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Germany Italy itinerary in July help

Hi all - We (me, husband & two sons (16 & 18)) are headed to Germany & Italy in July! We only have two weeks. I don't like to hit too many places so I've chosen four cities/towns for overnights. I was originally thinking an Agriturismo in Tuscany for our last leg but thought my sons would prefer Lucca and with any luck maybe my husband and I can go back for lots of Tuscany wine tasting someday! Any thoughts/advice on this itinerary is most welcome. We already have our flights to and from Europe. Haven't booked hotels or trains or rental cars, if needed. Interests include: historical sights, some art (not hours in museums), food/wine, local favorites! Thank you!

Recommendations for each place for AirBnBs or hotels with Family Rooms (I'd rather have a common space instead of 2 hotel rooms) welcome.

BERLIN (3 full days) - Arrive Berlin early evening, stay 4 nights
A visit to a concentration camp would be ideal (we've never been to Germany). Looks like a trip to Sachsenhausen would take most of a day (leaving us 2 days in Berlin). Thoughts?

RHINE (2.5 days): Train to Rhine Valley area and stay 3 nights in St Goar (seems to be most convenient to see the most places in short period). It's easy to do Bacharach and maybe Mosel (Burg Eltz?) by train?

Fly to Florence (fastest? easiest? fly from Frankfurt?)

FLORENCE (2.5 days): 3 nights

LUCCA (2.75 days): 3 nights in Lucca. Side trips to Pisa, Viareggio?? (for the beach)... Probably need a car for these days, right?

Train to Milan to stay overnight on our last night. Flight out of MXP mid-morning (hotel recommendations?)

Posted by
20458 posts

You can get trains from Lucca to Piss and back. If going primarily for the Leaning Tower, go to Pisa S. Rosario. You can also get a train walking distance from the beach at Viareggio.

If you want to stay in Milan City, Hotel Berna is walking distance from Centrale station, where you will arrive from Lucca, and you can get the Malpensa Express train, (or bus) to Malpensa. Also Metro station to visit the Duomo area.

Posted by
3050 posts

I'm really not sure if it's worth it to go all the way to the Rhine from Berlin for 3 nights, especially if this has you then going to Frankfurt to fly to Italy.

Berlin is a huge city with a ton to see, and lots of great easy day-trips as well. If it were me, I'd make that my only base in Germany (there are lots of ways to easily "get out of the city" and into nature, swimming lakes, small towns, etc) and save the Rhine for another trip. You'd be awfully busy there trying to get to Burg Eltz by train, for instance, that would easily eat up your entire day leaving almost no time for exploring the rest of the Mosel.

Posted by
6797 posts

BERLIN (3 full days) - Arrive Berlin early evening, stay 4 nights A
visit to a concentration camp would be ideal (we've never been to
Germany). Looks like a trip to Sachsenhausen would take most of a day
(leaving us 2 days in Berlin). Thoughts?

I've done a couple of Germany / Italy trips. There's something really nice about that combo.

And while 5.5 days is skimpy, I think a Berlin / Rhine combo is near-ideal for getting a brief first impression of Germany as well.

But I think what you really need to do is spend all of those 3 full Berlin days right in Berlin. Even then you'll have to leave out things you might want to see/do. I think visitors should ask themselves some serious questions before including Sachsenhausen. IME, the semi-obligatory visit to a German concentration camp has become a misguided practice, especially for such a brief visit. What Holocaust lesson have educated visitors not yet learned? What impressions of Germany and its people will you take home after a couple of hours unearthing once again all the gruesome details? Besides the time involved, there's the condition of your stomach and your state of mind... it will be deeply unsettling at best, and possibly a good bit worse than that for a good while longer than anyone wants. To "Never Forget" is important. But it does not mean visitors must traumatize themselves on their vacations. If you visit any of the many WW II sites in this city, the cruelty of the Nazi regime will already be enough to conjure up the horrifying images that you already have in your heads... so I say include Sachsenhausen only with great trepidation.

It's easy to do Bacharach and maybe Mosel (Burg Eltz?) by train?

Train service here is excellent but you must walk to the castles. Marksburg is your best Rhine Castle visit - an excellent experience - a must see if must-sees exist. It's an intact medieval castle with authentic feel. Take the train to Braubach and walk up from the station in about 30 minutes. Tours in English at 1 and 4 pm.

Braubach
Marksburg Castle

Burg Eltz is an hour's walk each way from Moselkern station. There are buses to the castle on weekends after a train ride to Hatzenport station. It's easy to reach either station, but both the walk AND the bus ride eat up a lot of time (the bus schedule is very skimpy and you will probably have to wait for the next one here or there.) I like Burg Eltz - it's very fancied up and museum-like with furnishings from different periods. But if you end up being pressed for time, leave it out in favor of a visit to Marksburg and Rheinfels Castle (which as you know is right in St. Goar.)

The other good place to visit on the Mosel is Cochem. It's adorable. It's easy to reach as well - the train from Koblenz follows the river the entire way for a very scenic ride. The Bundesbank Bunker is a top attraction. The castle there is no longer medieval, now a reconstructed palace that you can read about here. But it is easy to get to from town (on foot or by shuttle,) the views are spectacular, and the tours are both popular and interesting - and available in English:
https://reichsburg-cochem.de/?lang=en

St. Goar is a good base for these outings. But if you want FREE train trips during your stay, book a room in lovely Boppard, where all guests receive a free "Guest Ticket" to cover their entire stay!

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you all! Now I'm re-thinking and seriously wondering about skipping the Rhine this trip and staying another night in each of Berlin, Florence & Lucca. I love the idea of alternating a city and then a village (with castles!) but it seems there's so much to see in Berlin. So many amazing choices...

Posted by
6 posts

After a family poll, we are going to the Rhine after all and staying in Boppard for 3 nights! Thanks, Russ, I will use your suggestions.

Posted by
6797 posts

"I will use your suggestions."

If you're doing a cruise, here's one more tip for Day 1 on the Rhine... Bingen is the best place to begin your cruise. If you leave Berlin early on a ticket BINGEN instead of Boppard, you can catch a cruise boat through the most scenic part of the Rhine for your arrival in Boppard - There are 14:30 and 16:30 departures from Bingen - I would want to be in Bingen (use the Bingen Rhein Stadt station) by 2 pm so as to be on the 14:30 boat to Boppard (the cruise takes 2.3 hours.) Try to find a train sequence with as few changes of train as possible to better ensure a timely arrival in Bingen.

That leaves you a Mosel day (Cochem, Eltz?) and a Rhine day (Marksburg, Bacharach, Boppard?) for sightseeing by train with your free guest ticket. A trip to Bacharach is almost fully covered by the guest ticket but not quite - you will need to get tickets for the 5-minute ride between Oberwesel and Bacharach in both directions. Alternatively, visit Oberwesel for free instead! O'wesel has a great walk you can take around the old town wall:

https://www.oberwesel.de/en/wandern0/stadtmauerrundweg/

Another nice O'wesel walk takes you through the vineyards up the cliffside to the Günderodehaus, a former film set for a popular German TV series called Heimat. Today it's a little film-set museum with a café and terrace.

http://www.christiane-geldmacher.de/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/rhein2014-003.jpg
https://www0.f1online.de/preW/003788000/3788931.jpg

I would arrange to visit Marksburg in the afternoon (English tours at 1 and 4 pm.)