Day Trips - Europe and Rome

I would love some suggestions on day trips to take from Rome as well as Paris. This will be our families first trip to Europe and I am feeling a little overwhelmed by all of the planning. We are trying to purchase rail passes but when I called to order them I was asked exactly were we will be traveling. I want to make the most of my time and money so I was hoping so more seasoned travelers could offer me some suggestions. I do not want to spread ourselves to thin but want to get the most out of this trip considering it has taken me 35 years to get here. It terms of Rome we know we would like to see the Tuscany region but I would also love to see a coastal area and have been warned again traveling to Naples. In Paris we are open to all suggestions. Thanks for your help. Christina

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
1414 posts

You need to provide more info. How many days do you have in Europe? Interests? When are you going? Rail passes - are you sure that rail passes make sense for you? For many people, they don't - you need to do some homework to ensure you're not wasting lots of money or locking yourself into unwanted constraints. Ignore the fear-mongering about Naples - Don Corleone is not going to jump out from behind a potted plant and drag you off somewhere the minute you step off the train. While I wold probably skip Naples as a destination on a short first trip to Italy, if you want to see a beautiful stretch of the Italian seaside, it's tough to beat taking the train from Rome (via Naples) to Sorrento and using that as a base for a few lovely days. From Paris the obvious choices include; Versailles, the Loire Valley, Mont St Michel and Normandy. Perhaps even London, Amsterdam, Bruges - all are possible. But all of the above depends on how much time you have and your interests. Hope that helps.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10883 posts

You are asking us to write a guide book for you. Don't have the space or time. If you do not want to buy them, then go to your local library check out the guidebooks, travel DVDs, etc. You need to have a general idea of YOU want to see and do. We are good at responding to specific question but not at mind reading. Get a map of Europe so that you have some ideas of distances. The very last thing to consider is rail passes. Rail passes are NOT automatically a good deal especially in Italy. The reason for the map. It is either Tuscany or Rome, not a day trip - too far. Same for Naples. We need an idea of your timeline, time of year, etc. Help us and we will help you.

Posted by Christina
Chico, California, USA
16 posts

Thanks for the tips. We will be in Rome and Paris in June 2013 for one week each. We are somewhat limited because we purchased an apartment in both locations for the entire week so it will not allow us the freedom to stay overnight in other locations. I think Sorrento sounds lovely so I will add that to my list. I hope to also get to your neck of the woods soon, I LOVE Seattle. My husband will be there for business in around ten days. Thanks again for the help.

Posted by Christina
Chico, California, USA
16 posts

Wow, sorry, I thought this was a forum for any/all questions. I have been reading both Rick Steves books on Rome and Paris trying to gain pointers but I am planning a trip for 4 individuals that have never been to Europe so that is why I am overwhelmed. I have visited a hundred different website and maybe this is part of the problem. I am trying to decipher which locations experienced travelers would have on there must see list to form a travel plan. Again sorry if this inconvenienced you.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10883 posts

That certainly helps. We now know some of your limits. Again, the Steves guidebooks for Rome and Paris would be very helpful to you and well worth the price. IMO, Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, are at the edge of reasonable day trips. It can be done but very longs with lots of travel. Florence is about the max I would consider for a day trip. Ostia Antica is an easy half day, Tivoli and Hadrian's Villa is easy day trip, (See RoninRome.com for great detailed direction for using public transit to and from). You have a lot of options, you need to start pinning some things down.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2504 posts

From Rome it's a little more than an hour to Orvieto, it can make a nice change of scenery. You could do a very long daytrip to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast but you'd be less stressed getting a tour from Rome rather than trying to plan it yourself. Ostia is another alternative. Hadrian's Villa and/or the Villa d'Este can be combined into one daytrip, they're in the same direction out of Rome. Check the Roninrome.com website for everything you need to know about how to get around Rome and what to do/see. I'm sure you'll get lots of suggestions for Paris as well.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10883 posts

Don't get hostile. We are trying to help you but you are not giving us much to work with. Big difference between being locked into an apartment for week and being able to move around. Any limitations with the four adults - age, walking, etc? When you say you want to see Tuscany but are locked in Rome, I know you have not looked at a map. Tuscany is close to twice the distance from Rome than it is from Naples. You could catch that area for a couple on the way to Paris but am guessing you do not have that flexibility.

