France – Italy : Paris, Nice, Venice, Florence, Rome & Pompeii
6 Cities in 14 days : Apr 18 to May 3
Summary Itinerary :
- Toronto to Paris – 9 hours flight
- Paris – 3 nights / 3 days
- Paris to Nice – TGV
- Nice – 2 nights / 1.5 days
- Nice to Venice – EasyJet flight ~ 1 hour
- Venice – 2 nights / 2 days
- Venice to Florence – Trenitalia 2 hours
- Florence – 2 nights / 1.5 days
- Florence to Rome – Trenitalia – 1 hour 30 min
- Rome – 5 nights / 4.5 days
- From Rome – Day trip to Pompei – 3 hours one way by FlixBus
- Rome to Toronto – 10 hours flight
Weather : Cool in the morning and nights – light jacket required; Day time temperatures around 15 – 20 C. Long pants recommended; Expect rain, carry umbrella or Poncho. Excellent weather for walking around the city or in the ruins
Transport : Car is definitely not required as the Metro system is very good in Paris and Rome. In Venice, buy the Vaporetto pass; In Florence and Nice you can walk everywhere. Check out the section / article on transportation.
Accommodation : I would recommend staying in the Centro area; most sights are about 30 min walk.
- Paris – area around the Arc de Triomphe
- Nice – in Place Massena
- Venice – Anywhere on the island, ideally near Realto bridge or the railway station, which is also a Vaporetto (water bus) stop
- Florence – Anywhere near the Piazza della Liberta
- Rome – Near the Coliseum, we stayed in a Hotel called Centro Cavour
WARNING : Beware of pickpockets! Do not carry much cash. Keep your backpack in the front. Be aware of who is coming near you. Keep your cash or card in the front pocket or in the socks or well hidden deep inside the clothing. Do not carry anything of value in crowded places.
About the Must see places that I have recommended: There are a lot of places (small and big) that you can add depending on the time, interest and energy you have. Book tickets in advance otherwise you will spend hours (2-4 hours) in the lineups to buy the tickets. Buy front of the line tickets wherever possible. It’s worth the money spent. Start early, very early. Line ups start as early as 7 am.
Must see places and must-do activities
Paris – Nice – Venice – Florence – Rome – Pompeii
Paris (April 19th to 22)
The must see places in Paris
- Champs Elysee,
- Arc de Triomphe,
- climbing up to the top of Arc de Triomphe,
- Eiffel Tower by the day,
- Eiffel Tower by night,
- Climb up Eiffel Tower,
- Sacre-coeur, climb up the Dome of sacre-coeur,
- Versailles Palace and Gardens,
- Louvre Museum,
- Cruise on Seine River, eat at the jumbo BBQ at the pier for the cruise boats next to Eiffel Tower,
Paris (Apr 19)
We reached Charles de Gaulle Airport in the morning around 9 am. Bought a SIM card for 40 euros which included phone and 10 GB of data. Took a cab from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Hotel Courcelles Mederic which was very close to Champs elysees. Cost about 55 euros. Reached the hotel at around 11 a.m. After resting for about an hour we started walking towards Champs-Elysees. Although it was chilly in the morning, the temperature now had risen to mid 20s. Had to change into a light shirt and shorts. At the end of Champs Elysees on one side is Arc de Triomphe. There is a ticket to climb up to the top of Arc de Triomphe and I would recommend doing this activity as the view from the top is very beautiful.
Paris (Apr 20)
Eiffel Tower : Interesting Facts : 300 m, 324 m to tip, Construction started: January 28, 1887. As a Canadian, I wanted to compare it to our CN tower in Toronto Canada, which is 553 m high; Construction started: February 6, 1973
I would recommend going to the Eiffel tower in the evening so you can see it in daylight and lit up at night. Book the tickets to the top of Eiffel tower in advance.
Boat cruise in river Seine – in front of Eiffel tower
We did the boat cruise at night which allowed us to see the attractions lit up. The major highlight of the cruise are the many bridges that you will see or rather pass under during the ride. You will also see at least 10 to 12 attractions including the Notre Dame and the boat will take you around the island which is in the river. You’ll also see large groups of people partying on the Riverside playing live music around bonfires. The dancing and general merrymaking adds to the the holiday atmosphere. The boat is also an ideal spot to take nice pictures of and with the Eiffel Tower. At the boat landing we found a jumbo barbecue place which was selling hot dogs and kebabs and a lot of different types of meats which I would recommend you to try.
