Both Italy and France have so much to offer, you couldn’t even cover one of these countries in two weeks. Visiting both Italy and France in one trip, however, will allow you to compare and contrast the cultures, sights, and foods that these two countries have to offer.
This itinerary takes in some of the iconic sights in each country, as well as take you off the beaten path to explore the countryside of Tuscany and Provence. A car is really a must to explore the areas outside of the major tourist destinations. Driving in a foreign country is never my favourite thing to do, but it was the best decision we made on our trip to Italy and France (and we only almost died twice!). Driving tip: don’t try to keep with the local drivers on the roads; drive at a speed that you are comfortable with, pulling over to let others pass.
The trains in Europe are efficient and affordable for covering long distances. This itinerary also includes a flight, which can be booked cheaply if done ahead of time. Make sure you have checked the fine print (baggage restrictions, check-in times, whether you need to print a boarding pass at home…) when flying with a budget airline in order to avoid paying unnecessary, and often expensive, extra fees.
Whatever you do, drink lots of coffee in Italy (it’s nowhere near as good in France) and lots of wine everywhere!
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2 Week Itinerary for Italy and France
Day 1 – 3: Rome
Aaahhhh, Rome sweet Rome. The capital of Italy is a city of refined history and beauty. Depending on when your flight arrives, you may have three full days to explore this city and all its niches. When the touts shoving selfie sticks in your face get to be too much, hop into a little restaurant and watch the people stroll by as you sip on a glass of wine. Let yourself get lost and discover sights you’ve never read about.
Things to See and Do in Rome:
- Colosseum: This complex was used for more than just blood-thirsty gladiatorial contests. It was also used for blood-thirsty mock sea battles, animal hunts, and executions, at least until the early medieval era.
- Palantine Hill: Dating back to the tenth century BC, Palantine Hill is full of history and mythology. There are also great views of the Colleseum from the top of the hill.
- Forum: An historical government site full of crumbling buildings. Also, look for the bunnies!
- Piazzas: Everywhere, everywhere are piazzas, each with their own charms and fountains.
- Trevi Fountain: Supposedly, if you throw a coin into the fountain, it will guarantee your return to Rome one day. The fountain was closed for repairs when we were there, so I guess we won’t be going back, at least not under the guidance of magic and wishes.
- Spanish Steps: In the old days, these steps used to attract artists and women hoping to become models. Now, it attracts tourists and touts. Still, it’s an iconic place to rest your feet for a while.
- Vatican City: Even if you don’t want to pay or stand in line for hours to get in, a walk through Vatican City is still impressive. It’s way bigger than you’ve probably imagined…
- Watch for cats: Feral cats roam all over the city. Get up early, or stay out past sunset, for a better chance of seeing some felines lurking amidst the ruins.
Day 4 – 5: Siena & the Tuscan Countryside
Skip the crowds at Pisa and unwind after the business of Rome amidst an endless vista of rolling hills. Take the bus from Rome to Siena and explore this quaint old town for an afternoon. Rent a car and spend the next two days visiting wineries and towns so small Lonely Planet hasn’t discovered them yet. On day 6, take the train to Venice.
Things to See and Do in Tuscany:
- Sienna: A charming, gothic town with great views of the city from the top of the hill.
- Chianti Region: I really don’t think I need to sell the idea of drinking wine. Add some liver and fava beans if you’re feeling grotesque.
- San Gimignano: Another medieval hill town, this one with walls and Romanesque and Gothic architecture.
- Val D’orcia: Wines, abbeys, gardens, and the rolling hills you imagine of Tuscany.
- Olive Groves: If wine’s not your thing, or you simply love a great olive oil (it will change the way you cook forever), there is no shortage of olive groves offering tours and tastings.
Day 6 – 7: Venice
Yes, Venice is out of the way from everything and overrun with tourists, but it’s a place everyone must visit once in their lives. Most people visit Venice on a day trip, but there is plenty to keep a history buff busy for days. At the very least, stay the night to be able to explore city after the tourists have all headed back to the mainland. Venice will leave you inevitably lost and undoubtedly enchanted.
