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French-Italian Road Trip

Adelaide, Australia
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French-Italian Road Trip

Hi!

I'm planning a 7ish day solo road trip as part of a one month holiday flying in and out of Paris 29/8-26/9. Was thinking approx 4/9 start date, but open to suggestions. Haven't booked a car yet because I can't decide exactly where to, and how long!!!

Budget is not an issue, but thinking of staying in back packers or similar for the social side. Any suggestions would be great here :)

Want to see - nice scenery, both built and natural. Like the outdoors, so short hikes interest me... also interested in history. Overall I guess I want a bit of variety.

Happy to travel approx 2-4 hours per stretch, or longer as long as there are things to do and see along the way.

Thinking getting train to Lyon, then hire car from there.

Places I really want to see:

-Chamonix/Mt Blanc

-Cinque Terra

-Rome (thinking I should leave my car somewhere and train here?)

-Monaco

-Eze (can anyone comment if this is worth seeing?)

-Nice

-Finish up somewhere like Nimes/Avignon

So... questions in addition to those above are...

am I trying to do too much in too little time, and in which case, what should I skip (or should I extend the trip)?

can anyone offer suggestions on stopoffs along the way to the major stops, to break up the driving?

Anything I should put on my not-to-miss list while I'm in the area??

Petrol vs Diesel?

Is it going to be warm enough at that time of year to swim at the beach, and if so, where is/are a good spot along the way to do so?

I'm sure I could think of a hundred more questions!!!

Thanks in advance for your advice!

Penticton, Canada
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1. Re: French-Italian Road Trip

hi

basic answer - you have too much on your plate. Rome is worth 3-4 nights on its own.

Have a look at google maps or viamichelin road maps and insert destinations. That will give you an idea about distances and times it take to drive between the 2 points.

Adelaide, Australia
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2. Re: French-Italian Road Trip

Thanks cbaarch,

Have spent hours mapping out routes on google maps, and been introduced to viamichelin from reading other posts. I'm familiar with the distances of the places I want to see, but more after good places to stop along the way - there's a lot of little towns and cities... will take me weeks to research all of them! If anyone has tips of places worth stopping in at along the way - that will help greatly!

Sounds like I'm best to skip Rome completely, and do a separate trip sans car - which I suspected may need to be the case.

Any help for my other questions?

Thanks

T

Lewes, United...
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3. Re: French-Italian Road Trip

Hi T

cba has offered the same advice that I would. Far too much to see/do with the time you have, if you keep Rome.

The other major point that he didn't emphasize, and you hinted at without perhaps appreciating the significance, is that driving in much of Europe requires a different mind set. With the very high number of small communities and narrow roads that, unless you use motorway equivalents, go from town centre to town centre with the ensuing traffic lights, roundabouts, slow traffic, etc, doing long distance drives to link up large cities is not necessarily enjoyable.

Rome is not the only Italian city worth avoiding with a car. Just google ZTL to understand why!

With 7 days, if you picked up a rental car in Lyon and dropped it off in Nimes or Avignon, then you can do a decent circular route that includes pretty much all the other destinations on your route, and have time to enjoy both the urban and rural delights.

What I would warn about, despite your comments that budget isn't too much of an issue is, if you cannot find convenient backpacker hostels, is that the Cinque Terra and Italian/French Riviera area is pretty pricey, and finding secure car parking near the hostels may well be a challenge. Also, Cinque Terra has become incredibly popular and crowded, the tour buses on those narrow, bendy and hilly roads are a major nuisance, in my view.

A few comments regarding your one week car rental: You may find it cheaper to drive back to Lyon to return the car than drop it off in Nimes or Avignon, but I do know Avignon has a few rental desks near the TGV station. As you'd want to do that drive on the N7 autoroute, to avoid wasting time, use the costing feature on the viamichelin website to work out whether the tolls are more or less expensive than the one way rental fee versus a return to base option. Yes, diesel is much the cheaper fuel, but diesel rental cars can be a lot pricier than petrol cars. Again, shop around and compare.

Once you confirm that you have decided to shorten the trip, I'd be happy to suggest a few extra worthwhile stops on your route. Also, let me know if you plan to do the Mont Blanc tunnel, or would want a route over the mountains, which should be possible in early September.

If you still wish to find a way of including Rome, please tell us the rest of the Europe travel plans and I will try and suggest a way of adding it. As with any trip of this nature, it's a compromise, more time always makes it easier!