Paris (April 21)
Sacre Couer in morning – Start early, should take around 3 hours. The Sacred Heart Basilica of Montmartre, or Sacré-Coeur, is a Roman Catholic church and a must see place. Situated on a hill, the view is stunning from the top of the dome. There is a ticket of I think 7 euros to climb up the dome but it is worth it.
Louvre in the afternoon
Interesting facts :
- The Louvre was originally a fortress built in the 12th century. You can see the original walls of the fortress at the lower level.
- Later served as the Royal palace for 2 centuries
- The Louvre covers almost 15 acres of area !!! And around 380,000 artefacts !!!
- The Monalisa, which is the most popular painting in the Louvre, was stolen once from the Louvre in 1911 and returned in 2 years
- The pyramid at the entrance built in 1989 by a non-French architect caused a lot of controversy.
We booked the tickets in advance online. The Louvre is a massive place which according to me would easily take up to 2 -3 days to see everything. We tried to do it in 5 and 1/2 hours and were very disappointed as we missed out a lot. And let me reiterate that when I say 5 and 1/2 hours, we were continuously moving with absolutely no breaks. It becomes extremely tiring since you are not just continuously standing and walking short distances but also reading or maybe listening to audio guide and trying to understand and assimilate stuff which is so exciting and has so much to learn that it does become a little heavy on the brain. I would have liked to tour at a slightly slower pace with breaks for 15 minutes every 2 hours. If that is not a possibility then I would highly recommend that you research the artifacts / art objects in advance and shortlist the ones that you really want to see.
In my Top things to see in the Louvre I would of course rank the Mona Lisa at number one.
- Venus de Milo,
- the Winged Victory of Samothrace from the second century BC,
- the Pyramid at the entrance,
- the Lamassu or the huge sculptures with the head of a human and body of a bull from ancient Mesopotamia 700 BC,
- the sculptures such as the dying slave and the rebellious slave by Michelangelo,
- the sculpture of Psyche revived by Cupid’s kiss,
- some great artworks such as Eugene Delacroix’s LIberty Leading the People,
- the Coronation of Napoleon.
- Virgin and Child by Leonardo da Vinci,
- paintings by Botticelli;
- Rembrandt’s Bathsheba at her bath,
- Nymph and satyr;
- Sculptures of Michelangelo,
- Borghese Gladiator,
- Seated scribe from 2500 BC;
- the apartments of Napoleon 3.
In addition you should definitely not miss the Courtyard with glass roof in which a lot of sculptures are placed.
Paris (April 21)
Morning to Versailles palace : Took the Metro and RER combination to Versailles. In Paris they have a metro system which is like of a subway and the RER train system which is like our GO train.
Evening Eiffel tower – View from the second floor
Remember, it is closed on Mondays
The Versailles palace apart from being the royal household till the French revolution, has witnessed many historical events such as the arrest of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (and later beheading), Crowning of the German emperor, signing of the treaty of Versailles and many more. The palace is a must see place and requires most of the day to do justice to the beautiful architecture, artworks and sculptures. I was not impressed with the garden so much and the musical fountains is a waste of time and utterly disappointing. I think we were very tired after the 4 – 5 hour palace tour that we did not have much energy left to walk in the gardens. I would recommend taking the Golf carts which you can rent in the garden for I think, 30 min time slots.
The ticket for the Palace is about 18 euros and a timed entry ticket for the palace and gardens is 27 euros.
Paris to Nice (April 22) – Travelling on the superfast TGV train
Took metro from Courcelles station (3 min walk from our Hotel) to Gare Lyon (one of the main train stations). Took the TGV from Paris to Nice and reached around 4 p.m. The train reached a maximum speed of 315 kmph many times. I would recommend the food on the TGV but you have to buy early to avoid disappointment later.
Nice (April 22):
Our Hotel located at the Place Massena was about 16 minutes walk. The walk took us through the main street which is also called as Jean Medecin Street which has a lot of shops around and trams plying in the middle of the road. It was a packed Street with a lot of tourists like us walking with trolley bags so it did not feel awkward to be walking with luggage. Our booking was at Hotel de la Mare which I felt was located in the perfect spot just 5 minutes from the main Beach area which is on Promenade des Anglais, the street along the Mediterranean Sea is one of the top must-see place in Nice. One look at the waters along the shores and you can understand why it is called Cote d’Azur or the blue coast.
Nice (Apr 23)
It was raining since morning but despite the rain, we wore our semi waterproof jackets and walked towards the Harbour. It was helpful to have some cover and awnings of shops to help us from drenching completely.
Evening of April 23rd we felt like having some Thai food and found a restaurant called Pitaya on Google. It was just off the Avenue Jean medecin. The food was surprisingly good and not very expensive. Good Food stop. We had pad thai, chicken in green curry, some beef dish with udon noodles and some other dishes.
