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Jim asked

Need help planning Italy - France - Spain trip for 2014...

My wife and I are planning a trip for 2014 to Northen Italy, South of France and Northern Spain, arriving in Milan and departing from Barcelona. Ideally it include several days in Cinque Terre. We are planning on going for 11 to 14 days.

Our Questions:
1. What towns, cities should be on our list for this trip?
2. When is the best time to go to avoid crowds and still have decent weather?
3. Where is the best source of information to uncover quality and authentic food joints, outdoor activities (hiking, biking, etc), local events, and wine tastings?
4. How can I get tickets to soccer games in both Milan and Barcelona?
5. I want to stay in VRBOs in the country as much as possible, and nice hotels when in the city, any recommendations?
6. What's the better mode of transportation, train or rental car?

Any insights, recommendations and resources would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance,

Italy   Spain   France

6 Answers
answered first by
Tiffany from Corvallis

Whoa.  Your trip sounds amazing and incredibly ambitious. You could easily spend 11-14 days in just one of these countries!

Your Questions:

1.  You can do all five of the Cinque Terre towns including the hike between villages and a little wine tasting in 2-3 days.  We rushed through them in 1.  The towns are small enough though, so 2-3 should be enough to really see them. 

Do stop in Girona and spend a couple days there at least. It has old castles, wine, great food, and outdoor adventure stuff too.

To do a little more research on the Spanish portion of your trip, do a quick search on Twitter for "#tbex Costa Brava" or "#tbex Girona" as a recent travel blogging conference was hosted there.  Some of the best travel bloggers have written guides and reviews about that region of Spain.  You may find great information on the other parts of your trip that way too. 

2.  I like traveling to Spain and Italy in October or early November.  Summer is the insane time with crowds and heat as Europeans are traveling then as well.  October is quieter and more relaxed.  There will ALWAYS be tourist, but it isn't as crazy and you won't have snow. 

3.  From there, do some google searches and see what travel bloggers have to say.  They usually are trying to discover just that - local and good, and they'll honestly tell you what they think.  Ask questions, leave comments.  They'll respond.  While traveling, ask locals.  Even in your worst language skills, make an effort and you'll get rewarded with smiles and great suggestions.  I've found some gems this way.

4. The official site of FC Barcelona will have the upcoming schedule for your travel time and sells tickets.

5. Be aware that most VRBO places will only rent for the week.  Same story for  READ the comments.  We've stayed in some amazing places and some horrific places through these sites, unfortunately none on your route.

6. I personally love taking a rental car because you have the freedom and flexibility to explore little towns and surprises you find along the way, but it can be tricky to pick up in one country and drop off in another.  I tried to do that once and it was very cost prohibitive.  The train may be an easier choice, but will also determine to some extent where you end up going.

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Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Cinque Terre (region)
  2. Girona (city)
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answered by
David from Birmingham, United Kingdom

Pop into Carcassonne for the castle and nearby town of Foix, for its castle too. Both are stunning, and they're on your route. Sort of.

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Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Carcassonne (city)
  2. Foix (city)
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answered by
Szymon from Poland

Hi I was in Liguria last year. I was staying in Bogliasco near Genova.

My favorites: 

1. Beautiful fishing village   Portofino and its small beach. 

2.  Feast Stella Maris - first sunday in august in  Camogli. Hundreds of candles floating on the sea :)

3.  Parchi di Nervi than across  Passeggiata Anita Garibaldi to  Pizzeria Kebab Sole Luna  for something delicious to eat. ;)

4. Just take scooter and ride thru ss1 Via Aurelia

Best things to being there in the summer are great warm weather and sweet smell of flowers!

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Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Bogliasco (city)
  2. Portofino (city)
  3. Camogli (attraction)
  4. Parchi di Nervi (attraction)
  5. Passeggiata Anita Garibaldi (attraction)
  6. Pizzeria Kebab Sole Luna (restaurant)
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answered by
Pat from Clermont-en-Argonne


The Provence region is amazing, especially Grasse for the perfumes and lavender fields, Salon-de-Provence and the Calanques near La Ciotat are beautiful and the arenas of Arles and Nimes are worth seeing. A quick detour to the Pont du Gard is quite nice too. Of course Carcassonne and its cuisine is incredible. If you want to enjoy more time in Catalonia (avoid saying it's Spain there...) than France, I'd suggest the Dali Museum in FigueresBesaluTossa de MarGirona and a day trip from Barcelona to Montserrat

A rental car is probably the best option for the flexibility but not the cost. There's also a Eurorail pass quite interesting for non-Europeans if you prefer traveling by train.

