the cheap flight from Rome to Santorini and that tickets are cheaper flying out of Naples. I figured the flight to Athens takes the place of the trip from Rome to Naples. All of the other travel segments we would be doing anyway.

It's also helpful to know small hotels can be economical. I'm pretty much decided on going to another Greek Island and dropping the excursion to the Amalfi Coast. Thanks!

Posted by Charlene
Centennial, CO, US
1101 posts

I think it's a good decision to do another island as long as you're in Greece. Not all are inexpensive (i.e. Mykonos). Best to stick to one of the Cyclades islands that's on a ferry route back to Athens (Naxos, Paros). Then you can ferry from Santorini>Naxos or Paros, and Naxos/Paros>Athens. No worrying about flights. I personally enjoy the ferries ... fun to chill out, and watch the water (and other islands) go by. Be sure to get back to Athens a day before your flight to Naples; not wise to plan to ferry to Athens in morning and catch an afternoon flight. Besides, there are worthwhile sights for you to see in Athens.

If you haven't already purchased your flight home from Naples, it would be better to fly home from Athens. But it sounded to me like that part is set.

Also, if you haven't already purchased that $54 flight from Rome to Santorini, I'd do so ASAP.

Sounds like a great trip!

Posted by Will
Columbia, SC
336 posts

I would say you should really try to have 3-4 nights in the Bay of Naples area, it's such a fantastic mix of history, art, scenery, and atmosphere. Naples itself, Pompeii, Capri, and the Amalfi coast-- all awesome and totally unique. But if you just don't have enough days...