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Old    Boarder85 (fouroheight68)      Join Date: May 2006       09-09-2014, 8:17 AM Reply   
My wife and I are crossing something off the bucket list - backpacking Europe. We already have our itinerary and 95% of our lodging booked. 75% of our stay is in private room hostels, 15% fancy hotels, and 10% b&b's. Our itinerary is as follows:

Milan 10/30/2014
Venice 10/31-11/1
TBD 11/1 - 11/2
Amalfi Coast 11/2-11/4
TBD 11/4-11/5
Rome - 3 days 11/5-11/7
Siena (Tuscany) 11/7-11/9
Bordeaux 11/9 - 11/11
Marseille 11/11-11/13
Nice 11/13-11/15
Milan 16-Nov

We are mostly getting around by Rail, but we are also taking a Ryanair flight from Milan to Bordeaux on 11/9. From Bordeaux we fly to Marseille, and rent a car to drive the South of France.

This is our first trip to Europe, so any advice on these places, or in general, is appreciated!
Old    plhorn (plhorn)      Join Date: Dec 2005       09-09-2014, 8:45 AM Reply   
Here's the most important thing any traveler needs to know: learn to say "excuse me do you speak English" in the native language write it on your hand if you have to. Start asking any question with that. People say that the french are rude, but in their eyes you are being rude first if you didn't do this minimal effort. You will get a ton more help and meet really nice people if you start your conversation with that.

When in the Bordeau region if you can get to St.Emillon its a really cool wine village that is worth a day trip at least.

Have fun.
Old    Boarder85 (fouroheight68)      Join Date: May 2006       09-09-2014, 8:52 AM Reply   
Thanks, I took a few years of French in HS/College, but I'm rusty. It will come back to me though!

We are actually staying near St. Emillon at a B&B for 2 nights
Old    C.I.E. J-Rod (jarrod)      Join Date: May 2003       09-09-2014, 10:12 AM Reply   
I just spent 8 days in Italy traveling from Croatia. We did Rome, Florence, Bologna, and Venice. Most people there speak English.

I personally would trade Rome for more time in Venice or Florence. I found Rome to be dirty, rude, and just a smokey, loud, tourist trap. I did appreciate seeing the Vatican, Coliseum, and all of the other historical architecture. But after two days I was ready to get the hell out. Florence was amazing.
Old    Boarder85 (fouroheight68)      Join Date: May 2006       09-09-2014, 2:35 PM Reply   
Jarrod - any advice on getting around? Did you take the train everywhere?
Old    Miguel (migs)      Join Date: Aug 2006       09-09-2014, 2:35 PM Reply   
my advice would be to cut that list down to 3-4 cities, and spend lots of time in each so you can actually enjoy the city.
Old    C.I.E. J-Rod (jarrod)      Join Date: May 2003       09-09-2014, 3:30 PM Reply   
Yup. Took the train everywhere. Pretty easy. We bought tickets in advance online, but we didn't have too. Show up early and get to your platform to verify that you're in the right place for your train. One of the stations (Bologna) I think (no need to stop there) had East, West, and Central terminals. so that got a little confusing. But the train was one of my favorite parts of the trip. They are clean and pretty luxurious. And you get to see the gorgeous country side. I really wanted to stay out in the country, but it never happened. I'd go for that if you can.

Beware of people that offer help. Italians are rude as ****. If someone is offering to help you, it's because they want something. Ignore the gypsy's!

Also, I agree with Miguel unless you are packing light and keeping yourself mobile. Which it sounds like you are.

Use Yelp or Trip Advisor in the big cities for food. The places in the back alleys are usually the best. There's also a really cool app for translation.

In Venice, be sure to take your wife to San Marco square for a late night dinner. The entertainment is awesome. Realto bridge is also beautiful at night. You can walk all of it quickly.
Old    plhorn (plhorn)      Join Date: Dec 2005       09-10-2014, 6:55 AM Reply   
It is super easy to get around, public transportation is great everywhere but the smallest towns.

Most people speak English but the point of asking them in their language if they speak English is to show them that you respect their language and are doing a minimal effort. I lived in Paris for a year and would constantly have people walk up to me and ask for directions in English, it just feels rude after a while.

Asking in French, Italian or whatever other language says "I know I'm a foreigner here and would appreciate it if you could help me" asking in English says "You guys all speak my language because the US is #1, now help me"

When looking at a restaurant, usually big and neon = bad food. Tiny places with tiny tables=good food.
Old    plhorn (plhorn)      Join Date: Dec 2005       09-10-2014, 6:56 AM Reply   
oh and get to the Sistine chapel early. They sell out really fast and you could miss it.
Old    Wes (pesos)      Join Date: Oct 2001       09-10-2014, 7:35 AM Reply   
We are honeymooning in venice/florence/rome/capri/amalfi/paris in October, finishing up just as you're arriving. Fiancee's first time to Europe. Make sure you read up on what to expect with Ryanair - that airline is a trip.

Siena is awesome - one of my favorites. Staying on Lido in Venice was great too - away from the crowds.

Looking forward to the nice new Italian trains - things have changed a lot since the last time I was there!
Old    Stanfield (stanfield)      Join Date: Mar 2004       09-10-2014, 7:48 AM Reply   
Like Wes said, Ryanair can be hit and miss depending on the route. Most flights are full and they only allow a small carry on, much smaller than what we can get away with in the states. If it's too big you'll have to pay more than the flight costs to check it. The way I've gotten past this is to act like a super confused, unorganized, American tourist when you get to the front of the line. Meaning have boarding pass in 1 pocket, passport in bag, etc...spend a little time locating everything and it will generally frustrate them enough where they just want you gone and forget to measure your bag.
Old    C.I.E. J-Rod (jarrod)      Join Date: May 2003       09-11-2014, 8:39 AM Reply   
"asking in English says "You guys all speak my language because the US is #1, now help me""

hahaha! yeah. That's exactly how I felt.

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