Italy

My husband and I are planning a 3 week railway trip to Italy and France. We would like to fly in to London, take the train to Venice, and than work our way through Italy and back to France and depart from London. Any suggestions on an itinerary? I was thinking in this order: London, Venice, Florence, Sorrento, Rome, Cinque Terra, France and back to London. Is this way too many places for 3 weeks? Is it doable? Any suggestions on the type of rail pass we should get? Thank you!

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4875 posts

The train from London to Venice is about 15 hours. You might want to fly instead. Where in France do you want to go? Just Paris or do plan to go other places too? Have you already purchased airline tickets? If not, you could fly into London and home from Rome, or visa versa. Whether this is doable or not depends on how much time you plan to spend in each place. Remember that 2 nights in a place is equal to one full day. Each time you move you it will take at least half a day, or more depending on how far you're going. Have you been to Europe before? If this is your first trip, I would suggest you read Rick Steves Europe Through The Back Door. It will explain a lot of things that will help your trip go smoothly. A rail pass is not always the way to go. Hopefully others with more train expertise chime in.

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1561 posts

Am confused. Are you planning on spending time in London or just planning to fly there and then onto France and then ITaly? I suggest you fly open jaw into France and then work your way down to Italy and home from there or vice versa. It would save you a lot of backtracking. If you want to start in London, fly into London, budget airline or train to Paris and then down towards Italy. See no need to begin and end in London. IMO.

Posted by Lisa
Sacramento, CA, USA
21 posts

Thank you for your reply. We have never been to Europe so need all the help we can get. We were thinking of flying round trip to London because flights seemed cheaper. We have not bought our tickets yet....been watching the prices. We would like to spend a week in France, a few days in London and the rest of the time in Italy. I had thought we would do a loop start in London and work our way south through Italy and back up the coast and into France than back to London. I did not realize how fat Venice was from London.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4875 posts

It might seem cheaper to fly round trip to London, but when you factor in the extra transportation expenses and the additional time, it rarely makes sense. Traveling in Europe is not like here. Picking up a car in one country and dropping in another is very costly. They have toll roads and if you think our gas is expensive here, you haven't seen anything! France is a large country, about the size of Texas. Where exactly do you want to go in France? If you drive round trip from London the steering shell will be on the 'wrong' side.

Posted by Lisa
Sacramento, CA, USA
21 posts

Well we planned to travel by railway. We wanted to visit Paris, Versailles, and perhaps Loire or Champagne. Thank you for your help.

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1561 posts

Suggest you get a good travel book, Europe through the back door or Fodors. Decide want your realistic budget would be and then you will have a good start. Three weeks is twenty one days but you need to take off two days for arrival and departure day so are now down to nineteen days. I think you are trying to do far too much in that time frame. Still suggest you fly into London, maybe four days there, then to Paris for four and Italy for the balance and fly home from Italy. I know you feel it is cheaper to fly into and out of London but you need to consider the time and expense of London, Paris and Italy and then back to. London to go home. You may feel you will only have one shot at Europe but you can't see it all in one shot and believe you will go back someday.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17780 posts

Lisa, My first suggestion is to read Europe Through The Back Door, as that provides a lot of information on "how" to travel in Europe. Use the country Guidebooks to plan sightseeing, hotels, etc. in each place you'll be visiting. I would highly recommend using open-jaw (multi-city) flights, as that's a more efficient method. Even if they're more expensive, it will often save both time & money. Especially as this is your first trip to Europe, I'd suggest starting in London. This is one option you might consider..... > Day 1 - Flight to London > Day 2 - Arrive London > Day 3 - London > Day 4 - London > Day 5 - EuroStar to Paris > Day 6 - Paris > Day 7 - Paris > Day 8 - Flight from CDG/ORY to VCE (EasyJet, morning or evening flight, 1H:40M) > Day 9 - Venice > Day 10 - Venice > Day 11 - Train to Florence > Day 12 - Florence (day trip to Siena?) > Day 13 - Florence > Day 14 - Train to Cinque Terre (which of the 5 towns do you prefer?) > Day 15 - Cinque Terre > Day 16 - Cinque Terre > Day 17 - Train to Rome (~3H:45M from La Spezia) > Day 18 - Rome (day trip to Orvieto?) > Day 19 - Rome > Day 20 - Rome > Day 21 - Flight home from FCO I'd suggest leaving Sorrento for another trip when you'll have more time. It could be included here, but travel times there and back will reduce your touring times considerably. There are many ways this Itinerary could be arranged, so you'll have to decide which locations you want to spend the most time in. The "big 3" (London, Paris & Rome) need more time, as there's SO much to see and do. When will this trip be taking place? Good luck with your planning!