Posted by Christina
Chico, California, USA
16 posts

Zoe thank you for your quick response, I will definitely take your suggestions into consideration. These are exactly the types of tips I was hoping for. I think I have overwhelmed myself trying to figure too many things at one time. I just want to make this an amazing trip for my family especially since it will most likely be the last big trip I take with my college age daughter.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

You should get Rick Steves Paris and Rick Steves Rome, ASAP. These books have lots of suggested daytrips, as well as all the details of how to accomplish them. If you need more ideas, there's a book An Hour From Paris. But with only a week, don't assume you'll have lots of time for daytrips. You can certainly take them if you wish. For instance, many want to see Versailles on even the shortest visit to Paris. And even though it's a long day, Pompeii is a must for many visitors to Rome. But there's no shortage of ways to fill time in your cities; you won't be "done" with Paris or Rome in a month, much less a week. For your trip, a railpass is an astounding waste of money. You will be taking mostly regional transit either not covered by a pass, or substantially cheaper than a pass day. Do you have any special interests that you feel would not be met by the cities themselves? You mentioned coastal areas; there are beaches near Rome (search this Helpline for recent threads on this topic). And don't write off Naples. Rick outlines a great day there, and for me, the Archeology Museum of Naples was a true travel highlight (it made a much stronger impression than Pompeii).

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

One more thing: "We are somewhat limited because we purchased an apartment in both locations for the entire week so it will not allow us the freedom to stay overnight in other locations" This is not true. You can certainly stay in other locations, as long as you don't mind paying for both the apartment and a hotel for that night. If there's a place you really have your heart set on that is too far for a convenient day trip, get a hotel room and just "eat" the cost of the apartment.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10883 posts

Could of other things that come to mind. Where in Rome is the apartment? That could have an impact on the Rome pass or the need for daily transit passes. How are you doing the transportation between Rome and Paris? We have found that leaving a blank day every 4 or 5 days is very helpful. Provides slack in the schedule, a chance to physically recover from very busy and sometimes stressful days, do a little extra laundry, see some of the things that we could not see on the days we over planned. Keep in mind that Monday can be a pretty dead day with a lot of closings especially if open on the weekend. So double check your Monday schedule. Sunday in Rome is a great day to do the Appian Way because the vehicle traffic is limited. Bikes are even a better way to see it.

Posted by Christina
Chico, California, USA
16 posts

Harold amazing advise, thank you. It definitely sounds like the rail-pass is not the way to go for us. Frank thank you as well. I am feeling much more comfortable. I have both the Rome and Paris Rick Steve's books and have read about 1/2 of each. My family does not want to go, go, go all seven days so leaving a day for rest is part of the plan. I think after all the tips I will plan on just two day trips during the week and hope that if I plan well enough we can hit more than one location on each day trip. I would love to see Sorrento(I realize this would make for a long day) and possibly Sienna. Now I need to figure out the best way to get to these locations. I will use the tips to walk me through this process.

Posted by Christina
Chico, California, USA
16 posts

Frank the Rome apartment is in the nobile area Citta' Giardino near the center of Rome. The website states there are excellent bus stops within a few minute walk and it takes 20 minutes to get into room according to one patron.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17780 posts

Christina, My suggestion would be to spend most of the time in the cities you'll be staying in, as both have LOTS of history and LOTS to see. Don't spread yourselves too thin with day trips, but a few would certainly be worthwhile. As you have the Paris and Rome Guidebooks, you'll be able to choose activities that fit your group. Here are a few suggestions that come to mind..... > Rome - you'll probably need at least 4 days if you plan on visiting the usual sights - Colosseum, Forum, Palatine Hill, Vatican, Borghese Gallery, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, etc. For day trips, you could consider Orvieto (a beautiful and historic hill town in Umbria), Ostia Antica (an ancient seaport, easily reached from Rome). If you really want to visit Tuscany, a day trip to Florence is one possibility (it's in Tuscany) as it's only ~1.5H each way from Rome via Freccia high speed trains. Travelling at 300 kmH will be a new experience for your group! While a day trip isn't the best way to see Florence, it is possible. Siena is not as practical, due to the travel times. > Paris - again, 4 days would be good to see the usual sights - the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Musee d'Orsay, Military Museum, Notre Dame, perhaps the Rodin Museum, St. Chapelle, etc. For day trips, Versailles is high on the list for many people. What ages are your kids - is there any interest in Euro Disney? Normandy is possible but not practical due to the travel times involved (unless you have a large budget and can afford one of the pricey but limited Bus trips). You won't be able to determine if a Railpass will work until you know exactly where you're going. There are ALL KINDS of possibilities, so these are only a few suggestions. Good luck with your planning!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17780 posts

Christina, One other comment (ran out of room in the previous reply)..... BE SURE to read the Rome Guidebook carefully regarding using Buses and other public transportation. You MUST validate tickets on Buses and Regionale trains or face hefty fines, which will be collected on the spot! The fines usually start at €50 PP and increase from there. If you're travelling on the Freccia or other premium trains, you MUST have reservations, which are included with P-P tickets but NOT with Railpasses. The reservations are specific to a particular train and departure time, so it's NOT possible to simply buy tickets and board any train. Those caught without valid reservations for the train they're riding on may again be fined on the spot!