Things to See and Do in Venice:
- Wander: There are plenty of historical sights in Venice, but my favourite activity here is to walk through the narrow, winding streets and see what I stumble upon. Venice isn’t too big, so no matter how lost you get, when you’re ready to go home, you can find your way out again.
- Basilica di San Marco: A free church to visit! And a magnificent one at that. The mosaics inside this church will dazzle you.
- Peggy Guggenheim Collection: A collection of surrealist and abstract in this private collection by artists including Jackson Pollock, Picasso, and Salvador Dalí.
Day 8 – 11: Provence
When you’ve finished with Venice, fly to Marseille, pick up a rental car and head towards to Cassis to explore the small beaches formed by rocky cliffs and go for a swim if weather permits. Choose a small town to base yourself in and spend the rest of your time exploring markets, churches, and splendid nature.
Things to See and Do in Provence:
- Cassis: Walk or kayak through the Calanques for magnificent views of the French Riviera and discover hidden beaches. If you’re feeling lazy, you can explore the area on a boat tour.
- Sisteron: A 13th century citadel sits atop a rocky cliff overlooking this small town and its river. If you’re feeling active, the GR6 hike starts, or ends, in Sisteron. You may even catch a bocce tournament happening here.
- Mane: A quaint hillside town full of history, cobbled streets, fountains, and ancient architecture.
- Forcalquier: A huge market held on Mondays that fills the streets of this hillside town. They have everything here – organic vegetables, artisan sausages, a wide selection of olives, clothes, spices, soaps, and more. Get there early to find parking. There are plenty of other markets as well in Provence.
- Gorges de Verdon: Kayak or hike through these deep gorges filled with turquoise waters. If you’re here off-season, you will have the river almost to yourself. If you don’t want to kayak, you can also rent a peddle boat or electric boat to carry you up and down the river.
Day 12: Avignon
Drop your rental car off in Avignon for a chance to visit this classic city before moving on. Once the capital of Christendom in the middle ages, Avignon now has a burgeoning and youthful arts scene. As you walk around the city, you will notice posters for upcoming shows and many independent theatres.
Things to See and Do in Avignon:
- Danse sur la Pont d’Avignon: Even if you’re unfamiliar with this children’s song, Avignon bridge, as it stretches half way across the Rhone, is still worth a visit. You have to pay to walk on it, but there are great views of it from both above and below. The bridge is also known as Pont St-Bénezet.
- Palais de Papes: The Palace of Popes is the largest gothic palace in the world. Even if you don’t venture inside, the outer façade and gardens are still impressive.
- Museums: Musée du Petit Palais, Musée Angladon, Musée Lapidaire, Musée Calvet…
Day 13 – 15: Paris
Paris is an incredibly alive and confident city. There is something for everyone here, whether it be classic or modern art, spending a busy day shopping in some of the best stores in the world, or having a picnic of wine and cheese in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Things to See and Do in Paris:
- Disneyland: We were here in September and there were almost no lines for the rides. The longest we waited was 15 minutes for Thunder Mountain. Pack a lunch as the food is grotesquely overpriced and, well, just grotesque.
- Shop: From independent boutiques to high-end labels, Paris has all kinds of shopping.
- Musée d’Orsay: Artists here include, Cézanne, Degas, Gallé, Gauguin, Monet, Renoir, van Gogh…
- Musée du Louvre: You could spend days in this museum. It is so large, we got lost and it took us almost an hour to find the exit. Buy your tickets online to skip the wait at the entrance.
- Eiffell Tower: Bring a picnic and wait for the tower to light up after the sun goes down. Entertain yourself by watching the scammers try to draw people into a game of ball-and-cup.
- Notre Dame Cathedral: Famous and impressive, this cathedral is worth checking out while exploring the neighbourhood on this side of the Seine. Shakespeare and Company is a great little bookstore located nearby.
- So much more…Two or three days is nowhere near enough time to explore all Paris has to offer. It is well worth considering extending your stay. Either way, you will want to come back to Paris. Use this trip planner to help organise your itinerary. Also, find a great Paris guide here more Paris tips here. If you’re gluten-free, check out my gluten-free guide to Paris for some delicious tips!
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