France/Italy in Approx. 30 days

I am flying into Paris (arriving morning) (1 night), heading to the Normandy region (3 nights), back to Paris (3 nights) to meet up with 3 other friends. From there, we'd like to head to the French Riviera for 2 nights, to Venice for 2 nights, to Florence for 4 nights, to Naples for 3 nights, and finally Rome for 3 or 4 nights. Anyone suggestion any changes to timing and/or location? Also is it advisable to purchase the Regional Eurorail Pass (France/Italy) or to purchase individual train passes as we go? We'd like to allow our schedule to take us where the wind blows so we can listen to the advice of other travelers we meet, but we also want to be conscious of cost. How about booking hostels as we go? We are looking at mid-October - November. If time allows, we might want to sneak Sicily in the route, but I've read that it takes a 12.5 hour train & ferry ride (one-way). Thoughts? This will be the first time to this region of Europe for all of us!

Posted by Emily
Indianapolis
9 posts

What has you putting Naples on the list? Is there something you want to see really badly? I ask because Naples is somewhere I've personally heard is not really worth going to (I studied abroad in Italy and most people who went to Naples just did a day and said that was enough). Also, you're going with most "Big Name" Italian cities so that time may be better spent exploring some smaller cities along the way. I personally loved Montepulcino (Sorry if I spelled it wrong, just starting to drink my coffee) which is in Tuscany and Orvieto in Umbria (a region that I feel is often overlooked in favor of Tuscany but just as beautiful). You can probably find towns like these on the train from Florence to Rome (I believe Orvieto is on the way but I might be wrong, it's been awhile)

Also, most people overlook it but a day in Milan is worth it especially to see The Last Supper (MUST buy tickets ahead of time, even in Oct/Nov. I did mine with a tour group which I thought I would hate (but it was the only way left to get a ticket) but was very informative and did most of the talking before we got into the room so we could enjoy the art without being distracted. If you're interested I can probably find the name of where I went through). Also, the Castello Sforzesco has some nice, inexpensive museums and the Duomo is beautiful. But I admit I'm partial as I studied abroad there.

Now if there's something in Naples you're dying to see, go there and enjoy. Just my 2 cents! Happy travels! (And hopefully somebody will be able to help you with the train questions - I just bought tickets as I went and only took the train out of the country once, I flew budget airlines otherwise)

Posted by Emily
Indianapolis
9 posts

Oh, Assisi is also very nice! But farther off the major train lines. You can still get there by train though there will just be a transfer involved (most likely)

Posted by gravity770
6 posts

Hi Emily, thank you for the reply. The research I've done to date suggests a visit to Naples is a must, but I realize that it all comes down to personal taste. Maybe I could do a 1 night in Naples on my way to Sicily? In my original post, I have listed the main "hubs" that we'd like to visit, but there are certainly smaller towns that we will visit especially in the Florence/Tuscany region. I will certainly consider Montepulcino, Tuscany and Orvieto in Umbria in my research of options. There are just some many beautiful and historical towns that I'm having a hard time choosing. Your personal input and experience is appreciated!

Posted by Emily
Indianapolis
9 posts

Regarding Sicily: there is another thread about driving between Sicily and Rome and many people suggested looking into flying so you may want to look into that vs. the train. Alitalia flys regularly. I've flown EasyJet which is a budget airline and nice for what you pay (if you look far enough out you'll find 20€ tickets sometimes). Would save on travel time vs. the train for that leg and give you more touring time.

Posted by gravity770
6 posts

Good idea about the flight vs. train! I'll look into that since it seems like the quicker and cheaper option. Many thanks to sharing your experiences with me! - Chandra

Posted by Larry
Carmel, CA, USA
706 posts

Hey gravity770, loved your movie! I recently spent two weeks in Sicily, as part of a 4-week trip to Italy. Sicily is a really wonderful area to visit, but it is a large island and region, not like a single city. There are a diversity of bigger cities, lovely smaller cities and beautiful rural areas, and I can't imagine going all the way to Sicily and just spending two or three days in one place there. So, unless you are going to make Sicily a major part of your itinerary, I would leave it for a future trip. I also spent an enjoyable few days in Naples, and there are many interesting things to visit there and nearby, including the ruins at Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Paestum. Still, there are many smaller towns such as Assisi, Orvieto, Siena (not quite so small), San Gimignano and various others, which offer a whole other Italian experience, very different from the bigger cities. Italy is such a large, rich, diverse and wonderful country, better to enjoy parts of it in leisure in each trip, rather than to rush around and jam everything into a short trip.

Posted by gravity770
6 posts

Hi Larry, I wish I owned the rights to the movie Gravity! I won't have to worry about only staying 30 days in Italy :) Thank you for the advice. I think I'm going to try and convince the others I'm traveling with to skip Sicily and just explore the big cities of Venice, Florence, Rome & Naples. We can spend more time exploring the smaller towns off the beaten path! - Chandra

Posted by jkc
Massachusetts
430 posts

I love Naples. Naples is simply fantastic, but you really need to be prepared for it. It is a mass of humanity, mostly native, and thriving, and just gorgeous, but run down buildings. The Archeological museum is fantastic. Lots of great restaurants and the best pizza in the world.

Posted by Rosie
Rick Steves' Europe
114 posts

I'll chime in here about the Rail Passes. The thing to keep in mind with France is that even with the pass, you still have to make reservations on most French trains as they limit the amount of seats available to pass holders. These seats can sell out, so the reservations would need to be made a decent amount of time in advance. That means that going on-the-fly is next to impossible in France with a pass. You're better off buying tickets point-to-point. Italy is a country where a pass is usually not worth the money, especially if you are just going on the major routes (such as Venice-Florence-Rome) where trains run very frequently and are fairly inexpensive.

Booking hostels on the fly is also getting more difficult. There are so many more people traveling these days and hostels have become more family- and adult-friendly so it's not just reserved for young partiers anymore. If you'll have a phone with a European SIM card, you can at least call a couple days ahead to reserve and give yourself some flexibility but not be left wandering around town trying to find something the day of. Certainly going the time of year you are though helps you have some more options.

I agree that flying to Sicily is better, but it's also a place that deserves more than a couple days. If you do decide to fly, check www.skyscanner.com for budget flights.