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Places to make our home bases in England and Italy

My wife and I are scheduled for the RS Best of England tour next May-June. We are considering staying in Europe for awhile (3-4 months) after the tour and would appreciate any suggestions for cities/places to stay in England and Italy that would afford fairly easy access to transportation to areas throughout Europe. This could include trains and/or planes.
Thanks for any suggestions.

Posted by
1767 posts

You do know that you cannot exceed 90 days in the Schengen zone, correct? I know England is not in the Schengen but just making sure.

Posted by
1638 posts

Are you aware of the Schengen zone rules? With just your passports, you can’t stay for more than 90 days.

Posted by
20855 posts

There's really no single spot in any sizable country in Europe that is a convenient base for covering a great deal of territory unless you want to keep traipsing out to airports and flying. That is doable, but it's not something most travelers want to do a bunch of times during one trip. You can explore the availability of non-stop flights from any airport by going to the airport's Wikipedia entry. Similar information is available on the website flightsfrom.com. The latter might possibly be more up to date, but I find it easier to begin my research on Wikipedia since all the information (including airlines) is laid out in tabular form.

In western Europe you can often cover a lot of mileage within 2 or 3 hours via express trains, but tickets on those trains can be very expensive if not purchased in advance, so from the financial standpoint it's best if you plan you major hops ahead of time and buy tickets when they are cheaper. But those express trains usually stop only at fairly major cities--often the sorts of places where a day-trip doesn't allow enough sightseeing time. I sort of question the value of those long-distance express-train runs in the context of a hub-and-spoke trip unless you're using them to move on to your next hub.

I'd suggest that you approach your trip research from a different angle: What places would you be disappointed to miss? Start with the top 2 or 3 or 5. Plan to stay in each of those places. Then look at a map and start researching places located near your top destinations or between them. That way, you'll be working toward a coherent itinerary.

You mentioned Italy, so that's obviously of major interest. Where do you want to go in Italy? It doesn't make sense (in my view) to try to day-trip from Venice to Florence (or vice versa) or from Florence to Rome (or vice versa). And none of those is a good base for seeing one of the major lakes, the Dolomites, the Ligurian coast, Naples, Sicily, Puglia or other interesting areas.

This is not to say that there are no places positioned near borders from which you could dip into two or more countries. Strasbourg allows access to Alsace and southwestern Germany, for example. However, cross-border transportation is often infrequent.

Posted by
5538 posts

England: your tour includes just 2 nights in London, at the end. Stick around London for another 2 or 3 days at least, to see more of the city itself, or use it as a base for nearby sights.

Then get a base farther north, maybe Manchester. You can reach places by train, and we used their airport for convenient access to the Isle of Man. Scotland and Ireland/Northern Ireland are also that much closer from Manchester.

Italy: Milan is not too far north, and not too far south, nor east nor west. You can take 200 mile per hour trains to get to some other major cities, which can still take a while to reach. Or “regular” trains to access many other locations.

As noted, Schengen countries only allow 90 day access in the whole Schengen area within a 180 day period.

Posted by
1117 posts

I think Acraven has pretty much nailed it. I don't know Italy well enough to use that as an example: Imagine making a city like Berlin your home base and staying there for your 90 Schengen days. Now within that time you could explore Berlin at your leisure, and you could make wonderful day trips into all the neighboring towns, Dresden, Erfurt, Leipzig etc., and to some beautiful natural regions within a radius of, say, 200 km. I am sure that this can be a great way to spend three months, and I am sure you wouldn't be bored a minute.

Having said that, there are some major drawbacks to this solution: You can hardly experience any of those day trip destinations in the evening, like enjoy a relaxed dinner or a concert, unless you spend money on an extra hotel night. You have a very limited radius of what you can visit. Of course you can get on a train and go three hours one way and back in the evening - we've done that kind of thing - , but that will leave you with about five hours in place. That might be worth it for some very specific interest destination, but not normally. And you definitely cannot take day trips that make any sense to places like Munich, Prague, Heidelberg, much less Amsterdam or Paris, no matter which means of transportation you use.

So, unless I totally misunderstood your idea of a "home base", why don't you consider making that several home bases depending on your main interests, and depending on the pace you might want to move on.

Giving yourselves two weeks in one place for instance would seem like a very comfortable pace to me, and you could explore the Schengen part of Europe in a relaxed way and in depth from six different home bases.

Posted by
3055 posts

You have recieved quite a lot of warnings about the Schengen time limits. But I just want to add that you should not even think about overstaying. That will result in a fine and maybe being banned from returning for a couple of years.

Back to the original question, acraven and Anna has great answers. There is really no place where you can stay that would give you great access to day trips across Europe. There are many places with lots of interesting things to see and do in the area, but staying in one place for a week or two and then moving on seems like a much better idea.

Posted by
5334 posts

We stayed in Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds for six nights and used it as a base.
Also, recommend York.

Posted by
218 posts

In London, Bayswater or South Kensington areas. Great place to live for 1-2 months (though expensive!) within walking distance of Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, and some excellent museums. Access to other London highlights from the Circle, District, Central and Piccadilly lines. Also easy access to the rest of the country via train. Easy and often cheap flights from London area throughout UK, Ireland and Europe. Easy access to Heathrow Airport by Tube and train and Stansted Airport (budget flights) can be reached by train and coach.

Outside of London, somewhere near Manchester, which has a good airport with direct flights all over Europe and good train connections. Check out the smaller town atmosphere of Chester as far as a place to settle for a while. It's near the Wales border, about an hour from Conwy Castle, an hour from Manchester, 45 minutes from Liverpool.

I can't offer much pinpoint advice in Italy, but I would recommend somewhere in or near Rome. Rome itself has plenty to offer as a home base and, like London, Rome has many train and air offerings. Easy trains to Florence, Napoli/Pompeii and flights throughout Europe. Quick non-stop flights to Milano, Venice, French Riviera, Barcelona, Switzerland, Croatia, Greece.