Posted by Christina
Chico, California, USA
16 posts

Ken, great tips thank you. The kids are both 19. I am so glad I decide to ask questions on this forum I am feeling much more confident now. I would love any other tips you might have. You sound well-traveled so I would love to ask you one more questions. What is the best way to convert money? We are wondering how much cash would appropriate to take with us. Our bank can order us Euro's for no fee(I believe). I am still slightly confused about using credit cards while traveling in Europe due to chip and pin regulations as well as fee's though this is how we typically like to handle affairs.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

"What is the best way to convert money?" The best way to get cash is by using your ATM card at a European ATM. Even if your bank has some fees for this, it will give you a much better rate and with much greater convenience than any other method. You can use your US credit card for purchases, except at unstaffed machines in France. People are not reporting problems in most places in Italy (for instance, the train station ticket machines take US credit cards). Many like to arrive with €50 to 200, which you can get from your bank. But be aware there is no such thing as "free money." If your bank has no charge for foreign currency delivery, then they have a poor exchange rate. This is fine for a small amount to tide you over until you get to local ATM's, but don't get more than that. For apartment rentals, some do need to pay in full, in cash, on arrival. If you do, then your money needs are different; let us know, and we can suggest tips for that situation. Otherwise, ATM's are all over Paris and Rome, including the airports. For all the money advice you need, here's Rick's tips. Follow all the links on this page, and you'll be a pro: http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/money-travel-tips.htm

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8756 posts

Christina, I have a fairly decent knowledge of Rome's transport systems. Can you be a little more specific about the address, maybe street and cross-street, near where you will be so I can help you more with the buses you will need in Rome? Are you flying into Rome? How are you getting between Paris and Rome? Which one is first?

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2504 posts

In both Rome and Paris, I suggest you buy a street map that has an index of bus routes (a little booklet that peels away from the map cover). Make sure you get the latest edition, as routes can change. For converting money, definitely the ATM. If you are nervous about not having a chip-and-pin card, use an ATM (in Italy they are called Bancomat) attached to a bank during hours the bank is open - if something goes wrong, you can go inside the bank to sort it out. Weekends and early Monday mornings are times when ATMs run low and may adjust the maximum amount you can withdraw (not regulated by your bank, but by the ATM's bank). And let your bank and credit card companies know that you will be traveling and making purchases from Italy and France, or they may decline your transaction as suspicious activity. Regarding being overwhelmed, let the other members of your family each plan a day, or part of a day, if you think they'll be interested in that. No reason for you to have to think of every little thing for this trip.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2608 posts

Christina.... if your kids are anything like my daughter was on her first trip to Europe (mine too.. she was just 21) there is nothing wrong with being spontaneous with your days. The kids will likely be much happier without an 'agenda'. You have housing, so most everything else can be planned on a whim. It's as much about spending time with them in an incredible city than worrying about what you might be missing. It can be a life changing experience, especially if they are given the time to wander around and not have to go from 'tourist site to tourist site'. Don't forget to have them write in a journal. There is so much going on, it's amazing what you can forget if you don't write it down. Especially important on a first trip to record impressions, etc. on their first time seeing a place.

Posted by Christina
Chico, California, USA
16 posts

Terry and Zoe thanks for the great tips. I need to go with the flow, tough for this type A personality. I think I will play it by ear. I have limited longer day trips to two(?Florence and Sorrento?) and think we will just figure out the rest as we go. I am sure this trip means much more to me considering I have been dreaming of this trip so I was a little girl, the kids and husband are along for the ride.

Posted by George
Independence, KS, USA
532 posts

Check out www.seat61.com for all of your train questions in every country. Don't do rail passes. Tickets go on sale at 90 days prior to travel date (120 days in Italy) and the cheapest tickets are available then, but don't last too long. Get point to point tickets and print them at home. Rome and Paris offer plenty to do and see without a day trip. One I might suggest is taking a very early Eurostar over to London, getting on a hop on, hop off bus, and taking in all the famous sights of London. You can return on a late Eurostar to Paris. It's a long day but sleeping on the train is...... refreshing. :-)

