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10 days only and never been to Europe

Never been to Europe so I am asking for some guidance here. If you had 10 days to see Italy and/or France and wanted to avoid "Tours" and yet perhaps stay 1 or 2 nights off the beaten path, what would you plan for a great vacation? Wife says Cinque Terre but I want Rome or Paris and to see small town living. I really appreciate your time.

Posted by
8293 posts

Carl: If this is your first trip to Europe you definitely do not want to go "off the beaten path". Save that for the next trip when you have had a little experience. With ten days you will not "see Italy and France" but you could certainly see Paris and Rome or Paris and Florence. I really urge you not to spread yourselves too thin(ly). Paris and Rome will be like full course meals that take time to fully enjoy and digest.

Posted by
32244 posts


As this is your first trip to Europe, my first suggestion would be to read Europe Through The Back Door. That will provide you with a LOT of information on how to travel efficiently in Europe (including Itinerary planning).

Your trip is VERY short so careful planning will be essential. Keep in mind that you'll lose the first day in flight times and time zone changes and the last day will mostly be spent traveling. Visiting 6 locations in 8 days (as suggested in the first post) is not really practical IMHO. Is there any way you could get a few extra days (it would sure help!)?

To visit the destinations that both you and your Wife want, you might consider something along these lines:

Day 1: Flight to Paris

Day 2: Arrive Paris / CDG - light touring if you have the energy

Day 3 & 4: Paris - touring (plan carefully so that you can fit as many sights as possible - prioritize!).

Day 5: Budget flight to Milan / MXP (EasyJet from CDG suggested - more flights available incl. early flights - be sure to PACK LIGHT or you'll pay overweight baggage charges) - Shuttle to Milano Centrale, buy tickets to Cinque Terre via La Spezia - light touring when you arrive.

Day 6: Cinque Terre (check Italy Guidebook to determine which town to stay in)

Day 7: Train to Rome - use direct train from La Spezia - about 4 hours, no changes, but reservations compulsory - arrive Roma Termini (be sure to wear a Money Belt!).

Day 8 & 9: Tour Rome - again plan carefully!

Day 10: Leonardo Express to Roma / FCO for flight home.

This only provides about 2-days for touring both Paris & Rome, but if you plan your touring well, you should be able to cover lots of sights while still "pacing yourselves" to some extent.

Use the Guidebooks for lodgings in each place, or ask for suggestions here.

I tried to cover all the places you mentioned. Once you've decided, the group can provide more specifics.


Posted by
37 posts

My husband and I just returned from a wonderful 10-day trip to Italy. Our second time in Europe, first in Italy. I suggest you stick to one country - France or Italy. We used Rick Steves' books and this website to create our fabulous vacation. Traveled by train and bus only. Didn't need to rent a car.
1 Flew to Rome. Train from airport to Termini in Rome to train to Florence.
2 Rented an apartment across from the Duomo in Florence through Loved it!
3. Explored Florence.

4. More exploration of this beautiful city. Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio, Palazzo Michelangelo, Sante Croce - all must sees. Reservations for Uffizi tour made at home before we left for Italy.

5. Took Best of Tuscany tour. Again, we made reservations before leaving the States. Magnificent day!
6. Took train to Venice. Another wonderful day exploring this beautiful city.

7. Explored more of Florence. So much to see and didn't want to miss a thing.

8. Train to Vernazza in Cinque Terre. Hiked to Corniglia. Wonderful people, scenery and food. Train back to Florence. We want to return to Cinque Terre and spend several days there but this was a good opportunity to get a feel for this part of Italy.

9. Visited Academia and market behind Duomo before heading by train to the airport for Rome.
10. Culture shock for us after quiet Florence. Checked into our small, friendly, clean hotel in Rome on Via Nationale whose name escapes me! Visited ancient Rome, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps. Used the Metro and taxis.
11. Private tour of the Vatican. Federica D'Orazio!!! Booked Federica before leaving the States. Try to book her. You'll be so glad you did.
12. Flew home.
We ate most of our meals outside and walked far beyond the main Palazzos to find quiet restaurants. Didn't have one bad meal. We recommend tours wherever offered. We got so much more out of guided tours. We will go back to CT, Venice & Siena.

Posted by
1449 posts

If I had 10 days I'd pick a region of a country; Paris and vicinity, Rome and vicinity, Florence and vicinity. I'd spend 4 nites in the city, and a pair of 3-nite stays in 2 other places. Having a home base lets you be out sightseeing with time that you'd otherwise spend packing up, getting to a new hotel, and getting settled in. A 3 nite stay in an area doesn't mean you just see sites only where you are; for example if you went from Rome to Sorrento you could use Sorrento as a base and spend a full schedule visiting the Amalfi coast, Herculaneum or Pompeii along with Naples, and Capri.

Since you've asked for advice, I'd add that for 1st time travelers neither of whom has been to Europe that a tour might be a better bet. Rather than trying to figure out an itinerary, you got a tour company such as Rick's that has taken thousands and learned what they like; you'll really see the highlights. Second, they've handled all the nitty-gritty of making hotel reservations and figuring out transportation. Third, there's the efficiency of a tour; they've booked the museums so you just walk right in, the guide doesn't get lost going from the Colosseum to the Pantheon, you go directly from hotel to hotel without the hassles of figuring out the public transit system or driving/parking. My estimate is that for a 10-day RS tour it would take a couple traveling independently 13-15 days to do the same thing; so think of the price (admittedly expensive) as 14 days on your own and it seems pretty reasonable. Do one tour and learn the ropes of traveling in Europe while on an almost care-free trip.