Nice to Venice (April 24)
Our flight to Venice was at booked on EasyJet for 12:25 p.m. Took the bus route 70 to the airport and landed at Terminal 1 instead of Terminal 2. We found out the hard way that Terminal 2 and 1 were not close to each other but were a good 20 minutes walk.
The cabin baggage allowance of easyJet is slightly more than what is allowed by Air France so we didn’t have to check in any baggage. From Venice airport, the ticket to Venice using the airport buses is €8 and the taxi fare is €40. In both cases you have to walk about 500 to 800 m to reach your hotel.
Checked into the Hotel Agli Artisti
Venice (April 24th)
Agli Artisti was a nice and clean hotel rated 3 stars. After check in, which was pretty quick, we started off on a 20-minute walk to Rialto Bridge. On the way we did the Gondola ride which costs $80 for 30 to 35 minutes and is a standard rate in Venice. You could take a gondola from an inside canal or from the the main canal which is also called as the Grand Canal.
Later in the evening we bought a 24-hour day pass for the vaporetto (water bus). A day pass is a 24 hour pass which allows unlimited travel in the water boats and costs about €20 per person. I would recommend this pass if you are planning to use the Vaporetto at least 3-4 times.
Venice (Apr 25)
Early morning at 9 am took the vaporetto to Murano island from Ferrovia. Murano is famous for its glass and has many small factories where you can see glassware being made by hand for a small price (2 euros) From Murano, we took the vaporetto to Burano island which is famous for its colourful houses. There is a seafood fast food joint right in front of the vaporetto stop which serves lot of italian delicacies.
We spent the late afternoon and evening at St. Marks square which has a number of attractions around it.
Florence (Apr 26 – 27)
We took the morning train (Trenitalia) to Florence. Our hotel was located in the Centro area and was about 18 minute walk from the railway station. Most of the attractions were near our hotel so we did not have to take any transport in Florence.
Must see places :
Piazza del Duomo – Get amazed by the architecture of Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, different from other cathedrals that I have seen. We did not go in as there were big line ups but the view from outside is great. There are many other structures around it which would take an hour to view.
Piazza della Signoria – This is a big square and the main gathering point for tourists. There are a lot of original sculptures displayed here which a lot of people don’t recognize as its free to view. There is a replica of David and many other beautiful sculptures in the square. Enjoy a meal or a coffee at one of the restaurants in the square enjoying the beauty of the Palace Vecchio, the sculptures and the fountain.
Galleria dell’Accademia – where you can see the original sculpture of David by Michelangelo and many other sculptures and art pieces.
Ponte Vecchio – beautiful enclosed bridge with lots of shops. Used to have butcher shops in the olden days.
Piazzale Michelangelo – It’s a long walk but worth it as it offers a panoramic view of Florence.
Don’t miss Mercato Centrale and the lane leading to it. At the Mercato or the market, you will find vendors selling Tuscan cuisine ingredients, meat, sea food but what will attract you the most is the 2nd floor where you have a huge number of food stalls and restaurants serving delicious cuisines.
Rome and Pompeii (Apr 30 – May 2)
We took the train to Rome which is a very convenient and comfortable way to travel. Totally recommend using trains and buses to travel in Italy.
Must see places in Rome
The top of the list is of course the Colosseum (1 hour to enter with front of line ticket and 2-3 hours to see). I am giving below my list of must see places with minimum time that one should spend there :
- The 3 fora which are the Nerva Forum, Augustus forum, Trajan forum. (2 – 3 hours)
- The Palatine Hill (3 – 5 hours)
- Roman forum (2 – 3 hours)
- the Piazza Navona ( 1-2 hours)
- Spanish Steps ( 1 hour) – beautiful steps (174) linking the Spanish embassy (of 1725) and the Church on the hill. Now a days the centre of the steps are covered with beautiful flowers. Great spot for pictures.
- Pantheon ( 1 hour)
- Trevi fountains (1-2 hours) – What strikes you first is the size, then the exquisite sculptures. Custom of throwing a coin in the water to fulfil your wish. Stand with your back to the fountain and throw a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder in a way that the coin lands in the water!
- St. Peters Cathedral in Vatican (half day)
- the Vatican Museum and Sistine chapel (half to full day)
- San Angelo Castel & St. Angelo Bridge (2 hours)
- Altar of the Fatherland ( 2 hours)
- Campidoglio (1 hour)
May 2 – Day trip to Pompeii
Book the Flixbus from Tiburtina (bus and train station) in Rome to Pompeii which took us around 3 hours to reach Pompeii. From our Hotel, which was in the centro area, we took the Metro from Cavour Station to Tiburtina Station, which took around 10 to 12 minutes.