SWT

Adelaide, Australia
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4. Re: French-Italian Road Trip

Thanks SWT!

Yep - more than happy to drop Rome off the list. I think I got caught up in the "While I'm in the area"... My other plans are still pretty fledgling - would like to spend a couple of days in london, and also possibly the start of Oktoberfest. Have an apartment in Paris booked for the whole trip, so can be pretty spontaneous and flexible.

Have already looked at hire car costs... and happy with the one way and diesel costs, and approx 7 days car hire. Any tips on what I need to do/how to pay for the tolls would be appreciated!

I had planned on going through the Mt Blanc tunnel, but equally happy to drive over the mountains for something worth seeing :)

T

Lewes, United...
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5. Re: French-Italian Road Trip

OK, thanks for responding. Well, clearly any plans for London and Oktoberfest are totally separate from this road trip, so I'll just stick to the road trip in terms of suggestions of places to visit. There's no overlap, which is what I wondered about.

(However, plan carefully for Oktoberfest - which actually starts on 20 September! - as it's a great party event with lots of activities for the young at heart, but the commercialism and high prices make it not ideal for independent travel on a budget, and not the best time to see the other wonders of Munich!)

So, a 7 night road trip might look like this:

Day 1 Lyon - Annecy. Drive non autoroute via Aix les Bains for lovely lakes and untravelled roads. Enjoy Annecy town, the canal and the waterfront.

Day 2 Annecy - Aosta. If you like the mountains and driving over passes, but still wish to do the Mt Blanc tunnel, route via the Col d'Aravis and St Gervais to Chamonix/Mt Blanc. Aosta is a large, chaotic town but has wonderful food shops and Roman ruins.

Day 3 - Aosta to La Spezia. Maybe visit the morning market before leaving Aosta. This is the longest mileage day, a repositioning day. I'd use autopista all the way to bypass the many industrial towns in the river valleys and also along the Med coast, and do avoid routing via Turin.

Day 4 La Spezia - Savona. This is not a long drive but can take ages, see below comments, too. This could allow for lots of exploration of the small fishing ports and small towns along the way, not just the famous ones of the Cinque Terre. You might get beyond Savona towards Imperia for the night.

Day 5 Savona - Grasse. This day will take you through Monaco for a visit of Monte Carlo, beware parking regulations. San Lorenzo and San Remo are nice stops on the Italian side. Grasse gets you into the hills above the Riviera for the night, it's a bit cheaper.

Day 6 Grasse - Arles. See comments below for how to route, but do stop in Aix en Provence. Be careful of the narrow roads in Arles, but lots to explore including Roman ruins and the van Gogh museum.

Day 7 Arles - Avignon. Don't take the very short direct route but drive to Nimes and Pont du Gard for more wonderful Roman ruins and charming areas.

General comments:

This is a point to point itinerary. It mostly goes from large town to large town. I'm not necessarily recommending you stay in those towns, we certainly prefer to stay in smaller villages just outside. It does give you the direction to follow and will be easy to plot against maps or web tools. The best online website for Europe is this one, but its worst feature is mapping long lists of places. It will work out your trip costs for a diesel car and show tolls, however!

www.viamichelin.com/

I've stuck with the Mt Blanc road tunnel. It's just so much faster than the route over the mountains as that takes you hugely out of your way, and I suspect you'd possibly rather do more miles. However, over the mountains and exploring the Gran Paradiso area is a lovely alternative. Anyway, it's an interesting experience to drive that long tunnel, a major engineering feat. Just before you enter the tunnel, on the French side, there are several pull offs where you can stop and look up at the overhanging glaciers on the Mont Blanc massif. There's also a mini museum about the tunnel construction and engineering.

I've assumed you don't need time to explore either Lyon or Avignon in this route. Both towns are well worth spending time in, but without a car which is a hindrance, especially in Lyon. If you need to add time for exploring those destinations, then you will need to cut a day or so from the schedule and/or be prepared to spend more time on toll highways rather than enjoying the byways to complete the suggested route.

To reach the Cinque Terre area, which is between Genova (Genoa) and La Spezia, it would be faster to use the autopista from around Aosta to rush past that rather industrial northern area of Italy. To me it offers less for the tourist than almost all other parts of your route. I’d also rush past that area to finish at La Spezia for the night, ready to do the slow drive the next day.