Posted by
2030 posts

I agree with Mike, my first trip to Europe was with a Rick Steves tour and I easily learned all the skills I needed to know for future trips. I've done many wonderful ones on my own since then. Worth considering.

Posted by
300 posts

Mike speaks truth. Don't try to bite off too much (but I'm not as convinced about the organized tour).

I'd recommend Italy, and further I'd recommend Rome for 4 nights, Venice for 2 or 3 nights, and Florence (or Siena) for 2 nights.

An open jaw flight (into Rome, out of Venice or vice versa) will save on backtracking.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you so much for your useful feedback. I have some things to consider before I finalize my visit. I believe I may have to add a few days to avoid over doing it.

I am very happy I came to you guys for advice.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you so much for your useful feedback. I have some things to consider before I finalize my visit. I believe I may have to add a few days to avoid over doing it.

I am very happy I came to you guys for advice.

Posted by
790 posts

I think a big factor in your planning is how young the kids are.

We've travelled with our kids (now 10 & 14) in Europe, and the U.S., and longer stays work better, generally speaking. We just returned from a trip in which we did a succession of 3-nights stays, with two one-night stays when we were on the way from one place to another. Our 10yo did fine, but since I'm chief packer of me & the kids, I was getting tired of packing for each move to a new town and hotel.

I applaud your desire to see both city and rural life - that's what we try to do every trip. It allows the kids to see different ways of life, and they like the combination. You could, for example, spend time in Rome, then in rural Tuscany in a small town, then end your trip with time in Florence.

Posted by
32 posts

10 days in Italy - do , Venice ( 2 days), Rome ( 3 days), Florence ( 2 days) Pisa ( Florence day trip - 1 day) and Cinque Terre ( 2 days)

Posted by
3 posts

Carl, consider it might take nearly half day to travel by train from one city to anoter. It's not just the time you spend on train, but the time it takes for you to get to the train station, find the platform, wait for the train, and figure out where to go after you get off, etc. You will be very tired if you try to cramp too many places in a 10 day trip. And besides, there are some museum with long lines. Just Rome itself can easily take up 3 nights and 4 days. If you and wife don't like to rush through everything, consider returning in another trip.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you for the replies. My children 7 and 10 have traveled extensively in the USA and the Caribbean. I know sightseeing tends to make them feel "tired" and in addition Italy/France feel more foreign since we don't speak Italian or French. I perfectly understand how traveling almost always takes longer than you foresee. I think we ought to take it easy and take in the experience instead of just trying to move down a sightseeing checklist. I am thinking about narrowing it down to 3 places in 10 days. That can be done, and it will allow us to enjoy it.

Posted by
101 posts

I would really rethink taking a tour and suggest that you start with Italy. You will spend a great deal of time trying to figure out how to get from each city or site if you do it on your own. Remember this is your vacation too. Also, every time you get to a city you will be completely on your own. Getting in to popular sites can mean long waits. On a tour, you are taken to the front of the line. I suggest that if you have 10 days take a 7 day tour of one country and use the last 3 days to be on your own and do the things you can't do on a tour. That way you get the best of both ways of travelling.

Posted by
23 posts

Hi-I agree with Ashish. We went to those places with our kids (9 and 16 then) 2 years ago. It was great!

Posted by
46 posts

If you are keen to do it yourself and avoid tours then go for it! My husband and I are just back from our first trip to Europe. We went to Carcassonne and Normandy, Gimmelwald, Cinque Terre, Rome, Athens and Samos (as well as UK and Turkey) in 4 1/2 weeks. If you are prepared to put in the research prior, you will not lose a lot of time figuring out transportation etc on the ground. eg for every city we arrived at, I had a printed map (if we were walking) from train station to our accommodation; or if we had to take public transport, I knew where to find the bus stop/metro, how often/what times it went, and which line/bus to take. We also never waited in line for more than five minutes including visiting the vatican museum on a monday (bought internet tickets prior), tower of london, and acropolis. All our accommodation (booked on the internet) turned out fine and we had no train problems in over 20 trips.
I think the main thing you miss out from not doing a tour is the information from the guide. And the security of feeling looked after, if that is what you want.
However our trip took a LOT of organising prior. I really enjoyed that, but if it is not for you, take a tour, or the huge amount of details to cover will drive you insane!
PS We LOVED Cinque Terre, stayed in Manarola which didn't have the crowds of Vernazza. You could easily fit it in along with Rome.

Posted by
1035 posts

OK, I am the minority here, but I like to keep it moving. That said I don't plan to see everything in a place. Do a deep dive or two and move on with the assumption I will return.

One thing you might think about is the arrival city. You know, you'll be tired at the start of the trip as you adjust to time zone, diet, sleep, etc. Why not fly into CDG, spend a few days acclimating and then discount airline into Italy? I think someone above suggested this.

One other thought, rather than going straight into France or Italy, maybe make your arrival into London since this is your first trip. You'll have a couple of days to make the adjustment without having to deal with potential language barriers.

In both the above scenarios, I am assuming you'd fly open jaws out of Rome.

Posted by
15554 posts

Carl, your idea of keeping it to three places is a good idea--especially with kids in tow.

Younger adults, and some older ones, can do a rushed 10 places in 20 days but that's very tough on kids.

My suggestion.....Rome, Florence and Cinque Terre. Lots of fun things for kids to do in Rome with all the ruins, the Cinque Terre would be a great break for them to hike and sit on the beach and Florence would be more educational with it's art. I'd suggest putting the Cinque Terre in the middle.