The buses are very comfortable and clean. The first 2 hours of the journey was not very scenic but as you get close to Naples you start seeing the mountains. On the left you can see Mount Vesuvius and on the right is the ocean.
From the bus station at Pompeii we walked to the Church of Mary of Rosary. We spent 10 to 15 minutes at this church and then walked for another 15 to 20 minutes to reach the Archaeological Park of Pompeii which contains the ruins of the ancient Roman city. It is best to buy the tickets online to save the time in standing in the queue. Start early, I think the park opens at 8:30 a.m. Along with the ticket at the entrance you will also get the map and radius itineraries that you can follow. Itineraries are based on the amount of time you have so if you have, say 2 hours, there is one itinerary, for 4, 5 or 7 hours there are different ones. We had about 5 hours so we selected the five hour one. One word of caution is that the maps are good but not very accurate and sometimes you may not find the roads as indicated on the map as there is always some maintenance work going on. So if you have decided to take the 5 hour itinerary, please make sure that you have at least 6 hours at your disposal. There are washrooms inside and also drinking water at different places. I would recommend that you carry some sandwiches or protein bars or stuff to eat inside as you may not get time to stop and visit a cafeteria inside. Carry your food and water along in a small backpack.
Pompeii can be done in a day from Rome. You can book the flixbus which takes about 3 hours from Rome to Pompeii. We took the 7 bus Which reached Pompeii by about 10 minutes past 10. It is best to book tickets in advance for the archaeological area of Pompeii so you can start immediately. The whole area is divided into zones or areas There are a total of 9 areas and if you wish to see all 9 properly you should devote at least two days there. Plan to do at least the itinerary for 5 hours which covers most of the top sites of the ruins. Remember if you want to cover everything in the schedule, you have to really move fast so carry your food water and everything that you may need so you do not have to stop and come out or take a break. I must say that the maps are not the best so give some time because you will get lost and you will end up seeing many other places in the ruins which may not be part of your plan. My recommendation is to highlight the specific spots that you want to see (which actually are pretty well publicized) and focus on getting them done. If you miss one point, keep moving because towards the end of the itinerary, you have some really beautiful buildings and structures where you can take great pictures and the location also offers great views of the mountains especially of Mount Vesuvius.
Paris from the airport the fixed rate taxi charges 50 euros for 1 radius and 55 for another. Our hotel fell under the area of the 2nd radius
Shuttle from the smaller airport cost €17 to the Central of Paris
Other hotel which was in the central area was close to champs Elysee so we walked do Arc de Triomphe and on the Champs elysees on the first day.
The best way to travel in Paris is using the Metro. It’s economical to buy a pack of 10 metro tickets for €15 which I loves you 10 journeys in any Direction. Buying 10 tickets saves you about €4.
In the evening of the first day we took the Metro to Eiffel Tower what around till night and then took the cruise on River Seine.
From the airport we took the shuttle bus at €8 per person which takes you to the main central point of Venice from where you have to just cross the bridge to end of Venice.
The best way to travel in Venice is to use the Vaporetto which is the water transportation system which is extremely efficient and the only alternative is walking. I would definitely recommend walking but to save time you will have to take the Vaporetto which cost €20 per person for 24 hours. This is better than buying individual tickets as it works out more economical as well as saves you time.
The train station is at ferrovia which is a station of the Vaporetto. We took trenitalia train from Venice to Florence. The advance booking price of the ticket from Venice to Florence on trenitalia was around CAD $42 per person.
Our hotel which was about 4 minutes walk from the the water took us 20 minutes walk from the train station. Most of the sites in nice are walking distance.
The central area is about 15 to 20 minutes walk from the train station. Most of the sites are within walking distance of 10 minutes to around 35 minutes. We did not have to take the bus but just in case you want to take the bus there is the option of buying a daily pass or a journey cost 2.5 euros.
The Metro pass for 7 days cost €24 per person and the day pass is €7 per person. If you are staying in the central area according to me you can walk to most of the sites. I would not recommend buying the 7-day pass unless you are planning to stay for 5-6 days and also planning to see all the attractions which are on the outskirts of the city. Our hotel was about 5 minutes from the Coliseum and if you book your hotel somewhere in this area you may not be required to use the Metro or the bus at all.
Flix bus to Pompeii , book tickets online www.flixbus.com
Hotel to airport taxi in Rome : We used epickup which cost us 40 to €45 for 4 persons with 4 bags. +393201595887 Roberto