We are having a hard time deciding where to go on our next trip and have narrowed it down to either France or Italy. Not including flying days we have 13 nights in the middle of March (not flexible on the dates).Our first thought is several (4 - 6?) days in Paris and then the rest with a car. I'd love "dream" vacation ideas of places to visit. We are open to driving in a loop to & from Paris or taking a train and then getting a car and exploring a region (or 2). I'm heading to the library to pick up a couple of guidebooks (no buying until we decide which country). We're pretty open at this point to ideas and suggestions.
There's no guarantee the weather will be better in Italy than in the south of France. While I love Italy, France is my favorite. I think Andrea's suggestion to start in Provence and Southam's to work your way up to Paris is excellent. I can't think of anything more fun.
My first thought has to do with the weather in March. Ave temp in Rome is hi 61 and lo 40; Paris 51 and 38. March is better for Italy and most of the best places can be reached by train (Florence, Venice). First thought about France, besides Paris, is to tour the Chateaux country of the Loire Valley (by car).... would be prettier in April or May when the trees and flowers have blossomed. You could also add the wine country of Burgundy or the Normandy coast.
Because of the time of year, you might consider heading south to Provence. It should be warmer there. You could take the train to Avignon or somewhere equally easy to reach by train, then pick up your car. Of course you are from Alaska, so the temps may seem balmy to you and staying further north may not be an issue! :-)
Fly into Marseille and enjoy the south (Nice, Aix, Avignon etc.) and then work your way to Paris hoping the weather is warming up. Open-jaws tickets arriving Marseille and departing Paris can be bought for little or no extra cost on a number of trans-Atlantic airlines, connecting through Paris, Amsterdam, Spain or Italy on the eastern leg.
Your question is confusing vis-a-vis your title. If Italy is an option I'd go there in March. Or spend the first 8 days in Italy and the last 4 in Paris. For France, I think you need to arrive with a fair-weather plan and a foul-weather plan, the latter emphasizing cities more than the former. Either can be quite successful, and that time of year you can travel without reservations and make your decisions day to day. Good guidebooks are your friends; get a stack from your local library for ideas, then buy what you will need once you've made your plans.
There have been some excellent suggestions. In sum, I would fly into Nice, spend a couple of days there with bus/train sides to Monaco, Eze and other towns in the area. Pick up a car at the airport and drive along the coast through Cannes, St. Tropez, to Cassis and up to Provence. Spend 4 to 5 days driving around Provence. Turn in car at Avignon TGV station and take train to Paris. Fly home from Paris.
We were in France in March 2010. We spent 9 days in Paris where it was cool and windy. For us Californians it was layer weather. We then spent 7 days driving in a loop from Paris through Normandy and Brittany and returning to Paris. In these areas the weather was cool to warm. We slept in Honfleur, Bayeux, Mont St.Michel, Dinan, Vitre, and Chartre before returning our car to Paris and spending the last night in a hotel near the airpport. It was a great driving trip with so many interesting sights and stopping points. We spent 2 nights in Dinan but you could cut out one night there or cut Honfleur if you wanted to shorten the trip. We picked up our car in Neuilly Sur Seine, the outskirts of Paris with easy highway access. We rented from Budget and picked this location because it's across the street from a metro station. Upon return we took the metro to the train station, the train to the airport, and the hotel shuttle to get to our hotel. Be aware if you rent a car to drive a loop that it will take you longer to drive into Paris that it did to leave and allow an extra hour so that you don't get late charges on the rental car. Wherever you decide to go in France it will be a 'dream' vacation!
Try not to rent a car! It is 5 euros for only a liter of gas! Rick's train EuroRail pass was SO easy! March is iffy weather in France. I would head south. We thoroughly enjoyed the Cinque Terre and Siena!! The library was the perfect starting pointing for us...of course, Rick's books were the easiest to understand. Go with your gut desires! Not what others tell you to see. I wish we would have skipped Rome! Request the videos from the library of Rick's destinations. That too was helpful.
Karen, as expensive as fuel is in Europe it has risen nowhere near €5 a litre. In France it averages €1.60 / litre unleaded, €1.46 / litre gazole. Per gallon you are closer,
'It is 5 euros for only a liter of gas!' No way. It's more like €1.5 per liter which makes it about seven bucks a gallon. Figure a small car gets forty-five miles per gallon, that's fifteen cents a mile. My little truck costs me sixteen cents a mile at current Florida prices. A penny a mile difference for a month at a hundred miles a day is thirty bucks - - not exactly a deal-breaker.
"Go with your gut desires! Not what others tell you to see." Laura asked for people's ideas and suggestions.
To complete the debunking of Karen, you will definitely want a car to see Provence. If Paris and someplace else in France is your desire, I would definitely stick to that. You do not have enough time to wander into Italy. Given the time of year, I would start in the south and work north, thus the recommendation to fly into Nice and home from Paris. If you decide to go with a more southerly, warmer clime, you might want to fly into Rome and include Tuscany. Again, a car is a necessity. If you choose Italy, you might do Rome, Tuscany, and train to Venice for a couple of days and fly home from there.
ok...sorry! It was per gallon for 4.83 euros...i wrote it down but put it in liters by accident.
I have been to Italy and France on three separate trips. But if someone told me I have 9 days and where should I go between these places I would go to both. I would go to Paris for 4 days and Rome for 4 days. I assume you need a day for travel. This would also allow you a day trip to Florence when you are in Rome. Rome and Paris my two favorite cities so that would be my choice. The chiller and damp weather might also be more tolerable in the cities.
I did this last summer, fly to Paris, then train to Avignon and rent a car to explore Provence, then train to Nice and rent car to explore Riviera. Plane from Nice to home. You could do 5 nights Paris and 4 nights each in other cities. Enjoy!!