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17780 posts

Christina, I normally have a €100 or so left over from previous trips, so that's what I use for "travel funds" on the next trip. It's useful for buying a coffee or meal, taxi fare or whatever until I get settled in my first hotel and can obtain more. As the others have mentioned, the easiest way to obtain cash is via ATM's. Be sure to check with your financial institution regarding fees, and note that your travel funds must usually be in a chequing account with a four number PIN. I would highly recommend packing along a "backup" ATM card in case there are problems with your primary card (I've had that happen). Also, BE SURE to notify your Banks and credit card firms that you'll be travelling, so they don't "freeze" your cards when they detect transaction activity in Europe. Having at least one credit card is also a good idea, and in Rome and Paris you'll probably find that you won't have problems with older magnetic stripe cards at locations such as hotels and restaurants. Some automated facilities in Paris (such as automated ticket machines) will ONLY accept "Chip & PIN" cards. Unless you're planning on travel to Amsterdam, older credit cards should be fine. Cheers!

Posted by Sherry
San Jose, CA
1139 posts

Christina, my first trips to Paris and Rome, I spent more than a week in each city. There's plenty to do. If you want day trips... One interesting day trip from Paris is the chateaux of Vaux le Vicomte; easy trip to train. Check their website to see if it interests you. Offers an experience similar to Versailles (architect, garden architect, and decorator were confiscated from Vaux le Vicomte and taken to create Versailles), but I found it far more enjoyable. Plus, the house is furnished, so you get a much better feeling for life at the time. Monet's garden is another option, depending on the time of the year. Chartres is easy to get to via train, as are a number of the other major Gothic cathedrals.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2504 posts

Terry Kathryn reminded me of something: if your kids balk at the idea of writing a journal, suggest a photo journal (cell phone photos would do) with some accompanying descriptions or notes to describe the photo.

Posted by Marty
Rockville, MD, USA
70 posts

It will help your stress levels if you get other family members involved in the planning process. We use the "days to choose" concept from Cynthia Harriman's Take Your Kids to Europe, even though the kids are now 25 and 27. Everyone contributes suggestions, then we adjust what to do when based on the weather (e.g. if rain is expected, use that day for a museum). You don't have to slot all your plans into a schedule but it can be helpful to know which sites are best seen early or late in the day to avoid heat or crowds. Then you'll be happier with changes you make "on the fly." You may find you need to pay a little extra attention to your daughter - the stress of travelling made my sons surprisingly fragile. Have a great trip!

Posted by Thomas
Snyder, Texas
503 posts

Hi Christina, Congratulations on getting to take your children on a great trip. I think you have answered your own question about places to go. You have an apartment booked for a week in both Rome and Paris, so you are going to Rome and Paris. That is a fantastic choice! These are two of the most exciting, beautiful, historic cities in the world. In a week, you will only scratch the surface at things to do and see in each, so there is no need to plan daily escapes to places of higher interest. Some of the best sites in the world will be daily at your doorstep in those two wonderful cities. Enjoy your trip and being with your family! Just wait until you see Rome and Paris. You will never WANT to leave!

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3582 posts

"But be aware there is no such thing as "free money." If your bank has no charge for foreign currency delivery, then they have a poor exchange rate" Not really true - several of us have repeatedly researched US banks and decided that Wells Fargo has the best rate, and if you're a customer you pay no fee for changing money; non-customers pay $5 (as of a year ago...). They aren't the same as a money-changer in Rome that's out to make a profit on your transaction.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8756 posts

Getting to and from that area will not be the easiest. You can see what I am looking at on the official map at http://www.atac.roma.it/files/doc.asp?r=384
Sorry I can't make the link live but it contains a question mark symbol which sets the automatic message checker loopy. You'll need to cut and paste. Follow the blue Metro, Metro B, east (right) from Termini until it divides at Bologna, then the branch that goes up, north, to its end. The next to last station on that line is Libia. Immediately to its right is FS Station Nomentana, and to the right of that is the loop of the end of bus lines 211 during the work week, 211 on holidays, and on the same loop 342. That loop, and the star indicating end of the line for the 211s, is where you will be, several streets further out from the star. You can walk up through the neighborhood to Via Nomentana (or let the 21 take you if timing is right) where you can get the 90 express bus or 60 to Termini, where both end, and make connections there. Or take the 342 (or walk some distance) to the Metro at Libia, which is 6 stops from Termini - remember when coming back you need the Conca d'Oro branch or you will not get where you want to go. Or the 211s or 342 will take you a reasonable walk to the FS station Nomentana where you can go one stop to Tiburtina and connect to the .ItaloTreno to Naples or Florence or Venice, etc., or into Termini or Ostiense. I'm sure your landlord will have all sorts of information and suggestions. I've thought that 20 minutes to the main attractions is a bit "optimistic".