From La Spezia to just past Cannes there are parallel toll roads and main highway all along the Med. Both run close to the coast at times, sometimes actually hugging the coast and offering splendid views here and there. The toll road has far more tunnels to reduce the bends, etc, so is less scenic. Depending on sunlight levels, dipping in and out of these tunnels can be blinding. You may want to use both. The non toll road can be horribly tedious and slow as it heads into each and every last little community and fishing port, and has lots of slow bends and more inclines. Getting behind slower vehicles can be a real PITA. So to make up time or just to blast past some of the slow stuff, you may wish to switch to the toll road to eat a few miles here and there. We usually mix it up.

Personally, I'd avoid Nice. It's a popular destination, but we find the traffic confusing and commercialism not to our taste.

After the Grasse area stop, you have a choice. Head back to the coast and explore the much less built up area around Hyeres, but overall similar to what you will have done for the previous day, or keep inland to visit some of the smaller, Provencal towns and villages, some of which will have great markets. For info on markets in general (plus museum hours, if needed) within France, most municipalities have their own website which shows market days and other local info.

Anyway, I hope you find this helpful. It should be a lovely drive in September. If I wasn’t already travelling at that time, I’d ask to come with you!

SWT

Edited: 12 February 2014, 12:45
Adelaide, Australia
4 posts
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6. Re: French-Italian Road Trip

Thanks so much! Has been very helpful!

Has confirmed some of my thinking...and great to get some additional advice and places to stop!

Tracy

Western Australia...
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7. Re: French-Italian Road Trip

I'm struggling to get a smallish part of our trip organised and therefore booked!!

On the 7th May 2015, we are planning on driving from Lerici, nr Le Spezia, Italy and heading to Savona, to drop off our car, as we can't seem to drive into France with one hired in Italy it seems! Which means our next leg will have to be on a train perhaps.

I have looked on both the Trenitalia website and the French Railway website too, to see if I could find a rail journey, which would take me from Savona, Italy, or from Ventimiglia (which seems to be in France, even though it looks like it's in Italy, on Google maps!), to Nimes in France. It's all rather confusing and it doesn't look like I can book a train straight through from Savona to Nimes, even though I'm sure there would be one!!

So, my question is, does anyone know HOW I can find and book train travel from Savona in Italy, to Nimes in France, stopping over if necessary on the way?

Any help will be greatly appreciated!

Thanks,

Glynis

Western Australia

Lewes, United...
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8. Re: French-Italian Road Trip

Hi Glynis

This is the road trips forum, so you are asking about train travel in the wrong place. Also, this topic 'belongs' to T. For train travel conundrums, ask those questions either in the train travel forum (see link below) or on the forums for the specific towns you have mentioned such as Savona, Nimes (I know that the other end, but locals there may also be familiar with the reverse route) or other possible stops on the train line. Ventimiglia was definitely in Italy last time I passed through there!

tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g1-i12483-Train_Tr…

When you say you cannot drive a car rented in Italy in France, I'm not sure your facts are correct. Most rental car companies, because of laws about freedom of movement, will allow their cars to be driven in many European countries. However, you can have to pay extra for extra insurance to cover additional countries. What can be hard to do is drop off a car in another country. Not all rental companies allow this, and those that do charge a huge amount of money as it's an international one way drop, and they need to retrieve the car. Also, I notice your dates are for May. There are several public holidays in both France and Italy during that month. If you are using small, local rental companies, do check whether their offices are open on public holidays, if that's your pick up or drop off date. Also, beware opening hours of fuel stations and other facilities and services tourists might need.

If you have further questions regarding the road trip element of your please, please may I suggest you start your own new topic.

SWT

Edited: 09 February 2015, 13:28
Western Australia...
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9. Re: French-Italian Road Trip

So sorry for not following the protocol here, but thanks for the info & advice you did give. I didn't realise that I wasn't allowed to ask questions here, when I didn't start the conversation.

Anyway, I will have a look at the train forum you showed the link for, so thanks for that.

Glynis

Lewes, United...
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10. Re: French-Italian Road Trip

No worries. Of course you may ask questions here. It's just that it's best if each person asks their questions as a new topic to avoid confusion. As you can see this topic is old, and I have to assume that T's trip is done and dusted, so no harm done by your questions, just that there may be more folk out there with greater knowledge than mine but they'll see and old post and ignore it. As to asking train questions, well, it's just that those are better addressed towards the folk know know about those things!

SWT