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Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Grasse (attraction)
  2. Salon-de-Provence (city)
  3. La Ciotat (city)
  4. Arles (city)
  5. Nimes (city)
  6. Pont du Gard (attraction)
  7. Carcassonne (city)
  8. Figueres (city)
  9. Besalu (city)
  10. Tossa de Mar (attraction)
  11. Girona (city)
  12. Montserrat (attraction)
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answered by
Monica from Taggia

Hello Jim ,
I live in Liguria and I know the Cinque Terre , the south of France and Barcelona. I apologize for my English!
The Liguria has a lot of charm to the proximity of the mountains and the sea and the small villages that are real jewels .

If you have two weeks you can do this itinerary:

1 night in Milano Centrale ( the city of fashion )
1 night in Genoa the" superb"
3 nights Cinque Terrelittle jewels on the sea
2 nights in Sanremo the city of flowers and the bike path is one of the most extensive walking and cycling routes in the Mediterranean, with a length of 24 km
2 nights in Toulon ( Hyeres and the islands of Porquerolles )
2 nights in Arles ( Camargue )
3 nights in Barcelonaa city full of life.

Recommended months : September-October

Site with all the information :
or contact me.
Transport: From Milan - Cinque Terre by train
Cinque Terre -Sanremo by Train
Sanremo - Toulon - arles - barcelona car to move better and enjoy landscape.

I have many things to tell you but the answer will be too long .

Best regards!

Comments (1)

Monica, thank you for your advice. As we get closer to our trip I may reach out for more details. Thanks so much!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Milano Centrale (attraction)
  2. Genoa (city)
  3. Cinque Terre (region)
  4. Sanremo (city)
  5. Toulon (city)
  6. Arles (city)
  7. Barcelona (city)
comments (1)
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answered by
Jen from Los Angeles

Cinque Terre:  Husband and I stayed 3 nights in Monterosso al Mare in mid-March 2012.  It was a tad on the cold side for beach-going but not crowded at all (the entire area was also still recovering from bad flooding a few months earlier).  We stayed at a B&B on the hill called Manuels Guesthouse.  It was perfect for our needs (we had been backpacking all over Europe on a budget using Rick Steves' guides and info which never steered us wrong).  We were on the "ground" floor of the house with a patio area that overlooked the entire town and harbor.  We had a huge room with its own kitchen which let us get food from the local market.  Manuel and Lorenzo were very accommodating, feeding us breakfast at the outdoor "bar & restaurant" patio that was surrounded by beautiful lemon orchards.  

In town, we had the most mouth-watering meals at Enoteca (amazing pesto pasta - in new town), Belvedere (the mussels and black pasta dish was unforgettable - under train tracks) and Tortuga (awesome fish - in hillside).  We traveled exclusively by train, which seemed like the best choice due to very small roads and little parking -- plus the train is super easy and pretty cheap.

If you end up staying in Monterosso, check out the old town candy store-turned bar/casino at night to watch the soccer games on one of the few TVs in town with the locals.  Grappa and limoncello is readily available there.  

Definitely do the hiking in the area -- can't go wrong on any of the trails. Fantastic views and pretty easy to do.  If we were to do it again, I think we'd only stay here 2 nights at most.

South of France:  We also stayed in Nice for 3 nights just before visiting Cinque Terre.  We stayed at a place called Hotel Lafayette that was just ok.  It was centrally located downtown with an ok breakfast but paper thin walls and we had loud neighbors.  The room was large with a balcony and A/C (which we only used because the room remained humid from the open shower).  It was about a 10-15 min. walk from the train station.  There is a tram to downtown but we preferred to walk since the tram was super crowded.  The boardwalk in Nice was beautiful, but we found the rest of the town to be a tad uneventful.  It was a good base for exploring Antibes and Monaco though, both of which were visit-worthy.  We did fine without a car in all of these locations.

Soccer game tickets:  We were successful at getting Bundesliga tickets from the team website.  You can also try third-party ticket vendors (although expect higher prices).  I've used Tickets Unlimited which gave me a full refund for Ajax (Amsterdam's team) tickets when the game was cancelled due to police strikes (which was unexpected but nice).  You can also check out the foreign Craigslist sites for locals selling tickets.

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Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Monterosso al Mare (city)
  2. Manuels Guesthouse (hotel)
  3. Nice (city)
  4. Hotel Lafayette (hotel)
  5. Antibes (city)
  6. Monaco (attraction)
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