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4875 posts

Lisa, I know it can seem daunting to plan a trip like this. I often start with a 'wish list' of places I would like to see, then start whittling my list down to fit into how many days I have. When do you plan to take your trip? In France the places you want to see are all in the relatively same geographical area. Versailles is an easy day trip from Paris, as is the Champagne area. The Loire area is a little bit further and is best done by car. You could arrange a tour out of Paris if you wanted, or train to the area and rent a car for a few days. It depends on how much time you want to devote to it. You DO NOT want a car in Paris. If this was my trip I would fly into London. From there take the Eurostar train to Paris. See Paris and do your day trips from there. Fly to Venice. The only time you should need a car in Italy would be if you want to spend time in Tuscany, outside of Florence. A car in Florence is a bad idea. A car in any city is a bad idea. Do some research and decide where you really want to go and see what you can fit into your time frame.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

Just to pile on to the other posters, who are spot-on. 1. For a trip like this, you want to fly open jaw (called "multi-city" on the booking searches like Kayak.com). Even though it "costs more" than a round trip, you save both time and money by not backtracking (particularly for an itinerary like this). 2. You do not want or need a rail pass for this itinerary. What you will do when you finalize your itinerary is buy non-refundable, non-exchangeable tickets directly from the website of the national rail companies. This will save you a fortune. A budget flight is the best way to connect farther flung destinations (like Paris and Venice) - just be aware of the luggage restrictions and extra fees. For both trains and flights, prices go up the closer you get to your trip.
3. Ken's and Andrea's trip plans are an excellent place for you to start. How does Ken's day-by-day breakdown look to you? I like it. If it seems to be missing something you consider important, then remember you will have to cut something else to make space. That's fine. We've all had to make these difficult decisions, so we know what it's like. Enjoy the planning!

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

Two years ago I flew (United) to London, took the Eurostar to Paris, took the train to Venice (not all in one day), moved southward thru Italy by train, then flew home from Rome. It may be more efficient to fly to Venice from Paris; I've done that, too.

Posted by Kim
Paris
544 posts

Ken and the others have given you good advice, butyou'll note that the proposed itinerary that Ken has outlined for you won't allow you to see the Loire or Champagne. That's fineit simply points out one of the hard truths of traveling, which is that there's never enough time to see it all. It's means making choices, which means reading as much as you can about your possible destinations to try and get a feel for what you really want to hit. In the example Ken has given you, you could, for example, subtract days from the Cinque Terre and add those days to your Paris days to allow you time to visit Champagne or the Loire. I'm using that as an example, not saying that's what you need to do. The suggestions about open jaws or multicity flights are very good. A couple of hundred dollars' extra for plane tickets will be well worth it in sanity and efficiency next year!!

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
713 posts

We just did sort of the same trip (without Rome)> Flew into London (our local airport doesn't have many direct flights to Europe, and airmiles kinda restricts things), spent a night, flew to Venice the next day - it is like a 2 hr (or so) flight - we booked with Brit Airways thru expedia - was lucky to find tickets for $135 each..after weeks of watching for the price to lower from $180. If you're willing to fly early or late, you can get better prices then if you fly mid-afternoon generally - there are at least 3 flights a day from Heathrow with BA. It'll be much easier to fly then to train - 15hrs on a train is no ones idea of a good time. (The plane tix, when I first looked, were at $85 for the flight we wanted, but I wasn't 100% sure of the day and didn't buy right away - poof...gone). Another thing we discovered - it can be much much cheaper to fly on, say, a Sat night to Venice instead of Sun, or a Tues as opposed to a Mon - the reason we spent the extra night in London is because the flights were half the price to Venice on the Tues compared to Mon. (We were going to stay in London for a few nights at the end of our trip, so we just rearranged) What did you want to see in France? Depending on what you want to see, 3 weeks may or may not work. You really need 3 nights in Venice and Florence, can't comment on Sorrento, 2 nights is OK in CT, really, 4 or 5 in Rome is skimming the surface. 3-5 Paris. We visited some new areas - we really enjoyed the Cote D'Azur - but only had really a full day to explore Nice, quick stop in Monaco, Avignon was nice...